What Transportation And Public Health Can Learn From Each Other About Changing Public Behaviors

Which of the following is more likely to get you to drive slower down a street? Or to get the majority of car drivers on that street to slow down?

• A long talk with a friend about the dangers of speeding to yourself and others.
• A newly posted sign announcing a lower speed limit.
• A stop sign placed in the middle of the block.
• A series of speed bumps along the road. Continue reading

The Hundred Faces behind World Streets

We firmly believe that the move to sustainable lives is a very personal matter. For that reason every article that appears in World Streets is accompanied by a short bio note and photo identifying the author. We want you to know who they are and what they look like. These are not autonomous or institutional pieces; everything that appears here has a name and face behind it. Today we have assembled for your viewing pleasure small photos of 160 of our authors and collaborators. There are more and of course we really do need to have each identified by name and country. In time.

The people whose faces you see here come from France, Italy, South Africa, Britain, China, Sweden, Finland, England, Singapore, and Uganda — just to identify the top two rows.

* * * Click images for enlargements. * * *
Do you notice a fair proportion of women among our authors? That is no accident. Indeed it is one of the primary challenges of our entire program under both World Streets and just behind it the New Mobility Agenda: to, in a purposely contentious word, feminize the sector. From the top down. Up to now we are managing about 30% female participation here; that is good but not good enough. So give us some time to work on it. (And in the meantime have a look at Http://tinyurl.com/ws-women for more on this.)

Age profile of our collaborators? Broad! On the one hand we have contributions from some of the most important original senior thinkers, innovators and doers in the field. That’s very good. But we don’t stop there. We work very hard to ensure that we are also continually bringing in a large number of talented young people, and in the process helping to prepare the future leaders.

What do all these people do in life (when they are not writing for Streets?)? As you can imagine their activities cover a very wide span indeed. They are university professors, policymakers, international civil servants, transport system operators, scientists, inventors, doctors and public health workers, a couple of mayors, graduate students, journalists, filmmakers, community workers, activists, and the long list goes on.

Here is one thing they all have in common: in everything they do for and with World Streets, and indeed in many other parts of their work and lives, they act as volunteers and responsible citizens. That it turns out is necessary in this case since from the beginning our decision was to run World Streets “off the economy”. It was our guess that this was going to be the best way to set this off from the rest and to get the job done. A different paradigm encouraging different thinking. So we decided not charge for anything, not to take advertising, and, symmetry obliges, we do not pay for anything. You can bet that none of our collaborators are going to get rich through this association — but you can also bet that there is great satisfaction on their part.

And since this is about sustainable transportation and sustainable cities, it would seem fair for us to know at least something about how these people actually get around themselves and their day-to-day lives. They are, I can tell you from personal acquaintance with many of them, quite fit lot and this is no accident. A number of these people cycle and walk for transport every day. (That reminds me, we should carry out some kind of small survey of our authors and collaborators in order to see if we can learn something about their transportation habits.)

What sets them off from the rest? As editor and oft-times collaborator in projects in many parts of the world, I have been able to get to know many of them quite well indeed, often over some years. What can I say about them that might not be immediately apparent from the pictures? The phrase comes to mind from the wonderful film that we shared with you all earlier this week on courage and leadership when the former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus, who when confronted by the press concerning his lack of political allies and links with the power structure, he countered by saying ” Soy un hombre independiente”, I am an independent man. Yes that’s it – they are independent men and women. (See film here – http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2010/05/lessons-in-leadership-profiles-in.html.)

How can we end this? Here is who we are: Chinese and Americans, Swedes and Indians, French and Germans, English and Irish, Japanese and Koreans, Dutch and Australians, Serbs and Croats, Finns and Turks, Filipinos and Malaysians, Austrians and Czechs, Danes and Canadians, Brazilians and Mexicans, Argentines and Slovenes, Russians and Poles, Swiss and Chileans, Portuguese and Taiwanese, Indonesians and Kazakhstanies, Greeks and Icelanders, and more.

We are this. We are an ad hoc, unplanned, independent, uncontrollable, United Nations of concerned citizens. We are assuming our responsibilities. And we are going to win!

One day on World Streets: 9 May 2010

Eric Britton,
Editor, World Streets

World Streets in North America and the World: Sustainable transport indicators/lessons from?

Our reader maps, which are updated several times a day, reveal patterns that we think are worth at least a bit of inspection and thought from time to time. Here to get us started on this is one which reports the locations of the last 80 readers to check in to World Streets from North America this afternoon. Hmm. Does it tell us anything important? Let’s have a look.

The full picture for North America this afternoon looks like this (click to enlarge map):

Overall we can say that the broad lines are pretty much what we see on most days. And I find them a bit disturbing. It looks just too much like our World Maps with all those important parts of the world that are simply not being brought into the sustainability discussions (see below).

The utter absence of interest from Canada other than from the three hot points there, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, has to indicate something. We need to think about this.

The absence of any readers coming in today from Mexico is not quite the usual pattern, but we have to bear in mind that other than the machine translations World Streets does not as yet have a full Spanish language edition. (Though we have a great model for one with our sister publication Nuova Mobilità in Italy.)

As editor, I can say that I am not at all pleased with our lack of coverage in the heartland of America, and intend that we shall work to do something about it.

Let’s look at the world reader map for today by way of reference (again click to enlarge map)::

Again, all those empty white swaths. Well we have plans for two of them in 2010, since we are working to find partners for editions of Africa Streets and China Streets. Stay tuned.

Finally, while we have the maps out, here is an interesting one. It shows how the readership of the Italian edition of World Streets, Nova Mobilità at http://www.nuovamobilita.org looked today. This makes quite a contrast with the way that the World Streets map for Italy looked on the last day of June, the day before Nuova Mobilità went into orbit, which showed a round total of one or two Italian readers on average. And today, readership in Italian has been multiplied by a hundred. Showing the importance not only of having the material in the first languages of the reader, but also why it is necessary that the content be expressly tailored to the Italian reader. And so it is.

By creating a properly adapted edition with qualified national/language partners we have shown that it is possible to reach very deep into these areas with these ideas coming from leading sources around the world. But if it is not in their working language, and not adapted to their needs and priorities, you will see a very blank and bleak picture indeed.

This last map for instance shows today’s World Streets readership in Russia. But if you know the state of transport and environment in Russian cities, can you imagine for a minute that they could not use a bit of help? Shouldn’t someone be jumping into this? If you want to give it a try you know where to find us.

Если вы хотите попробовать вы знаете, где нас найти.

# # #

Our editor pondering all this. Have any thoughts that may ease the pain. If so, here is how to get in touch: Email to editor@worldstreets.org.

Or click here to Skype direct: newmobility

Minister of Information

A book entitled “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” by someone named Edward Tufte somehow landed on my desk in the middle 1980s and in a way it changed if not my whole life, at least a lot of my perceptions about the use of statistics and graphic images to convince, to propagandize, to beguile or simply to explain with balance and clarity what is really going on out there in the real world. And the indomitable author is still hard at it. Challenge yourself graphically. Read on.

Everyone knows that statistics (can) lie, and certainly for those of us who are interested in public policy and communications it is important we have a sophisticated understanding of what this is all about. That book, The Visual Display, was by a professor at Yale University, who at the time had an interesting collection of departmental affiliations, which as I recall included statistics, computer science, political science and . . . graphics and design. An unusual combination for sure, and if you can start to familiarize yourself with his work, you will never regret that you opened those first pages.

I hope that this interview, which appeared two weeks ago in “On the Media”, a program of National Public Radio in the United States will make you curious to know more about Tufte and his work. Let me enthusiastically recommend his 1990 book “Envisioning Information”, and for the rest you will find out pretty much everything you would need to know in terms of his publications from Google and Wikipedia. For my part I have just ordered his latest, “Beautiful Evidence” (Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press. ISBN 0961392177).

One interesting aspect of his work that I discovered years ago was that when it was time to publish his first major work (Visual Display), he was so concerned about the quality of the graphic presentations that, after numerous discussions with publishers, he decided to go back home and start his own publishing house, Graphics Press. This scrupulous attention to detail says something very important about the author. Let’s listen to the professor in interview for a few minutes.

- – -

Minister of Information

Source: http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2010/03/19/02

You can listen to the interview here:

Edward Tufte is perhaps the country’s foremost evangelist for the clean, clear and rich presentation of complex information. The Obama administration’s stimulus package is flooding the economy with 787 billion dollars for employment and public works projects. Put the two together, as Obama did earlier this month when he nominated Tufte for the stimulus advisory board with the hopes that the public will have a fighting chance of understanding where the stimulus money went and what it’s doing.

The Obama administration’s stimulus package is pumping 787 billion dollars into the U.S. economy for public works, job creation and, yes, national broadband access. But showing exactly where that money is going is a Herculean task.

Earlier this month, the White House appointed Edward Tufte to the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board to make sure the website Recovery.gov does the job. You may not have heard of Tufte, but you’ve probably reaped the benefits of his work. A long-time Yale professor, author, consultant and data designer, Tufte has inspired a generation of innovators with his ideas for the efficient, clean and rich presentation of information.

He’s a fan of The New York Times website, the iPhone and, most of all, the lowly sports page, with its tables and stats a reader can grasp in an instant.

But he’s in a constant war with the average website, cluttered with scroll bars, logos, jargon and meaningless graphics.

EDWARD TUFTE: They make the simple complex [LAUGHS]. The design hand in there is from the marketing department, and it’s unfortunate because our eye-brain system is so powerful, in one long glance, maybe a 12-second glance at something, probably 120 megabits of information goes to our brain. And there’s no reason we have to be looking at impoverished materials because we process material at enormous rates.

BOB GARFIELD: Okay, so come now to your White House appointment, which is kind of a tough nut.

EDWARD TUFTE: [LAUGHS]

BOB GARFIELD: The data among different agencies doesn’t necessarily conform. They have different ways of measuring appropriations and expenditures, and it’s really hard to get a fix. There’s not only apples and oranges, but there’s grapefruits and strawberries and kumquats out there. What’s a graphics guru to do?

EDWARD TUFTE: Probably the first thing that most people do when they go to the website is they type in their zip code, and up pops up all the stimulus projects in their area. And what’s interesting about this, it’s a huge database and the particular viewer has no interest in 99 percent of it, but via the zip code they can make it special for them, as can everybody else.

BOB GARFIELD: You know, I spent a little time recently on Recovery.gov, and to me, you know, it doesn’t look bad at all. It looks like a particularly good explainer section put together by a particularly good newspaper. You know, I think that it does a pretty good job of directing me to the larger picture and also the one in my own backyard.

EDWARD TUFTE: Terrific, that’s great.

[BOTH AT ONCE]

BOB GARFIELD: When you look at Recovery.gov, do you just see a thousand problems to be solved that I’m not seeing?

EDWARD TUFTE: What I would most like to do is to make some additional things that are worthy of the zip code map and the data. One idea that I’ve been thinking of is called a flashlight map, and so you see a kind of dark blue United States with nothing on it, and then the dots, the little lights come on as each project started. That shows the spatial distribution, over time, of the stimulus projects.

I love that you picked up the metaphor that it was like a newspaper. The first thing I said about a year ago when I met with them for the first time is that their model should be a first-rate news website.

BOB GARFIELD: Ah-ha, so the reason I’m not seeing so much to find fault with is ‘cause you’ve already been tinkering with this for months before your official appointment.

EDWARD TUFTE: Once we got the news metaphor and got the intense mapping, that’s halfway there. I wouldn’t give it an A yet. There’s, you know, still a ways to go, and I know some of them, and I hope to, you know, find a few more.

BOB GARFIELD: Okay, so Recovery.gov is looking pretty good. You have achieved some of the clarity that you’re looking for. Other government agencies are just woeful, I mean, woeful.

EDWARD TUFTE: Yeah, the Fed’s websites are not very good. The great dream of this – I think there’s one chance in ten that it might happen – is that Recovery.gov would become a model for all government funding, so we’re now talking trillions, not this piddly 787 billion. [LAUGHS]

BOB GARFIELD: As the reporting of data becomes a more effective way for the government to communicate what it’s up to, it seems to me also an opportunity for the politicians in the administration to go, huh, why can’t we use this as a really powerful political tool and skew the very data that you’re trying to clarify?

EDWARD TUFTE: This is not going to be a propaganda engine of – no – –

[OVERTALK] -

BOB GARFIELD: Let me put it to you a far more direct way.

EDWARD TUFTE: Mm-hmm.

BOB GARFIELD: If Karl Rove were the – still the White House political operative and he had the opportunity to use cherry-picked data to sell his administration’s policies, it sure would have been nice for him to have a really sweet interface.

EDWARD TUFTE: I had once the rather shocking experience that Karl Rove mentioned the ten most wonderful books that he ever read and, of course, it had Machiavelli, and so on.

[BOB LAUGHS]

But it also had, to my mixed delight and, and a little bit of horror, my book with the catchy title The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. [LAUGHS]

Political practice today too often skips right by evidence and has preconceived and endlessly naïve views about causality and how policies work. The government’s job is to try to solve problems, and I am interested in helping them solve the problem of clarifying the stimulus and also understanding the, the consequences of the stimulus.

I’m going to do the best I can and put it out in the world, and, and we’ll see what happens.

BOB GARFIELD: All right. E.T., thank you very much for coming.

EDWARD TUFTE: Okay. [LAUGHS] Good, thank you.

[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]

BOB GARFIELD: Edward Tufte is author most recently of Beautiful Evidence.

# # #

Edward Tufte is a data display guru who is widely known for criticizing the way most people use power point to communicate information. Here is what Wikipedia has to say: “He is an expert in the presentation of informational graphics such as charts and diagrams, and is a fellow of the American Statistical Association. Tufte has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences. Tufte lives in Cheshire, Connecticut. He periodically travels around the United States to offer one-day workshops on data presentation and information graphics.”

Preview of coming attractions:. “The best statistical graphic ever drawn“, is how Edward Tufte describes this chart in ‘The Visual Display of Quantitative Information’.

Tufte goes on to comment:
The chart, or statistical graphic, is also a map. And a strange one at that. It depicts the advance into (1812) and retreat from (1813) Russia by Napoleon’s Grande Armée, which was decimated by a combination of the Russian winter, the Russian army and its scorched-earth tactics. To my knowledge, this is the origin of the term ’scorched earth’ – the retreating Russians burnt anything that might feed or shelter the French, thereby severely weakening Napoleon’s army.

As a statistical chart, the map unites six different sets of data.
• Geography: rivers, cities and battles are named and placed according to their occurrence on a regular map.
• The army’s course: the path’s flow follows the way in and out that Napoleon followed.
• The army’s direction: indicated by the colour of the path, gold leading into Russia, black leading out of it.
• The number of soldiers remaining: the path gets successively narrower, a plain reminder of the campaigns human toll, as each millimetre represents 10.000 men.
• Temperature: the freezing cold of the Russian winter on the return trip is indicated at the bottom, in the republican measurement of degrees of réaumur (water freezes at 0° réaumur, boils at 80° réaumur).
• Time: in relation to the temperature indicated at the bottom, from right to left, starting 24 October (pluie, i.e. ‘rain’) to 7 December (-27°).

Pause a moment to ponder the horrific human cost represented by this map: Napoleon entered Russia with 442.000 men, took Moscow with only 100.000 men left, wandered around its abandoned ruins for some time and escaped the East’s wintry clutches with barely 10.000 shivering soldiers. Those include 6.000 rejoining the ‘bulk’ of the army from up north. Napoleon never recovered from this blow, and would be decisively beaten at Waterloo under two years later.

Citiscope: Reporting on Worldwide City Innovation

In the wake of the troubles and lessons of COP15 we are seeing projects, programs and groups sprouting up around the world setting out to take the high ground in ideas and communications on the up-side of the change and innovations necessary if we are to face the challenges of the planet and our cities. We invite you to have an advance look at the Citiscope project that will be formally announced this March at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro.

High Visibility Journalism Focuses on City Innovation & Breakthroughs

If cities are “where it’s at” for major policy innovations and breakthroughs of this fast-urbanizing 21st century, how is the broad public to know where — and how — it’s happening? How can good story telling be mobilized to draw and excite expanded ranks of city officials? How can civil society be drawn into the debate — professional and business societies, student and poor peoples’ groups, environmental organizations, even change-oriented civil servants in less-than-responsive city bureaucracies?

We envision a global idea exchange – to inspire action, creative experiments by officials and city innovators in cities everywhere.

Today’s media coverage of cities is falling short. Overwhelmingly, it focuses on conflicts, disasters or alarming incidences of corruption. There’s insufficient coverage of active experimentation in cities to gird themselves for climate change, to upgrade slums, create sustainable water systems, cope with food shortages, create accessible transit, to plan and build “green” and humanely.

Citiscope is being launched in close collaboration with the World Urban Campaign and UN-Habitat. The Campaign, which will be formally announced this March at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro (15,000-17,000 participants are expected), was formed to increase attention to world cities’ dramatic needs and their potentials for sustainability and human advancement. Multiple corporate, professional, NGO and other organizations, with a cumulative constituency of some 30 million members, have now joined the campaign – a natural audience and source for Citiscope.

Citiscope stories will be based on efforts by leaders, by the private sector, by partnerships and by citizens in real, discrete, geographic places. The coverage will both tell the achievement stories and point honestly to the problems and limitations of the new approaches. That means applying historic standards for quality journalism — getting the facts straight, providing as much balance in perspective as can honestly be achieved, and building credibility and reader attention in the process.

Two major news stories a week are envisioned. They’ll be short enough (800-1,000 words) for easy reading, set up for moderated discussions, and enhanced by a variety of “new media” elements — pictures of story sites, charts and graphs, audio and video clips of interviews — to peak and keep reader interest and prompt other Internet, broadcast and newspaper pick-ups around the world. Qualified observes (academic, other) will also be enlisted to add brief commentaries to place the experiments in their global context.

Stories will be accompanied by a variety of creative links to the web sites of existing organizations, in addition to UN-Habitat, with an interest and stake in cities’ futures — for example City Mayors, Metropolis, Global Forum, Cities Alliance, ICLEI and Sister Cities, as well as sites of the Urban Age Institute, World Changing, the WorldWatch Institute, Ashoka and others. Each of these groups has strong features to recommend it, and provides a substantial research source. Each will also be invited to nominate city success stories for the attention of journalists, based on its own fields of interest and global contacts.

A major project goal: to develop a cadre of participating journalists — with a special emphasis on younger journalists — in cities across the developed and developing world. The writers will be encouraged to write to high journalistic standards, guided where appropriate by trained journalist-editors associated with the Citistates Group. The motivation for the writers? First, they will be paid adequate free-lance fees -– one assurance of quality, timeliness, responsiveness to queries. Possibly even more important, the journalists will have a new – truly global — outlet for their writing and reportorial talent. Plus, many journalists may be “turned on” to the possibilities of urban innovation stories that they’d not focused on before.

The site will also feature clear summaries on major trends in and impacting cities, authored by journalists and qualified observers worldwide.

Overall project and editorial supervision will be by the Citistates Group, a team of journalists, speakers and policy experts focused on building sustainable, equitable and economically successful 21st century cities and metropolitan regions. Principals of the Group are writers Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson and the groups’ manager-strategist, Farley Peters. They have authored 25 series of “Citistates Reports” on city and metro futures, sponsored by newspapers and community foundations, on regions across the U.S. They are also produce weekly columns for their sister website citiwire.net.

The Group covered, at the request of the Rockefeller Foundation, its month-long “Global Urban Summit” in Bellagio, Italy, in 2007, and then wrote the book that flowed from that event – Century of the City: No Time To Lose. The Group’s international experience include Peirce’s periodic coverage of international city developments for his syndicated newspaper column (syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group), and his eight years engaged in Transatlantic issues as a trustee of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Peirce was one of the 11 global awardees of the 2009 UN Habitat “Scroll of Honour Award,” “for a lifetime of journalism dedicated to reporting on cities for a better urban future.”

Contacts –
Neal Peirce: npeirce@citistates.com; 202-554-8191
Farley Peters: fpeters@citistates.com; 301-855-6482
www.citistates.com; http://www.citiwire.net
# # #

About the author:
Neal Peirce is a lead writer on the dynamics of state and local government. Earlier in his career, he was political editor of Congressional Quarterly and then one of the founders of National Journal. Since 197, Peirce writes the United States’ first national column focused on state and local government themes, syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Since 1995 he has been chairman of the Citistates Group, a network of journalists, speakers and consultants who believe that successful cities are today’s key to economic competitiveness and sustainable communities.

A major sustainability challenge of 2010:Building a World-Wide Learning Community

Is there a requirement, a potentially useful role for a more creative and powerful system of linkage, dynamic multi-level interaction, information exchange and eventually collaboration between the many and fast growing number of outstanding programs and their considerable knowledge and competence bases, with specific reference to the issues, roles and possibilities of the new mobility transport policy, planning, and practice? And if so: who, when, what next?

Building a World-Wide Learning Community
Silos of competence and action:

This is an important and in our current view a very promising collaborative effort that got under way in mid 2008 in cooperation with the Sustainable Mobility program of the Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society (University of Michigan). We set out to ponder and then to see how we might work together to address these challenges.

Why do we have silos when what we need is deep team work?

Here are some of the structural and psychological reasons that you can spot that in various combinations account for this state of affairs:

• Distance
• Time (zones)
• Language
• Culture
• Time horizon focus (short-term, long-term orientation)
• Geographic focus
• Discipline focus
• Competence level
• Character/attitude
• Interests (declared and undeclared)
• Strategic
• Targeted areas of operations/specialization
• Time limitations
• Financial limitations
• Prefer to work alone
• Technical, communications limitations
• Ignorance (of others and possibilities for creative combination)
• Ego
• Competition for public attention
• Competition for financial support
• Turf protection

That’s a lot, eh? But we need to be lucid and this is the dominant physical and psycho-structure of our field as of 2010 as we enter 2010, and it is important as a first step for us to be fully aware of all these often rather tricky and for the most part very human values and differences. This is quite simply the terrain with which we have to work. (And incidentally, it helps if we all look into this mirror from time to time and see if we can spot ourselves. Including the author of this article, of course.)

Hence, all the more reason to see if we can find better ways to break down those silos and create a more powerful, better coordinated, more strategic capacity to work together and address the gargantuan problems we face.

Note: To give you some idea of the dimensions of the challenge, to date in our preparatory work we have identified more than six hundred sources, projects and programs active in this broad area – sustainable transportation and particularly in and around cities – most of them entirely autonomous, some very small, very local and very poor, others quite large and decently funded to make their targeted contributions. But even the largest and best funded of these groups constitute a very small force in the face of the dimensions of the challenges.

Project origins:

The concept of new mobility or sustainable transportation is gradually gaining credibility as an alternative strategy for the policy, development and management of city transport systems worldwide. Starting from a very different series of basic conditions, premises and priorities to the transportation policies and practices that largely dominated the 20th century, these new approaches are increasingly being supported by a wide variety of leading practitioners, authorities, and institutions — public, private and participatory — in many parts of the world.

Despite this undeniable progress however, this approach is still heavily outmatched in many cities and parts of the world, in part because it advocates different approaches which are often regarded with doubt or suspicion by more conservative interests.

Fortunately there are a growing number of people, programs and institutions in different parts of the world that have got the message and are leading the charge with these new approaches: strategies and measures which are far better matched with the very different, historically unique and highly stringent requirements of this new century. One of the goals of this first-stage project is simply to identify the leading groups and approaches.

The goal of this open collaborative project is to initiate a constructive dialogue among the people and organizations around the world who know the problems and possibilities best, to see if we can come to some sort of creative vision of what if any best next steps might be.

These first stages are being taken in hand by the New Mobility Partnerships as a public contribution — and in doing this we note the sense of high emergency associated with this project that is driven by not only the long understood needs for radical transportation reform in our cities, but also and above all by the utmost urgency of the climate issues and just behind them the ever more pressing problems of energy supply, security and prices. It is for these reasons that this project takes on particular urgency and importance.

The project started to take shape in Spring 2008 with a series of exchanges between Sue Zielinski Managing Director of the Sustainable Mobility (SMART) program of the University of Michigan and Eric Britton of the New Mobility Partnerships in preparation for a high level brainstorming public/private conference on “New Mobility: The Emerging Transportation Economy” in which the idea was being turned around that our present information and “knowledge recuperation” tools were not keeping up with the urgent challenges we are presently facing. Britton was asked to lead a presentation and discussion on this during the 12 June 2008 conference, eventually entitled “Reinventing the Wheel (But not all by ourselves”.

The discussion was well received and eventually gave birth to this first stage project probe.

Basic principles

This project is defined by the following basic considerations and principles:

1. We are losing the climate war in a very big way – and we don’t need to.

2. We are losing the fossil fuel, food, and resource wars-and we don’t need to lose them either.

3. Transportation accounts for on the order of 20% of the climate problem — more in the case of some of the others.

4. More than half of the world population today live in cities — with more pouring in every day.

5. The vast majority of these people are poorly served by the existing transportation arrangements – and most the plans and projects in the pipeline offer zero prospect of the fundamental structural improvements that are needed.

6. A growing number of institutions and programs trying to make targeted contributions to deal with these challenges –some with fair resources and broad backing, most however working on bare bones budgets.

7. These programs and the people who make them up communicate with each other and collaborate with each other in a number of ways – but there is every reason to step up both by several orders of magnitude if we are to have a chance to rectify these fundamental planet and life threatening problems.

8. Communications and computer technologies offers the possibility to better network these programs, institutions and the people working with them – at low cost and very quickly.

9. The more unified, more deeply seated networking and sharing approach that would come out of these greatly heightened communications arrangements would improve their chances, individually and collectively, at getting to grips with the underlying challenges.

10. This project has the mission of opening up the dialogue that is needed to advance this very specific component of the sustainability agenda.

Dividend: This deepened and more universally accessible knowledge environment is for sure going to open up new project and service opportunities for entrepreneurs, both public, private and volunteer.

Some preliminary observations on this:

1. There is a huge amount of activity going on in this field (new mobility) in many places, though it is widely spread out, extremely varied in quality, quantity and focus, and at the present state of the art not really handy for consultation.

2. To use a common metaphor: we need to find ways to connect the silos.

3. But if one is to do anything at all in this area, we must have a firm understanding of how people go about accessing and putting all this to work in this fast-paced new century. How much detail do they need?

4. How can we bring it to them in layers, tree like structures which give them a bit of information to get started but which then permit them to start to burrow into the topic without having to lose track of all that went before.

5. If we are looking for an analogy, what about the need for getting together to invent some kind of 21st century Dewey Decimal system to allow us to access the contents of our worldwide library.?

6. There is very definitely a “new tools” vector that is worthy of closest attention. Most of us today are working with what in fact is a pretty old tool set (Moore’s Law still holds) — but the fact is that there are amazing new communications and linking tools available/needed that we should be putting to work.

7. Certainly we need to include full access not only to web sites, news groups, blogs, print in its variations, past and planned events in our areas of interest, but also to films, videos, sound, and images, as well as to games and other learning and playing devices that can be useful to sharpen the mind and bring up new perspectives. And 21st century communications options (full range thereof). In all this, if we are looking for models we would be consummately dumb not at least to try to understand by analogy what a “Google”, “Skype’, “Wikipedia”, and even “Facebook”, “LinkedIn”, “YouTube”, etc. new tools approach to this might give.

8. As we see it, there is both an information and an education-communications function to be served in our field. We need better working links between the main players: public sector players, researchers, local government, public interest groups and industry. But we also need much tighter linkages and let’s call it “cultural consonance” with the media, old and new.

9. One stark reality is that if you look down our first listing here, you will note that each of these groups is extremely busy and very focused. They have their mandates, schedules, and responsibilities to deliver – all putting tough claims on their time and resources to do anything else. So whatever we come up with is going to have to fit in this tight environment.

10. And unless someone can convince me to the contrary, I for one would be quite opposed to the idea of setting up some sort of one more staffed program for this. I see this as an open collaborative venture with everyone pitching in, and someone very smart and capable coming up with some new cross-cutting software link and search solutions.

11. Finally the sense of urgency. The transport sector accounts for on the order of 20% of all greenhouse gases. We have the means to reduce this contrition at least when it comes to transport in cities by several percent each year, but we are not doing it because we have not made the strong case that is needed to sway policy maker and public attention. This project could be a great help in this creating the necessary now concerns for change.

To conclude: This is an important topic and we have at least the intellectual means and the tools needed to start to deal with it. What is needed is the resources to get it started and then step by step advanced as shown to be necessary and useful.

You know what we really need? It’s someone who is willing to step forward and take on the task of becoming the DARPA of New Mobility. To shepherd the amazing discovery of an information highway that this time will carry and connect both people and electrons.

Who is going to have the foresight to take this lead?

What next?

We thought that a good first step to open up the silos and hopefully in parallel get some conversations going as to how to deal with these changes, that we would see if we could get together to build a combined search engine that would allow anyone with access to the net to scan ALL the resources and on line databases of all the groups and sources that we are able to identify. This lead us as a first step to work on something we called “Knoogle” — KNOwledge goOGLE. Let’s have a quick look.

Knoogle – A combined search engine tailored to do (a part of) the job

Knoogle New Mobility 1.2 is the first iteration of a power search engine specifically tailored to help policy makers, local government, researchers, NGOs, activists, consultants, concerned citizens and the media keep up efficiently with the work and plans of the leading groups, programs and sources leading the field of sustainable transport and sustainable cities, worldwide.

Knoogle is a free product of the New Mobility Agenda and the collaborative New Mobility Knowledge Environment: aimed at better linking a world-wide learning community in support of urgent, climate-driven transport reform in cities.

We invite you to test our in-process Knoogle 1.2 combined search engine to view the results of a quick unified scan based on your selected key words, combing through more than one thousand selected institutions, programs and sources in thirty countries that we view as leading the way in their work and
competence in our heavily challenged sector world-wide.

• Click here: to go to and use Knoogle New Mobility 1.1.

Examples of increasing coordination and interaction

We saw some interesting examples of this beginning to come on line with much more force over 2009. We shall be identifying them in the coming weeks and months in World Streets.

For more on this collaborative project, click here.

Get involved. Be part of it.

Eric Britton,
Editor