The secret is out – everywhere you look cities are mushrooming, and people go flocking. A flock of people migrating to cities quickly creates more than just crowds, it creates Overcrowds. These Overcrowds breath, eat, sleep, work, play and most of all move. People move from home to work to gym to school to a restaurant to home, and tomorrow it starts all over again (granted these patterns can be vastly different).
How are Overcrowds and congestion related? In its most basic definition, congestion is the overcrowding of a particular space. So, how does one as a planner, architect or engineer create the streams for this flow of crowds to move, or even live, freely?
Anyone that has lived in a city has been witness (or even a member) of these Overcrowds. They’re on your streets, public transport (armpits in face anyone), and your treadmill; they’re in your grocers, schools, and hospitals. They follow you to work in the mornings and leave you at home in the afternoons. Often the Others will tell us city dwellers: “You chose to share ‘your’ space with millions of people. Deal with it!” I say: “N-to-the-O”, and this refusal is the great challenge of our city dwelling generation.
So, how do we create urban spaces, for millions of people, without getting into each other’s spaces?
My answer: be smart about it. Simple right?! Well, not quite. No solution to an infinitely complex problem will be simple, however the approach you take, and the perspective you employ to solve that problem can be smart and simple.
Congestion, although being a problem, is not a cause, it is a symptom. Therefore, in order to cure our cities of congestion, you must rid them of the virus that caused it. That virus is a lack of alternatives within the various systems that make up a city (whether be it transport, retail or education) and little diversity and experimentation in professionals, and “experts”, attempts’ to provide these systems. So, much like when you have a flu, you don’t attempt to cure it simply by blowing your nose, i.e. getting rid of congestion, you rid your body of the influenza virus.