Category Archives: Culture

Not Sustainable Development

garbage dumpAs your professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Society you would have thought that I might at least have sat you down at the beginning of the seminar and given you a clear understanding of that oft-repeated rarely-questioned phrase “sustainable development”.

This Nathalie Nomblot brought most embarrassingly to my attention yesterday when we were struggling to find a good topic for her make-up Quick Report, which I had usefully (!) suggested  she might write on “sustainable development” and “something else” (her choice).  To which she energetically wrote back:  “In one sentence, could you please give me your definition of Sustainable Development? That would help!”

Oops!

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INVISIBILITY: Just because you can’t see it (or prefer not to) doesn’t mean . . .

   man sleeping under sidewalk - top half only

You are warmly invited to comment on all or any of these.

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Weekend musing: If you like anything at all about World Streets, please make sure you go see Wadjda.

saudi arabia wadjda poster

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Whenever I hear the word revolver . . . I reach for my culture.

We have long-held a theory at the New Mobility Agenda that you can never tell where the next good idea is going to come from. So you really do have to keep your eyes, ears and minds wide open, and learn where you can, where you can, from whom you can. For example, Volkswagen in the New Mobility Agenda? Well, what not? Let’s show you one great idea that you may not have seen the first time around and that we have just this morning plucked out from our archives.
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Honk! Getting off the ox (when it comes to cars and cities).

There is a bit of ancient Hindu  wisdom that goes, roughly: How can a man riding an ox and looking for an ox, ever find the ox.  The answer being of course, only when he gets off the ox. Thus it is in life, but for many of us it is somewhere between hard and impossible to ever get off the ox of our perceptions and set values. But there are, thankfully, creative people who can do this.

Here by way of a quick warm-up is one quick demonstration of this off-the-ox approach from the lively mind of Jean Tinguely of his Cyclograveur, in short a bicycle that, as you pant and pedal, paints beautiful (?!?) pictures. And now t for your weekend reading pleasure let’s have a look at what our friends over at Streetsblog have just reported on another more timely off-the-ox transportation project, this time by the ever-ingenious Chris Burden with his post-Tinguely road-wrapping machine, Metropolis II.  Off we go. Continue reading

Weekend break with Lee Schipper on Vibes

Lee (The Phunky Physicist) Schipper  on Vibraphone at Better Air Quality 2008 workshop in Bangkok, Thailand –  playing at Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel on Nov, 11th 2008. Continue reading

Hangzhou – View from the saddle of one of China’s most liveable cities.

While Paris and London hog the world’s media attention with Boris’ Bikes and the Velib, by some accounts the Chinese city of Hangzhou now boasts the world’s largest and most used public shared bicycle system. Rory McMullan, contributing editor, reports on his impressions of the city, its transport network and the public bike system from an on-street carbon-free visit during the Chinese New Year.

 

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World Streets 2010: Aspirations, accomplishments, building blocks, and work still needed to move ahead

The most significant accomplishment over this last year has been that World Streets has somehow managed to continue publication on a weekly basis, and step by step to improve the journal and steadily build up our international readership and contributions. And all this really quite against the odds and with less than modicum of the necessary financial support. But good cause, high commitment and fair performance carry the day, with the result that each week anywhere from 700 to 2000 readers from more than fifty countries from all corners of the world come in to access the journal. Continue reading

What is the best way to teach an adult to cycle?

Sustainable transport cannot be separated from sustainable cities. Nor sustainable cities from sustainable lives. Here is a small project from Sweden that takes as its goal to teach people how to balance and move safely around on a bike. But who in Sweden cannot climb on a cycle without a thought and toddle off? Well, among others immigrant women coming from Africa and the Middle East who find themselves living in this very different culture in which they are free to cycle like everyone else. Continue reading

Grading Sustainable Transport: Scholarship A. Leadership C-

One of the often voiced claims of World Streets is that those who best understand the issues and priorities behind sustainable transport and sustainable cities are failing to command the high ground in the debate and the politics of decision simply because we are just not good enough at communicating our ideas, first to each other and then to the world. All too often when confronted with a decision issue, with our strong academic orientation and backgrounds, we prefer to turn to the familiar world of more research, fatter reports and that next great conference, while at the end of the day what we really need is a concise, credible, understandable presentation of our best ideas and the choices that need to be made. Continue reading

Happy Diwali. (Thank you Pallavi.)

Happy Diwali. (Thank you Pallavi.) Today at the end of the very first week of publication of our brave new India Streets, we like to take a page out of the book of our associate editor Pallavi Pant who wished us all today “Happy Diwali”. And since I for one (“I” in this case being Eric Britton, an editor of India Streets) really did not understand what it was about beyond a kind of “Hindu New Year + Thanksgiving” (sorry!), I had to look it up. And for those of you who share my ign … Read More

via India Streets

Transport and the lock-in problem

Politicians are reluctant to confront the economic and environmental costs of transport. The task: to reduce the demand for mobility. I probably don’t write about transport as much as I ought to, and that was brought home to me at an event on The Future of Transport in Leuven in Belgium, at which I was also a speaker. There’s a case for regarding transport as a climate emergency, given that it accounts for about a quarter of Europe’s carbon emissions, and that in the last decade (unlike pretty much every other sector) emissions from transport have continued to grow sharply. And before I continue, even if you’re a climate sceptic, this represents a significant policy issue: the transport sector (at least, the non-human powered transport sector) is 97% dependent on fossil fuels. As these become scarcer, more expensive, and more prone to interruption, we will have an incipient social and economic problem which is serious enough to prod policy makers.  … Read More

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Bodhisattva in the metro

The Sanskrit term Bodhisattva is the name given to anyone who, motivated by great compassion and wisdom, has generated bodhichitta, a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. What makes someone a Bodhisattva is her or his spontaneous and limitless dedication to the ultimate welfare of others.

(May we suggest that you view this at least two times? Get comfortable.)

It’s not the destination, it’s the voyage.

Merci Christine.

World/Streets.

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Credits:
The scenarist and director of “Merci” is Christine Rabette (she is the one reading the book). Produced by Patrick Quinet and Artémis Productions, Belgium – www.artemisproductions.com With the support of the Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Communauté française (CCA), Belgium — //www.audiovisuel.cfwb.be/

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Paris, Monday, 29 March 2010

PS. What is it supposed to mean?

I was afraid I might be asked this question, and indeed I have on several occasions in the last day. So in all respect let me give this a stab, although I really do hesitate because in a way I see this as an intrusion on your interpretation, which is the only one that counts. So be it.

Essentially I had three thoughts lurking at the back of my mind in wanting to share this short film with you. None of them being ha-ha jovial.

The first is that I see it as pure Zen, by which in this case I mean it is what you want it to be. If you have the patience for it (your call!), it is well done, it is about life, and it is oh so gently about people. So to me, even as a World/Streets guy, the fact that it takes place in an urban transport mode is not at all the main point. But to each of us, her/his own.

The second idea was to see if this might serve for some as a quiet, close to subliminal call to encourage us all to get comfortable with different thinking about our mission, and more generally that of planners and policy makers when faced with the challenges that World/Streets among many others attempts to address. I hope I am hurting no one’s feelings greatly when I make the point that much of the work that is planned and executed in our sector all too often combines high technical virtuosity, or at least talent, with a bit too narrow vision as to what cities are all about. Too much attention given to infrastructure, and not enough to people. (Did that come across for you?)

Finally, I wanted to see if this might reinforce one of our fundamental precepts here at World/Streets, which is that we need to give more attention to happiness as a goal of our work and choices. As a reformed economist I certainly do not want to surrender all of the terrain of happiness vs. your favorite indicator to Amartya Sen and Joe Stiglitz (as per their exemplary contribution via the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress). They have helped to blaze this path, but we now need to take it further in our own work.

More happiness in transport, more happiness in cities. Tell me that this is not a noble goal?

Eric Britton
Editor, World/Streets

PS. And oh yes, tell us what you think this is all about. That’s what the Comments section just below is for.

Musing: Chopin, sustainable transport and sustainable lives

All of us who show up here, well most of us anyway, have come to understand that we can’t simply cut matters of “transport” with one snip away from the rest of the fabric of our daily lives. Which is why we continually keep repeating phrases like “sustainable cities and sustainable lives” (perhaps much to your annoyance, eh?). Which brings us on this early and cold Sunday morning in Paris to the perhaps surprising link between World Streets and Frédéric Chopin. That’s right, Frédéric Chopin.

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Is this too much of a weekend stretch? You tell me.

For starters, Chopin and World Streets were born on the same day but one, March 1st for the great composer, March 2nd for your favorite (and the planet’s only) sustainable transport daily. One day and one hundred ninety nine years, that is.

Still too much of a stretch? Admitted. So let’s try this. But first, let me invite you to listen to this Nocturne (Opus 15, No. 1, in F) while I give this my last late Sunday morning try.

Chopin reminds us — you can hear it right here, can’t you? — of the importance of quiet and reflection in our daily lives. Quiet and reflection yes but with plenty of ideas, drive and passion — not at all a “sit back and wait for it to happen to you” life.

Here in this spirit are three quiet and to me really quite thrilling moments in the life of sustainable ways of getting around (which of course and exactly is why we are all here and what I want for you and all our children).

- On any day in any city in the world, being able to walk quietly and safely on an ordinary street holding the hand of someone you love

- On a visit to Ludwigsburg in southern Germany, on a chilly autumn afternoon as school is just getting out, hearing a distant flutter of almost bird like noises which soon materialize into a gaggle of chaotically peddling schoolchildren, girls and boys, large and small, chatting and laughing as they safely and joyfully make their way home on a reserved bike path. (Shouldn’t those be your children?)

- Warmly ensconced in a seat on a clean train getting where we wish to go while comfortably reading a big fat book as the wheels turn beneath us.

Then, and finally for this end of a long week musing, there is the concept of shared space, so important to the composer, writer, painter, playwright and film maker – the vital shared space they seek and create by means of our eyes, ears and minds. No one can listen to Chopin, or Chekov or Molière or or . . . without being drawn into the special space they first create and then draw us in.

We now know this. This concept of shared space is critical for us as well. It’s an indisputable fact. There can be no sustainable development, no sustainable cities, nor real well-being for all without deeper and wiser sharing. We have a lot to learn about this.

Yes, the young Pole was telling us something very important, so we really need to listen and learn. And then do.

It’s March, let’s go to the movies: "Fixing the Great Mistake in New York City"

Fixing the Great Mistake: Autocentric Development in New York City opens a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today. The irrepressible Elizabeth Press points her camera at Paul White of New York’s Transportation Alternatives who tells us the story.

Fixing the Great Mistake in New York City: Autocentric Development

- by Elizabeth Press on February 25, 2010

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