This is the 7th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. The question is whether motorized traffic must be banned from central parts of the city to improve the quality of the urban environment.
Most cities face a choice when it comes to accessibility of their central parts: Whether they renovate the road infrastructure or they face a growing and lasting conflict between car traffic and visitors, whose numbers will decrease further as a result of prioritizing cars. This post deals with the first option.
Changing priorities in the use of road space
The starting point for this renovation is choosing the best experience for both residents and visitors. Therefore, the use of road space in all parts of cities must be under scrutiny. This also applies the connecting roads between centers and the other parts of the city. The distribution of space between pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and public transport has to be reconsidered. A good example is the Ferdinand Bolstraat in Amsterdam. Cars have been banned, the sidewalks are widened, cyclists have their own lanes and the tram uses a switch track (photo below left), just as in Leidsestraat (photo above left).
The rule of thumb is that the larger a city and the better public transport is functioning, the more the accessibility by car of the central parts and the residential areas as well can be reduced. Visitors who rely on the use of a car then store their vehicle in a parking on the edge of the center, preferably near supermarkets or other places where voluminous purchases can be made. From these parking spaces they enter the central area on foot. Incidentally, it is worth considering opening the entire center to cars until 11 a.m. to pick up orders.
Cyclists can be allowed deeper penetration in the central urban area, but not unlimited. They leave their bicycles in (guarded) parking facilities too.
Public transport never stops more than 300 meters from the middle of the center, where comfortable waiting areas are offered, and information is available.
Separation of traffic flows
A separation of traffic flows is required for the entire urban area. The most central streets will be exclusively intended for pedestrians, emergency services and occasionally the tram. Bicycles are allowed in streets in the center, depending on their wideness.
Public transport has always priority at traffic lights. It ensures not only transfer-free accessibility of the urban center, but also connects the most important residential and work areas with a minimum number of transfer. The possible arrival of autonomous minibuses will radically improve the flexibility of public transport (photo above right).
Intra-urban walking and cycling routes
Pedestrians’ and cyclists’ safety and amenity are improved if the connections between the central and outlying parts of the city are accessible by separate routes too. In a city whose green space penetrates deep into the central area, these routes can partly run through nature. A good example is the cycle route from the center of Utrecht to Leidsche Rijn (photo bottom right). Pedestrians need an attractive route through the built-up area for reasons of social safety.
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