Context 151 - September 2017

36 C O N T E X T 1 5 1 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 DAVID RUDLIN Cities choked by cars For an area of road on which cars will move 4,400 people an hour, bicycles will move 14,400 people and trams 66,000 people. Congested UK cities need the courage to change. before it got really busy, but this was a mistake. At six in the morning Jaipur is a ghost town, the shops are closed, the streets strewed with prodigious quantities of litter and there is no traffic. An Indian city is nothing without its traffic. It may be riotous, polluting, noisy and dangerous but it is intrinsic to the historic character of India’s historic cities. Tuc-tucs and mopeds may have replaced cycles and mule carts, and the noise and pollution levels may have risen considerably, but it was always thus. The same is true in China and Italy and, yes indeed, even in the UK.This is where we were misled by Gordon Cullen’s evocative drawings of Italian towns. Not only are they largely devoid of people, they managed to omit the beaten up Fiat 500s and Vespas that would have been parked in every available space when he was sketching. Faced with these levels of congestion, cities generally Let us start, if you can imagine, with a film of a chaotic street in a historic city, clogged with traffic, with pedestrians dodging in and out of the oncoming vehicles beneath a pall of pollution. A typical scene, you might think, in any historic city in the UK and something about which something should be done. Except that the film was of London, the date was somewhere around the start of the 20th century and most of the vehicles in the film were horse drawn. Traffic has always been an issue in cities. The Romans no doubt complained bitterly about chariot congestion in Chester and every successful city throughout history has been chaotic. Traffic is a sign of success. More than that, it is part of the character of any city street. When I was in Jaipur in India last year I was woken at some unearthly hour to be taken on a dawn walk of the historic Pink City. The idea was to enjoy the city