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| 2 minutes read

Global cities: the race is never over

I have had the pleasure of some travel over recent weeks, which has seen me make return visits to Mexico City, New York City, and Washington D.C. A great opportunity to catch-up with Steer colleagues as well as explore the cities since I was last there. I thought I'd share some reflections and photos, but remember this isn't from an inhabitant but an infrequent but previous visitor!

After a few years’ absence from each of the cities, my universal view of all three was that they were moving forward and there was much to enjoy in each. I had always wanted to visit each of the cities, though I'd heard rumours of each battling some challenges, particularly since the pandemic. After my quick visits, I feel that each could point to demonstrable investments and ways of working that seek to increase the livability of their busy streets and communities. 

In the heart of Manhattan and Brooklyn, there were now more extensive road lanes cordoned off for pedestrians as well as fixed cycling infrastructure. Each of the cities boasted extensive cycle and scooter hire, and clearly they are all seeking to invest in their transit systems, even if some of that investment is in remediation of issues for Washington and New York.

I also enjoyed some great urban realm. New York’s world famous High Line hasn’t stood still since I lived in NYC just over a decade ago. This elevated urban park has now been extended all the way to the Hudson Yards development on 34th Street, providing 20 blocks of culturally rich and interactive urban realm. It was very easy to spot the regeneration and new architecture that the High Line and its meaning had stimulated.

A weekend in Washington left me impressed with much of the cleanliness and pedestrian friendly nature of the streets. Admittedly, I was staying within 2 miles of the White House, and some of the common urban issues of homelessness were very evident. The Metro was, as ever, simple in its design, uncluttered, and relatively clean (within the ticketed zone) as it battles a number of asset and safety challenges and continues to grow its network.

Mexico City has always been a city of contrast. So much greenery in this massive city of 20 million. It is wrestling with the growing population and their reliance on cars, but public transport investment is underway. In the meantime, the cafe of culture of Polanco and Condesa is very much in evidence and enjoyable. I have to admit the visible smog took its toll on me, though colleagues said this was caused by local coal and oil power stations and not the significant traffic that the city wrestles with.

As I return home, I ponder what London’s future global competitiveness for liveability will be. The Garden Bridge is no more, but how will we invest, operate, and celebrate our own global city. One thing is for sure, London cannot sit still, because the three cities I visited all have much to offer and are pushing forward as they wrestle with their own challenges. I look forward to seeing how we make London compete in this race to create compelling and liveable cities!

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” ― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities


active transport, cities & places, design, customer & user experience, developments & real estate, development planning, economic development, equity and inclusion, infrastructure, planning & delivery, strategy & policy, sustainability, urban design & placemaking, urban transport