Why transport is core to making cities livable

A livable city is one that serves the needs of people and the environment. Since the 1950s cities grew rapidly and the overall priority was to accommodate vehicle traffic. This was ‘progress’ and good for the economy, but the needs of people were mostly ignored. In the last couple of decades this has been re-evaluated and the focus now is on making cities fit for people rather than cars. A ‘liveable city’ must be socially healthy and equitable and it must be environmentally respectful.

Central priorities must be to provide equal access to opportunity, through good transport options, to provide healthy lifestyles by creating active travel options and high quality urban realm (which is, in fact, part of the transport network) that attracts human activity and social interaction. A good city will be in tune with its environment if its systems are clean, low carbon and supportive of biodiversity. By suppressing vehicle use and providing integrated transport networks that include walking infrastructure, it is possible to create the livable city.

People hate traffic and traffic destroys the quality of life. Cars have become the cancer in modern cities.  We need to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. Fossil fuel engines have a deadly impact on air quality and traffic congestion is stressful and bad for the economy. By getting more people to engage in active travel, it is possible to improve the citizen’s physical and mental health; by providing links that connect communities we can improve social inclusion; by providing clean transport including walking and cycling networks, we can improve the environment.  All of these are good for the city’s economy. It makes complete sense.

Cities do need access for freight and public service vehicles – to bring in our food and goods, to relocate waste and for emergency services.  It is possible to design this infrastructure to respect all of the above principles. The pictures show designs Goldstein Ween Architects proposed for bus and freight hubs in the city of Kano, Nigeria; a project for the World Bank Environment Program. The central concept for both was to integrate the facilities into the city by connecting footpaths and cycle lanes, and to create ‘gardens’ providing shade and shelter to dwell in and biodiversity habitat. Instead of being vast seas of tarmac we created mini parks within the city.


Camilla Ween, Director of Goldstein Ween Architects; Speaker at the EcoMobility World Congress 2017