Magnificent City Transformations: 10 Before & After Photos

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Slowly but surely, cities worldwide are realizing that prioritizing space for cars in land-deficient urban areas might not be a good idea.

Cars can be great for traveling longer distances, but in cities, they simply don’t work efficiently.

That’s why many urban planners are increasingly focusing on urban microbility (i.e., prioritizing access for people on bicycles, scooters, or on foot). This frees up tonnes of valuable space on city streets while simultaneously making the area a more enjoyable and safer place to be.

Below, we’ve compiled some before and after photos of city transformations that have gone from focusing on cars to focusing on people.

The results are stunning. Spreading this vision is extremely important, so please feel free to share this post with your friends if you want to see more cities like this.

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Vienna, Austria

Vienna’s transformation towards sustainable urban mobility is marked by innovative measures and investments. The city expanded its bike infrastructure by 20 kilometers in 2023, with a €100 million budget allocated until 2025 for further developments.

Smart mobility initiatives include electric municipal vehicles and an affordable public transport system, complemented by a versatile bike-sharing program, WienMobil. Unique traffic regulations allow cyclists to turn right at red lights at over 300 locations, enhancing cycling safety and efficiency.

Additionally, the ‘Get out of the Asphalt’ campaign redevelops public spaces with a focus on greenery, pedestrian-friendly areas, and improved cycling infrastructure.

Paris, France

Place de la République

Paris is actively transforming its urban mobility with a focus on cycling, pedestrian safety, and sustainable urban spaces.

The “Plan Vélo 2021-2026” involves a €250 million investment to expand cycling infrastructure, aiming to convert temporary lanes from the pandemic into permanent fixtures and add over 130 kilometers of protected lanes.

The “Code de la Rue” initiative has led to a 40% decrease in car traffic and a 45% reduction in pollution, emphasizing pedestrian safety and expanding the cycling network to over 1,120 kilometers.

Additionally, the city is doubling its Metro system to meet rising demands and inaugurated ÃŽlot Fertile, its first zero-carbon neighborhood, showcasing sustainable practices and green urban design

Dusseldorf, Germany

Since the 1990s, Düsseldorf has transformed its urban landscape, focusing on sustainable and pedestrian-friendly development.

A notable change was the conversion of a waterfront highway into a park, enhancing green spaces and walkability. The city also addresses housing and transportation challenges, requiring new constructions to include affordable housing and implementing a traffic congestion plan.

The MedienHafen area, a blend of historical and modern architecture, symbolizes innovative urban renewal.

Furthermore, the Mobilitätsplan 2030 emphasizes active mobility with improved cycling and walking infrastructure. These initiatives reflect Düsseldorf’s commitment to a livable, accessible, and sustainable urban environment

Utrecht, Netherlands

And another from Utretcht. It may be one of the best bike-friendly cities in the world these days, but it didn’t use to be like that…

Since the 1980s, Utrecht has transformed into a model city for sustainable mobility, primarily focusing on cycling infrastructure.

Now recognized as the cycling capital of the world, it has developed extensive bike lanes and streets, with significant investments leading to a high cycling rate among residents.

Utrecht’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) further emphasizes this shift, creating more pedestrian spaces, new bike routes, and public transport hubs.

Traffic management strategies, including reduced speed limits and directing non-local traffic to ring roads, have enhanced safety and appeal for walking and cycling.

These comprehensive changes reflect Utrecht’s commitment to creating a sustainable, livable urban environment

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam’s urban mobility transformation from the 1970s to the present day showcases a remarkable shift from car-centric to bike-friendly infrastructure. Initially influenced by post-World War II car-centric urbanism, growing issues of congestion and pollution prompted change.

The 1970s saw citizen protests and campaigns advocating for safer streets, leading to the adoption of an agile, car-reduction policy in the 1980s.

Amsterdam implemented traffic calming measures, sidewalk construction, and a parking management scheme to discourage car ownership. Protected and separated bike lanes were introduced, making cycling safer and more appealing.

Today, Amsterdam is renowned for its extensive cycling network and serves as a model for sustainable urban mobility transformations globally

New York, USA

Broadway W 42nd Street
IMAGE CREDIT: Google Earth

The transformation of Broadway, particularly around the 42nd Street area, has been part of a broader effort to revitalize and enhance the usability of this famous New York City street.

This transformation was largely focused on creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment by reducing vehicle traffic lanes, limiting turns, and in some cases, completely closing the street to vehicle traffic.

This resulted in the creation of pedestrian plazas and the improvement of traffic flow and safety through the corridor, particularly around iconic spots like Times Square and Herald Square.

Dublin, Ireland

Grafton Street in Dublin.
Image Credit: Google Earth

Grafton Street in Dublin has undergone several transformations over the years to become the vibrant, pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare it is today.

Today, Grafton Street is a bustling hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment, famous for its redbrick paving and as a venue for street performers and buskers.

It’s surrounded by numerous pubs, shops, and restaurants, making it a central social and commercial area in Dublin’s city center

Bordeaux, France

Rue du Palais de l'Ombrière in Bordeaux
Image Credit: Google Earth

The transformation of Rue du Palais de l’Ombrière in Bordeaux into a pedestrian area is deeply connected to the rich history of the site it occupies.

Historically, this area was the location of the Palais de l’Ombrière, a significant medieval palace that served as the residence of the Dukes of Aquitaine and later as the seat of the Parliament of Bordeaux from 1462 until the French Revolution.

The pedestrianization of Rue du Palais de l’Ombrière is part of Bordeaux’s ongoing efforts to enhance its historic city center, making it more accessible and enjoyable for pedestrians while preserving its cultural heritage.

Modena, Italy

Piazza Roma
Modena, Emilia-Romagna
Image Credit: Google Earth

Piazza Roma in Modena, Emilia-Romagna, has undergone significant changes that enhance its historical and cultural significance.

This square is home to the impressive Palazzo Ducale, which has been a focal point of the square and has been used for official celebrations since the time of the Dukedom.

The recent renovations have preserved its historical integrity while making the square more accessible and appealing to visitors.

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