Comment 111497

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 11, 2015 at 10:54:54 in reply to Comment 111495

the cities and towns of Europe are far denser and have been for not decades but centuries

People keep saying that and it keeps not being true. A mid-sized city like Hamilton has a population density similar to mid-sized European cities.

Hamilton's population density within the urban boundary (i.e. not including its rural farmland) is around 2,100 people per kilometre squared (km^2). That's the entire amalgamated city, including the newer suburbs. The density is considerably higher in some of the older neighbourhoods and especially downtown. Ward 2, for example, has a density above 6,000.

Compare Hamilton with a selection of mid-sized European cities:

City         Area    Population  Density
            (km^2)              (ppl/km^2)
Bratislava   368     491,061     1,334
Leeds        552     750,700     1,360
Dresden      329     530,754     1,613
Edinburgh    264     487,500     1,847
Dortmund     280     575,944     2,057
Duisburg     233     486,855     2,090
Hamilton     235     497,550     2,117
Wroclaw      293     632,067     2,157
Varna        154     348,819     2,265
Timisoara    131     319,279     2,437
Lodz         293     715,360     2,442
Hanover      204     518,386     2,541
Nuremberg    186     498,876     2,682
Essen        210     569,884     2,714
Dusseldorf   217     598,686     2,759
Stuttgart    207     597,939     2,889
Helsinki     214     621,863     2,906
Rotterdam    209     619,879     2,966
Iassy        94      290,422     3,090

As for the bigger, denser European cities, they compare with the bigger, denser cities in Canada. For example, Toronto's average population density across the entire amalgamated city is 4,150 people/km^2. Vancouver's density is 5,249, and Montreal is 4,518.

Bicycles and cars were both invented around the same time in the late 1800s. In both North American and European cities, similar series of policy decisions led to the dominance of cars and driving over other ways of getting around throughout the 20th century.

In the mid-1970s, even places like Amsterdam had cycling in the low single digits in the mid-1970s, and car-dominated streets that looked a lot like their North American counterparts. But spurred by the OPEC oil shocks, some European cities decided that they wanted to be less dependent on automobiles, so they started making policy decisions and investments to encourage more walking and cycling.

Other cities started more recently. Paris, for example, started in the mid-1990s after a crippling metro strike and a new public health study finding that a huge number of people were dying prematurely each year from automobile pollution.

Yet other cities started even more recently. For example, New York City got serious about cycling only in the past decade or so, and their rate of cycling has exploded in places where they have built good infrastructure:

New York Cycling 1980-2014

What all these places have in common, regardless of when they got started, is that they have invested in continuous, high quality cycling infrastructure and realized significant growth in ridership as a result.

There is no excuse for us not to do the things that are proven to work in a variety of urban contexts.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-05-11 11:01:25

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