State of World Streets: 2009-2014

Today marks the fifth anniversary edition of World Streets. Our first number ws-newsstandappeared on 31 March 2009 with an opening message by the editor — click here – announcing the targets, intent and proposed method of this new collaborative media venture. On the same day we published our Mission Statement — Say Goodbye to Old Mobility —  which you can read here. Today we would like to spend a few minutes with you to review  the accomplishments and, yes!,  the shortcomings and disappointments  of these first five years.  And then go on to look out to our hopes and intentions for the rest of this decade. Continue reading

Lessons from COP15 : Staring the challenge in the eyes. Three Failures – Three new beginnings

It’s close to midnight on this fateful Friday the 18th, as COP15 suddenly trudges unfulfilled sadly into our past. And as I sort through the debris, I am struggling to figure out what might be the main lessons of this experience. Let me share with you my late-night thoughts concerning three event-shaping failures, or at least stark short-comings which I suggest we will all do well to learn from. After all we have the planet waiting for us. Continue reading

US Report Shows How Safe Routes to School Initiatives Protect Children Walking and Bicycling

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership in the United States has just released a new report showing how Safe Routes to School programs can be harnessed to keep children safe from traffic dangers while walking and bicycling to school. The report explores the approaches five different communities used to create safer environments for children walking and bicycling. The lessons are universal.

The five communities (Santa Rosa, CA; Miami-Dade County, FL; state of ME; Springfield, MO; and Portland, OR) each demonstrate how Safe Routes to School evaluation, education, encouragement, enforcement, and engineering can address traffic safety concerns. Many of these safety improvements are made at relatively low costs to communities and schools, yet have profound effects on keeping children safe while also improving physical health and the environment.

The report demonstrates there are many different approaches to improving safety for children walking and bicycling:

• In Santa Rosa, CA, after children received pedestrian safety education, there was a 63 percent increase in children using the crosswalks to cross the street rather than crossing at unmarked locations.

• In Miami-Dade County, FL, since the launch of the WalkSafe™ child pedestrian safety program in 2001, there has been a 43 percent decrease in the total number of children ages 0-14 hit by cars.

• An analysis comparing bicycle crash rates in Maine for the eight years before their Bicycle Safety Education Program was implemented (1992 to 1999) with the first eight years the program has been offered (2000-2007) reveals a 51 percent drop in bicycle crashes for children aged 10-14.

• Springfield, MO has already demonstrated the impact special roadway signage can have on vehicle speeds. Data from their pilot showed that 85 percent of motorists reduced their speeds by three to five miles per hour without any increase in enforcement after speed limits were reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph.

• Infrastructure improvements in Portland, OR have been successful in helping decrease crashes, as well as the severity of the crashes. Total crashes decreased by nearly 25 percent and there was a 32 percent decline in pedestrian injuries from crashes.

Deb Hubsmith, Director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership noted, “The success stories in this report show the power and promise of Safe Routes to School to help communities all across the country to address safety risks and improve conditions for students walking and bicycling to school.”

In 2007, an estimated 14,000 children ages 14 and under were injured as pedestrians, while more than 300 children were killed while walking. In 2008, an estimated 52,000 bicyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes, and 21 percent of those bicyclists-nearly 11,000 children-were age 14 or younger. Children walking and bicycling to school represent 11 percent of injuries and fatalities during the school commute, but just 14 percent of trips and less than two percent of miles traveled.

Transportation for America also recently released a report, Dangerous by Design, identifying the dangers that pedestrians face in 360 metropolitan areas and focusing on solving the epidemic of preventable pedestrian deaths through active transportation. Safe Routes to School programs can provide tangible solutions to major traffic safety issues such as these, making it safer for children-and other residents-to walk and bicycle in their neighborhoods and to and from school.

Congress launched the federal Safe Routes to School program in 2005 through the federal transportation bill and provided $612 million for five years of state-level implementation of programs that build sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways, while also providing funding for education, promotion, and law enforcement. Federal Safe Routes to School funds are educating children on safe bicycle and pedestrian practices, increasing traffic enforcement to improve adherence to traffic laws and speed limits, and making infrastructure improvements to create safe places for children to walk and bicycle.

The report can be viewed at www.saferoutespartnership.org.


The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, hosted by the non-profit Bikes Belong Foundation, is a network of more than 400 nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools, and professionals working together to advance the Safe Routes to School movement in the United States. The Partnership focuses on building partnerships, changing policies, advancing legislation, and improving the built environment.

COP15: Radio France interviews World Streets Editor

As part of the massive media effort underway in France in support of the Copenhagen initiative, the editor of World Streets was invited by Ann-Cécile Bras of Radio France International this morning to share his views and reactions to the COP15 process and what might come next. His principal theme: “The problem is not the problem. The problem is the ‘solution’.” Follow the podcast here. Continue reading

The Transportation Majority. Can’t politicians count?

Public transport? Cycling? Walking? Car pooling? Car sharing? Stuck at home? Elderly? Handicapped? Spend my hard-earned money for them? Bah! Who needs it? Why bother if it’s just for a few marginal people? Let’s concentrate on the big problems, those of the majority of people. Us drivers and our cars. We are the transportation majority.

In the world of human mobility there is, as it turns out, no one “big problem”. And hence no big solutions. There is, for better or worse, just an ever-changing confluence of a very large number of different problems, different people, different desires, different daily life realities, different needs, different constraints, different priorities, different possibilities, and different decisions. And different actions. And different consequences.

The old mobility vision of society is essentially one of striding workers, with secure jobs, fixed hours, well defined trips, leaping into their car and then buckling up for “safe driving”. Very nice.

All of whom well served by our “normal transportation arrangements”, that is the huge and hugely expansive infrastructure that we continue to build and repair to support automotive transportation (and those largely empty cars).

Something like eighty percent of the local transportation funding in most cities of the world goes for that car-supporting infrastructure: roads, bridges, cloverleafs, tunnels, supporting elections, policing, accident prevention, and the long list goes on. Life is sweet.

Then there are “the rest”, among them: the old, disabled, poor, rural, etc., etc. And of course the poor old disabled rural.

They too of course need to be catered to as well. Fair enough. Let’s give them a bit here and a bit there too. But most of our hard-earned tax money is still going to be spent on providing high quality mobility arrangements for “normal people”. That’s right, isn’t it?

Sorry but no, it’s not at all right. It is in fact 100% wrong. It is wrong because it is grossly unfair and uncivil. And beyond that, it is also based on a false precept. Why?

Because that splendid vision of society with thee and me at the wheel with the wind blowing through our golden hair, simply does not jibe with reality. It never did in the past, and as our societies age it increasingly is absurdly contrary to reality. Here is the surprise, the kicker:

The “transportation majority” is not what most people think, transportation planners and policy makers among them.

The transportation majority are all those of us who increasingly are poorly served by the mainline, no-choice, car-based truncated service arrangements that eat up most of our taxpayer money and take away our choices. And each year, as our populations age this majority grows in numbers.

Here is a generic short-list of the people who make up this till-now all too silent majority:

1. Everyone in your city, country or electorate who does not have a car

2. Everyone who cannot drive

3. Everyone who cannot afford to own and operate a car of their own (And remember that costs a lot of after-tax money)

4. Everyone who should not drive (for reasons of a variety of impediments such as limitations associated with age, psychological state , , , ,)

5. Everyone who lives in a large city and for reasons of density, public health and quality of city life needs to have access to a non-car mobility system

6. Everyone who would in fact prefer to get around by walking, cycling or some form of shared transport who cannot safely or readily do so, because all the money is being spent on the car-based system which is fundamentally, and financially, incompatible with these “softer” and more healthy ways of getting around

7. Everyone who suffers from some form of impairment that makes driving or even access to traditional public transit difficult or impossible

8. Everyone who cannot responsibly take the wheel at any given time (fatigue, distraction, nervousness, some form of intoxication. . . )

9. All those who are today isolated and unable to participate in the life of our communities fully because they simply do not have a decent way to get around.

10. And — don’t lose sight of this! – in a few years you!

How do we work our way out of this? Simple, get out there and vote!

Vote for mayors, counselors and legislators who are ready to work for the transportation majority.

Vote for mayors, counselors and legislators who are ready to join the transportation majority and get to work and around their city by public transport, walking, bicycle, carpool, or carsharing. Or better yet some combination all of the above.

And don’t vote for the other guys.

They will get your message.

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Editor’s note:

Several of our readers have pointed out that while this may be interesting, the only way to make the point is to put numbers to it. Exactly! But this has to be done on a place by place basis, so one can hope that this will be done and that we shall be seeing the results of this important metric here and in many other places.

Our Personal Choices — and (un)Sustainable Lives

I don’t think we can buy the argument anymore that we deserve special dispensation just because we think what we are doing is worthwhile. *

airplane takeoff pollutionLet’s see. At last count there were already more than seven billion of us sharing this suddenly very small planet. And let’s say, just to get a crude handle on this, that each of us, whether in Mali or Malibu, makes something like a hundred “personal planet action choices” each day, leading to specific actions which when we had them all up have quite a potential impact on our earth.

Choices like turning a water tap on or off tight, leaving something electric on when we are no longer using it, buying more stuff that locks us into using them perhaps somehow excessively, hopping into the car to go to the gym, perhaps getting on a plane to take the wife and kids for a long week-end in Maui, voting for public officials who persistently invest in what is clearly unsustainable infrastructure for vehicles and not sustainable mobility for us ordinary people — you know, the long list of all those often very small things we do, usually without thinking about it at the time, and certainly not considering what happens when we add it all up.

When it comes to our personal mobility behavior the number of choices we make is only part of this greater whole, but if you do your own calculus about trips taken, including those by foot, you will quickly see that if you take us all together there are at least many tens of billions of “personal planet-defining mobility choices” that taken together determine our collective footprint on our small planet.

Now that’s a pretty big number and an awful lot of people spread out over the world map to somehow re-orchestrate into a more sustainable mobility mode for all. Daunting task. Where to start?

What about this? One way to start to get a handle on the issues is this . . . . . . when in doubt look into the mirror.

 * The original posting of this text and personal CO2 reduction strategy appeared in these pages in November 2004.

    Contents

  • Why bother even trying?
  • How am I doing? (Oops!)
  • Personal air travel/CO2 minimization strategy
  • References
  • Ten practical suggestions

 

Why bother even trying?

“I am a very busy person and my work is highly important. I have to fly a great deal to do my job and make my contribution to the economy and a better world. Anyway, I am only one person. The problem is not measured in such small personal doses. Is it? So please, leave me alone and let me get on with my important work.”

It’s quite a challenge here in the turmoiled 21st century to live a sustainable life when technology, our unexamined habits and for some of us sheer abundance– the many agreeable ‘acquis’ of the rich and profligate North of our time — invariably have us more or less operating on auto- pilot, opting for daily life choices, small and large, inconsequential and egregious, which together add up to pretty unsustainable lives. Even for those among us who are deeply concerned about the issues of sustainable development for the planet as a whole. But that whole is made up of each of us, one by one — and no less important many of the “us’s” working on these issues are people with potential high public exposure. Thus our very visible examples count double.

So if I, to take a concrete example, decide I “need” to travel from Paris to, say, Shanghai for an assignment to advance the sustainability agenda in concrete ways — if I use the Climate Care or some other workable CO2 calculator I can see without a doubt that in the process through my personal actions I will cause some four tons of CO2 to be spewed into the atmosphere.

Hmm. How many time a year can I permit myself to do that in good faith? Is there a more efficient way to get that particular job done? Or at least if I do make the trip, how can I make sure that I am responsible in my choice? I better do a lot and work hard and smart while I am there, or our gasping planet will be the loser.

This page introduces a selection of the growing collection of web-based devices that can help us to get a better grip on the impact of our choices, of our actual actions. And perhaps with this knowledge, we may modify our choices. Some of us? At least perhaps some of our choices? In any event the sheer knowledge of what we are making happen should be a step in the right direction.

I end this piece with a bit on my own travel philosophy and personal choices in the face of these important challenges. (And how am I doing? Well to be perfectly honest, not so great. But I’m working on it. In fact I have something of a strategy. Have a look and tell me how to do better.)

 

How am I (eric britton) doing?

How can a man, riding on an ox, looking for an ox, ever find an ox?

Aaaargh! Don’t ask. I guess the answer to that is not too horribly badly for a dullish, somewhat over-schooled, hence exaggeratedly privileged middle class male with international work pretensions . . but given the scale and urgency of the problems here in the opening years of this new and environmentally threatened century, not nearly enough. Yet.

In daily life, like most of you I am sure, I try to be pretty energy frugal. I live in a well insulated apartment, turn off lights when I leave the room, am careful about water, no air conditioning, enjoy cool rooms in the winter, sort my garbage, am pretty frugal about buying stuff and certainly am not a new clotheshorse, etc. The usual.

When it comes to getting around in the city, most of my trips are by foot and bike. And our world-level transit system that most cities would die for. The missing piece of my personal new mobility puzzle for now is convenient carsharing and a taxi subscription, which is not quite yet here. I did manage, finally, to get rid of my magnificent if twenty year old Honda station wagon (sob!), and am now trying to learn to live without it. Not easy. Better get on to the carshare folks to work out a new routine. Hmm. This one is going to take some effort. 

But here is my most serious challenge – Air travel. 

 

Personal choices and practices: Air travel/GHG minimization strategy

From the vantage of supply, since 1993 many of my collaborators and I have been assiduous users in our daily work of videoconferencing and IP group work tools as a travel substitute. . . but really and above all as a work enhancer. We use this not only for the usual one-on-one sessions and exchanges, but also for group meetings and even on quite regular occasions to permit my full participation in conferences held in distance locations. (Click here in case you are not aware of the current state of play in our use of these handy low cost technologies.) Where I think I do fairly well by comparison with many of my esteemed peers is in my systematic avoidance of what I consider to be unnecessary air travel. I have two ways of accomplishing this: think of them as supply and demand management.

On the demand side, my strategies are two. First, I refuse to go to any distant location just for a one or two day conference or whatever. If I am going to go to Bogotá, Bangkok or Bangor, it will not be for just a quick in and out you go visit. I insist that once there, I must stay, work at least one full day on that place’s sustainability agenda, for each hour I spend in an airplane getting there. So ten hours of uncomfortable jet travel to LA, means ten days of work on LA specific problems in areas of my expertise. The advantage of this is that it serves as more TDM, and at the same time permits me to be more useful in my work with colleagues and groups in that place.

But there is another huge advantage from my own personal work and knowledge perspective, and that is when I have a chance to work closely with the people in each of these places, I simply learn a great deal. And I would like to think communicate a lot to them as well. In any event for me it’s a no-brainer and that’s the way it is. (Believe me dear colleagues, it’s the only way to live! You learn so much.)

To reinforce my travel minimization philosophy (and this does not hurt) I request business class travel and first class lodging accommodations when I travel. (If you look at the fare tables to check out these prices you will see how this can be quite effective as a TDM measure all by itself. I always suggest to my clients that they sit down before getting their travel agent’s quote on this.)

How does this work out? Well, when I run my annual Ecological Footprint drill for myself my results suggest that if everyone on the planet behaved as I do, we would need at least another half a planet to serve all of us. Ouch! On the other hand, were I living in say Los Angeles with a life style that goes with the place, we’d need closer to eight planets. Bottom line: slight satisfaction but clearly I can and should do better.

 

References

Some Emissions Calculators to test yourself with

  • Climate Care Calculatorhttp://www.climatecare.org/home.aspxThere are a fast growing number of these around now. Here are some of the ones that we have found most useful. Clean up your CO2 emissions quickly and efficiently, just by using one or more of our Carbon Calculators.
  • For all your daily emissions, click through to our Car & Home Calculator. There you can repair your impact on global warming, by offsetting the CO2 you produce driving your car(s) and heating and lighting your home.
  • A return trip from London to New York for one individual, generates more CO2 than driving a family car for 3 months. Air travel is climate-costly, so offset your aviation today using our Air Travel Calculator. Too busy to calculate your offsets? Then just go straight to our new Fixed Offset Options where you’ll find an offset to fit every pocket.
  • Ecological Footprinthttp://www.earthday.org/footprint-calculator
    Sustainability means achieving satisfying lives for all within the means of nature – now and in the future. The extent to which we’re using more than nature can provide can be measured with the Ecological Footprint. This information points us to actions that can address fundamental sustainability concerns, and it gives us a way to measure our progress. Check it out and see how you are doing. Happy?
  • Global Footprint- http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/personal_footprint/
    supports a sustainable economy by promoting the Ecological Footprint, a tool that makes sustainability measurable. We coordinate research and develop methodological standards so that decision makers have robust resource accounts to ensure that we live within the Earth’s budget.

 

 

“Getting real”: How to offset your emissions when you have to do it

Some existing Offset Programs you can start to use today:There are two major points we would like to make here. The first is to bring to your attention a handful of websites and programs that you can already use easily to offset your emissions (sins?) when you absolutely have to climb onto that plane. Then, an idea that we should like to explore with you in the weeks ahead about how we might both do this and at the same time use the resources that it brings in to back specific actions, programs and groups that in our view are worthy of support. Let’s start with those already offering off-set arrangements that you can start to use today:

  • The Climate Trust is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to providing solutions to stabilize our rapidly changing climate The Climate Trust Offset Program invests funds received from power plants, businesses, and individuals into projects that offset their GHG emissions>. The Program is aimed at “Large Emitters” (power plants and the like), the “Donate-to-Offset Organizations program” and a parallel program for employees of cooperating organizations .
    Climate Trust is a US based non-profit, and the income received from the various offers is invested into their project portfolio which includes: energy efficiency, renewable energy, cogeneration, transportation efficiency, and reforestation projects.
  • “Sustainable Travel International now offers MyClimate™, “a service that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Through the MyClimate™ program, travelers, corporations, travel service providers, and academic institutions can take concrete action to fight climate change by investing in WWF-certified carbon offset projects that help to neutralize the negative impacts of their air and ground travel.” They also have a ” Travelers’ Philanthropy” program. Otherwise they have their own carbon calculator for estimating the necessary offsets, and a choice of WWF approved projects for your money.
  • The CarbonNeutral Company maintains a number of carbon offset and forestry projects, and has its own range ofCarbon Calculators to work out your personal emissions. They also have a simple CarbonNeutral Citizen’s program which gives you an opportunity to make an annual donation that will go at least part way to compensate for your life style choices. In their cases the money received for charitable donations has been directed, for the past three years, towards Transparency International’s Forestry Integrity Network, which campaigns against bribery and corruption in management and exploitation of the world’s natural resources.
  • Climate Care offers organizations and individuals a way to reduce their impact on global warming. It sells carbon offsets on the one hand while funding and managing projects on the other. They also have an ingenious Fixed Offsets program which allows you to pay by credit card for your calculated life style emissions.

So let’s see how this last one might guide me for that round trip flight from Paris to Sydney. I first turn to their Air Travel Calculator, which informs me that my round trip is going to generate close to five tons of CO2, for which my “offset” costs according to their calculation is on the order of 31 Pounds Sterling (roughly $55). Okay. I then click to make a secure payment through the credit card and currency of my choice — and bingo I have paid for my latest eco-sin.

Of course, if we possibly can, the best is simply not to take that next flight without giving it serious thought, and otherwise be reasonably carbon-modest with all that entails. But if you for some reason are caught this time, then please consider making a contribution to the offset program of your choice. You can be sure that this extra amount of awareness is in time going to pay off. So you are already making an important first step.

Note: All of these programs offer certificates or other forms of recognition for your good civic behavior. Good on you but is that enough? According to my back of the envelop calculations, far from it. To be “sustainable” we would have to multiply that by some very large number indeed. Try it. It will have some interesting effects.

 

Ten Practical Suggestions for Limiting Your Carbon Emissions – Travel & Transport *

  1. Calculate your own carbon dioxide emissions: find out how much you are contributing to global warming. In order to obtain a fairly reliable figure, use a carbon calculator (see below).
  2. Drastically reduce or stop flying: it is the most damaging means of travel per kilometre and is associated with long-distance journeys.
  3. Get rid of your car if you can calculate how much money you would save.
  4. Buy the most fuel efficient car if you have to have one, but use it sparingly. Get a gas-powered car (or convert your car to gas): it is cheaper to run and emits less carbon dioxide. You may be able to get a government grant to do so.
  5. Change your driving habits: restrict your speed (driving at 70 mph uses 30% more energy than at 50 mph), use higher gears as soon as traffic conditions allow, and don’t run your engine when stationary. Service your car regularly and keep tyre pressures up. If you have air conditioning, limit its use.
  6. Move closer to your work or choose a job closer to your home, and work from home, whenever possible
  7. Change your other travel patterns: cycle or walk for local trips. (It will also improve your health and fitness.) Use local shops and services, select local schools, take holidays close to home, and use the bus rather than drive.
  8. Get your local schools, colleges and public services to produce green travel plans to discourage long-distance commuting, to promote cycling, walking and bus use, and to car pool and share a ride whenever possible
  9. Spread the word: tell people what you are doing to prevent climate change and why you are doing it, and encourage them to do likewise.
  10. Join an environmental pressure group with a good track record in influencing politicians on critical issues such as taking steps to restrict fuel use dramatically.

*.Adapted with permission from Mayer Hillman (with Tina Fawcett) How we can save the planet, Penguin Books, 2004

 

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Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is MD of EcoPlan International, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government, business and civil society on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. His forthcoming book, “Toward a General Theory of Transport in Cities”, is being presented, discussed and critiqued in a series of international conferences, master classes, workshops and media events over 2015. (More at http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7)

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Guest editorial: What to do when public transportation fails

Recently the city of Philadelphia, experienced a six day long strike by the local transit authority, SEPTA. Subways and buses stopped operating only hours before the Monday morning rush hour leaving workers scrambling for alternative modes of transportation to get to the office.

- Submitted by Timothy Ericson, CityRyde, Philidelphia, PA USA

The strike also left many school aged children stranded and unable to attend classes. Even non-transit riders were frustrated with huge increases in vehicular traffic on all of the city’s roads and hiways. During the strike period, bicycle ridership skyrocketed in Philadelphia as it was the only option for many commuters to reach their destinations. The strike forced many residents to view the bicycle as a primary form of transportation.

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