Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bottom line: Roads are for vehicles. Streets are for people.
(No matter where you are in the world.)

Your editor was on automatic pilot this early morning, reading with half an eye the International Herald Tribune/New York Times as is his habit, and behold there in the Letters to the Editor column were a series of words which at first glance he thought he had written himself. (More coffee clearly needed.) Wrong, it was Lee Schipper commenting on an earlier Times piece on "Building Cambodia’s roads". I quote:

Building Cambodia’s roads

Regarding the article “Cambodia’s routes to riches” (Jan. 19): While rural roads connecting major population centers are important for development, Cambodians rely mostly on bicycles, small motorbikes and their feet for transportation. This majority of travelers is usually the first sacrificed for cars and trucks. New roads tend to cut through smaller villages and lead to the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists, who are rarely considered by the road-building authorities.

Striking a balance between development, auto-mobility for the minority of Cambodians with cars, and the livelihoods of the majority, ought to be more important than opening tourist centers. Is this the only way for Cambodia to develop?

Lee Schipper, Ph.D. -
Project Scientist, Global Metropolitan Studies, UC Berkeley
Senior Research Engineer, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, Stanford Univ.

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Most of us who have managed to make our way to the right side of these issues have for some time made the vital distinction between roads and streets, for which the Executive Summary is: (a) roads are for vehicles and (b) streets are for people. And once you have figured that out, all kinds of good things can follow. (And you can find quite a bit more on this here by clicking

Thanks Lee for reminding us once again -- and as we gear up to make our collective voice heard in Haiti this is one of the key points we need to make, make early, and make in a way that our voices get heard.

Eric Britton

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