Battle Royal: Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses
It was late Spring 1958 (as I best recall) in New York City when a young Eric Britton, just out of the US Army and about to dig into the Graduate Faculties of Columbia, was – as young men will do — checking out the action in Washington Square Park in the Village on a warm day. When he ran into two little kids wearing a sandwich sign saying something like “Save the Square!”. The kids handed me a pamphlet and explained that they were there to help their mother, who was just over there (they pointed).
And that was how I first met Mrs. Jane Jacobs, hard at work on an at-first very lonely effort to save this precious bit of NYC public space from the depredations of Robert Moses plan to run an urban highway extension of Fifth avenue over the concrete remains of what would once have been a beautiful and much used public park. It was clearly going to be a losing cause, but she decided to stick it out. And as she did others, unknowns and celebrities, gradually started to get behind her cause.
Not only in Penang and Malaysia more generally, but in city after city, country after country around the world elected politicians all too often have given ample proof that when it comes to sustainability, transport, fairness and even efficiency they just don’t get it. They plan and spend hard-earned taxpayer money for a distinct if powerful minority of all citizens and voters. It is amazing that they still manage to get elected in democracies. What’s going on?
It’s amazing how the “Penang Transport Master Plan” more or less entirely buys into this seventy year old vision of what works best, i.e., no less than a targeted modal of 60% for cars. We are clearly victims of old and unexamined thinking.
Time to move on to much better.
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About the editor:
6.1 Pedestrian Overpasses
A pedestrian overpass allows pedestrians safe crossing over busy roads without impeding traffic.
There was a time that these grafted bits or road-related infrastructure seemed to make sense. A mark of that time was the implicit assumption that “traffic” meant cars and that it made perfect sense to give them priority over pedestrians, cyclists and anybody else who might wish to cross a busy road. That time has now passed.