Category Archives: Beautiful City

Transforming transport in Penang – and the earlier the better

Transport in Penang (and all around the world for that matter) relies on non-renewable sources of energy. Think 20 cars with one person in each vehicle, versus one bus with 20 passengers. The former creates traffic jams and worsens pollution to detract from the overall liveability of a city. It is often argued that supplying more roads only creates more demand for their usage. With 10,000 more vehicles added to Penang’s roads each month [1], we will have to commit ourselves soon to a decision to enhance sustainable transport.

Think City Bhd invited Prof Eric Britton, managing director of EcoPlan International in Paris, founder of World Car Free Days and longtime advocate of sustainable transport initiatives, to Penang with the purpose of studying the transport system, meeting stakeholders and hosting a series of events to come up with ideas and a new perspective for transportation improvements across the state. Thus, Sustainable Penang: Towards a New Mobility was arranged as a two-week itinerary that featured 11 focus group discussions, three master classes, a lecture, a symposium and dialogues with MPPP, MPSP and the Penang Transport Council.

Malaysia Penang heavy traffic in GT

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Changing Mindsets: Mine, Thine and Theirs

The mind. . . yours, mine, theirs. This is the hardest challenge of all, and one that is right at the core of our Sustainable Penang/New Mobility Agenda city towers jan gehl - smalltransformation project for 2014 and beyond.  Fortunately we are not the only ones since it is the age-old habit of man to lock blindly into old ideas — and particularly all those  old ideas which are so omnipresent and unquestioned by all who surround us that they finally become invisible. How can we change something if we cannot see it? But let’s hear what our old and great friend Jan Gehl has to say about this in a lecture which he gave recently to the annual conference of the European Foundation Centre on “Sustainable Cities: Foundations and our Urban Future” in Copenhagen.

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Jan Gehl is a practicing Urban Design Consultant and Professor of Urban Design jan gehlat the School of Architecture in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has extensively researched the form and use of public spaces and put his findings to practice in a variety of locations around the world.  His company, Gehl Architects — Urban Quality Consultants, focus strongly on the facilitation of public life in public spaces, often pushing the boundaries beyond common uses of the public realm. To Gehl, design always begins with an analysis of the spaces between buildings. Only after a vision has been established of what type of public life one wants to see flourishing, is attention given to the surrounding buildings and how they can work together to support public spaces.

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about the editor- 10dec13- taupe

Penang Focus Group 8. Non-Motorised Transport

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Penang Focus Group 1. Media Partners for a Sustainable Penang

 penang - media traffic camera

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Sustainable Penang: Toward a New Mobility Agenda Program Announcement of 3 Sept. 2013

fb-penang - 28aug13

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Penang Focus Group 6. Civil Society

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First poster to announce Penang New Mobility project

Mind Map Poster Penang 2aug13* Click image for full size POSTER

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The Unexpected Renaissance

Haentjens - book coverThere I was in Paris last week,  pretty much minding my own business ,which for the most part consisted of leading a last-semester international  MBA class into the wilds of Sustainable Development, Economy and Society, and my eye fell on a little blue book in the reception area. The title, “Crises: La Solution des Villes” was close enough to the topics that occupy our attention here, that I opened it and started to read. And what I found in the very first chapter was a highly engaging account of how a certain number of European cities, who back in the sixties and seventies were in deep pain mainly as a result of the entirely unanticipated process of deindustrialization, decided to react and turn their desperate situations around. And in the process, separately and together, began to reinvent the paradigm of the 21st century city.

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Learning from Lyon: Free Public Transport that really works

Here is a “free transport project” that is working remarkably well: In the Spring of 2005 the community of Greater Lyon in cooperation with their supplier JCDecaux launched the world’s first mega Public Bike System, Vélo’v. The project put some 3000 bikes into service, available in about 300 stations spread for the most part over the City of Lyon. All this is successful, amply detailed in many places and continues to this day to yield yeoman service for some 60,000 registered users (including the author). To gain access to the system, in addition to one day or one week tickets, the user pays an annual fee of € 25, and when using a bike a caution is debited from the users credit card until it is returned to a parking slot. From a user perspective it is a very successful system and use experience.

* But where is the “free public transport” element?

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Brief: “Cycling is the ‘Cinderella’ form of transport – ignored, mistreated, and yet to have its day. For the cost of one kilometre of urban freeway you could build 150km of bicycle paths, 10,000km of bicycle lanes or 100 well … Continue reading

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The long wait at the many unnecessary traffic lights in Germany may soon be over. Communities nationwide are exploring the use of alternative traffic control systems, such as roundabouts and zebra stripes, to resolve the traffic light’s growing issues of … Continue reading

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Paris: Ambitious mobility plans for economy, efficiency and equity. This ambitious effort on the part of Paris’s mayor and his team is well worth following, even if for some it is may be a bit inconvenient for those not able … Continue reading

John Pucher reports on “City Cycling”

John Pucher (cycling guru and Professor of Transport Policy at Rutgers university) gave a public lecture on cycling in cities in LA earlier this week, introducing his new book “City Cycling” to an attentive audience.  Kent Strumpell of the City of LA Bicycle Advisory Committee was there taking notes.  Which he kindly shares with us here: Continue reading

Do It Like The Dutch & Danes: Guide To Becoming A Bike Friendly Mecca

Why are some European cities cycling mad? And how can other cities copy their infrastructure? ECF spoke to Kalle Vaismaa, co-author of the book “Best European Practices in Promoting Cycling and Walking”. (Article source: European Cyclists’ Federation ECF)

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Why are we losing the war on sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives?

There are of course quite a number of reasons, but one of them is NOT that we do not have sufficient knowledge and experience in order to figure out and implement effectively a very large number of measures and policies, each of which one step at a time will draw us just one bit more close to our much needed goals. So that is definitely not the problem. Continue reading

No Parking, No Business 3: Walking and cycling perspectives

Continuing  our coverage of the open “No parking, No business” conversation, more on walkability impacts/local economic development impacts, this time  from Todd Litman: selected references  from the “Walkability” chapter of the Online TDM Encyclopedia of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.  Continue reading

No parking, no business 2: What happens in the store.

On 23 June we asked the following open question to our readers “Has anyone out there ever run across a solid report or study showing that local businesses suffer financially when a zone is pedestrianized or made bike-accessible? Or that real estate prices take a nose dive when such improvements are made? Most of us here are familiar with the other side of this coin, but it occurred to me that this such critical references might be useful to us all, given that these local conflicts and claims come up time and time again in cities around the world.” Continue reading

Public Bikesharing in North America

NEW REPORT: Public bikesharing—the shared use of a bicycle fleet—is an innovative transportation strategy that has recently emerged in major North American cities. Information technology (IT)-based bikesharing systems typically position bicycles throughout an urban environment, among a network of docking stations, for immediate access. Trips can be one-way, round-trip, or both, depending on the operator. Bikesharing can serve as both a first-and-last mile (connector to other modes) and a many-mile solution.  Continue reading

No Parking, No Business 1: What if the other guy actually has a point?

Last Saturday morning, the 23rd of June, I thought to ask an open question to several of our New Mobility Agenda fora as follows:

Has anyone out there ever run across a solid report or study showing that local businesses suffer financially when a zone is pedestrianized or made bike accessible? Or that real estate prices take a nose dive when such improvements are made? Most of us here are familiar with the other side of this coin, but it occurred to me that this such critical references might be useful to us all, given that these local conflicts and claims come up time and time again in cities around the world.

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The Invisible Cyclist: Transportation Justice

From Equity-Based Transportation Systems: Paradigm Shift.
The transportation justice movement calls into question government subsidies of transportation forms that tend to benefit largely white and affluent urban and suburban commuters and advocates for better transit options and safer streets for poor people and people of color. This population of cyclists is largely uncounted, unrecognized, and unrepresented. Put simply, these are the invisible cyclists. In many cases, invisible cyclists are the constituents of transportation justice organizations, but only insofar as they are poor people of color. As cyclists, they remain invisible.

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From the editor: Safe Streets? Who cares?

It is a truly dreadful thing for anyone, me for instance, to lay on you anything as hackneyed as: a picture is worth a thousand words. But let me run the risk and show you a couple of pictures and leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. The topic is the first round of reactions to our start-up 2012 collaborative project aiming at clarifying the concept of Safe Streets from a strategic planning and policy perspective. Continue reading

Carlos Pardo: On Slow(er) transport?

I was thinking that, since the concept of “slow” has been around for a while, but applied to concepts such as food and “living” in general, one could think of applying it to transport policies and projects… that is, create the term “slow transport” or “slower transport”, but responsibly. Below are some notes that could generate ideas towards that direction: where the concept comes from, why and how we can apply it, and some obstacles or possible problems. I will be as brief as possible, since I could write for ages about this. My main concern would be to develop a (or yet another) way of justifying the promotion and development of sustainable transport. And my main worry is that we could just generate a new empty term related to urban transport (we have enough already). Continue reading

Safer Streets LA – Wrap a couple of spare neurons around this one

From the 2012 Safe Streets Challenge project:
If you are (a) into safer streets and (b) ready to dig in to understand that things out there are not necessarily what one might necessarily think, may we suggest that you check out here this slightly counterintuitive piece that was posted this morning in our parallel Safe Streets project. Continue reading

Man and car: Who is driving whom this morning?

What is it about what the English call a motor car that, when an otherwise perfectly decent human enters it and slams the door shut, somehow there is a total transformation of that person gripping the stirring wheel into something, into someone who is just a little bit less decent and a little bit less human. A consistent theme of World Streets is that over the last hundred years or so our cars have not only transported us but they have also in the process also transformed us.  Oops. And in the process they have fatally (I chose my word) altered the dimensions of the space in which we live our daily lives, and in the same process made this thing that was supposed simply to transport us from A to B at our leisure, into a defining part of our daily lives — and indeed in some ways part of ourselves. A cruel critic might say, half Faust and half Frankenstein. Continue reading

Defining principles: Remembering Mrs. Jacobs

As we move ahead with the Safe Streets project over the course of the year ahead, there will be a small group of people to whom we shall be referring from time to time who have, through their insights and contributions, basically redefined the entire field of transport in cities. And Mrs. Jane Jacobs is of course one of this wonderful group. We are honored to be able to share these leadership profiles with you, and for Mrs. Jacobs we pass the word to Michael Mehaffy who reminds us of her contributions and takes on her critics head-on. Continue reading