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Israelis offer radical new rat-based urban renewal scheme

Rodents prefer Manhattan to New Orleans, apparently

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Israeli professors have advocated a radical new method of city planning. They say that proposed layouts for new urban construction should be tested by checking what rats think of them, suggesting that recent trials in which furry rodents favoured New York's street plan over that of New Orleans indicate the murines' superior judgement.

The research has been carried out at Tel Aviv university, where geographers and zoologists were obviously keen to discover more efficient methods of laying out new city construction.

"Our research takes the art used by humans to create their towns and cities and turns it back to the animal world for testing," says Prof David Eilam of Tel Aviv Uni.

"We can look at how rats will react to a city's geography to come up with an optimal urban plan."

It seems that the Israeli profs designed two model city plans, of the sort which could be used when laying out a new area of city. One layout was of the sort found in Manhattan, with a regular grid system. The other was on the general lines of New Orleans, in a mad haphazard Frenchy hodge-podge style.

"Using the grid, the rats covered a vast amount of territory, 'seeing the sights' quickly," says Eilam.

"In contrast, rats in an irregular plan resembling New Orleans failed to move far from where they started and didn't cover much territory, despite travelling the same distances as the 'Manhattan rats'."

According to the Israeli urban-renewal profs, this means that Manhattan-style gridded streets are "much more rat- and people-friendly than cities with unstructured and winding streets".

"We've built an environment to test city plans, so that 'soul-less' and ineffective new neighborhoods won't be built," adds Prof Eilam. ®

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