Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A future beyond standards

I found this article by  civil engineer to be very poignant.  Over the last 50 years there's been an asphalt arms race to make it safer and safer to drive faster and faster, at the of neighborhood character and safety for road users who aren't sheathed in steel and swaddled in airbags.   The irony is that the application of supposedly scientifically derived "standards" creates a  vicious cycle wherein wider roads increase speeds and make the roads more dangerous for everyone, so they widen the road again.

 One of the discussions of the changes to Western Ave in Cambridge, was about the desire to return the neighborhood character and make the street feel less like an extension of the highway it feeds into.  I'm glad that there's a new wave of engineers and planners who believe in models which include other factors than speed and throughput.  And I hope that this column goes viral among civil engineers, and that it gets posted on cubical walls and taped up on engineering professors' doors, as an inspiration for a future beyond "standards"


  1. Wow, you're right, that's a great article. I feel so blessed to have grown up in a town that progress forgot, with narrow streets I rode my bike on and plenty of trees. They're changing that now. Maybe we can stop them.

  2. I shared this with my husband, an urban planner. I had this experience when working as a legislative aide in Louisville, KY. Everything was about moving traffic "efficiently". Shaving a few minutes off travel time was prioritized over safety.

  3. What a moving article, especially coming from a former insider that now sees the error in building wide treeless streets. Thanks for posting!