Places for People

By Sean Hua

Hot on the heels of my previous article about experiencing the city on foot, eminent staff from the City of Melbourne have been engaged with the media over their Places For People report. Robert Doyle (Lord Mayor) and Rob Adams (Director of City Design) both speak about designing cities such that they are accessible and attractive environments for people to get around on foot. Built into this equation is the necessity for cities to provide the requisite services and amenities within a walking distance.
Balancing these factors effectively prioritises pedestrians over cars. As I mentioned before, we must design for the speed at which we want to move through a space. Fast, car-paced movement is a poor environment for pedestrians. Likewise, slow, walking-paced movement is not conducive to driving. Try speeding on Bourke Street Mall, or having a leisurely stroll down the middle of the Hume Highway. It just doesn’t mix.

There will be opposition. While those backing the independence an automobile provides might be worried at such a change, the last 3 decades of interventions – blocking off streets to cars, increasing the active frontages at street level, improving paving conditions etc. – within the City of Melbourne have clearly increased the vibrancy of the CBD.

Melbourne isn’t the only city to have experienced this change. Fly to the opposite end of the world to New York, and you will find a city who themselves have experienced a dramatic positive change to crime levels and street activity in the last 30-40 years. The Highline, one of the city’s more well-known rejuvenation projects, is off limits to cars. Now, there is even talk of turning the iconic and fabled Broadway into a linear park. Who gets to use it? You guessed it: cars don’t.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s always worth repeating… we’ve got the knowledge and the capability here to do some great things with our cities, for our people. So why follow when we can lead?


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