What the US can learn from European cities

By Lewis Macdonald / Updated: 23 Sep 2014
City planner and author of ‘Walkable City’ Jeff Speck presented in a recent TED event in New York City (USA) how traditional American urban design needs to be revolutionised to make cities ‘walkable’.
Jeff Speck, a city planner and architectural designer working in the USA, spoke about the traditional model of urban design in the USA and how it impedes sustainability.

In his talk, Jeff Speck compares the typical model of American urban development to those of Portland (USA) and cities in Canada and Europe, which compare favourably to American cities on the Mercer Survey of quality of life. He suggests that new urban design for people rather than for cars would help to resolve many of the health and environmental concerns of American cities.

The model followed by many cities across the USA, particularly in the south and mid-west, is a high-density city centre surrounded by many square kilometres of suburbs.

As a result, owning a car becomes a necessity for most Americans for personal transportation. This then has various impacts on health, time spent commuting, petrol consumption and carbon emissions. Although high-density city centres contribute a lot of emissions collectively, inhabitants of suburbs tend to use a lot more petrol and produce more emissions individually than city dwellers.

For more information, watch the TED Talk. A transcript of the video is available in English, Chinese, German and Portuguese.

Photo: OneEighteen, Flickr
Walking and cycling