“The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”

This for your weekend viewing pleasure just in from Clarence Eckerson, Streetfilms, NYC:

When I first got started making NYC bike advocacy and car-free streets videos back in the late-1990s on cable TV, I didn’t know who William “Holly” Whyte was or just how much influence his work and research had on New York City. A few years later I met Fred and Ethan Kent at Project for Public Spaces. I got a copy of Whyte’s 1980 classic, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, which in its marvelously-written, straightforward style is the one book all burgeoning urbanists should start with.

Recently, I read it again. With all the developments in video technology since his day, I wondered: How might Whyte capture information and present his research in a world which is now more attuned to the importance of public space? What would he appreciate? Are his words still valid?

So I excerpted some of my favorite passages from the book and tried to match it up with modern footage I’ve shot from all over the world while making Streetfilms. I hope he would feel honored and that it helps his research find a new audience.

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Why buses represent democracy in action

Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, was  responsible for introducing a number of in terms of transportation and public space innovations. In this short video he  talks here about buses versus cars (really people v. cars) and the experience of Bogotá in giving clear preference to buses with their now world-famous Transmilenio  (BRT) mass transit system. As mayor  he also introduced a number of innovations including land-use, parks and public space projects as well as Bogotá’s Bike Paths Network. If you listen to his talk you will see the very large number of issues and themes which relates to the situation in Penang today. Let’s see what we can learn from Bogotá.

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Laying the Base for Public Bicycle Sharing in Penang

As we are seeing in these pages Penang in general and Georgetown in particular Penang bike graffitiare giving serious attention to the possibility of creating a public bicycle system for the city. As a first step they have issued a Request for Proposals which is shortly to come online. This is a great thing because there are many reasons to create conditions for safe and agreeable cycling on city streets across the state.

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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

Poynton Regenerated: A transformative Shared Space project

The regeneration of Poynton Town Centre and its high street, Park Lane, involved a bold approach to the busy traffic intersection in Fountain Place. Martin Cassini’s short film documents the background to the project, and the dramatic changes in the fortunes of Poynton, and explores the implications for other towns and cities struggling to cope with the impact of traffic.

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Weekend musing: Lewis Mumford on the city, in 1963. (Le plus ça change)

This is not the first time anyone addressed these themes.  In the City in History, a classic text of urban design. Mumford urged in 1963 that technology achieves a balance with nature and hoped for a rediscovery of urban principles that emphasised humanity’s organic relationship to its environment. Forty-five years on, the film clips look incredibly old and the message delivered in a rather morbid and factious manner (to quote Jane Jacobs), with a slightly ‘Outer Limits’ or ‘Twilight Zone’ ambience. Yet some of the key ideas promoted by Mumford have increasing resonance with the sustainability and green agenda of the early 21st century. In the increasingly praxis orientated and commodified world of urban design, whether anyone is listening or not is another matter.

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Weekend leisure: Bollywood Bicycle Boogie’s back

Take a break. It’s the weekend. And even if you have seen some of these before, let’s invite you to take your head out of that fat report and come with Navdeep Asija and me to the movies in India, the Bollywood Bicycle Boogie. The idea behind World Streets has from the beginning been to seek out and share universal lessons, from specific times and different places but which, with a bit of thought, can open up our eyes, ears and hearts to many things, including with a bit of luck to ourselves and our own limitations and quirks. For this Sunday’s musing Navdeep brought us a packet of Bollywood films for your weekend viewing pleasure. Let me turn over the word to Navdeep so that he can explain it for himself: Continue reading

Groningen: The quiet example

What? You know all about transport in cities and you have never heard of Groningen? Well, check out this : an unexpected street interview in Groningen, a slice of life as filmed by our old friend and transport innovating colleague Robert Stussi. He has titled it: “A Homage to Hans Monderman”. Hear, hear! Continue reading

Learning from each other: Four Cities, Four Ways

Every time I go into a city that is struggling with its transportation/environment situation, I have the feeling that it would be a great thing for them to develop for themselves a “sharing and learning film” along these lines. Perhaps one day . . .

In the beginning was New York City and its historic transportation mess:
Streetfilms, the sharp media end of the innovative www.streetsblog.org program out of New York City, has recently put on line for free download a full feature version of a documentary originally produced in 2006 as part of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign. The film, “Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock“, explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to present. Even now, five years later, it gets its important points across.

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World Streets This Week: Edition of 2 May 2011

- – – > Click here to download Weekly Edition of 2 May 2011 

Another busy week on World Streets, with contributions coming in from the StreetFilms media group in  New York on parking strategies, on city cycling and empowerment of women in Dhaka, and on to the pressing matter of rethinking the finances of our entire operation so that we can continue to act as the world’s only fully independent, collaborative, worldwide sustainable transport daily/weekly publication and peer network.   But the buzz of the week was a series of exchanges resulting from an announcement of government support in India  for a really quite dubious proposal for a PRT Pod system for Delhi. Continue reading

Moving Beyond the Automobile – Exit Parking

The tenth and final video in Streetfilms’ Moving Beyond the Automobile series, looks into the necessary reasons and some of the techniques for parking reform. While the context is New York City, the  lessons are universal. From doing away with mandatory parking minimums, to charging the right price for curbside parking, to converting on-street parking spots into parklets and bike corrals, cities are latching onto exciting new ideas to make more room for people in our cities and repurpose the valuable public space that lines our streets. Continue reading

Honk! Cars, People and the Planet. It’s a Wonderful World (Have a stupid weekend)

Have you ever given any thought to trying to imagine just how dumb some people think we are? My guess is that the good people of Hyundai have laid out serious money for this little film, without giving much thought to IQ’s.  So we can only assume that they have done this for our weekend viewing pleasure. What can we say?  Well, thank you.

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Mobility, Democracy and Politics: Interview with Monsieur le Maire

What’s happening on the new mobility scene in France in 2011? Here you have, in French but with good subtitles, an interview by one of the outstanding political innovators in the field of sustainable transport policy and practice in France. Roland Ries is serving his second term as mayor of Strasburg, and at the same time heads up the national transport political group GART. He also, by the way, as a member of the French Senate drafted the law defining carsharing in France, thus opening up a part of the way to more and better carsharing nation-wide. Spend three minutes with this short video to get a feel for what the leading edge in France is thinking and doing about transport in cities. You will quickly see that this is a world-level message. Play it for your mayor and talk to her about it.

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Honk: “Floating Parking” & Bike-Buffer Zones in New York City

Let’s see what our friends at Streetfilms have to share with us today on the topic of “Floating Parking” & Bike-Buffer Zones in Separated Cycletracks”.  Here is their short introduction with a narration by the noted traffic engineer Gary Toth of Partners for Public Spaces, by videographer Clarence Eckerson, Jr. who shot and edited the film.

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Dutch cycle infrastructure quality drives one cyclist crazy

Not Holland

It will drive you crazy, at least it does this cyclist. The quiet Dutch voice of reason while they so patiently try to help us understand that a cycling nation or city is not built overnight. But put aside your prejudices (and your prides), and spend five minutes with the Dutch cycling guru Mark Wagenbuur while he rides us through the history of cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands. (There had to be a reason for it.)

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1-minute to open eyes

We live at a time when the people at the top who have to make or influence decisions in our sector are time-starved, over-burdened and, truth to tell, not about to spend a lot of time reading, or even listening or otherwise trying to ingest the great glaciers of data views and recommendations that are about to inundate and eventually freeze them solid for more thousands of years. But for those of us who see ourselves as change-agents, we need to find ways to capture their attention in order to widen their intellectual pallet in order to draw their attention to a range of new ideas and alterative problem-solving approaches beyond the ones that normally inform (and limit) their choices. Well, what about a series of attention-grabbing, lesson-purveying one-minute movies that can get them thinking in broader terms? And better than that, share with their families and colleagues. Might we have a look and think about this together? Continue reading

"In the slums of Nairobi" What do you do when you are losing a war?

If it is your assumption that we are at present losing the war for sustainable transport and sustainable lives — and that is very definitely our position here at World Streets — and if it is your firm intention not to lose it — as it is ours! — then what do you do when the going gets tough? Well you look around and put to work every potentially promising tool you can lay your hands on. Now we make a pretty consistent effort in these pages to bring to your attention creative media that illustrates, renders more understandable and supports our noble cause. But we need more: so what about doing more along these lines taken from today’s edition of the International Herald Tribune?
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Lessons in Leadership / Profiles in Courage "Bogotá Change"

The Colombian presidential elections will be held in less than three weeks on May 30. The campaign is all about ideas, leadership, and courage. And what could be more critical for a country or a city event to have these lined up together with a proven capacity to innovate, administrate, and to ensure that good policies and measures are continuously being scrutinized for performance and adapted to ensure that they are making the fullest possible contribution, year after year after year? Grab a cup of coffee and check out “Bogotá Change”. You are going to learn something.

* * * Click to “Bogotá Change” here * * *
Not all that long ago Bogotá, the Colombian capital, was considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities. At an altitude of over 2,600 meters up in the Andes mountains, seven million people were fighting a losing battle against drug crime, corruption, poverty and, not least, against each other.

But in 1995 the colorful and independent Antanas Mockus surprised many by being elected to become the city’s Mayor, after having been fired as the vice-chancellor of the university where he had mooned his ungovernable students in a fit of rage. Mockus’s anarchistic and untraditional methods set about a social revolution that meant that Bogotá today is a role model for cities such as New York and Mexico City. ‘Bogotá Change’ tells the story about how this happened, and shows that politics in fact can be both funny and deeply inspiring.

If you are interested in how a city in a developing country was transformed through leadership, vision, and much work, this video done by a professional movie producer from Denmark is a good investment of 60 minutes of your time.

The story in brief:
By the way, it is about the administration of three mayors in that city, in “one of the world’s most dangerous cities”: two one-time political rivals, Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa, both of whom are now united with another Mayor of Bogota, Lucho Garzon, and Sergio Fajardo, former mayor of Medellin. Coming together to bridge the political gaps they have recently created the Green Party (Partido Verde) and they have come from 5% of the anticipate vote in just 6 months ago to lead the Presidential polls for the election taking place in two weeks.

Quite an interesting process, which included a primary between Mockus, Penalosa and Garzon, where all three travelled to every corner of the country on a bus, always together, shared financing, never spoke a negative word of the others, and following the selection of Mockus as Presidential Candidate all three, in addition to Fajardo are fully engage and committed in the campaign as a TEAM.

Viewing the film:

Let’s have a look at the backdrop to this inspiring story, thanks to a film that has been put together by a Danish film team in their Cities on Speed series (more on that below). You can do this in at least three ways.

All four films in this series are available for purchase from The Danish Filminstitute – details at http://www.citiesonspeed.com/.

Alternatively, you can check out the seven part series which has been posted to YouTube (IP??) and which you can access here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OdhD5D5its&feature=PlayList&p=0AD7F4A77E828E07&playnext_from=PL&index=0&playnext=1

If you are not sure, let me invite you to start here and please view at least the first two episodes, barely ten minutes in all. Then you can either continue with YouTube presentation (full screen recommended) — or, if you will, click to http://www.megavideo.com/?v=0MKNIESG for the full 59 minute film. (If you are like me, a bit overworked and under brained, you may not think you are going to sit through the whole thing. Okay. Let’s see what you do.)

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About the filmmakers
Producer: Henrik Veileborg, Upfront Films, hv@upfrontfilms.dk
Director: Andreas Møl Dalsgaard, andreasmol@hotmail.com

Cities on Speed
For the first time in history, over 50% of the world’s population is now living in urban areas. By 2050, this figure is expected to increase to 80%. At this very moment, giant urban organisms are growing at unprecedented rates. For some time now, growth in cities like Shanghai, Mumbai, Cairo and Bogotá has far outpaced planning. These cities are expanding so rapidly that urban administration and the keeping of official statistics have become largely impossible, and population figures are increasingly nothing more than rough estimates. They are truly ‘Cities on Speed.’

The Cities on Speed series consists of four documentaries, each of which pinpoints key problems in Bogotá, Mumbai, Shanghai and Cairo. Based on the perspectives of a series of noteworthy characters, the four films present drastically different views on the global megacity and the challenges brought about by their explosive growth. Cities on Speed portrays radical urban problems, and people with radical ideas on how to solve them: from underground parks in Shanghai and mime traffic police in Bogotá, to the so-called ‘garbage people’ in Cairo and 100,000 new Nano cars in Mumbai.

More at: http://www.citiesonspeed.com/. For the Bogata film, http://www.citiesonspeed.com/citiesonspeed/Bogota_ENgelsk.html

Copies can be ordered direct from http://eshop.dfi.dk/Shop/ItemList.php?CategoriSelect=14. Price: € 40.00.

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What are the lessons that I take from this engaging, challenging film?

1. Leadership is not a committee matter. It is rare. It needs to be uncommon, courageous, original and inspiring. And viral!

2. Transportation is not something in itself. If we try to separate it from the greater whole of which it is but one part, we will never achieve either the mobility system or the city that should be our goal.

3. Continuity is both difficult and critical. It is one of the first victims of political football.

4. There are new ways of thinking which combine deep democracy and everyday practicality. We would be very weak, very foolish, and very amenable to manipulation by entrenched interests if we were not to recognize this and act on it.

What are the lessons you take from this film? Click comment below in order to share them with us all.

Eric Britton,
Editor, World Streets

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.

World Streets worldwide visiting speaker series: Fred Salvucci on a sustainable transportation policy

World Streets is, as you may have noticed, not only a daily newspaper sticking to its carefully selected topic, but also as a worldwide classroom, discussion space and shared library. And since we have our topic and our classroom, it makes sense to open it up to visiting speakers from different parts of the world for outstanding presentations that can help us better understand our tough topic. So today in our first visiting lecturuer series we are pleased to welcome Fred Salvucci, former Secretary of Transportation for the state of Massachusetts and currently of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, who shares with us his reflections on some basic truths behind sustainable transportation policy and practice.
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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.