Throughout history, cities have invested in programs and infrastructure to support the efficient movement of people and goods. Once upon a time, this meant regularly cleaning up after horses and providing tethering rings. Over time, streetcar tracks ran down city streets. Then those were paved over to make way for cars to drive and park. As cities began focusing more on livability and embraced “new urbanism” approaches to revival, streetcar tracks began to return alongside dedicated bus lanes, bike racks, and dedicated bike lanes.
Cities now face a number of new demands on their public rights of way. It will take new forms of urban design and management to accommodate the next generation of mobility services like bike-share systems, car sharing, micro-mobility services, and rideshare services. Broader smart city technologies like parking management, wayfinding, and citizen engagement technologies will also factor into the design process.
Cities that are serious about tackling climate change are also recognizing that they need to electrify everything that moves. This includes private passenger cars, and requires making room for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the public right of way.
Cities that have been most successful in promoting cycling, like my home town of Portland, have invested in bike racks, dedicated bike lanes, and other infrastructure that is ubiquitous, convenient, and highly visible. Likewise, cities that want to reduce air pollution and meet carbon goals by accelerating transportation electrification need to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure that is ubiquitous, convenient, and highly visible, using public rights of way.
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