in your New York Times article “These Americans Are Just Going Around in Circles. It Helps the Climate.” you argue that roundabouts are part of the solution to combat climate change. Your main argument rests on the fact that roundabouts can reduce green gas emissions up to 59% compared to traditional intersections where vehicles idle. Far from arguing with those results – yes, we should prevent vehicles from idling – I would instead suggest that any car-oriented “green” solution, is no solution at all. Doing less harm with incremental changes such as integrating roundabouts in suburbs, won’t help with the current climate emergency. It won’t reverse nor stop climate change. And it doesn’t help us prepare for the storm ahead.
To combat climate change and at the same time to forge resilient communities, cities should be compact. Roundabouts do the opposite of that by creating major intersections which force pedestrians to walk longer distances. Intersections, and overall urban developments, should not be designed to reduce time cars spend in them; they should be designed to reduce walked distances. Only then, will we favor walking over taking the car. To bring our carbon emissions near zero we will need to shift our focus from car-oriented to human-oriented cities. Not driving needs to become the obvious choice. Our cities also need to be climate change ready. Compact and efficient cities, combined with mixed-use zoning and dense neighborhoods organized around their local economies and public transports have the power to generate the resilience we need to face climate change and stop our carbon emissions from going up.
I urge you to question any “sustainable solution” presented to you by asking yourself: what is this trying to sustain? Also consider this: our cultural habits are the drivers of climate change. By refusing to tackle urban sprawl and the way we transport ourselves, but mostly, by refusing to look at how urban environments influence our life choices, we will never reduce carbon emissions enough in time before we all hit a wall (some already have). Building resilient communities and taking a deep hard look at our lifestyles are the real challenges we need to tackle right now. Not electric vs gas cars. Not idling vs no idling, which reduces some emissions. Any initiative promoting the use of cars, whether electric or not, is going in the opposite direction of where we need to go. Or rather, it keeps us going in circle.
There are many good examples of how we can adapt our cities to become more compact, efficient, dense and mixed while simultaneously supporting strong economies, healthy natural environments and social networks. To name only a few : the 15 minutes cities concept, the complete street concept, Transit Oriented Development, Food Oriented Development, cyclist only roundabouts and bridges, Barcelona’s Superilles, Montreal’s green and blue alleyways, Europe mixed streets or Dutch “Woonerfs”, architectural and urban design propositions from the C40 International competition, any initiative from the Regenesis group (the Brattleboro Food Coop in Vermont being a very good one), tactical urbanism…the real solutions already exist, but are we ready for actual change?
Introduction letter to Cara:
I am an architecture graduate and project manager at L’OEUF Architecture in Montreal. In the past four years, I have dedicated myself to research and practical work to look at how architecture can help combat climate change. I have studied under the tutelage, worked for and I am now working with ones of the top eco-architects in Canada.
I am writing to you this morning in reaction to Cara Buckley’s article “These Americans Are Just Going in Circles. It Helps the Climate.” You will find attach a response that will be published on L’OEUF’s website next week. (www.loeuf.com)
Cara’s article, I know, was meant as a feel-good piece. Although any reporter having a worldwide readership should be held accountable of how they frame sustainability. Which is the purpose of my response.
I hope you will consider my letter and I am looking forward to reading more of your excellent journalistic work.
To read the NYT’s article : https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/20/climate/roundabouts-climate-emissions-driving.html