Chris BruntlettMelissa Bruntlett — Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives

Le petit quart d’heure qui sépare mon canapé de mon bureau devrait être une balade agréable au cœur d’un quartier chaleureux, mais se transforme régulièrement en parcours du combattant au milieu de la circulation hostile. Aux manettes de missiles informatisés d’une tonne et demie, les autosolistes ignorent le piéton qui voudrait traverser un passage sans feu, et ignorent d’ailleurs les feux1. Coupés du monde dans leur tas de ferraille payé à crédit, les autosolistes considèrent que l’espace qu’ils occupent leur appartient, et assurent que ce n’est pas bien grave de jeter un vélo ou une poussette ou un fauteuil roulant sur une autoroute urbaine parce que « j’en ai pour deux minutes ».

Comment peut-on s’étonner que les centres-ville se meurent, que les enfants manquent pathologiquement d’activité physique, que les voisins se détestent avant de se connaitre, quand la rue est devenue une zone de guerre où il ne fait pas bon s’attarder ? La somme des petites agressions du quotidien se traduit par une sociopathie à bas bruit qui entretient ce cercle vicieux. Les Néerlandais ont pourtant prouvé que ce modèle n’est pas une fatalité. Curbing Traffic montre que la ville « presque sans voitures » n’est pas seulement une ville cyclable : c’est une ville plus conviviale, plus familiale, plus féministe, plus silencieuse2, plus accessible, plus prospère, plus résiliente. Une ville où il fait bon vivre, en somme.

Notes

Le « dehors » comme territoire hostile, p. 12 :

Lia Karsten, associate professor of urban geography at the University of Amsterdam, defines this group as outdoor children—children who played outside every day, and ultimately claimed the streets for their own. In the decades to come, however, two new categories of childhood emerged. As fast-moving and parked cars along these neighborhood streets increased, the children’s play space was lost, and the kids were pushed elsewhere. “The public space of the street used to be a child space, but it has been transformed to an adult space,” Karsten explains. Inversely, the private home evolved from a place for adults into one belonging to children.

La voiture, concurrente des enfants dans l’espace, p. 14 :

“Children and cars are competitors,” Karsten states definitively, “because cars occupy the street and the space in front of the house. What we see is parents are more afraid because of the danger of motorized traffic. This danger is directly in front of the house, which should be one of the safest places for children.” An age group that was once thought of as resilient is now treated as vulnerable; in need of constant management and supervision. Within a few generations, their ability to wander their streets has quickly diminished and, for many, completely disappeared.

L’urbanisme comme légalisme, p. 24 :

The desired speed is achieved not by passively posting a sign (the police can’t be everywhere, and drivers will travel as fast as they feel comfortable), but by actively engineering means that force drivers to slow down and pay attention, such as brick medians, narrow lanes, and textured paving. Dutch police actually do very little traffic enforcement. If too many drivers speed on a street, it is deemed a design failure and sent back to the drawing board.

La rue devenue voie, p. 33 :

When it comes to the evolution of the modern cityscape, one thing is certain: the rise of automobility has inextricably changed the concept of a street from a place to stay in to a place to pass through. The sociability of those streets has been dramatically reduced as the volume and speed of motor vehicles increases.

La « rue vivable » comme solution, p. 42 :

Out of that process, undertaken in coordination with the nearby Technical University, arose the concept of the woonerf (living street), a made-in-Delft solution where vehicle speeds were curbed to 15 km/h (10 mph), and pedestrians were given the full width of the street (which typically lacked any raised curbs). Considered extensions of the living room, woonerven were envisaged as outdoor spaces for the play and socialization of residents—especially children—where cars were allowed to move and park, but only within strict limitations. Woonerven were thus avoided by most cars (except the occasional local). Inhabitants were then provided with a semiprivate space in front of their home, to personalize with planting and seating.

Le vélo hollandais, créateur d’interactions sociales, p. 51 :

Much of this unique social dynamic is supported by the “sit-up-and-beg” geometry of the ubiquitous Dutch bike, a style all four members of our family had been comfortably riding in Vancouver for many years, and of course continue to ride. These bikes allow for the maximum engagement of our senses; senses that are otherwise dulled when one is cocooned in the shell of a car. While most bike frames force riders to lean forward and strain their neck to make visual contact with others, the vertical posture of a Dutch bicycle affords our family a clear, unfiltered view of surrounding people and places. The average speed of 10 to 15 km/h (6 to 10 mph) is optimal for using one’s entire body to send and receive nuanced signals with pedestrians and cyclists—a sideways glance, a pointed finger, or the drop of a shoulder—sometimes several meters before arriving at a given intersection.

La ville cyclable est une ville accessible à tous, p. 132 :

With a battery range of about 35 kilometers (20 miles), Maya comfortably travels the 15-kilometer, 40-minute journey to class along the scenic Schie, happily making use of the fietsstraten on each side of the river. While the trip satisfies her love of accessing nature, being able to make it on her own three wheels is about more than simply enjoying a waterfront route: “For any person in this world, with or without a disability, but especially with a disability, the most important thing is to be able to be independent,” she states emphatically. Earlier in her life, Maya held a driver’s license. But due to the degenerative nature of her illness, it was eventually taken away, leaving her to find other means of transport to maintain her self-determination. Her scootmobiel does exactly that, with infrastructure and traffic calming creating an environment that empowers her to keep her independence. […] For Maya, and many like her in the Netherlands, these factors—access to mobility devices, an infrastructure network, and supplementary public transport to broaden the range—work together to ensure that physical limitations don’t mean being completely cut off from the world. Maya feels that the strongest link in the chain is the bike infrastructure: “The infrastructure for the bicycles is empowering, not just for cyclists, but also for people with disability. For me, it has been emancipating.”

Concevoir les réseaux urbains pour les déplacements qui ne sont pas réalisés, p. 139 :

When transport planners look at a network, they design for efficiencies based on the trips people do take. They examine where they live, where they travel, and how to make those journeys as cost and time effective as possible. However, no one is ever analyzing or measuring the trips people don’t take, which is particularly problematic for the disabled community.

Variety is the spice of (urban) life, p. 167 :

As the Dutch demonstrate, providing a diversity of mobility options—especially the option to leave the car at home—is what ultimately creates a more affordable and prosperous society. It has the added bonus of actually solving congestion. But without comfortable walking and cycling conditions, and a reliable bus and train service, the automobile will remain the first choice for many families. In that scenario, everyone loses, especially the drivers. This is evidenced by the fact that the Netherlands is regularly found to have some of the lowest levels of urban traffic congestion in the world. It should go without saying that taking vehicles off the road is far more functional and cost-effective than continuing down the vicious circle of building more roads; a circle to which American cities such as Los Angeles, Denver, and Houston can attest; all of whom have wasted billions widening highways, only to have travel times return to previous levels within a few months.

La marche et le vélo comme remèdes… au marasme économique, p. 188 :

More walking and cycling can also improve a city’s economic resilience, as they can be used to stimulate the local economy. In an age where one can get virtually everything delivered to their door—including groceries, restaurant meals, household items, and entertainment—small businesses can really only compete by drawing people out of their homes. This is accomplished not by providing a convenient place to drive and park their automobile but by offering serene, social, stimulating experiences that are impossible to resist. Furthermore, most of the money families spend on their car—such as fuel, insurance, and the cost of the vehicle itself—leaves their community.

Les bonnes volontés ne suffisent plus, p. 213 :

While many of the qualitative benefits we’ve presented were not policy driven, for cities outside the Netherlands to achieve similar success, they must be. Not only by creating design and planning guidelines, but by explicitly stating that access to transport, gender and racial equity, mobility for people of all ages and for those with disabilities, and the provision of natural, green spaces are all basic human rights. The fading of gender mainstreaming in European planning is proof that unless it is written into permanent policy, these “nice ideas” will often be either overlooked or scrapped when budgets are cut, or new priorities are presented in their place.


  1. Combien de fois ai-je failli me faire tuer parce que j’ai eu l’outrecuidance de poser le pied sur le passage pendant les deux premières secondes du feu rouge ? ↩︎

  2. Ou, du moins, ouverte à d’autres bruits que les coups de klaxon et les vrombissements puérils des scooters. ↩︎