The future is near. Instead of moving further away from work, it seems more sensible to organise daily activities closer to home. So that more people can do them on foot, by bicycle or using public transport.
If we organise our cities and towns in such a way that we can do more walking and cycling, it is better for our health and for social interaction, and it costs less energy. (Interestingly, because of Covid, many people have rediscovered the importance of their own neighbourhood.)
On the one hand, this requires a different layout of the public space, with quality of stay taking precedence over accessibility. In our opinion, a litmus test for a nice neighbourhood or workplace is: is it (still) nice to stay outside the front door for longer than five minutes? Rather space for a bench and a few flower pots in front of the door than two cars or a rack full of bicycles. After all, you’d prefer to let your children cycle or walk to school. Now that’s sometimes too dangerous, because there are too many cars – driven by parents taking their children to school. A vicious circle. Fortunately, the tide is turning. In many cities, 'the law of the fastest' no longer applies. Recently, the Dutch parliament decided that 30 km/hr is the new standard for urban areas. This gives cycling and walking the advantage, in addition to greatly reducing nuisance and danger. Of course, we cannot and do not want to do without a car (completely). In many cases, shared mobility can significantly reduce the parking pressure of cars (and bicycles too).
Station areas can serve as an example here. Over the past ten years, many stations have transformed from efficient transfer machines – offering a quick exit in several directions and no reason to stick around – to dynamic urban places where you can enjoy socialising, living and working.
On the other hand, the densification of our cities and villages and the mixing of functions helps to reduce the need for mobility, according to research. If more people can do their daily activities close to home, this means that more and more people will actually do so. This creates a virtuous circle in which densification, sustainability and greening reinforce each other. Thanks to densification, freedom of choice is growing nearer, resulting in more walking and cycling and less need for a car. This leaves more room for greening and climate adaptation. That makes the environment much more attractive. And so on.
This story is not limited to public space. Buildings, too, have often been defined in recent decades by the structure of the parking garage below. This determines the construction width, influences the type of access and often costs more than it yields. Having fewer parking spaces saves enormously on construction costs and has a positive effect on the feasibility of complex projects. Moreover, it creates more freedom to increase the living quality above. A tree can be planted in the ground, or a residence can have a slightly wider footprint.
'This way, clean air is given priority from all sides.'
>> see also urban density