Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. 🙂



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

23 responses to “Cities without streets?

  • outsourcedguru

    Having worked in San Francisco and lived across the Bay, I can suggest that Lombard Street is one of those places you have to visit at some point. It’s a bit of a pilgrimage and has a backup of cars on it, actually. From an angle, you can only see the greenery, though.

    During the day, it might look like this:


  • DawnGillDesigns

    ‘alpacas by ACFlory”

    Liked by 1 person

  • Candy Korman

    When I travel I’m always aware of the presence, or lack, of urban green. Berlin is a seriously big, old city and yet there are so many parks. New York has some spectacular green spaces, but I think not enough and not in all areas of the city. We need more! Everywhere!


  • greenpete58

    There was a documentary here in the U.S. years ago (circa 2010?) that profiled Chicago, Illinois’ attempts to establish green spaces on building rooftops. Not sure how that’s going now. The U.S. has a major problem with overuse of herbicides and pesticides. (I was a landscaper at one time, so I know.) Just recently, a cancer victim successfully won a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Monsanto, which manufactures the weed killer Round-Up. We’re all frightened of cancer, yet we keep dumping poisons on our lawns and plants. Something’s got to give. Maybe this lawsuit is a step in the right direction.


    • acflory

      Hi Pete. I read about that lawsuit with ENORMOUS joy. I feel terribly sorry for the gardener who’s paying for Roundup with his life, but I am so glad the tide seems to have turned.
      I believe Monsanto and Bayer? have merged, which doesn’t bode well as they were the two biggest offenders. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
      I hope your health is okay. :/


      • greenpete58

        Thanks, yes, we’re fortunately OK (though my wife had a cancer scare about 6 years ago). I refer to our neighborhood as “The Land of Little White Flags.” They go up every spring to indicate weed-killer application. On my evening runs, I can smell the chemical before I even see the flags. Selective herbicide, containing 2,4-D, which was a by-product of Agent Orange in our attempt to eradicate Communism. The dance between the U.S. government and Big Business continues, decades after “Silent Spring” awakened us to the dangers of insecticides and herbicides. Evidently, making money and pretty lawns are more important than public health. Ugh!


        • acflory

          ‘Little White Flags’…that is one of the scariest things I’ve ever come across. Here, only local councils do poisonings, and that’s just on the edge of the roads. Most people are [thankfully] not into lawns per se. I know I’m more than happy to live with weeds so long as the alpacas keep them mowed.
          Yeah, the power and influence of corporations does seem a little excessive in the US. -sigh- I’m being diplomatic. I honestly think Monsanto et al are run by demon-spawn. Seriously. How can any decent human being /push/ products that they know can cause immense harm?
          I just don’t buy the ‘it’s just a job’ or ‘if I don’t, someone else will’ attitude.
          -cough- apologies for the rant.

          Liked by 1 person

  • Audrey Driscoll

    That Lombard Street is in San Francisco. One of the worst things about paved streets is that the pavement prevents rainwater from soaking into the ground. I’ve heard about “green” buildings that sound wonderful, environmentally speaking. I wonder if anyone is thinking about “green” streets?


    • acflory

      THANK YOU! -dance- I’m so glad Lombard Street is in San Francisco. I fell in love with that city on my one and only visit, decades ago.
      I’m sure we’ll get to green streets eventually. We just have to change what value we place on clean air, water and ‘cooler’ urban environments. Cities are such heat sinks. If global warming isn’t stopped, cities may become unbearable in summer. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  • Cities without streets? – adnadim

    […] — Read on […]


  • Dhawal Joshi

    Actually there have been several plans to redesign several cities in the world but as you know once people settle they posses most resistance in changing that area. So there’s not much governments can do without creating an utter chaos.


    • acflory

      Yeah, inertia is very powerful, but sometimes change can come from the ground up. When we were given rebates for solar panels, Australians went nuts installing them on our roofs. Still not enough, and the govt isn’t helping now, but I think most of us want to go further. -fingers crossed-


      • Dhawal

        That’s actually a fun idea. What if every building had a solar roof top? I think we wouldn’t need half as much land just for creating solar farms. Or just install them on pavements over the roads? it’d provide shelter from rain and sun at the same time generate power. Quite interesting Idea to share with smart city planners.


        • acflory

          I like it. 🙂 Not sure how far along the concept of micro grids is, technically, but distributed power generation makes so much sense to me. And in decades to come, how about building materials that automatically harvest solar gain?


  • cagedunn

    gardens on walls, on rooftops, over all the railways and hanging down from bridges … water collection … bees …


  • thelonelyauthorblog

    Thank you for this post. My ancestry comes from Havana. This was a pleasure to read.


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