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Illustration by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism via The New York Times
Among the many changes brought on by the coronavirus is a drastic reduction in driving, particularly in large cities. Apparently, in urban areas sales of electric bikes and scooters have skyrocketed too as people begin to contemplate how to get around without using public transport as cities begin re-opening for business. The New York Times’ opinion writer Farhad Manjoo penned a fantastic story (the graphics are amazing) that visualizes a carless future for NYC and asks the fundamental question “why do cities waste so much space on cars.” He wrote: “In much of Manhattan, the average speed of traffic before the pandemic had fallen to 7 miles per hour. In Midtown, it was less than 5 m.p.h. That’s only slightly faster than walking and slower than riding a bike. Will traffic soon be worse than ever? Not if we choose another path.”
Why This Matters: Now is the time to reimagine urban spaces — particularly if, as Manjoo predicts, more people worry that the only way to safely get around in cities is in their own car. Many European cities are planning for a future with fewer private cars. We can too in places like NYC — and most residents will greatly benefit to boot.
In California, vehicle collisions plummeted 50 percent, reducing accidents resulting in injuries or death by about 6,000 per month.”
And without cars on the road, smaller vehicles like electric bikes, scooters and ordinary bikes and even walking would presumably be much safer. Not to mention the health/exercise benefits gained by walking more and riding a bike, as well as the lives saved — an estimated 50,000 more from long-term exposure to air pollution emitted by cars. Plus Farhood posits that there is little reason to believe that public transportation — busses and the subway — are dangerous if people wear masks and there are enough to give people space, providing that option as well.
And it would save time. The architects looking seriously at this in NYC say that the “absence of cars would allow pedestrians, buses, and bikes to race across New York at unheard-of speeds. Today, a bus trip from uptown to downtown — for instance, from Harlem to City Hall — takes an hour and 48 minutes. With the sort of rapid bus system PAU imagines, and without cars in the way, the same trek would take 35 minutes.”
North Carolina Coastal Federation has a nature-based plan for dealing with heavy rainfall that captures and filters water instead. Green infrastructure includes solutions like rain gardens, restoring wetlands, and permeable pavement. The state plan calls for comprehensive incorporation of nature-based stormwater strategies across roadways, farmland, and in new building construction.
Why This Matters: It’s not just sea-level rise that causes increased flooding and infrastructure damage: heavy rains can be just as disruptive. Using plants, dirt, and other natural ways to handle excess water is often simpler and more cost-effective than their conventional counterparts.
The world is becoming more and more like The Matrix every day, at least in one particular way: scientists have figured out how to use the human body as a battery. No, your body can’t produce enough energy to create a global simulation, but it can produce enough heat to charge wearable devices like smartwatches and implants like pacemakers.
Why This Matters: Battery production and disposal have been problematic for decades. Mining for rare earth metals like such as cadmium, mercury, lead, and lithium threatens environments and communities across the globe.
by Erin Simon, Head of Plastic Waste and Business, World Wildlife Fund After a year of unprecedented devastation and loss, the arrival of 2021 has shown us at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Our top priority remains the immediate health and safety of our fellow citizens, but we […]
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