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Transport & Logistics

Can urban planning bring about cultural changes?

1 Sep 2011, by Informa Insights

I recently came across an opinion piece in the New York Times that raises some interesting points about the differences in urban planning strategies and policy implementation processes between European and US cities (also applicable to cities in Australia). The article has sparked a great discussion amongst urban planners on LinkedIn.

In recent years, the City of Sydney has started building a bicycle path network which has received mixed responses from the community. While some are embracing the new opportunity and ride into work, some members of the car driving community vehemently opposes them. This has led to a rather tense relationship between cyclists and motorists and I have even seen pedestrians and bike riders getting into arguments about who has the right of way or because people are stepping onto the bike path without looking out for approaching cyclists.

I understand that there will naturally be a period of adjustment and the cyclist-motorist-relationship will hopefully change for the better. However, I was wondering if a “built it and they will come” approach to integrated planning is sufficient to change attitudes or if other measures need to be taken. Maybe trying to “educate” generations who have already been driving for decades is not the most effective way of achieving more mutual understanding between different road users. The Australian rail industry has been working very closely with schools to change driving behavior and improve safety at level crossings. In one case a group of children reported a school bus driver for not stopping at a red light at a level crossing and hence putting their safety at risk. Is there a lesson to be learned for cities trying to implement new planning and transport strategies or is merely building the infrastructure sufficient in order to achieve a gradual change in behavior? I would be interested in hearing some Australian and international voices on the matter. Please use the comment section in this blog to share your thoughts.

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