A great piece on Copenhagen in Saturday's Toronto Star outlines yet another world city that has taken steps to encourage people to use various modes of transportation instead of being forced to use cars exclusively like many North American cities - including Hamilton.
I've always found it perplexing that in a so-called democratic society we are given no choice and virtually no infrastructure for basic transportation modes like walking and cycling.
A great tidbit in this story is the fact that Copenhangen, like many European cities, wasn't always this way. They decided to make good decisions and planned infrastructure that everyone can use.
"Copenhagen was designed for the car in the 1950s through the 1970s," [said Fred Sztabinski of the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation]. "We need to get the message out that the majority of European countries were pursuing policies that favoured car travel in the decades following the Second World War as the car became easier to own.
"Things didn't happen overnight. These aren't cities that were always bike-friendly. They had to start over again. We're where they were 20 or 30 years ago," Sztabinski said.
A common argument heard when a local wants to thwart bike lanes but has no good reason to is, "this ain't Europe". Well guess what: Europe wasn't "Europe" 30 years ago either. People make that statement trying to convince the listener that Europe has always had better bike infrastructure and that people are born on bicycles there.
In a few places this may be true, but by and large, European cities have seen proper leadership, planning and have worked hard to develop balanced transportation systems. Is it any wonder we spend lots of money to visit their cities with envy and a longing to see North American urban life improve?
It all starts, and ends, with leadership.
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