String of Pearls provides an eminently practical solution to the mounting problems of urban America as well as a universal template applicable to all cities. Increasing traffic, congestion, sprawl and pollution and the attendant deterioration of urban life is hardly an American phenomenon. Many cities around the globe are having a far worse time of traffic and congestion than American cities; however, for a variety of reasons this work will focus on America.
From 1990 to 2000 traffic in America increased 35% though only 1% was added to road capacity. New urban highways have become nearly impossible to contemplate, from the extremely negative reaction they elicit from the people who would need to be bulldozed out of their way, as well as their immense cost. As a result, for lack of reasonable alternatives, streets are often widened for vehicle traffic to the detriment of pedestrians and other uses. Urban livability thus becomes degraded incrementally with every additional car speeding by each narrowed sidewalk.
Part of the problem is mindset. Traffic streets are most often zoned for commerce which simultaneously increases traffic and reduces capacity. This is part of an historic pattern, a roadside culture that America can't seem to extricate itself from. Also, according to prevailing economic wisdom, every space has to be filled with uses of the highest value. This means great effort is put into the development of commercial 'strips' even though they are thoroughly out of favor in all planning circles and have been for decades. There is also a tendency, for various reasons, to put housing on heavy traffic streets and hard up against freeways though such actions are impossible to justify socially or environmentally.
The US is trying to grapple with its urban problems while locked into the patterns of the past: this makes real improvement impossible. String of Pearls offers a gradual approach which gets to the heart of the modern urban dilemma. It offers a concept which accommodates and serves private auto use far better than the current default system while it concurrently almost entirely eliminates the evil impacts of traffic on the individual.
It brings the natural to city life sufficiently to ameliorate the feeling of crowding and oppression experienced by many urban dwellers, while it creates a dense and vital urbanity - sorely lacking in most American cities - within the reach of every citizen. Finally it pays in large part for great manipulations of the urban fabric by devolving power to the neighborhoods and in general evolving a simpler, more organic city.
It is the ultimate user-friendly city without sacrificing the essential convenience of private vehicles. Rather the citizenry is offered alternatives that are palatable enough to frequently make them the preferred mode of travel. The old dense cities of the past were, are still in many cases, being abandoned for suburbia. But suburbia has taken on many of the problems of the inner city and has clearly not provided the answers that were sought. The same old patterns, improved on or otherwise, will continue to fail to solve the country’s urban problems. The concept espoused in String of Pearls provides a revolutionarily conceived, evolution-mode answer to the world's urban ills.
||The sidewalk as an urban art form, and more - snapshots from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia|
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