Here’s another version of my vision of how I’d like my home city to be.
Ferrara, northern Italy. Photos taken (by Malcolm) one afternoon in the summer, about 4 years ago. The photos below are from a series he took within 5 minutes from a single spot.
You’ve probably noticed that something is striking by its absence: motor vehicles of any kind. This changes everything.
Another historic and busy tourist destination, a World Heritage Centre, with a different understanding of how life could be better for all of us. Just ordinary people going about their ordinary everyday life. No lycra, no helmets. No need for either.
Old, young, hip, staid – everyone is cycling or walking. Slowly and sensibly. No competition between the pedestrians and the cyclists – after all, almost everyone is both.
These things don’t just happen by accident. Councils and citizens have to make them happen. In this case, the council in Ferrara decided back in the 60s to make the central part of the city car-free. Since then they’ve created 120 km of cycle infrastructure. In 1991 they did a survey and were astonished to find that a third of all journeys in the city were on bicycles. Yes, a third. Amazing, no?
Surely if they can do it there, we could do it here in Bath?
If you want to know more about how towns and cities have achieved just this kind of change, backed up by solid case examples and research, I’d thoroughly recommend reading ‘Happy City: transforming our lives through urban design’, by Charles Montgomery. It’s an easy and inspiring read, and ultimately optimistic about what can be achieved (though also realistic about the barriers to getting there).
My own view is that, however cliched it has become, we have to ‘be the change we want to see.’ Which is why you’ll usually see me walking or cycling around my local area (and elsewhere), not in lycra but in ordinary clothes and on an ordinary bike. And at an ordinary speed.
Charles Montgomery concludes his book by saying: “This is the truth that shines over the journey towards the happy city. We build it when we choose how and where to live. We build it when we move a little bit closer [to where we work]. We build it when we choose to move a little slower. We build it by choosing to put aside our fear of the city and other people. We build it by pursuing it in our ow lives, and in so doing, pushing the city to change with us. We build the happy city by living it.”
And so say I!
Changing the world one person at a time, starting with me. I’d love to have you along for the journey (unless of course you’re unfortunate enough to live in a place where it’s positively dangerous or downright impossible to walk or cycle – safety has to come first).