What do you value more - your people, or your cars ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The SMH has an article on return the centre of Sydney to pedestrians. I'm not so sure about the idea of getting rid of the Cahill expressway - partly because I enoy the view when I drive on it, but also because (as anyone who has worked in that area knows) it actually provides a lot of shade in summer - a completely open air square would be pretty hot in summer (though maybe planting enough trees would deal with the problem adequately). I'm sure the owners of the cross city tunnel would support the idea though...

THE centre of Sydney would be returned to the people under a radical plan to push out cars, create public squares at Town Hall and Circular Quay, and ultimately tear down the Cahill Expressway and the Western Distributor.

The Herald has obtained the blueprint for the biggest transformation yet envisaged of the city centre. The acclaimed international planner Jan Gehl will unveil it for the City of Sydney on Monday night.

His report paints a picture of a city at war with itself - car against pedestrian, high-rise against public space. "The inevitable result is public space with an absence of public life," he concludes.

His nine-month investigation found a city in distress. A walk down Market Street involved as much waiting at traffic lights as it did walking. In winter, 39 per cent of people in the city spend their lunchtimes underground, put off by a hostile environment at street level: noise, traffic, wind, a lack of sunlight and too few options for eating.

Upon completing his report, Public Spaces, Public Life For The City Of Sydney, Professor Gehl asks: "We have one question for this city: what do you value more - your people, or your cars?"

His plan does not require tearing down the city and starting again. Rather, it could be transformed in stages. But for it to succeed, the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, will need the financial and political support of Kevin Rudd's newly elected federal Labor government and of Morris Iemma's State Government.

Transforming George Street into a "vivacious" promenade and shopping strip is critical to Professor Gehl's vision. Its 2.5 kilometres would be closed to private vehicles and dedicated to public transport and bicycles. It would be punctuated by three public squares - at Central Station, Town Hall and Circular Quay.

At the quay, the Cahill Expressway would be demolished and the railway station put underground to make way for a public square that would allow the half-million people who visit and work in the city every day to appreciate Sydney Harbour.

At Town Hall, the Woolworths headquarters would be demolished to create open space. The city council has already bought this and neighbouring buildings, and has long had such a plan. Pedestrians would no longer need to press a button at traffic lights. No one should have to "apply" to walk across the road, Professor Gehl says. It is a human right.

Walkers would no longer take a stop-start journey along George Street, the smog-filled thoroughfare that he says should be Sydney's main promenade. They should not even have to step down to the road at intersections with traffic crossing the city. It is the cars that should wait, he argues. Parking would be restricted to the edges of town. ...

3 comments

Yes, purge the place of cars.

Vile, murderous, wasteful, polluting things.

Well - cars do have their uses - I don't mind them out of city centres - or won't once they're all electric.

But the middle of town should be all walkable like a good European city - like the article says, walking around central Sydney is tediously slow because of the amount of time you spend waiting for traffic lights (or hazardous if you're like me and prefer to play Frogger).

I'm fortunate enough to live near some good public transport (a train station with a multi-route bunch of bus stops next to it), but every day I go to the gym, and have to cross one two-lane, and one-four lane road. The 1.2km journey is made rather long by the wait at the traffic lights, and also by the heat from all the concrete and asphalt.

An interesting article in this regard is Livable Copenhagen [6.76Mb pdf download], a Seattle-Copenhagen look at what's made Copenhagen relatively more pedestrian and bike-friendly than Seattle. Apparently, 58% of Copenhageners use a bike on a daily basis. In the Netherlands, 30% of trips less than 5km are made by bicycle. I imagine it's rather lower here Down Under...

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