Urbanized is a fascinating documentary, highlighting what is important about cities and what draws people to them, while calling attention to the issues they face in the 21st century. The film starts off, with experts and urban planners explaining what makes a city a place people want to be. People are drawn to cities for opportunity for a better life. Throughout the film, many cities are examined, in the developed and developing world. It is explained how developed cities, like Copenhagen, were able to remake themselves to become more sustainable. Often, here in the US, bike lanes are just a picture painted in the middle of the road. However, Copenhagen’s planners came up with an ingenious, though obvious idea to shield bike lanes with a strip of parked cars, creating a sense of safety, thus encouraging more nervous bikers to use them. But perhaps even more important is the developing world. Cities there are experiencing a giant burst in population, and now’s the time for them to upgrade their urban environments. New Yorkers will recall the age of Robert Moses, when neighborhoods were ripped apart for his highway-building projects. It is in all of our interests that the developing world learn from our mistakes. However, that’s much easier said than done. But really, in the end, it’s those cities who invest in smart, sustainable new technologies who will benefit the most. For instance, Bogota, Columbia’s mayor decided to create a bus rapid-transit network instead of the immensely expensive subways that other cities have built. Running in their own lanes, the former mayor explained, these buses whisk people across the city quickly. For the cost of only a few miles of subway, Bogota was able to build hundreds of miles of its new BRT system. Especially in young cities that are growing fast, planners need to not only think of the now but also of the future. Many landmarks that could have been standing for hundreds of years in New York City were torn down, without much thought, and replaced with glass boxes. Even Midtown Manhattan would have been bisected by an expressway had it not been for citizens standing up for their city. It’s time we all thought about how to improve our cities, and take action before it’s too late.
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