Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White spoke at TEDxEast about ongoing campaigns to reclaim urban commons from the automobile. Cities are built for human contact and interaction, he said, which is thwarted when everyone sits behind a windshield. Streets that focus on the automobile also run counter to the density that makes cities interesting and efficient. "We are squandering the most valuable real estate in the world giving this public asset to the lowest density mode of transportation," said White.
The mandate for rearranging our urban landscape becomes clear when we grasp the global trends in population and urbanization: "Here in New York the streets comprise about one-fourth of the city's total land area, 80 percent of our open space. What happens in the space between buildings in the next 20 years is going to determine to a large degree how much carbon we emit, what our quality of life is, how often we talk to our neighbors and engage in civic discussion, how happy we are even."