In cities, space is limited, and the ways that we allocate it can tell us a lot about what we value and who is important. A recent project looked at the distribution of space according to different modes of transport – cars, rail and cycling. The land requirements of each were mapped, and then the space given over to each category was extracted from the map into a condensed view. The car parks fit together like a jigsaw, roads are wound up. It’s a little involved, but the end result is that you can plot and then compare the land given over to each mode of transport.
As part of a project called , 23 cities were mapped in this way and you can browse the findings on the website. It’s not a perfect comparison. I’d like to have seen pedestrians represented, since walking is our natural mode of transport as human beings. And bikes can use roads as well as bike lanes, so there is some crossover. Nevertheless, it is striking how badly car culture has skewed our geography.
Wrestling back space from cars is one of the big challenges of urban planning in the 21st century. That could mean turning road space into bus lanes so that buses get priority. More road space could be given over to bikes, including dedicated cycling spaces at junctions and traffic lights. Perhaps most importantly, cities need to shed car parking space. The easier it is to park, the more likely people are to drive, and parking spaces are the frontline in the battle for sustainable transport.
For today though, click over to and look up a city you know. Can you guess the percentages?