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Is Cork Destined to Sprawl?

How we organise our cities has an impact on the environment, innovation and our pockets. International cross-city comparisons of sprawl are likely to become the norm. Recent evidence from the European Commission also suggests Cork is a bad offender when it comes to sprawl (see map).

Local governance has propelled this development over the past 50 years. The satellite town model has led to leapfrog residential development and led to problematic car dependency throughout the city-region.

The sprawl of the current footprint may cost our society (Cork) more dearly relative to other cities that are organising themselves more carefully. Current statistics using American data put the costs at more than 10,000 dollars per capita for citizens living in the worst sprawling cities versus the smartest compact cities (see table below).

The outcome of not tackling this problem could be a loss of innovation, a loss of economies of scale, a loss of FDI, a loss of Irish businesses and a lower standard of living as businesses and creative people will be searching for more innovative, sustainable and ultimately cheaper places to live. One of the key sources of the problem is our pro car-dependent led development model. Nearly 70 per cent of us in Cork travel to work, school or college each day by car.

The assumption I make when looking for potential solutions is that all humans are not perfect when it comes to thinking about the impact of our decisions on others. We do not wake up each day and consider other peoples interests and the sustainability of the planet is not to the forefront of our everyday thoughts. Like most of my fellow corkonians - I am car-dependent. I live in a satellite town which enabled more house and garden space for less money. I have free parking at home and at work. I have free parking in suburban shopping centres and in most places I visit. The level of city parking costs do not act to discourage my travel to the city by car. I save time going to work by car because the bus is congested in satellite town traffic, stops at a plethora of different areas (due to sprawl) and is inefficient. As a result, locating myself by a bus stop or a cycle lane did not inherently influence my choice of where I lived.