Soon after automobiles were invented, they became the focal point of urban development. The United States has over one billion parking spaces and when you include streets, cities dedicate nearly 50-60% of their real estate to vehicles. Vehicles aren’t alone on the road, but they are dominant – if only by the nature of their size and capacity to do harm. A poignant illustration by Swedish artist Karl Jing depicts the dangers of a car-centric streetscape with roads imagined as gorges and crosswalks as thin boards across them.
While the coronavirus pandemic decreased the volume of cars on the road, the fatality rate of vehicle accidents has increased as a result of reckless driving.5 However, we’ve also seen some positive outcomes from reduced driving as a result of the pandemic. Air quality in major cities has increased substantially.6 More people are biking and walking and as residents crowd parks, hiking lanes, and bike paths, additional space for active transportation is needed.7
Reclaiming city streets for pedestrians and bicyclists was a growing trend before the pandemic but as cities and residents see the dramatic benefits of reduced driving, the urgency to make lasting changes to public space allocation is quickly rising
The action plan below will help government agencies, non-profits, universities, and the private sector create a scoring system to issue right-of-way for new project investments in line with changing stakeholder priorities.