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Creating a sustainable, liveable and healthy city

Creating a sustainable, liveable and healthy city is essential for the survival of humankind and our cities. This article will tell you more.
A woman standing on the beautiful terrace of Guell park in Barcelona. She is wearing a sun hat and is smiling. The sky behind her is clear with a few clouds.
© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility

Urban and transport planning has a large impact on sustainability, liveability and health.

A recent study in Barcelona estimated 3 000 people die prematurely each year (20% of total mortality) because of urban and transport planning-related environmental and lifestyle factors. The largest contributor to premature death was lack of physical activity, followed by air pollution, noise, heat island effects, and lack of green space.

Infrastructure for cars results in higher vehicle use and increases air pollution, noise, greenhouse gas emissions, stress, mental health problems, and heat island effects. It also reduces physical activity, green space and social contacts.

To create a liveable and healthy city, there is a need to reduce urban sprawl and car dependency, increase public space for people, increase public and active transport, and increase green space.

There are no magic bullets to achieve these goals. It requires a package of measures, strong political leadership and large investments.

The following are eight strategies:

1. People at the centre of public spaces

  • Change the hierarchy of planning from car/motorbikes, public transport, cycling and pedestrians to pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and car/motorbikes.
  • Introduce a 30km/h speed limit for neighbourhoods.

2. Reduce motorised traffic

  • Reduce the number of motorised vehicles circulating with an overall aim of a car-free city, starting with making the CBD car-free.
  • Introduce levies for parking at work in the city (e.g. $500-1,000 per year) that can be used to fund public transport.
  • Introduce transport planning policies that result in the same travel time for cars and public transport from and to a given destination, by giving priority to public transport.

3. Move towards public and active transport

  • Increase the cycling network with a segregated cycling lane on each road and make sure it is well connected.
  • Encourage and provide financial incentives for electric bicycles for long-distance cycling and/or cycling in hilly areas.
  • Create policies and infrastructure so all children can get to school by active and public transport.

4. Zero-emission motorised traffic

  • Make all buses, trucks, cars and motorbikes electric by a certain target—all new motorised vehicles should be electric.
  • Use rooftops for a distributed solar power system (with solar panels) to provide renewable energy for electric vehicles and households.

5. Reclaim the streets

  • Make walking a joy—safe, comfortable, and interesting. The quality of sidewalks, parks, and plazas—life “between” buildings—is one of the ultimate signs of a healthy city.
  • Buffering pedestrians from traffic, reducing the speed of traffic on residential streets, and widening sidewalks.

6. Fast and frequent local transit

  • Make it the fastest way to get around. That means getting transit out of traffic.
  • An express network of rapid transit buses and trains that take 20 minutes to get all the way across town at regular intervals (eg every five minutes).

7. Living gracefully with the car

  • Accommodate the car, but gracefully. That means managing the supply of parking to make sure that cars don’t overwhelm the capacity of the streets.
  • Car-sharing organisations and taxicabs make it possible for people to enjoy the benefits of car use without the burdens of car ownership.

8. Improve governance

  • Strong political leadership to make changes.
  • Provide administrative structure within the metropolitan area that integrates urban and transport planning, environment and public health policies to promote sustainability, health and well-being.
  • Work more closely with regional authorities and councils on integrating the transport system.
  • Create genuine participatory processes and involve citizens.

We can make our cities more sustainable, liveable and healthy, but it requires a large joint effort and can only be achieved with a strong vision and commitment. However, the results can be highly rewarding.

Now that you know more about creating a sustainable, liveable and healthy city, watch what Ms Sílvia Casorran Martos has to say.

© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility
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