The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth

That’s the name of an interesting new book by Robert Kirkman, subtitled, ‘the future of our built environment’. Though Kirkman is from the USA, the cover photo shows London’s M25 “ring road” with its right-hand-drive traffic bunched magesterially across five lanes going one way, a little less cosy on five lanes going the other, all amid England’s green and pleasant (as was) land.

So whilst we all love to slag off Americans-in-big-stupid cars, we might as well be a bit more ecumenical and admit that people in big-stupid-cars flourish everywhere. Even in Helsinki. Even in my beloved Eira. Especially  in Eira.

Some effort goes into working out just how many cars ARE in Helsinki and around it.

Top left, the yellow line shows trips in private cars compared to trips  by public transport in the Helsinki area. Top right, the steady reduction in the proportion of journeys made in the Helsinki region by public transport. Bottom, mode of transport crossing the boundary between Helsinki and its neighbours (top down: motor car; bus; tram; metro; train).

It was with some satisfaction then, that we found a piece of polite but firm anti-stupidity about Helsinki and cars from the environmental organisation Dodo. As part of the recently closed consultation on the first part of the Pasila redevelopment plan (the competition is open for the next bit), they wrote a thoughtful letter to the City that they also published on their website. Here a few translated snippets.

With our suggestions we would like to strengthen Mid-Pasila’s identity as a place and not just as a compulsory through-road. We believe that as central an area needs to be planned from a premise whose motto could be: “not a square metre of uninteresting space”.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. So now, let’s everyone do all we can to abolish those stupid ideas of routing a four-or-more-lane highway through the area. Let’s just remind ourselves of what we are actually talking about. At least, as it was for much of last summer.

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