Who will destroy the roads and build them anew?

Roads are not neutral within the urban landscape. The roads we have, in North America, are the result of a confluence of technical and political factors – but suffice to say that they are currently designed for cars, and for cars to go fast. With few exceptions in the more new urbanist influenced cities, roads in North America tend towards wide, fast, and dangerous.

This has effects on the viability of different types of travel within the city – a wide street means people in cars go faster, which means the street is louder, more dangerous, more polluted, and worse for people walking, biking, living, and taking transit on the street. Therefore people drive more; this leads to a more atomized urban life, and a worse situation ecologically.

I mean this as a criticism not just of highways or 'stroads' which is where most state urbanists find their limit, but also to the seemingly normal movement of goods and people by cars and trucks. The technologies we use for transportation are in fact the result of political choices applied to space and infrastructure. A narrower street dominated by huge trucks is no more centered on freedom than a huge street with small trucks.

So, when we think of what an anarchist alternative might be, we first assess the problems enumerated above, and then think of how we can collectively put in to practice a system that removes these issues while also affirming anarchist values of freedom. So, we need to come up with ideas for a system of transport that is ‘green’ to the extent that is possible, that allows for freedom of movement for all, and that creates spaces for social connection and happiness, and that allows the appropriation of public space by all.

What we want is a system that allows for autonomy, and the realization of people’s desires to go where they want, when they want. To do this, my rough proposal is to make movement of goods separate from movement of people. This is somewhat the case with cargo ships and railroads. However the presence of large, heavy, and loud trucks to do 'last-mile' delivery in our cities makes it so that streets are widened, made heavier (and thus more expensive) through durable materials, and made loud – none of which make for conviviality.

There are a umber of ways we could do this separation – we could advocate for more subways and subterranean freight passages, or for aerial ropeways. The latter is a very old technology, but is widely in use for people and cargo around the world. By doing this, we can have the streets be quieter, places for life and not for logistics. Movement on surface streets can then be at either a human pace – like walking, rolling, or bicycling. All goods that can't move the last distances by rope can be moved by cargo bicycles. If we want to get somewhere faster than rolling, we can have smaller electric busses that run in underground tunnels.

In this possible future, the streets can be narrowed, making more room for all types of experimentation with common space. Furthermore, we can reappropriate much of the space used for cars and trucks for whatever we like, whether housing or gardens or parks.

This is, however, just an idea. It is one experiment we could try. The anarchist city is not centrally planned to an exact model, but will be comprised of ideas like this that spread by example and osmosis. I encourage other urbanists to contact me on Mastodon with their own proposals.