Friday, October 19, 2007
Slow Cities: Back to the Future?
A recent piece in Der Spiegel talked about an outgrowth of Italy's Slow Food Movement, Slow Cities. Or in pseudo-Italian, Cittaslow.
The idea is to encourage the development of liveable cities, ones where people come before cars and where is there is a concentration on local products and industries and sustainable energy use. It is an attempt to ally medieval or Renaissance concepts of urban living with modern technology. Forty-two cities in Italy have already signed up to the Cittaslow manifesto, and the movement is spreading elsewhere in Europe. The cities all have populations of under 50,000. The mayor of Orvieto is putting together a manual that will be released later this year to explain the Slow City idea and how to make it work in a municpality.
One of the reasons that I enjoy cycling so much in Europe is that the towns are all to a human scale. I was struck by this recently on a business trip to Miami Beach, where I saw massive highways leading everywhere and realized that there was no way I would ride a bicycle there--although I did see two guys on racing bikes! On further reflection, I realize that in little Ottawa, for all its supposed bicycle-friendliness, I cannot ride the four miles from my house to the Ottawa Athletic Club to work out due to heavy traffic volumes and roads that I consider dangerous to ride on. Better to be able to ride everywhere conveniently and let people in cars be the ones that have to go the extra distance. Of course, the Europeans have to do something about those cobblestones...