Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Freeways Have No Place in Cities

Dateline: 1:55 pm August 22, 2012 Filed under:

Take a look at this map and tell me what is missing?

If you guessed freeways, you are correct. This is a section of south Minneapolis on the City of Minneapolis Bicycle Map. You can find the online version and printable PDFs here. In this case, freeways are difficult to see – I really had to look to find them – it’s like they aren’t there. They appear more like an abondoned railroad would on a standard street map – there is nothing there but space. You only notice freeways because the urban grid doesn’t cross at every street. Otherwise they are insignificant. Indeed, to a cyclist, freeways are insignificant.

Map geeks like me will appreciate the readability of this map, where useful information is prominent and unimportant information like freeways are not dwelled upon. For cyclists, it illustrates very well where the best routes are, from off-street trails to on-street lanes even and to streets with heavier motor vehicle traffic where you should exercise caution. Still, freeways fall by the wayside as they should (what use do cyclists have for freeways?). Instead, parks, lakes, rivers, theaters, museums, bookstores, libraries and places of worship pop out. This map is as cities should be!

What the map really conveys is how tantalizing it would be if our cities had no freeways severing them hither and yon across the urban landscape. The map makes the city seem more whole, more complete. What if it were true? Our downtowns would no longer be cut off from the rest of the city, neighborhoods no longer divided randomly by sound walls. Neal Peirce’s recent Citiwire column discusses a Freway-Free Future. Wouldn’t it be nice?

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