Livability: Beyond Political Terms

Going through the news and my high speed virtual treasure chest, I happily uncovered Streetfilms, a non-profit Oregon organization that wants to encourage “livable streets” by producing films supporting community advocacy to help make roads work better for pedestrians and cyclists.

The story and the video make all the more difference here in Athens, as this coming Sunday is the second round of municipal elections. And while in my naive mind, “municipal” is supposed to refer to our neighborhoods, streets, local communities and cities, somehow the gigantic battery ram of politics has hijacked the real agenda of how our lives may become better and has turned the game and the popular vote into something else – bigger and beyond localities. Are we risking deflecting the real issues that plague our daily lives especially in big cities like Athens, San Francisco, London or Seoul, the unhappy host of the G-20 summit?

Streetfilms’ phrase “livable streets” refers to the work of David Appleyard, whose research into how people experience streets with different traffic volumes was published in 1981. Appleyard’s work advanced thought on traffic, and showed that heavy traffic has a strongly negative effect on social cohesion.

Revisiting Appleyard’s 1981 work, Streetfilms hase created animated 3-D visualizations of the data collected from the 30-year old urban planning study.

Instead of arguing, fighting and debating policies, wouldn’t it be so much more useful to think about how to make our own backyards more livable?

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