This TEDxCairo Talk (Turn on the “Caption” button if you don’t speak Arabic) by Tarek Rakha, PhD Candiate, Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a powerful and moving appeal for the need to humanize our cities, with a specific focus on new car-oriented satellite cities being built in Egypt.
Rakha describes three axes to the issue of walkability and bikeability: 1) Activities - What are the activities in the place you’re looking at? 2) Comfort - Will you be comfortable during the errand or not? and 3) Design – Is the design of the street convenient for you both in terms of architectural design as well as social culture?
At 16:20 Rakha describes that it is more relevant for car-oriented cities to look for strategies for change, not so much from the Netherlands or Denmark where bike-friendly culture is further advanced, but in North American car-oriented cities that are just starting to make the shift. “I am asking you to look at the things the American society is trying to do to help the citizen reclaim the street. The first thing is ‘complete streets’. The idea of a complete street is that the street is not designed for car drivers only. The street is for those who bike, those who take public transportation, those on wheelchairs and even the visually impaired.”
Rakho ends his talk with an appeal to macho culture to make the streets safe for women, thus making it safe for all. “Social justice originates from the street. The street where man and woman are equal. The street where the pedestrian and the car owner are equal. The disabled and the healthy are not just equal, but are also the priority…. The street where a woman will not be able to walk, is a street where no one can walk.… Let’s try to make use of our streets because they were originally made for us. Let’s try to make our lives revolve around our humanity and not our cars.