“Those who can, build.” – Robert Moses
Zhou Enlai’s response to the question, “What were the effects of the French Revolution?” was famously (though debatably), “Too soon to say.” Robert Moses’ effect on the history of planning is similarly dubious.
Moses’ audacity, to even propose expressways across America’s most bejeweled urban landscape, sparked the works of Jane Jacobs and the movement to save American cities from their imminent highway-laden death. The efforts to fight against the highway broadly failed in the US. Hell, even Jacobs moved to Toronto.
While some urban freeways have been deconstructed (re, the Embarcadero Freeway ) the bigger opportunities for the future of transportation – and the land use that follows it – are in the developing world.
One less-LOMAX later, Greenwich Village and its unapologetic pedestrian, chic, gentrified, grit and prep stands as the most fabulous example of preventing the devastation of the private vehicle and the infrastructure that favors (read, supports) it. Jacobs’ work is a testament to urban activism and allows transport planners to see the point of what they do. Is it to move cars? Is it to move feet across pavement? Transport, according to this blogger, is less about movement and more about placement. Where something is placed (a bike lane, a park, a condo complex, a “lovable object”) determines the movement in and around it. The choice for planners, citizen activists, politicians, technocrats and voters alike is where do we place people?
What choice do we as young folks have? Is the planning of highways and use of personal automobiles a choice? Is it ours? Obviously.