Cars versus people: depicting battles over urban public space

No one likes to sit in traffic, and city traffic is the worst. But equally, when we step out of the car (or hopefully off the bus or metro) in a city, our pedestrian activities remain dictated by cars. We can only cross at designated points; we wait for traffic lights to cross the street – hopefully still looking both ways for the occasional careless driver who didn’t notice the pedestrians on the crosswalk. (It’s happened to me…)

To address safety concerns in cities, the Swedish Road Association (now the Swedish Transport Association) commissioned artist Karl Jilg to depict how much urban public space is dedicated to cars, illustrating the ongoing battle between cars versus people.


Vox journalist  writes: by depicting roads as chasms, and crosswalks as rickety planks spanning them, [Jilg] shows just how lopsided the proportions of a normal urban street corner really are. Perhaps if we designed cities differently, focusing more on the human scale, as opposed to the automobile, this may not just influence how safe a city is for pedestrians (and cyclists) but also influence our interactions in cities. After all, this image tells a rather isolating story.

Copenhagen, for one, is a champion of human-scale public space design, on its famous walking street, Strøget, as well as in other public spaces, which prioritize the free movement of pedestrians and cyclists over cars. Equally, in Amsterdam cyclists are the kings and queens of cool – not the car. These are cities that people love to visit, and more importantly, love to live in. Copenhagen was named most livable in 2014 by Monocle, and Amsterdam was acknowledged in 2012 by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) global “livability” ranking. The quality of life in these cities is based on many factors, but among them – the safety and freedom enabled by a transport planning model that focuses on people. After all, I’d rather live in a city without giant cavities leading into a dark abyss…


5 thoughts on “Cars versus people: depicting battles over urban public space

  1. Totally agree, loved the way the Dutch put the cyclists first and loved the cycling paths. Did a 30km bike ride on a classic bycicle, good memories:)

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