Living, breathing, changing cities pose a challenge to even the best urban planners — how will they grow? Are they sustainable? Can every resident prosper and live a happy, healthy life?
No one has a monopoly on answers, and that holds true for the U.S. too. As our cities swell and we look for answers, maybe we need to cast our eyes to the Continent.
Creative thinkers across the Atlantic have come up with a host of bold new ideas that would not only help their own cities, but improve ours, too.
For Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge 2014, European cities with at least 100,000 residents submit ideas tackling some of their most pressing issues. If even one of them proves a game-changer, we could all win.
Submissions included novel ideas to spur the economy, save the environment and boost civic engagement. As Fast Company reports, 21 finalists will compete for a grand prize of €5 million (almost $7 million), with €1 million (almost $1.4 million) for each runner-up. The results will be announced in June.
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A sampling of five creative finalists:
Health/Anti-obesity: Bristol, United Kingdom. Tackling obesity and unemployment by creating a new economic system that increases access to locally grown, healthy foods (A similar idea is taking off in Texas).
Civic Engagement: The Hague, Netherlands. Enabling citizens to allocate a portion of their own taxes to support local projects.
Transportation: Krakow, Poland. Encouraging residents to opt for greener modes of transportation with smart, personalized transportation incentives and a seamless public transit payment system.
Energy: Lisbon, Portugal. Reducing the carbon footprint and upping sustainability by transforming kinetic energy generated by city traffic into electricity.  (At the Riverdale Country School in New York, kids are powering their school just by walking).
Environment: Stockholm, Sweden. Combating climate change by engaging citizens to produce biochar, an organic material that increases tree growth and purifies storm runoff.
The list of inspirational projects continues. There’s Barcelona’s initiative to improve the quality of life for aging residents, and a plan from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, to help young entrepreneurs launch local high-tech businesses.
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Read the full list of finalists yourself. Ponder the possibilities for your town. If Lisbon can harness traffic to the power grid, what could L.A. gridlock provide? If Stockholm can save the trees, why can’t New York?
What can your city do?