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Cities for the People

Overcrowded, dirty, and disorderly cities undermine residents’ health as much as their happiness. With urbanization occurring at an unprecedented rate, there is an urgent need for careful planning, collaboration, communication, and consensus.

SINGAPORE – Dante’s Divine Comedy describes one level of hell (the City of Dis) as“Satan’s wretched city … full of distress and torment terrible.” He could well have been describing many modern-day metropolises.

The world, especially Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, is experiencing a massive wave of urbanization. And yet it is occurring largely in the absence of urban planning, with even those municipalities that attempt to create plans often failing to enforce them effectively or account properly for the needs of the majority. The result is overcrowded, dirty, and disorderly cities that undermine residents’ health and happiness.

In planning our cities, we have put the needs of cars over those of people, too often emphasizing accessibility for private vehicles (while penalizing pedestrians and bicyclists for jaywalking) – an approach that creates near-permanent gridlock and heavy pollution. The average driver in Los Angeles spends 102 hours per year in peak traffic. In Jakarta, the average driver starts and stops more than 33,000 times per year.

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