Streets can be good places for business and pleasure

I’m just back from a great trip to Europe – one of those wonderful things I’m lucky enough to be able to do now that I’m retired. Of all the places my wife and I visited, our favourite was Leipzig, …

…a city of about a half million in the part of Germany that used to be a communist state, the German Democratic Republic. There’s a lot to like about Leipzig, including the fact that its courageous citizens triggered the fall of the Soviet empire.

But as a student of city politics and city planning, what struck me most was Leipzig’s streets, which allowed plenty of space for everyone – private cars, buses, delivery vehicles, bicycles – and, in many cases, made it possible for all of them to share the street. On many streets, pedestrians walked, unconcerned, down the middle, cyclists dodged in and out among them, and delivery vehicles nosed their way carefully through the crowds.

In the literature on transportation in North American cities, we are told repeatedly that a city’s economy depends on the free flow of motor vehicles through the streets, and that pedestrians must yield to that economic necessity. In obviously prosperous Leipzig one looks in vain for evidence of the economic damage caused by giving pedestrians free rein on many of the streets.

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