That’s great. But just because we voted today does not mean that we are done with our duty as a citizen in a true democracy.
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
This commentary, just in from reader John Verity writing from Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, takes Illich beyond his original point of departure in this essay written in 1974, discussing the flow of his thinking on energy and technology that appeared in other pages and books in the decade that followed.
Long before automobiles and even science humankind discovered sharing tools, housing, roads, and wharfs, a natural way to reduce scarce labour and materials. And long before Adam Smith, we used the “profit” from such sharing to develop specialized skills and knowledge, both of which required sharing, and to build shared infrastructure. Now that we face rising prices for resources, thanks to looming shortages and better understanding of “externalities,” we need to face the prospect of putting on the brakes of our rush to individual consumption. Do we do without or do we share in ways that increase, rather than, reduce, our quality of life? Continue reading
Earlier this week I proposed the idea of a group read and commentary on Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”, but as I thrashed through my personal library I was unable to lay my hands on what I remember as a small book with a yellow cover. Luckily Jane Voodikon, a Jason Chang Fellow and journalist from Chengdu, came to the rescue with a link to the full text which follows (thanks in turn to clevercycles.com and certainly with the full approval of Illich given the fact that Amazon’ best price for the hard cover edition today was $269.21). How do you think these remarks and views stand the test of time? We need to bear in mind the political (Vietnam, Cold War, Allende, 1968, etc.) currents of the time, along with the Oil Crisis, Club of Rome, The Limits of Growth, etc., discussions, concerns and panics of the early seventies. But none of this detracts from the singular vision that this exceptional observer and finest of men has given us.
So here you have it. The whole thing. Print it out. Mark it up. Share your thoughts. Let me take a single phrase from the book to get the ball rolling: “Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.” (And this almost two decades before the phrase “sustainable development” first appeared on the radar screen. So off we go with Illich as our guide!) Continue reading
“The habitual passenger cannot grasp the folly of traffic based overwhelmingly on transport*. His inherited perceptions of space and time and of personal pace have been industrially deformed. He has lost the power to conceive of himself outside the passenger role. Addicted to being carried along, he has lost control over the physical, social, and psychic powers that reside in man’s feet. The passenger has come to identify territory with the untouchable landscape through which he is rushed. He has become impotent to establish his domain, mark it with his imprint, and assert his sovereignty over it. He has lost confidence in his power to admit others into his presence and to share space consciously with them. He can no longer face the remote by himself. Left on his own, he feels immobile.”
After many decades of a single dominant city-shaping transportation pattern – i.e., for those who could afford it: owning and driving our own cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles, getting into taxis by ourselves, riding in streets that are designed for cars and not much else — there is considerable evidence accumulating that we have already entered into a world of new mobility practices that are changing the transportation and city landscape in many ways. It has to do with sharing, as opposed to outright ownership. But strange to say, this trend seems to have escaped the attention of the policymakers in many of the institutions directly concerned. Continue reading
The consistent two-punch theme of World Streets is that (a) we are losing the sustainability wars (no argument there, eh?) because (b) we are quite simply not very bright. Look, how complicated can it be? When it comes to the issues of sustainable transport we really do know what to do (i.e., get our act together and start to rip carbon out of the system, and do it now). But we are somehow not able to get our fundamental messages across. We also have this communication problem. So when someone like Keith Sutter from Sydney has an idea for us, well we listen and try to learn. Let’s have a look and see if we can learn something. Continue reading
September 22 is an important date to remember – it’s World Carfree Day (WCD). Celebrated in towns and cities all over the world, it’s a day when streets are closed to cars and open for pedestrians, pedalers, parties and pleasure. Eric Britton, a sustainability activist, international adviser and consultant on sustainable transportation, is recognised for his work promoting and propelling WCD to international attention. Much of his work involves co-ordinating the collaborative New Mobility Agenda and World Streets online journal, which encompass a number of possible transport solutions, including public transport, bike sharing and shared space projects. In an interview with Carbusters, Eric shared his thoughts about the problems, popularity and prospects for WCD, and points out the importance of bringing it into the policy agenda of governments in order to improve urban transport sustainability.
Courage. Not all that terribly hard actually, and certainly not impossible. The leading international edge of policy and practice in our field have over the last two decades developed the tools, experience and technical competence needed to cut fossil fuel dependence by 50% in one year. And if we can do that – if we can come even within shouting distance of this great and obtainable goal – that is going to change everything. But to get the job done we are going to have to challenge our brainpower and collective ability to influence leadership, policy decisions and investments in our chosen field. Lazy folks, bought souls and fatalists kindly abstain.
Donald Shoup has extensively studied parking as a key link between transportation and land use, with important consequences for cities, the economy, and the environment — and that is exactly why World Streets is pleased to welcome this thought-provoking contribution on parking as an instrument for creating great streets and cities that at once offer quality of life and an economy that works.
The Price of Parking on a Great Street:
- By Donald Shoup, Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA
How Can Curb Parking Contribute to Making a Street Great?
A city can (1) charge performance based prices for curb parking and (2) return the revenue to the metered districts to pay for added public services. With these two policies, curb parking will help to create great streets, improve transportation, and increase the economic vitality of cities.
Performance Parking Prices
Performance-based prices can balance the varying demand for parking with the fixed supply of curb spaces. We can call this balance between demand and supply the “Goldilocks principle” of parking prices: the price is too high if many spaces are vacant, and too low if no spaces are vacant. When a few vacant spaces are available everywhere, the prices are just right. After the city adjusts prices to yield one or two vacant spaces in every block (about 85 percent occupancy), everyone will see that curb parking is readily available. In addition, no one can say that performance parking prices will drive customers away if almost all curb spaces are occupied.
Prices that produce an occupancy rate of about 85 percent can be called “performance-based” for three reasons. First, curb parking will perform efficiently. The spaces will be well used but readily available. Second, the transportation system will perform efficiently. Cruising for underpriced curb parking will not congest traffic, waste fuel, and pollute the air.
Third, the economy will perform efficiently. The price of parking will be higher when demand is higher, and this higher price will encourage rapid parking turnover. Drivers will park, buy something, and leave quickly so that other drivers can use the spaces. Cities can achieve all these goals by setting curb parking prices to yield about an 85 percent occupancy rate.
Local Revenue Return
Performance prices for curb parking can yield ample public revenue. If the city returns this revenue to pay for added public spending on the metered streets, citizens are more likely to support the performance prices. The added funds can pay to clean and maintain the sidewalks, plant trees, improve lighting, bury overhead utility wires, remove graffiti, and provide other public improvements.
Put yourself in the shoes of a merchant in an older business district where curb parking is free and customers complain about a parking shortage. Suppose the city installs meters and begins to charge prices that produce a few vacancies. Everyone who wants to shop in the district can park quickly, and the city spends the meter money to clean the sidewalks and provide security. These added public services make the business district a place where people want to be, rather than merely a place where anyone can park free if they can find a space. Returning the meter revenue generated by the district to the district for the district’s own use can help to convince merchants and property owners to support performance prices for curb parking.
Suppose also that curb parking remains free in other business districts. Everyone complains about the shortage of parking, and drivers congest traffic and pollute the air while they search for curb parking. The city has no meter revenue to clean the sidewalks and provide other amenities. In which district would you want to have a business?
Performance prices will improve curb parking by creating a few vacancies, the added meter revenue will pay to improve public services, and these added public services will create political support for performance prices.
Parking Increment Finance
Most cities put their parking meter revenue into the city’s general fund. How can a city return meter revenue to business districts without shortchanging the general fund? The city can return only the subsequent increment in meter revenue–the amount above and beyond the existing meter revenue–that arises after the city begins to charge performance prices. We can call this arrangement parking increment finance.
Parking increment finance closely resembles tax increment finance, a popular way to pay for public investment in districts in need of revitalization. Local redevelopment agencies receive the increment in property tax revenue that results from the increased property values in the redevelopment districts. Similarly, business districts can receive the increment in parking meter revenue that results from performance parking prices.
More meters, higher rates, and longer hours of operation will provide money to pay for added public services. These added public services will promote business activity in the district, and the increased demand for parking will further increase meter revenue.
Performance Parking Prices in Practice
Some cities have begun to charge performance prices for curb parking and return the meter revenue to its source. Redwood City, California, sets meter rates to achieve an 85 percent occupancy rate for curb parking downtown; the rates differ both by location and time of day, depending on demand. The city returns the revenue to the metered district to pay for public parking structures, police protection, and cleaner sidewalks.
Merchants and property owners all supported the new policy when they learned the meter revenue would pay for added public services in the downtown business district, and the city council adopted it unanimously. Performance prices create a few curb vacancies so visitors can easily find a space, the added meter revenue pays to improve public services, and these added public services create political support for the performance prices.
Redwood City’s Parking Ordinance To accomplish the goal of managing the supply of parking and to make it reasonably available when and where needed, a target occupancy rate of eighty-five percent (85%) is hereby established.
The Parking Manager shall survey the average occupancy for each parking area in the Downtown Meter Zone that has parking meters. Based on the survey results, the Parking Manager shall adjust the rates up or down in twenty-five cent ($0.25) intervals to seek to achieve the target occupancy rate.
Revenues generated from on-street and off-street parking within the Downtown Meter Zone boundaries shall be accounted for separately from other City funds and may be used only within or for the benefit of the Downtown Core Meter Zone.
Sections 20.120 and 20.121 of the Redwood City Municipal Code
Most cities keep their meter rates constant throughout day and let occupancy rates vary in response to demand. cities can vary their meter prices to keep occupancy about 85 percent. The goal is to balance supply everywhere, all the time. Most cities also limit the length at meters so long-term parkers won’t monopolize the curb spaces. But after Redwood City adjusted meter guarantee the availability spaces, it removed limits at meters.
This unlimited-has turned out to with drivers who can for as long as they pay. The demand-meter rates create the most convenient spaces, and long-term tend to choose the cheaper spaces in off-street lots.
Other cities have also begun to adjust their meter ensure the availability of curb parking. The U.S. Department Transportation has awarded grants to Chicago, Los San Francisco to test performance prices for curb Washington, D.C., has already started them. Pasadena Diego return meter revenues to enhance public services metered districts.
We can call the balance between demand and supply the “Goldilocks principle” of parking prices.
Any city can use a pilot program to test Goldilocks prices for curb parking. All the city has to do is allow business district that requests a pilot program to have cost the city anything, because the meters pay for Dirty and unsafe streets will never be great, so the initially use the meter revenue to pay for clean-and-safe.
Many communities may value clean and safe more highly than free but overcrowded curb parking. community is clean and safe, the parking revenue urban amenities such as street trees, underground public transit improvements. Parking on a great street may not be free, but it will be convenient and worth the price.
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About the author:
Professor Shoup is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He has been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University and the World Bank, and has served as Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA. His influential book, The High Cost of Free Parking, is leading a growing number of cities to charge fair market prices for curb parking, dedicate the resulting revenue to finance public services in the metered districts, and reduce or remove off-street parking requirements. His research on employer-paid parking led to passage of California’s parking cash-out law, and to changes in the Internal Revenue Code to encourage parking cash out. He can be reached at shoup@ucla.
This article was adapted with permission of the author from a chapter in Planetizen Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning, edited by Abhijeet Chavan, Christian Peralta, and Christopher Steins. Washington, Island Press, 2007, pp. 52–56.
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!
Editor, World Streets
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, email@example.com
Director: Andreas Møl Dalsgaard, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Editor, World Streets
How would you feel about World Streets if we organize a special edition on electric cars with the sponsorship of General Motors or any other a major automotive manufacturer or upstream supplier? I hope you would feel at least a bit puzzled or impatient. And hopefully actually disappointed that we tumbled into that facile trap. Sure, electric vehicles are to be part of our future. No problem there. But they are not going to be the path for moving towards sustainable transportation, sustainable cities, or sustainable lives. Bottom line: in terms of sustainability electric cars are a sideshow. Don’t you forget it!
Against this background, here is an article that appears in today’s New York Times (hey New York Times are getting better all the time) in which GM pulls out all the stops to flaunt their sustainability credentials. And they get some highly distinguished help in this. Which I find very worrying. Do you?
A High-Minded Look at Electric Cars
The setting was the sun-dappled campus of Columbia University, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that today’s forum on “New York and the Electric Car,” sponsored by the university and General Motors, took on a somewhat elevated tone.
Instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts of how the city’s many apartment-dwelling electric vehicle owners will plug in, the forum celebrated the prospective role of electric cars in changing the world. Several speakers compared the present period to the revolution from horses to horseless carriages more than a century ago.
John Gilbert, executive vice president of the real estate firm Rudin Management, invoked the transforming technology displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He challenged the audience to think of the modern building as a smart phone that will blossom when applications are created to aid car charging and efficiently manage the flow of electrons.
A highlight of the morning talk was the appearance of Lawrence Burns, the former longtime General Motors vice president, who functioned as the company’s hydrogen fuel-cell champion and big-picture guru of sustainability. Far from retiring, Mr. Burns is a corporate adviser and has academic appointments at both Columbia’s Earth Institute (as director of sustainable mobility) and the University of Michigan.
Mr. Burns said that 29 or 30 green cars of various types, including his former company’s Chevrolet Volt, would be on the market in the next few years. “The new DNA of the automobile is electrically driven,” he said.
He agreed with Mr. Gilbert that information technology would shape the car of the future, and invoked the “mobility Internet” to imagine a time when cars drive themselves and “don’t crash.”
“Texting won’t be an issue, and driving will be the distraction,” said Mr. Burns. “And because cars won’t crash we’ll be able to reduce their mass significantly.”
Among Mr. Burns’ last endeavors at G.M. was Project P.U.M.A., a collaboration with Segway that posits small pod-like 750-pound city cars that can drive autonomously. A second generation of G.M.’s city vehicles, called EN-V, are being put on display at Expo Shanghai in China.
Jeffrey Sachs, who heads Columbia’s Earth Institute, added a note of impatience to the proceedings. He invoked the specter of global warming and the auto tailpipe’s role in hastening it, and said the electrification of the automobile “will have to happen a lot faster than such a complex process would normally require.” Effective public policy, he said, can help accelerate E.V. adoption.
“We are on the cusp of an historic worldwide transformation in transportation that starts in the world’s biggest cities,” Mr. Sachs said in an interview. “It’s important from a resource point of view and an environmental point of view.”
A pre-production Chevy Volt was parked on College Walk for the event. Tony Posawatz, the Volt’s line director, said the company was “on a very good glide path to deliver the car.” The first retail cars will be delivered in November, he said. The Volt plugs in and will be home charged; Mr. Posawatz said he was looking forward to “having a gas station in my garage.”
So is New York ready to charge E.V.’s? Arthur Kressner, director of power supply research and development at Con Edison, cited the electric delivery trucks that plied the city’s streets 110 years ago and answered in the affirmative. Except for relatively rare peak demand times, he said, “the grid is more than capable of meeting the demands of electric vehicles.”
In an interview after the forum, Mr. Kressner said Con Ed has recently met with several charging companies, including the global player Better Place, and with the owners of city parking garages who are likely to add E.V. charging.
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Since the issue of sustainability credentials of electric vehicles is one that comes up time and again, often with high profile and great help from the communications resources and excellent PR skills of the groups behind them, it is important that this journal provides a clear and consistent statement of our views on these issues. More on this in our recent article, “Honk? Green power for electric cars: Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time” at http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2010/03/honk-green-power-for-electric-cars-lets.html.
There is an interesting upside to EV story of which we are not hearing very much and which apparently was not a topic for discussion at the joint Columbia/GM high-profile event. And that is the concept of electric cars which behave as they should in a city, meaning that they should be slow enough to be safe on city streets and much smaller so as to take less precious urban real estate. And while this is by no means in itself a magic wand for sustainability, it can serve to offer certain number of improvements which are not to be sneezed at altogether. It is not a big deal really, and that perhaps is part of the problem.
The difficulty is that the automobile industry and there accolates are putting close to zero priority on these kinds of vehicles. Look at the one just your right here: that little lead acid powered electric car provided me with 10 years of reliable, affordable slow speed mobility for my day-to-day transport purposes in Paris which, while once again not the key to sustainable transport, nonetheless represents a kind of pattern break that might in turn create a new set of attitudes about what is really needed. (And the fact that these kinds of vehicles could also be put into a carshare operation (which in fact is she object of discussion and some modest demonstrations), is something which is also worth a thought. Sadly however the bulk of the money spent in this broad area aims to create something rather closer to an electrical Porsche. Pity!)
To conclude on this for now: Let’s not fool ourselves. We have to be very careful day after day to avoid being diverted from the fundamental and huge sustainability challenges that are before us. We need to remain rigorously focused, scrupulously ethical, and relentlessly consistent. Without these qualities, we will never get there. So please, let us not permit ourselves to get distracted. Next?
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.
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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/
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?
PS. And oh yes, tell us what you think this is all about. That’s what the Comments section just below is for.
“We’ll keep our cars thank you very much. And we shall park them where we want. And for as long as we choose to. If heritage is a barrier, let’s move it out of the way. And, by the way, what moral authority do you have to tell me otherwise?” - Simon Bishop, Delhi, India Climate Change is so serious explain the policy wonks that it is like a war. Did Gandhi then delay the salt march due to the searing heat of Gujarat? It took place when the Gujarat cauldron was heating, finishing in April 1930. Did Gandhi continue to take His Majesty’s coin as a lawyer as ‘the system was made to support the Empire and until it changed. We wouldn’t? This is a key point. Until policymakers start to take a lead and practice what they preach who will believe the product they are trying to sell?
“The problems of excessive traffic are crowding in upon us with desperate urgency. Unless steps are taken, the motor vehicle will defeat its own utility and bring about a disastrous degradation of the surroundings for living… Either the utility of vehicles in town will decline rapidly, or the pleasantness and safety of surroundings will deteriorate catastrophically – in all probability both will happen.”
- Simon Bishop, Delhi, India
Climate Change is so serious explain the policy wonks that it is like a war. Did Gandhi then delay the salt march due to the searing heat of Gujarat? It took place when the Gujarat cauldron was heating, finishing in April 1930. Did Gandhi continue to take His Majesty’s coin as a lawyer as ‘the system was made to support the Empire and until it changed. We wouldn’t? This is a key point. Until policymakers start to take a lead and practice what they preach who will believe the product they are trying to sell?
The prophetic words of Colin Buchanan in the UK 1963 “Traffic in Towns” Report are now ringing in the ears of Indian towns and cities. Drivers include; a high and fast growing urban population, rising levels of prosperity, inadequate public transit, sprawling cityscapes, and easy lines of credit. All are factors behind a growing appetite to raise status through motorcycles and cars and buy into the suburban dream waiting just round the corner. More on that at the end of the article!
The impact of growing traffic is being felt specifically on built heritage in a number of important ways. The historic centres of Indian towns and cities were not designed for motorized traffic. Streets were meant to be narrow to offer shade for all manner of pedestrian and animal traffic to go about their business without struggling too much against the extreme heat of summer. Pick up any Lonely Planet to India and you’ll find testimony that such a heritage fabric lends itself for the tourist to enjoy on foot or by bicycle. Sadly exhortations to ‘explore the old city by cycle rickshaw’ or ‘hire a bicycle to enjoy the outskirts of the town’ are fading away as pollution, noise and danger render the option unpalatable.
A perfect case in point is the system of nallahs or streams running through the city of Delhi. Built by the Tughluqs to supply the city with water nearly 1,000 years ago these nallahs or streams could be cleaned up to act as ‘greenway’ walking and cycling corridors. Just one nallah in South Delhi, for instance would link five of the seven ancient cities of Delhi, providing unrivalled access for tourists, school children, families to get in touch with the proud history of this city. Led by hungry contractors, the picture below shows what is happening in practice.
Not only is tourist revenue under threat, but local people are increasingly hooted at and bullied in their own backyard by motorized transport. Parks and gardens are difficult for children and the elderly to get to. Street play is hazardous between parked vehicles and erratically moving traffic. What visual and aural intrusion is doing to deter tourists from ‘Incredible India’ is one thing, but the associated levels of pollution are also damaging building fabric. In larger towns with roads over 30 metres in width, high levels of traffic are also decreasing the economic viability of heritage buildings as they become dangerous and difficult to access – witness Sabz Burj on a traffic island in Delhi.
On a wider level whole communities living in historic enclaves are severed by wide arterial roads cutting through their heart or surrounding them from outside.
At a policy level there is a yawning gap between land use and transport planning. Delhi, the capital city of India still has no Transport Plan.
A series of exhortations in the Master Plan to build cycle tracks on all arterial roads are rarely observed and, without any network plan, those that are remain ineffective. In the absence of any multimodal plan to reduce journey distance through the application of compact, mixed land use strategies, large numbers of people are moving to greenfield apartments that can only be reached by motorbike or car. The newly opened Gurgaon Expressway from Delhi, saturated with traffic years ahead of schedule, is the result.
There are isolated examples of towns that have challenged the ‘inevitable’ threat to their heritage caused by unbridled suburbanization and motorization but only one has done this in a systematic way; linking environmental, social and economic objectives. Located near the India-Pakistan border, the Punjabi town of Fazilka removes cars from the city centre during daylight hours.
The market area was the first part of town to be made car-free. Four-wheeled vehicles are not allowed to drive in this zone during 12 daytime hours, although even then it has not yet been possible to prohibit motorcycles successfully. The Municipal Council President Anil Sethi places an emphasis on improving local transport options rather than in encouraging long distance travel. Sethi eschews overpasses and flyovers in favor of initiatives like the ‘Eco-cab’ scheme where residents can use their mobile phones to dial a cycle rickshaw to take them door-to-door. The local tea seller or shopkeeper keeps part of the telephone fee for acting as the cab controller, directing rickshaws to their customers.
Other examples of towns applying the ‘car free’ concept, although not in a holistic way like Fazilka include Nainital, Shimla and Darjeeling where cars are banned during retail hours on the main shopping streets. The concept is an in emergency response to the huge influx of tourist traffic during the summer months. This, combined with steep hillside topography constrains the movement and storage of vehicles. In Nainital a system of Eco-Cabs operates where users obtain a ticket from a booth at either end of the main street and then travel from one side of the town to the other. Challenging gradients preclude cycles or cycle rickshaws in Shimla and Darjeeling but allow for pedestrians to enjoy unfettered access to the main shopping streets.
In a sign of things to come, the Carter Road in the Bandra area of Mumbai organized its first car-free day on 21st February 2010. Forty thousand local residents and Bollywood celebrities including Priya Dutt pledged to take part whilst the area was closed off to traffic. The aim of the event was to focus people’s attention on the impact of vehicles on pollution and in inhibiting healthy living and exposure to the great outdoors.
Perhaps the key point to make, however, is that cars are aspirational. The policy wonks who rail against the Tata Nano would be the first to scream and cry if they were asked to make sacrifices by walking or cycling to the office or using public transit. Most have chauffer driven, A/C vehicles clogging up the roads on the way to their next conference.
Go to the Habitat Centre in Delhi by cycle, home to a host of environmental and UN organizations and you will be politely waved through the service entrance and forced to face oncoming car traffic. Go to a conference by cycle and you will be waved away. When these leaders asked if they walk or cycle the inevitable answer is ‘No, it’s too dangerous.’, ‘When the roads are planned for cycles I will use one’, ‘ It’s too hot for 9 months of the year in India to cycle’. The answer is always why I can’t do something, not why I can. In fact it’s perfectly possible to cycle in the Indian Plains early in the morning or late in the day when most people commute even during the hotter months with a folded shirt in your bag, a hat on your head and a T-Shirt on your back.
# # #
About the author:
- Simon Bishop is working as a transport and environment consultant in Delhi, where he lives with his family. In India he has worked on bus and cycling projects like the Delhi BRTand helped set up the Global Transport Knowledge Partnership. Before coming to India two years ago Simon worked in London as a planner on demand management and travel marketing schemes, receiving an award from the Mayor for “London’s Most Innovative Transport Project”. He authored ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ – Policies for Sustainable Aviation’ while working as a policy adviser in the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Since 1998 we have actively supported the development of carsharing projects and programs in cities and countries around the world. Over that time the concept of sharing a car has grown from a largely unknown transport option, to the extent where today there are more than one thousand cities in the world where you can find a shared car this morning. The main instrument of our collaboration has been something we called the World Carshare Consortium. But as you will see here are a few changes in store for the way in which we run this part of our sustainable transportation initiative.
Short introduction: The World Carshare Consortium which you can handily access at www.worldcarshare.org has been run on an open and free basis, much like World Streets, over all these years. However for reasons of hard economic realities we are now constrained to start to change that formula, which is the purpose of this posting. This may interest you, since it is relevant to how all of us can go about combining our knowledge, energies, and resources to advancing good sustainable transportation ideas. And good carsharing is certainly one of the best.
If you have any questions or require further background, a great starting point is the world carshare site itself, and in addition you can address them to the editor here at World Streets.
New Mobility Partnerships, Paris. 18 February 2010
Dear members and supporters of World Carshare,
After twelve years of long and faithful service to the concept of carsharing as a great and even noble way of getting around in our day-to-day lives, today is the day in which I am obliged to change the rules of the game for World Carshare. As most of you know, after more than a decade running this as a wide open shared enterprise, I do this with no little regret. But as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tze reminded us so long ago: after ten years of notoriety even the greatest poet in China should change his village and change his name. So in this Year of the Tiger and with his good counsel in mind, I will keep my name but today is the day we make a few changes in our village.
The new rules of the game: Rather than being free and open to all, from this day on our World Carshare will be run along, let us say, more “commercial” lines. No not commercial really, but nonetheless as I have indicated in an earlier note on the subject, for reasons of necessity we now have to get better at sharing the load. You understand of course that world carsharing simply cannot be a one-man job.
Now while my earlier calls for support have gone pretty much ignored by the great majority of the close to five hundred people currently signed in to this forum, happily several handfuls of you have stepped forward to help share the burden: something like two dozen individuals, a total of one carshare supplier, and as of yesterday a generous grant from one of our national partners who shares our belief that carsharing is something that is really worth supporting. These are good steps forward to help us make this work, but until all this work is fully and fairly supported, we now have to move to our new and somewhat more austere rules set. It works like this:
As of this morning, all standing subscriptions of our close to five hundred members are being canceled. In exact parallel with this, I am sending out letters of invitation to those people and groups who have recently been in touch either with individual (subscriptions) or collective support — or as volunteers indicated that they will continue to be ready to share with us their information and insights on the sector. In addition to this, we will continue to maintain free access to anyone coming in from the developing countries, unfunded local environmenal and similar public interest groups, and of course students and others of limited means and high interest.
Several of our number have indicated their willingness to work with us to identify and eventually secure more substantial support from public agencies in their country who share our interests. This would be extremely important to guarantee our future viability, and I hope that others of you will now get in touch so that we can discuss how we might work together to tailor and put this approach to work in your country. If we can get a handful of committed public sector partners behind this, we will be able to return to our former wide open working context, which to my mind is far the best way to get the job done.
The months ahead are going to be extremely active ones in our slice of the sustainable transportation puzzle. This work is going to be led by the communications within and collaboration from members of the consortium. I very much hope that you will be among us to take part in this process of building knowledge and consensus on a literally worldwide basis, and in an area in which both are much needed.
So there you have it World Carshare friends. 2010 is the Year of the Tiger and if we are going to make sustainable development work in our cities and daily lives, it will not be because we are docile little pussies. I hope to hear from you and that you will join us as part of the solution. I promise you, the world needs us.
Best from Paris — a city incidentally where when World Carshare just getting underway there were zero carshare operators and zero understanding of the part of the city as to what their role in this might be. And where today there are a handful of highly competitive firms offering more cars, more rides, to more people every day, and all that under the benevolent eye of city authorities who have got the message and have shown themselves ready to do their bit to bring these great services to more and more people everyday. And you can take my word for it, that was no accident.
Some final words of background and a few reminders just in case it may have escaped your attention:
1. The World CarShare Consortium (1997 text):
“This free, cooperative, independent, international communications program supports carsharing projects and programs, worldwide. Since 1997 it offers a convenient place on the web to gather and share information and independent views on projects and approaches, past, present and planned future, freely and easily available to all comers.”
2. Why we support carsharing (1998 text):
“Why does The Commons support a concept that may to some appear to be so off-beat and marginal as carsharing? Simple! We think it’s a great, sustainable, practical mobility idea whose time has come and whose potential impact is quite simply huge. Carsharing: the missing link in your city’s sustainable transport system.”
3. Comments and accolades from readers of World Carshare – www.acknowledgments.worldcarshare.com
4. Ditto from one hundred and one readers of World Streets – http://tinyurl.com/ws-101
5. Entries over last year on World Streets concerning carsharing – Click here.
Carsharing: The last nail in the coffin of old mobility.
I rest my case.
Editor, World Streets
World Streets is an open collaborative program, and is entirely dependent on the support of readers, subscribers and others who share our deep concerns about sustainable transportation, sustainable development and social justice. Subscription is free for all who cannot afford it, and as a matter policy we do not accept advertising. We count on your counsel and support to be able to continue to do our part.
World Streets has one job: to inform and support sustainable transportation projects and groups around the world. After a first year of proving its worth, edition after edition, five days a week, bringing hundreds of carefully selected news items, expert views, questions, comments, inspirations, and leads to the desks of more than one hundred thousand visitors from more than seventy countries on all continents (that was our “business plan”), World Streets is now reaching out to get active sponsorship and support for 2010. We need your help to continue. Here is how it works:
World Streets is a public interest publication which, as a matter of policy, we make freely available to all who are looking to understand, support, and contribute to the sustainability agenda anywhere in the world. We firmly believe that there should be no barriers, and especially not commercial ones, to the free circulation of news, tools, counsel and peer exchanges when it comes to important issues of sustainable development and social justice.
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At the state, national, regional or international level, these key institutions with broad responsibilities to guide policy, education, communications and investments in the fields of transportation, environment, cities, energy, or climate can provide valuable support for all concerned by making Streets available to their members, staff and associates. Subscribers have full paid-in access for their staffs and other associated agencies, groups and personnel within their country or region, to all deliverables and services of the subscription program as follows:
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Subscription provides full access to the world’s only sustainable transportation daily, and includes daily updates and references which are automatically channeled to the subscriber and their team in daily digest form, complete with easy one-click links to the full text and media content of all articles and commentaries.
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Reserved for subscribers, active collaborators and correspondents. For subscribers, participation is extended to all nominated individuals, agencies and groups within the country or region served — giving each forum member full access to the journal, daily updates, monthly reports, peer discussion, shared library, shared library, and databases. The Forum is also an excellent place to ask questions or launch discussions of current topics to get different points of view based on experience in other places.
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Subscribers have full access to the peer networks and focus groups set up under the New Mobility Agenda over the last two decades. These include the World Transport Journal, World Carshare Consortium, Global South Forum, City Bicycle Forum, World Car-Free Days, Value Capture/Taxation Forum, Share/Transport Forum, New Mobility Kids, etc. Each forum serves an international expert community working in the given area for collaborative exchanges of information and views. Participants receive regular updates on events, discussions, and issues in their active topic areas.
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5. Supporting subscriber services/Outreach program
The principal challenge in this collaborative project is that of finding a way to efficiently channel the considerable content of World Streets in a form in which all concerned can quickly scan, select, access and make good use of it in a time-efficient manner. The target group for national sponsors often includes not only their own staff but other agencies and organizations in the country whom they choose to keep informed. We refer to this as the “last kilometer” component of the subscription.
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Local government are the ones closest to the issues and who make the decisions that count. Via the daily journal and the monthly edition we supply them with a carefully selected, easy to digest, steady flow of exception information, insight, clues and feedback from world experts that would cost them many times more than the annual subscription to develop on their own. It also gives them a chance to make their voice heard on a worldwide forum. Depending on size of city and available resources . . .
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Private sector suppliers to the sector (goods and services)
This is more delicate, but this form of open public support is appropriate for companies and organizations who are firmly committed to the sustainable transport agenda. Suppliers of goods and services in such areas as insurance, non-motorized transport, carsharing, liftsharing, strategic parking, logistics, buses, delivery services, locational systems, integrated multi-modal ticket/access systems, transport logistics, spatial planning, and specialized consultancy, management and research groups are appropriate. Depending on size of enterprise . . .
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Universities and research institutions
World Streets offers a good fit and tool for university teaching and research programs at all levels. Various forms of collaboration and mutual support are possible. Get in touch so that we can discuss.
Incidentally, we have been told that the most efficient way to get universities support for this is to handle it as a standard subscription to a scientific or technical journal. In addition and if your time permits it, we would be grateful if university subscribers would toward the end of the academic year drop us a couple of lines telling how they have used these materials and what kind of reaction they may have gotten from professors as well as students. Also this would be a good occasion for you to give us suggestions for future extensions and improvements.
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Until such time that we have developed the necessary firm base of support for our continuing operation, once-off gifts and donations will go a long way to help us fund our early operational and start-up costs in these crucial first phases. We are particularly hopeful for the support of foundations, groups with such budgets, and well-to-do individuals who share our sense of mission. If you are among them, please contact us for more information. And if you have a lead or know someone we should contact for discussions, please let us know.
4. Private donors, personal contributions, gifts
We hope to get support from individuals and families of means who share our concerns, and who are ready to reach into their pockets to give proof that the struggle for sustainable cities must engage us all.
World Streets is going to need significant financial support if it is to continue through 2010. Despite the many volunteers pitching in with ideas, articles and encouragement, our programs are still costly to run and require an annual budget on the order of EUR 100,000 to get the job done. (There is a lot going on here, the iceberg under the tip, which is needed to get the journal out each day and which of course you never see, including management and oversight of all that goes into maintaining the New Mobility Agenda focus programs and sites – see www.program.newmobility.org to get an idea on that.)
This level of funding normally can come only from foundations, public agencies, or well-to-do individuals. But there is plenty of scope for smaller, more strategic donations as well, and here is maybe where you will have some ideas. Your counsel and initiative will be helpful in several ways.
• By making a contribution – large or small – you are sending us a strong signal that what we are doing has value.
• Your contributions will help us to fund the diversity of our existing programs at the quality level and frequency you are used to.
• An active contributor base helps us equally to turn to the foundations, agencies, and individuals that can make more sizable contributions to help us make-up a budget shortfall.
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1. Your vote for the future: Because if you are a parent or active citizen it is the right thing to do for your children, for your city, for your nation, and yes, for the planet. (And it is simple and cheap.)
2.Act now: Getting behind World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda demonstrates publicly that you give high importance to the critical climate/transportation link and the need for acting now — and not waiting about for some kind of long term deus ex machina that may or may not solve your and the planet’s problems.
3. Worldwide focus: It gives you an efficient way to track some of the things going on at the leading edge not only in your own country or regional grouping. Its genuine worldwide focus — North/South, East/West (and South/North) — reporting from source, brings to your attention projects, ideas and clues which otherwise you are just about certain to miss.
4. Re-defining the mainstream: By stepping forward you provide proof that you are part of the growing movement that is in the process of transforming sustainable transportation from a marginal activity, into the defining mainstream of 21st century transportation policy and practice at the leading edge.
5. Share with others: By doing your bit, you are helping make these ideas and materials available to cities, researchers, activists, and others all over the world, including many others who otherwise cannot even afford it on their own.
6. Make your voice heard: As a colleague and supporter, you and your team are in a position to work with the editorial staff from time to time to let the world know about your leading projects and accomplishments.
7. Step forward: And finally, if you do not step forward to do this, if we do not step forward to do this . . . who will?
For the rest, thank you in advance for your contributions, your counsel and your support. And if you wish to talk about any of this, here is how you can get in touch. Believe me, we will not be able to do this without you!
Editor, World Streets
Tel. +331 7550 3788 • Skype newmobility
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
PS. Have a look at who visited World Streets today. They have to be coming here for a reason.
A recent discussion has come up in the context of our 2010 work program concerning your editor’s long-standing unwillingness to hop on a plane, travel great distances to make a “cameo appearance”, and then scurry back to his burrow in Paris. Since 1995 we have tried hard to maintain a consistent policy about this kind of travel, which you can find at http://www.personal.newmobility.org/. However this does not mean that it is not possible to have some form of “hot” presentation and interaction on topics of high mutual interest without that dreaded trip to the airport. With a bit of preparation and at low cost, you can do an excellent job at creating a lively and engaging interactive low-carbon environment. Let’s have look. Continue reading
Paris. Sunday, 17 January 2010. I: What we can do today
Greetings from a city living this mid-January 2010 day in peace, health and security. Our children are safe, our neighbors about to sit down to a full Sunday meal, and most of us will venture out onto the streets of our cities tomorrow morning to another full and peaceful day. You too I hope. But that is not at all the case in Haiti and its tragic streets. What can we do?
[Summary: Take 5 minutes, go to http://www.msf.org/msfinternational/donations/, and make your donation. You will be glad you did.]
I: What we can do today
But why do I interrupt your peaceful weekend with this unasked-for message? Because I am sure that somewhere in your heart you feel it is important that you take some kind of action in such an agonizing case. But what to do from so far away?
Here’s a thought. As it happens over the last couple of decades through our work with The Commons (since 1973), the New Mobility Agenda (since 1988) and over the last year on World Streets, I have had the great luck to meet, correspond with, get to know, and on occasion work directly with several thousand highly creative and engaged people in some eighty countries on all continents, just about all of whom know about adversity, and who I know have big hearts and are good neighbors in all senses of the word. Now that’s a lot of the right kind of people to know at a time of great need.
* Click here for video presenting MSF emergency report
Paul McPhun, MSF operations manager, gives a briefing here on the situation for MSF and our patients in Haiti, including damage sustained to MSF medical centres, our medical focus, the types of injuries and traumas we are seeing, further response plans, how medical teams are overwhelmed, having worked all night and concerns over staff and patients unaccounted for.
So following the latest from Haiti, here is the idea that struck me. Suppose you and I and the couple of thousand others we have come to know and resepct, come together to bond and carry out the same simple neighborly act that takes just a few minutes — and which I am sure every one of us, even the most modest, can afford with no great pain? If I do it, if you do it, then others will do it too. We may amaze ourselves. Let’s see how this might work.
It’s simple: We move to our computer or “smart” phone, click to Medecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders at www.msf.org and make a donation, large or small. Say ten or twenty Euros/dollars as a symbolic statement. Or perhaps the price of a meal this evening with someone you love, that latest iPhone that you may not really need, or more, That will be your choice, but the important thing is that we make our donation here and now, or in some other way no matter how small. And if you already did it, well go ahead and do it again.
I had already been thinking about Haiti of late for several reasons. Recently we started work with an NGO — EcoWorks International who maintain a small office in Port au Prince, where only two of their ten colleagues on the ground there have yet to report in– to lay the base for what we hoped were going to become a series of collaborative workshops with local groups, agencies and operators in support of low cost, high impact appropriate transport innovations across the country. The situation we were originally looking at on the ground was already about as tragic as you can imagine. But even that has been catastrophically cut short, for now, though we are ready to go as soon as circumstances permit. However as you are aware there is a great deal that must be done first.
So what about this, old friends and colleagues from all over this troubled planet? What about joining hands today in clicking to MSF’s donation page at http://www.msf.org/msfinternational/donations/. Once there all you have to do is pick your country and whip through their efficient donation cycle, using credit card or PayPal. I just did it here through their French site just now: it took all of five minutes, lightened my purse by a few Euros, and hey! I feel just one small bit better already. I am not just one more passive soul sitting this one out next to a blabbing TV. Of course I want to have done more, but we each do what we can afford.
May I then invite you, may I encourage you, may I entreat you to do the same? You will know that you have done the right thing. And once you have, if you find a minute please do drop a quick email to us here to email@example.com to let us know that you have stepped up to the challenge, we can add your name to our World Streets honor roll.
If World Streets in all its forms and extensions and rhetoric and bustle does not care right down to our guts about what happens on the streets of the world, we are no more than idle chatterers.
Thank you for proving otherwise,
PS. We next invite you to look to: World Streets/Haitian Streets: What to do once the emergency has been met
The following was sent yesterday by the editor as a private communication to a small group of long time colleagues, as a kick-off to and call for collaboration in the new year ahead. Since the reaction has been so immediate and positive I have decided to post it to World Streets, as part of our transition strategy and general preparations for the year ahead. Comments more than welcome. Eric Britton, Editor, World Streets (Shown: Our editor at his desk as he reflects on 2009.) Continue reading
Public transport? Cycling? Walking? Car pooling? Car sharing? Stuck at home? Elderly? Handicapped? Spend my hard-earned money for them? Bah! Who needs it? Why bother if it’s just for a few marginal people? Let’s concentrate on the big problems, those of the majority of people. Us drivers and our cars. We are the transportation majority.
In the world of human mobility there is, as it turns out, no one “big problem”. And hence no big solutions. There is, for better or worse, just an ever-changing confluence of a very large number of different problems, different people, different desires, different daily life realities, different needs, different constraints, different priorities, different possibilities, and different decisions. And different actions. And different consequences.
The old mobility vision of society is essentially one of striding workers, with secure jobs, fixed hours, well defined trips, leaping into their car and then buckling up for “safe driving”. Very nice.
All of whom well served by our “normal transportation arrangements”, that is the huge and hugely expansive infrastructure that we continue to build and repair to support automotive transportation (and those largely empty cars).
Something like eighty percent of the local transportation funding in most cities of the world goes for that car-supporting infrastructure: roads, bridges, cloverleafs, tunnels, supporting elections, policing, accident prevention, and the long list goes on. Life is sweet.
Then there are “the rest”, among them: the old, disabled, poor, rural, etc., etc. And of course the poor old disabled rural.
They too of course need to be catered to as well. Fair enough. Let’s give them a bit here and a bit there too. But most of our hard-earned tax money is still going to be spent on providing high quality mobility arrangements for “normal people”. That’s right, isn’t it?
Sorry but no, it’s not at all right. It is in fact 100% wrong. It is wrong because it is grossly unfair and uncivil. And beyond that, it is also based on a false precept. Why?
Because that splendid vision of society with thee and me at the wheel with the wind blowing through our golden hair, simply does not jibe with reality. It never did in the past, and as our societies age it increasingly is absurdly contrary to reality. Here is the surprise, the kicker:
The “transportation majority” is not what most people think, transportation planners and policy makers among them.
The transportation majority are all those of us who increasingly are poorly served by the mainline, no-choice, car-based truncated service arrangements that eat up most of our taxpayer money and take away our choices. And each year, as our populations age this majority grows in numbers.
Here is a generic short-list of the people who make up this till-now all too silent majority:
1. Everyone in your city, country or electorate who does not have a car
2. Everyone who cannot drive
3. Everyone who cannot afford to own and operate a car of their own (And remember that costs a lot of after-tax money)
4. Everyone who should not drive (for reasons of a variety of impediments such as limitations associated with age, psychological state , , , ,)
5. Everyone who lives in a large city and for reasons of density, public health and quality of city life needs to have access to a non-car mobility system
6. Everyone who would in fact prefer to get around by walking, cycling or some form of shared transport who cannot safely or readily do so, because all the money is being spent on the car-based system which is fundamentally, and financially, incompatible with these “softer” and more healthy ways of getting around
7. Everyone who suffers from some form of impairment that makes driving or even access to traditional public transit difficult or impossible
8. Everyone who cannot responsibly take the wheel at any given time (fatigue, distraction, nervousness, some form of intoxication. . . )
9. All those who are today isolated and unable to participate in the life of our communities fully because they simply do not have a decent way to get around.
10. And — don’t lose sight of this! – in a few years you!
How do we work our way out of this? Simple, get out there and vote!
Vote for mayors, counselors and legislators who are ready to work for the transportation majority.
Vote for mayors, counselors and legislators who are ready to join the transportation majority and get to work and around their city by public transport, walking, bicycle, carpool, or carsharing. Or better yet some combination all of the above.
And don’t vote for the other guys.
They will get your message.
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Several of our readers have pointed out that while this may be interesting, the only way to make the point is to put numbers to it. Exactly! But this has to be done on a place by place basis, so one can hope that this will be done and that we shall be seeing the results of this important metric here and in many other places.