Category Archives: Street

Meet Streetmix, Where You Can Design Your Own Street (in Penang)

Do you have the feeling that your street could be a lot better if it were designed for people and safe mobility instead of primarily for moving and parked cars? Suppose the entire width of the street, sidewalks, gutters and provision for parked and moving vehicles is, say, xx meters. And if you wanted to see what it could  look like if there were more provision for safe walking, cycling, street furniture, trees and greenery, transit shelters, priority public transport, lane dividers,  turn lanes, and yes, parked and moving vehicles, then have a look at Streetmix (the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street in Penang).

USA Streetmix - 2 all car

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Op-Ed: The Story of UK Roads/Streets Poorly designed roundabouts – enabling even HGV’s to travel around them at speed, the police thinking a cyclist could make a driver aware of “him” with a bell or a whistle… Police on bicycles … Continue reading

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

Safe Streets 2012 Challenge: Let’s take a step back to get some context

Joel Crawford of Carfree Cities writes:
“Cities in the modern era have been overrun by cars and trucks. Streets have been stolen from human uses by invasive street users. Not only is this method unlikely to be sustained into the future, it also robs society of some of its most important public spaces. Carfree cities are a delightful solution to many different problems at once.” With that, let’s have a look at his short film that bangs these points home.

Occupy All Streets: The Role of Carfree Cities in a More Sustainable World from J.H. Crawford on Vimeo. Continue reading

World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 17, No. 2

The Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice is the long-standing idea and print partner of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda since 1995. The Summer 2011 edition appears with articles by Bruce Appleyard, Joshua Hart and Graham Parkhurst, and Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy. In the article that follows you will find the lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg. (For a more complete introduction to World Transport click here.)

- – - > To obtain your copy of WTPP 17/2 click here. Continue reading

Review: Urban Mobility India 2010

The 3rd edition of the annual “flagship event” of the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) of India’s federal government, Urban Mobility India 2010 was held in New Delhi between December 3rd and 5th, 2010 with the aim of creating “Accessible and Inclusive Cities”. This article reviews the main themes and happenings of the event, and though it may appear to nit-pick, it does appreciate the effort of the organisers in organising the event, and holds that perhaps the biggest achievement of the event was to be able to have a serious debate on controversial topics (like the Delhi Metro or flyovers). Continue reading

Parks vs. Parking: What do Indian cities need?

Chennai had prepared a plan some years ago for a multi-storey parking deck  in T. Nagar where the Panagal Park now stands. T Nagar, once a quiet residential neighbourhood, is now the shopping centre for all of Chennai and has tremendous levels of congestion. The parking plan was called off due to protests by walkers and elderly citizens. I recently got the happy news that a revised plan to build an underground multi-storey parking facility below the Venkatanarayana Road playground also got struck down in the Madras High Court. The court reasoned that the city was lacking in open spaces – which are now considered an integral part of the constitutional right to life. The parcel under consideration is zoned as an open space and has been in use as a playground for more than 60 years. The court found that this activity cannot be disrupted for providing services to motorists who visit this central neighbourhood in the city for shopping. Continue reading

No need for speed

As our regular readers know well, World/Streets believes that there are a lot of excellent reasons for slowing down. And every time we run into something that we think can help advance this worthy objective, well here we are. This time the irrepressible Elizabeth Press, peripatetic videographer from New York City’s StreetFilms project, got on a plane and made a short film about what happens when cities slow down their traffic in a uniform and substantial way – in this case the terrific UK program ” 20’s Plenty for Us”. Her five-minute film went on-line yesterday. Continue reading

Kaohsiung 2010 Papers: Are streets meant for travel alone?

This essay contests the idea that streets are for travel alone by critically examining the logic and language employed by the elite to delegitimize two marginalized groups using streets for non-travel purposes: hawkers and pavement-dwellers. Further, court cases interpreting constitutional guarantees in the context of hawkers and pavement-dwellers are examined. Based on these discussions, an attempt is made to provide an alternative framework for the governance of streets, in which streets are seen essentially as shared commons whose use is subject to democratic decision-making based on shared goals of society. Continue reading

Kaohsiung 2010 Papers: Street sharing in Nepal

In most developing world cities, the vast majority of citizens walk as part of their daily social, recreational, and livelihood activities. Every trip begins and ends with a walking trip. Nearly all trips made by people entail some walking, either directly to a destination or to another mode of transport. In Kathmandu, large section of population prefers to walk. In fact, 18.1 percent of daily trips are made entirely on foot, and of the nearly 56.5 percent of the commuters who use different modes of public transport, a large percentage walk as part of their daily commute. Continue reading

Kaohsiung 2010: The Third Way of getting around in cities

Share/transport — the largely uncharted middle ground of low-carbon, high-impact, available-now mobility options that span the broad range that runs between the long dominant poles of “private transport” (albeit on public roads) and “mass transport” (scheduled, fixed-route, usually deficit-financed public services) at the two extremes. The third way of getting around in cities? Come to Kaohsiung in September and let’s talk about sharing. Continue reading

No Accident! Traffic and Pedestrians in the Modern City

As most of our regular readers are well aware, World Streets is no friend of speed in cities. To the contrary, it is our firm position that a considerable number of the basic objectives associated with sustainable mobility and sustainable cities can be achieved if we do no more than to reduce top speeds in and around our cities in a strategic and carefully thought-out way. The great technological virtuosity of traffic engineers and technical planners permit us to do this, while at the same time retaining a well working transportation system, a healthier city, and a viable local economy. Listen to what John Rennie Short and Luis Mauricio Pinet-Peralta have to tell us on the subject.
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Promoting road safety and clean air in Kathmandu

This is the second article in a series coming in from Nepal, showing how the combination of traffic restraint and the push toward the creation of pedestrian- friendly areas is giving results in their capital city. The reader should bear in mind that the traffic situation on most of the city streets is extremely chaotic and dangerous, above all as a result of the explosion of fast-moving two wheelers. The city also suffers from major air quality problems due to a noxious combination of heavy traffic, dirty engines, thin air, natural meteorological factors and its location in the high Kathmandu Valley.

Pedestrianisation promotes road safety and clean air in Kathmandu


- Charina Cabrido, Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities. Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) recently closed the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square from all kinds of vehicles as part of the government’s initiative to preserve the monument zones and reestablish the World Heritage Site as pedestrian friendly area. This aims to secure the safety of people walking in the city.

In Kathmandu, large portions of the population prefer to walk. In fact, 18.1 percent of daily trips are made entirely on foot, and of the nearly 56.5 percent of the commuters who use different modes of public transport, a large percentage walk as part of their daily commute.

However, inadequate planning has lead to many unnecessary fatalities and injuries. According to a study conducted by Kathmandu Valley Mapping Program (KVMP), pedestrians account for up to 40 percent of all fatalities in Kathmandu City in 2001.

The Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities and Clean Energy Nepal proposed for the implementation of exclusive zones for non – motorized transit within congested urban zones based from the results of its walkability survey.

What KMC has done is something that we must applaud. Urban cities with improved land use and transportation planning deliberately include pedestrianising streets to contribute to good health and quality of life. Based on a study made by the WorldWatch Institute, a short, four-mile round trip of walking helps reduce 15 pounds of pollutants in the air that we breathe.

Heritage Walk Project in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square

The heritage walk project in Hanumandhoka Durbar Square motivates people to take action to improve Kathmandu’s air quality. It reminds us that walking is the most socially inclusive mode of transport and is available to most people, regardless of age, gender, education or income. When you walk, you contribute to the creation of a healthy environment by reducing traffic congestion, air and noise pollution and creating a safer, more social and liveable community.

It also creates a good impression for many visiting tourists in this country that there are safer and quieter roads that is designed entirely for the people. Pedestrian facilities that create safe and attractive environments with a range of amenities will encourage walking and attract visitors to these areas.

Pedestrian-friendly urban design is one of the key enabling conditions for effective transit systems. It tends to lower crime rates and accidents. With the segregation of people from vehicles, the safety of pedestrian and transportation abilities are greatly improved.

The concept of pedestrianisation is relatively simple, its benefits almost immediately apparent, but its implementation is hardly easy. This is not only part of KMC’s turf, it is everybody’s responsibility that road security practices are being followed to ensure that safer and quieter roads bind us all.


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Background article from the Kathmandu Post, 17 April 2010:
Source: http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2010/04/17/top-stories/Basantapur-an-amblers-paradise/207301/

To conserve Basantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, the local administration on Saturday announced a ban on vehicular movement within the area. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles will, however, be allowed to ply there.

Programme chief of the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square Conservation Programme that falls under the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), Harikumar Shrestha, said on Saturday that the fresh restrictions will come into effect from Sunday. The authorities will also impose a ban on political meetings and other gatherings in the area. Cultural programmes, however, are permitted.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City had earlier imposed a ban on vehicular movement there, but it was not implemented largely due to lack of cooperation from locals and other stakeholders.

According to Shrestha, a meeting between representatives of Nepal Police, Traffic Police, Kathmandu Metropolis and the District Administration decided to impose the restrictions. They felt that vehicular movement and encroachment in the area were posing a threat to monuments there.

“The move also comes at a time when tourists visiting the historic site are facing difficulties due to vehicular movement there,” Shrestha said. He requested residents, local clubs, organisations and political parties to help the authorities create a “hassle-free” environment for tourists.

The authorities have further come up with alternative routes for vehicles to ease the traffic congestion that will result after the move is implemented. While vehicles coming from New Road and Ason will pass through Indrachowk, Suraj Arcade and to Phyphal, those coming from the opposite direction will follow the same route to reach New Road.

In addition, the KMC plans to put an end to the evening market in the area. The market has been thriving for the past eight years despite strong opposition from locals.

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About the author:
Charina Cabrido is an environmental researcher, a writer and a cycling advocate who is working for sustainable urban transport in Kathmandu, Nepal. She is currently associated with the Clean Air Initiatives for Asian Cities, an organization that is active in 8 country networks and over 170 organizational members to promote and demonstrate innovative ways to improve the air quality in Asian cities through partnerships and sharing experiences. Charina currently leads the Walkability Index Survey in Kathmandu to promote improvements in pedestrianisation infrastructures and services. She is also active in developing mass education, awarness and media campaign related to Air Quality Management issues in Nepal through the Clean Air Network Nepal.

Cycling should be dull

” (Government) policy is not to make cycling safer but to encourage more people to be brave.” The author, Janice Turner writing for the Times, puts her finger on one of the greater truths of public policy and cycling, which every city and every New Mobility activist will do well to bear in mind. In her words: “Cycling. . . should be banal. Because it is safe” Continue reading

Learning from each other: New York looks at London (So who are you looking at?)

We started World Series last year not because we felt that we were going to tell you everything you need to know about sustainable transportation, but rather to offer you a lively independent platform with worldwide coverage in which all of those of us were concerned with these issues can exchange ideas and commentaries freely. Here is a good example of a shared learning process that does not have to stop with the two cities directly involved in this report. Continue reading

Heritage and transport: And leadership by example?

“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.”

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.

Defence Colony Nallah ‘Before and After’, South Delhi

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.

Traffic renders Sabz Burj inaccessible 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.

Car-Free Fazilka ©Down to Earth Magazine

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.

Car-free Carter Road, Mumbai, 21st February 2010

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.

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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.

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.

Bottom line: Roads are for vehicles. Streets are for people. (No matter where you are in the world.)

Your editor was on automatic pilot this early morning, reading with half an eye the International Herald Tribune/New York Times as is his habit, and behold there in the Letters to the Editor column were a series of words which at first glance he thought he had written himself. (More coffee clearly needed.) Wrong, it was Lee Schipper commenting on an earlier Times piece on “Building Cambodia’s roads”. I quote:

Building Cambodia’s roads

Regarding the article “Cambodia’s routes to riches” (Jan. 19): While rural roads connecting major population centers are important for development, Cambodians rely mostly on bicycles, small motorbikes and their feet for transportation. This majority of travelers is usually the first sacrificed for cars and trucks. New roads tend to cut through smaller villages and lead to the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists, who are rarely considered by the road-building authorities.

Striking a balance between development, auto-mobility for the minority of Cambodians with cars, and the livelihoods of the majority, ought to be more important than opening tourist centers. Is this the only way for Cambodia to develop?

Lee Schipper, Ph.D. – schipper@wri.org
Project Scientist, Global Metropolitan Studies, UC Berkeley
Senior Research Engineer, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, Stanford Univ.

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Most of us who have managed to make our way to the right side of these issues have for some time made the vital distinction between roads and streets, for which the Executive Summary is: (a) roads are for vehicles and (b) streets are for people. And once you have figured that out, all kinds of good things can follow. (And you can find quite a bit more on this here by clicking http://tinyurl.com/ws-street

Thanks Lee for reminding us once again — and as we gear up to make our collective voice heard in Haiti this is one of the key points we need to make, make early, and make in a way that our voices get heard.

Eric Britton
Editor

World Streets / Haitian Streets. Part II. To Heal Haiti, Look to History, Not Nature

This special series sets out to tap the considerable competence of people and groups working the leading edge of the field of sustainable transport worldwide, to invite them to provide their best independent strategic counsel for the decision- makers who eventually are going to have to figure out what to do to provide and improve mobility arrangements of Haitians in their daily lives. But before digging into the transport specifics, let’s step back to share an article from today’s International Herald Tribune in which Mark Danner in a few telling pages helps us better understand the extent to which the future of Haiti will not, must not resemble its past.

To Heal Haiti, Look to History, Not Nature

- By Mark Danner, New York Times, Published: January 21, 2010. Copyright

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/opinion/22danner.html
Fair use on World Streets: http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2009/03/fair-use-and-world-streets.html

HAITI is everybody’s cherished tragedy. Long before the great earthquake struck the country like a vengeful god, the outside world, and Americans especially, described, defined, marked Haiti most of all by its suffering. Epithets of misery clatter after its name like a ball and chain: Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. One of the poorest on earth. For decades Haiti’s formidable immiseration has made it among outsiders an object of fascination, wonder and awe. Sometimes the pity that is attached to the land — and we see this increasingly in the news coverage this past week — attains a tone almost sacred, as if Haiti has taken its place as a kind of sacrificial victim among nations, nailed in its bloody suffering to the cross of unending destitution.

And yet there is nothing mystical in Haiti’s pain, no inescapable curse that haunts the land. From independence and before, Haiti’s harms have been caused by men, not demons. Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help, no matter how inspiring the generosity it embodies, will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses, as countless prior interventions built on transports of sympathy have not, the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady.

In 1804 the free Republic of Haiti was declared in almost unimaginable triumph: hard to exaggerate the glory of that birth. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans had labored to make Saint-Domingue, as Haiti was then known, the richest colony on earth, a vastly productive slave-powered factory producing tons upon tons of sugar cane, the 18th-century’s great cash crop. For pre-Revolutionary France, Haiti was an inexhaustible cash cow, floating much of its economy. Generation after generation, the second sons of the great French families took ship for Saint-Domingue to preside over the sugar plantations, enjoy the favors of enslaved African women and make their fortunes.

Even by the standards of the day, conditions in Saint-Domingue’s cane fields were grisly and brutal; slaves died young, and in droves; they had few children. As exports of sugar and coffee boomed, imports of fresh Africans boomed with them. So by the time the slaves launched their great revolt in 1791, most of those half-million blacks had been born in Africa, spoke African languages, worshipped African gods.

In an immensely complex decade-long conflict, these African slave-soldiers, commanded by legendary leaders like Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defeated three Western armies, including the unstoppable superpower of the day, Napoleonic France. In an increasingly savage war — “Burn houses! Cut off heads!” was the slogan of Dessalines — the slaves murdered their white masters, or drove them from the land.

On Jan. 1, 1804, when Dessalines created the Haitian flag by tearing the white middle from the French tricolor, he achieved what even Spartacus could not: he had led to triumph the only successful slave revolt in history. Haiti became the world’s first independent black republic and the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Alas, the first such republic, the United States, despite its revolutionary creed that “all men are created equal,” looked upon these self-freed men with shock, contempt and fear. Indeed, to all the great Western trading powers of the day — much of whose wealth was built on the labor of enslaved Africans — Haiti stood as a frightful example of freedom carried too far. American slaveholders desperately feared that Haiti’s fires of revolt would overleap those few hundred miles of sea and inflame their own human chattel.

For this reason, the United States refused for nearly six decades even to recognize Haiti. (Abraham Lincoln finally did so in 1862.) Along with the great colonial powers, America instead rewarded Haiti’s triumphant slaves with a suffocating trade embargo — and a demand that in exchange for peace the fledgling country pay enormous reparations to its former colonial overseer. Having won their freedom by force of arms, Haiti’s former slaves would be made to purchase it with treasure.

The new nation, its fields burned, its plantation manors pillaged, its towns devastated by apocalyptic war, was crushed by the burden of these astronomical reparations, payments that, in one form or another, strangled its economy for more than a century. It was in this dark aftermath of war, in the shadow of isolation and contempt, that Haiti’s peculiar political system took shape, mirroring in distorted form, like a wax model placed too close to the fire, the slave society of colonial times.

At its apex, the white colonists were supplanted by a new ruling class, made up largely of black and mulatto officers. Though these groups soon became bitter political rivals, they were as one in their determination to maintain in independent Haiti the cardinal principle of governance inherited from Saint-Domingue: the brutal predatory extraction of the country’s wealth by a chosen powerful few.

The whites on their plantations had done this directly, exploiting the land they owned with the forced labor of their slaves. But the slaves had become soldiers in a victorious revolution, and those who survived demanded as their reward a part of the rich land on which they had labored and suffered. Soon after independence most of the great plantations were broken up, given over to the former slaves, establishing Haiti as a nation of small landowners, one whose isolated countryside remained, in language, religion and culture, largely African.

Unable to replace the whites in their plantation manors, Haiti’s new elite moved from owning the land to fighting to control the one institution that could tax its products: the government. While the freed slaves worked their small fields, the powerful drew off the fruits of their labor through taxes. In this disfigured form the colonial philosophy endured: ruling had to do not with building or developing the country but with extracting its wealth. “Pluck the chicken,” proclaimed Dessalines — now Emperor Jacques I — “but don’t make it scream.”

In 1806, two years after independence, the emperor was bayoneted by a mostly mulatto cabal of officers. Haitian history became the immensely complex tale of factional struggles to control the state, with factions often defined by an intricate politics of skin color. There was no method of succession ultimately recognized as legitimate, no tradition of loyal opposition. Politics was murderous, operatic, improvisational. Instability alternated with autocracy. The state was battled over and won; Haiti’s wealth, once seized, purchased allegiance — but only for a time. Fragility of rule and uncertainty of tenure multiplied the imperative to plunder. Unseated rulers were sometimes killed, more often exiled, but always their wealth — that part of it not sent out of the country — was pillaged in its turn.

In 1915 the whites returned: the United States Marines disembarked to enforce continued repayment of the original debt and to put an end to an especially violent struggle for power that, in the shadow of World War I and German machinations in the Caribbean, suddenly seemed to threaten American interests. During their nearly two decades of rule, the Americans built roads and bridges, centralized the Haitian state — setting the stage for the vast conurbation of greater Port-au-Prince that we see today in all its devastation — and sent Haitians abroad to be educated as agronomists and doctors in the hope of building a more stable middle class.

Still, by the time they finally left, little in the original system had fundamentally changed. Haitian nationalism, piqued by the reappearance of white masters who had forced Haitians to work in road gangs, produced the noiriste movement that finally brought to power in 1957 François Duvalier, the most brilliant and bloody of Haiti’s dictators, who murdered tens of thousands while playing adroitly on cold-war America’s fear of communism to win American acceptance.

Duvalier’s epoch, which ended with the overthrow of his son Jean-Claude in 1986, ushered in Haiti’s latest era of instability, which has seen, in barely a quarter-century, several coups and revolutions, a handful of elections (aborted, rigged and, occasionally, fair), a second American occupation (whose accomplishments were even more ephemeral than the first) and, all told, a dozen Haitian rulers. Less and less money now comes from the land, for Haiti’s topsoil has grown enfeebled from overproduction and lack of investment. Aid from foreigners, nations or private organizations, has largely supplanted it: under the Duvaliers Haiti became the great petri dish of foreign aid. A handful of projects have done lasting good; many have been self-serving and even counterproductive. All have helped make it possible, by lifting basic burdens of governance from Haiti’s powerful, for the predatory state to endure.

The struggle for power has not ended. Nor has Haiti’s historic proclivity for drama and disaster. Undertaken in their wake, the world’s interventions — military and civilian, and accompanied as often as not by a grand missionary determination to “rebuild Haiti” — have had as their single unitary principle their failure to alter what is most basic in the country, the reality of a corrupt state and the role, inadvertent or not, of outsiders in collaborating with it.

The sound of Haiti’s suffering is deafening now but behind it one can hear already a familiar music begin to play. Haiti must be made new. This kind of suffering so close to American shores cannot be countenanced. The other evening I watched a television correspondent shake his head over what he movingly described as a “stupid death” — a death that, but for the right medical care, could have been prevented.

“It doesn’t have to happen,” he told viewers. “People died today who did not need to die.” He did not say what any Haitian could have told him: that the day before, and the day before that, Haiti had seen hundreds of such “stupid deaths,” and, over the centuries, thousands more. What has changed, once again, and only for a time, is the light shone on them, and the volume of the voices demanding that a “new Haiti” must now be built so they never happen again.

Whether they can read or not, Haiti’s people walk in history, and live in politics. They are independent, proud, fiercely aware of their own singularity. What distinguishes them is a tradition of heroism and a conviction that they are and will remain something distinct, apart — something you can hear in the Creole spoken in the countryside, or the voodoo practiced there, traces of the Africa that the first generation of revolutionaries brought with them on the middle passage.

Haitians have grown up in a certain kind of struggle for individuality and for power, and the country has proved itself able to absorb the ardent attentions of outsiders who, as often as not, remain blissfully unaware of their own contributions to what Haiti is. Like the ruined bridges strewn across the countryside — one of the few traces of the Marines and their occupation nearly a century ago — these attentions tend to begin in evangelical zeal and to leave little lasting behind.

What might, then? America could start by throwing open its markets to Haitian agricultural produce and manufactured goods, broadening and making permanent the provisions of a promising trade bill negotiated in 2008. Such a step would not be glamorous; it would not “remake Haiti.” But it would require a lasting commitment by American farmers and manufacturers and, as the country heals, it would actually bring permanent jobs, investment and income to Haiti.

Second, the United States and other donors could make a formal undertaking to ensure that the vast amounts that will soon pour into the country for reconstruction go not to foreigners but to Haitians — and not only to Haitian contractors and builders but to Haitian workers, at reasonable wages. This would put real money in the hands of many Haitians, not just a few, and begin to shift power away from both the rapacious government and the well-meaning and too often ineffectual charities that seek to circumvent it. The world’s greatest gift would be to make it possible, and necessary, for Haitians — all Haitians — to rebuild Haiti.

Putting money in people’s hands will not make Haiti’s predatory state disappear. But in time, with rising incomes and a concomitant decentralization of power, it might evolve. In coming days much grander ambitions are sure to be declared, just as more scenes of disaster and disorder will transfix us, more stunning and colorful images of irresistible calamity. We will see if the present catastrophe, on a scale that dwarfs all that have come before, can do anything truly to alter the reality of Haiti.

# # #

Mark Danner is a writer and reporter who for twenty-five years has written on politics and foreign affairs, focusing on war and conflict. He has covered, among many other stories, wars and political conflict in Central America, Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq and the Middle East, and, most recently, the story of torture during the War on Terror. Danner is Professor of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs, Politics and the Humanities at Bard College.

World Streets / Haitian Streets: Part I. What to do once the emergency has been met.

No city, no place in the world can hope for a fair future if it does not have safe streets that work for people in their day to day lives. Streets are the circulatory systems of our towns and cities, They are not “roads” which tend to be treated as more or less isolated conduits down which we try to channel as many vehicles as fast as possible. No, streets are rather highly idiosyncratic, hugely varied human spaces in which people move and mill around but also do a lot of other things as well. Roads are for vehicles, streets are for people.

The strategic context of city transport policy and practice in Haiti:
A thinking exercise

Soon it will time to start to lay the base for transport policy and practice in post-trauma Haiti. In fact now is the time to start this rethink. Fully aware that others are getting to work on this, World Streets has decided to make its voice heard as well on this. The following posting is the first in a series, both by our editor and others who will surely be stepping forward, to develop a broader open discussion of how to build sustainable transportation into Haiti’s cities.

We start here by looking at what we believe to be the broader context within which the issues of transport, mobility and access need to be understood and sorted out.

The importance of safe streets: But in their rightful place: We all know the old one that to a man with a hammer all problems look like nails. So of course we have to make sure that all that we think is important is properly understood in the broader context of the needs and priorities of the people in that place. Alanna Hartzok of Earth Rights Institute sent us this morning their list of priorities for rebuilding Haiti. Putting on my hat as an development economist, let me share with you my own revised read of the situation.

The overall priorities as I see them then, in some kind of rough order . . .

1. Public safety
2. Potable water
3. Access to basic food supply
4. Sanitation
5. Habitat
6. Jobs, income opportunities
7. Appropriate transport (safe, affordable, clean, available to all, sustainable)
8. Low cost first-line health care
9. Public schools
10. Reforestation

And not even one nanometer behind these:

1. Land reform
2. Agricultural fields (rice and root crops) and appropriate technology
3. Transparent public finance
4. Wind and solar energy
5. Dairy farms (goats, cows)
6. Cotton and hemp fields for fabric and building material
7. Mangosteen, mango, pineapple, papaya, trees
8. Nut trees/ coconut trees, ground nuts (peanuts)
9. Cooperatives.
10. Small industries

.
Debt Forgiveness: A critical step to help Haitians build a better tomorrow will be to convince global creditors to cancel Haiti’s $890 million international debt. This I believe should extend to all debts held by the poor. After bailing out the biggest banks on the planet we are not talking about huge numbers here. Doing so will help make sure that every possible future dollar goes towards rebuilding a stronger Haiti, not to servicing old debts.

United Nations Trusteeship Council: To all of which I have to add a much stronger role on the part of the much-neglected Trusteeship Council which needs a far more aggressive mandate for overseeing the next ten or twenty years in democracy and peace. In many parts of the world we have for far too long been fooling ourselves about the importance of that trip to the polls as a guarantor of democracy. The facts speak for themselves. True democracy requires a full stomach and a safe walk to the polling place. And there are times in life when we all can use a little help from outside.

International Partnerships for Sustainable Transport: And in this, our partial bailiwick, I hope that our collaborators around the world will now turn their eyes and hearts toward Haiti, not only for a bit of help from our wallets today but more actively in the months and years ahead. Already and in part in reaction to the great chaos that soured COP15 in Copenhagen last month, a broad range of groups and programs are already beginning to get together lay the base for more effective international collaboration in our field, and World Streets is but one small example of this. The OECD’s International Transportation Forum is also an important force for international collaboration and support. The new International Partnerships for Sustainable Transport (http://slocat.net/) already groups brings together come fifty of the most active international, bi-laterals, NGOs and other actors in our field. Others are emerging and hopefully will be regularly introduced and tracked in the pages of World Streets.

So let’s all of us get together to work on the fair transport agenda for poor Haiti. Because if we do not do it, what will happen? More of the old mobility thinking and investments that are far from the most important priorities of the people on the street? We can’t let that happen. Can we?

Eric Britton

PS. I warmly recommend that you also read the following Comments just below. Very interesting and useful.

Haitian roads too: Which is not to suggest that roads and transport to and from cities and towns is not a significant economic and sustainability challenge in itself. In addition to the largest cities of Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Cap-Haitien, and Petionville, there are in Haiti a hundred smaller towns which, in this author’s view, require a consistent sustainable transport approach to their internal circulation challenges. But once you get beyond the limits of the central areas, a new transportation challenge takes over, one that is of great importance in Haiti where the links to the country side have greater economic and social significance . And while there too there is plenty of room for the values associated with sustainability, the basic strategic approach is very different. Another but related policy paradigm. But to each their métier.

US Report Shows How Safe Routes to School Initiatives Protect Children Walking and Bicycling

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership in the United States has just released a new report showing how Safe Routes to School programs can be harnessed to keep children safe from traffic dangers while walking and bicycling to school. The report explores the approaches five different communities used to create safer environments for children walking and bicycling. The lessons are universal.

The five communities (Santa Rosa, CA; Miami-Dade County, FL; state of ME; Springfield, MO; and Portland, OR) each demonstrate how Safe Routes to School evaluation, education, encouragement, enforcement, and engineering can address traffic safety concerns. Many of these safety improvements are made at relatively low costs to communities and schools, yet have profound effects on keeping children safe while also improving physical health and the environment.

The report demonstrates there are many different approaches to improving safety for children walking and bicycling:

• In Santa Rosa, CA, after children received pedestrian safety education, there was a 63 percent increase in children using the crosswalks to cross the street rather than crossing at unmarked locations.

• In Miami-Dade County, FL, since the launch of the WalkSafe™ child pedestrian safety program in 2001, there has been a 43 percent decrease in the total number of children ages 0-14 hit by cars.

• An analysis comparing bicycle crash rates in Maine for the eight years before their Bicycle Safety Education Program was implemented (1992 to 1999) with the first eight years the program has been offered (2000-2007) reveals a 51 percent drop in bicycle crashes for children aged 10-14.

• Springfield, MO has already demonstrated the impact special roadway signage can have on vehicle speeds. Data from their pilot showed that 85 percent of motorists reduced their speeds by three to five miles per hour without any increase in enforcement after speed limits were reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph.

• Infrastructure improvements in Portland, OR have been successful in helping decrease crashes, as well as the severity of the crashes. Total crashes decreased by nearly 25 percent and there was a 32 percent decline in pedestrian injuries from crashes.

Deb Hubsmith, Director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership noted, “The success stories in this report show the power and promise of Safe Routes to School to help communities all across the country to address safety risks and improve conditions for students walking and bicycling to school.”

In 2007, an estimated 14,000 children ages 14 and under were injured as pedestrians, while more than 300 children were killed while walking. In 2008, an estimated 52,000 bicyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes, and 21 percent of those bicyclists-nearly 11,000 children-were age 14 or younger. Children walking and bicycling to school represent 11 percent of injuries and fatalities during the school commute, but just 14 percent of trips and less than two percent of miles traveled.

Transportation for America also recently released a report, Dangerous by Design, identifying the dangers that pedestrians face in 360 metropolitan areas and focusing on solving the epidemic of preventable pedestrian deaths through active transportation. Safe Routes to School programs can provide tangible solutions to major traffic safety issues such as these, making it safer for children-and other residents-to walk and bicycle in their neighborhoods and to and from school.

Congress launched the federal Safe Routes to School program in 2005 through the federal transportation bill and provided $612 million for five years of state-level implementation of programs that build sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways, while also providing funding for education, promotion, and law enforcement. Federal Safe Routes to School funds are educating children on safe bicycle and pedestrian practices, increasing traffic enforcement to improve adherence to traffic laws and speed limits, and making infrastructure improvements to create safe places for children to walk and bicycle.

The report can be viewed at www.saferoutespartnership.org.


The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, hosted by the non-profit Bikes Belong Foundation, is a network of more than 400 nonprofit organizations, government agencies, schools, and professionals working together to advance the Safe Routes to School movement in the United States. The Partnership focuses on building partnerships, changing policies, advancing legislation, and improving the built environment.

20’s Plenty Where People Live in Portsmouth

In the firm belief that you cannot get too much of a slow thing, here is a second piece in a row on how they are slowing things down in Portsmouth and Britain more generally. We present it as a step toward building your own tool kit for slowing things down in your city. Look at Portsmouth and build on their example to do better yet on your streets. As Newton reminded us, real progress occurs only by standing on the shoulders of giants

Twenty’s Plenty Where People Live in Portsmouth

- Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us , UK

On 14th May 2008 in a United Kingdom House of Commons Transport Committee evidence session the respected head of the Netherlands Road Safety Institute, Fred Wegman, commented :-

“Until 2000 we were always looking to the United Kingdom when it came to road safety. You were the inventors of many good activities and polices. All of a sudden, somewhere in 2000, you stopped doing things and we continued with our efforts. A simple figure to illustrate that is that, compared to 2000, in 2006 you had 7% fewer fatalities in this country. We have one third fewer.”

The resultant critical review of road safety in the UK by the Transport Select Committee was tellingly entitled “Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010”

Experts will debate the reasons for the slow down in better safety on UK roads. Some will put it down to an over-reliance on engineering measures which may well simply keep prevailing vehicle speeds higher and inevitably make it more dangerous for our vulnerable road users. Indeed whilst the number of total road fatalities has dropped from 3,221 in 2004 to 2,538 in 2008, the percentage of these which were pedestrians has been steadily rising from 20.83% in 2004 to 22.54% in 2008. In fact UK’s skewing of road fatalities towards pedestrians is one of the highest in Europe where the average across the EU14 countries in 2005 was just 14%. In 2005 in the Netherlands it was just 9.4%.

However, things are changing. In 2006 the Department of Transport issued some new guidelines to Local Authorities for setting speed limits. One city, Portsmouth, seized upon a slight change in the guidelines for 20 mph limits without traffic calming and decided to embark upon a new initiative based upon the premise that 20’s plenty where people live.

And last week at a special conference “Portsmouth – Britain’s First 20 mph City” the presentations in the Guild Hall in Portsmouth may well have created a pivotal point in road danger reduction in the UK.

Until now, speed management has mainly been implemented by means of localised interventions on streets to make the driver slow down. Whether they are speed cameras, or speed bumps the essential engagement has been with the driver on the road whilst he or she is driving.

At the conference, Portsmouth City Council and the Department for Transport reported on the results from the completely different approach taken by Portsmouth when in March 2008 they completed their setting of all residential roads, bar arterial routes, with a speed limit of 20 mph. 1,200 streets were set to 20 mph over a 9 month period. No bumps or humps, but most importantly a decision not just made by Traffic Officers but by the whole community as they sought a way to deliver lower speeds and a better quality of life for their residents. Quite simply, Portsmouth people decided to slow down wherever people live!

Of course, setting lower speeds with traffic calming is so expensive that one only usually does it where you have excessive speed problems. But when you make the decision as a community to slow down wherever people live then it is inevitable that many streets will already have speeds below 20 mph. In fact in Portsmouth they monitored 159 sites. 102 already had mean speeds of 20 mph or less. 36 were between 20 mph and 24 mph, whilst on a further 21 the mean speed was above 24 mph.

And because of that mix it was found that overall the mean speed for all the roads did not change very much. In fact it reduced by just 1%. But what was very significant was the fact that in those streets where speeds previously were 24 mph or above then a huge 7mph reduction in mean speed was recorded.

Whilst casualties also fell by 15% and total accidents by 13%, more time will be needed to establish statistically significant collision figures. However, the presenter noted the changes in child and elderly casualties in before and after numbers :


Portsmouth’s success is as a community that has debated how the streets should be shared more equitably and has gone through the due political, democratic and administrative process to take that community commitment and turn it into a framework within which everyone can take their part in making their city a better place to live. One where casualties reduce and people have quieter streets with more opportunities for cycling and walking.

The spaces between our houses, which we call streets, will never be the same in this country. Portsmouth has shown that communities can change their behaviour and sensibly embark on a 20’s Plenty Where People Live initiative that delivers real benefits to every road user. More and more towns, cities and villages are following this trend to put citizenship back into the way we drive and share our roads. The same plan is proposed in Oxford, Leicester, Newcastle, Norwich and Islington, with widespread trials being conducted in Bristol and Warrington.

But people in Portsmouth are perhaps no different from us all. But what they have found is a way to enable them to turn an aspiration for safer and more pleasant streets into a reality. I suspect there will be plenty more similar communities saying 20’s plenty for them as well. And that may well put the United Kingdom back on track in improving the safety of vulnerable road users and bringing a little more calmness to our urban and residential streets.

# # #

Rod King is Founder of 20’s Plenty for Us, a national voluntary organisation formed in 2007 to support local communities who want lower vehicle speeds on residential and urban roads. 20’s Plenty for Us works with local groups around the country as well as lobbying central and local government. He can be reached at 20’s Plenty for Us – http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk Tel +44 07973 639781 . E: rodk@20splentyforus.org.uk

Portsmouth – Britain’s First Twenty is Plenty City (mph)

One of the pillars of the New Mobility Agenda approach to sustainable transport in cities, is to slow down the traffic. It works as an environmental trigger. Thus when you start to go slower, when you organize your daily life around this principle, you necessarily end up going less far. Which in turn sends out a whole range of signals for land use in our cities. The exact opposite of the forces behind urban sprawl and all that goes with it. If there were one first step to take, slowing things down would have a strong claim to this place of honor. And this movement is gaining real force in Britain.

Portsmouth – Britain’s First Twenty is Plenty (mph) City

Portsmouth has many claims to fame, home of the British Navy, Western Europe’s most densely populated city and now the first city in Britain to set a 20 mph limit across its residential road network.

What sets the 20 mph speed limit in Portsmouth apart from the other two and a half thousand 20 mph zones in England is not just that it is city wide, but also that it relies not on traffic calming or speed cameras for enforcement, but simply signs and publicity to encourage driver behaviour change.

It could be argued that this is one of the largest travel behaviour change initiatives in the country, and although the main objective for the scheme is safety, there are potential modal shift benefits which the city hopes to realise.

How the scheme works

The scheme was made possible by the amendment to Section 84 of Road Traffic Regulation Act in 1999 which allowed local authorities to set local speed limits without the need to get Secretary of State approval.

Due to a high population density, Portsmouth streets were largely already slow moving, so while the decision to go for a city wide 20mph limit was brave; it was not without local support.

The 20mph limit was launched in six city sectors, with the first introduced on 1st October 2007 and the last in March 2008.

In line with DfT guidance the streets included in the scheme were largely residential where average speeds were already below 24 mph, and while the strategic roads network was excluded, they have included some high volume routes where average speeds were above 30 mph.

Following a media campaign and wide scale community consultation process, streets that were to be included within the 20 mph limit had roundels painted at the entrance together with 20 mph signs, with repeater signs placed at 150m intervals along the length of the route.

The speed limit has been largely self-enforcing, with local residents being proactive in reporting speeding traffic. Traffic speed surveys have been used to identify problem streets, which have then been reported to the partnership of police and council officers, which swoop on offending drivers several times a year. The support of local motorists to the 20 mph limit is essential, so rather than just issue a penalty notice, police offer offending drivers an option of attending a half hour seminar educating them on the danger of speeding, which has proven very effective.

How Behaviour Change Interventions have been used

For a project of this nature, where the aim was a culture change, promotion and consultation has been the key.

To highlight the benefits of lower speeds the city first targeted the most vulnerable road users, school children, and issued each school child with pamphlets listing the roads which were to have a slower speed limit. The pamphlet included a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section and a hotline was set up for further information.

Posters and informational leaflets were distributed at public places such as schools, community centers, health centers, libraries, churches, sports clubs and universities.

Neighborhood forums were extensively consulted, with city officials going out to talk to them about the proposals and to listen to their concerns.

The local media and press, while initially skeptical, soon understood the potential benefits, and published many positive articles about the scheme. While the city also published statutory notices in local newspapers.

While of course there were some very vociferous objections from a small minority, overall objections were in fact minimal, and the vast majority of messages received by the city were in support of the proposals.

How effective has it been?

Since the scheme is so new, it has been difficult to gather clear robust evidence of effectiveness, but initial results appear positive.

Speed surveys show that there has been a reduction of about 0.9mph in the residential roads where average speeds were previously at or below 24 mph.

The most effective measures were actually on streets where speeds were previously above 30 mph, which have seen average speeds fall by as much as 7 mph.

While very few physical calming measures have been used, extra space has been provided for pedestrians and cyclists, and straight roads have been made to meander in those streets which had recent fatalities.

Initial evidence show a reduction in traffic incidents, and overall casualties are down across the city since the implementation of the 20 mph limit.

The potential for modal shift

There is anecdotal evidence that some modal shift has already been achieved, but so far there has been no study to confirm if this is the case. However since road danger is usually cited as the primary barrier to cycling, it seems logical to assume that a city wide reduction in speeds would have some impact.

Promotion of the 20mph limit initially targeted schools as an extension of the safe routes to school programme, and children have been encouraged to celebrate the introduction of the lower speed limits. This link between school travel plans and the safe speeds initiative should reinforce each other and help increase sustainable travel to school in the future.

It is known from other initiatives that when packages of measures are applied together such as parking controls, PTP, WTP, bus priority, then this does have a significant impact on modal shift.

While this has not yet been applied in Portsmouth, the smarter choices team have been included from the beginning and future modal shift promotion is planned, with ideas such as community street parties being considered.

Conclusions

While the overall speed reduction and impacts on accidents is much greater for a traffic calmed 20mph zone, than a city wide 20mph limit without accompanying calming, there are distinct advantages of a city wide limit.

The costs are much lower, and issues over emergency vehicle access, noise generation are avoided. With lower costs and less resistance to the initiative from the media and public, it has been possible to roll out the limit city wide in a very short space of time. This is a huge benefit in itself, since residents of the city all gain from living in a 20mph street themselves; they are also much more likely to respect the speed limit for neighboring communities that they drive through.

While it has so far not been possible to evaluate the full benefits of the limit, initial evidence seems to show that road safety has improved, and with a coordinated smarter choices follow up initiative it seems certain that significant modal shift benefits could be gained from the scheme.

Thus the ultimate benefits could be many; public health, well being, noise, pollution, climate change, reduction in accidents, deaths, reducing NHS and police costs.

# # #

About the author:
Rory McMullan works for PTRC Education and Research Services, which organises training events for transport professionals on topics such as Portsmouth’s introduction of a 20 mph speed limit. As a cyclist and father, Rory is a strong supporter of slower speed limits in cities, because road danger caused by fast moving traffic is one of the main barriers to the take up of cycling, and the biggest concern for protecting the safety of children, whether walking, cycling or playing on our streets.

References:
* Speed limit to be cut to 20 mph in government bid to reduce number of road deathshttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1171706/Speed-limit-cut-20mph-government-bid-reduce-number-road-deaths.html
* 20mph speed limit on residential roads in Portsmouthhttp://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/living/8403.html
* Related World Streets articles: http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/search/label/slower

 

The Dead Freeway Society

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

The Strange History of Portland’s Unbuilt Roads
by Sarah Mirk Photos by Jason Kinney
Source: The Portland Mercury – http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/the-dead-freeway-society/Content?oid=1676323

Scattered all over Portland are artifacts of a city that could have been. Bikes rush down a concrete ramp on the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge that 40 years ago originally connected to an expressway instead of grass. Tiny Piccolo Park off SE Division was the site of homes demolished to make way for the pylon of an unbuilt freeway. These vibrant sites are tombstones. We are a city of dead freeways.

While other American cities have built, built, built, Portland’s freeway history is boom and bust: massive road projects were planned, mapped, and sold as progress by one generation, then killed by another. When current transit planners visit from exotic Houston and DC to admire Portland’s progress, what they are really admiring are the roads not built—freeways erased from the maps decades ago.

“UNCLOUDED VISION”

The offices of Portland City Hall did not always boast bike maps. The city striving to become the nation’s greenest still bears the signature of America’s most famous car-centric transit planner.

Sixty-six Septembers ago, a Portland city commissioner invited the powerful (and, these days, infamous) transportation planner Robert Moses to come to Rose City and write its road construction plan. Moses, a freeway mogul whose most lasting legacy is the massive byways slicing apart New York’s boroughs, brought a team of men and holed up for two months in a downtown hotel. After exploring the city and crunching numbers, the men whipped up an 86-page blueprint for Portland’s future.

It was in this plan that Portland was first divided by the inky lines that would eventually become I-205, I-84, I-5, I-405, and Highway 26. It was Moses’ men who first drew the Fremont Bridge onto a photo of Portland. In white ink, they imagined the freeway to be a suspension bridge running across the river and down into the current Overlook neighborhood. But they also imagined a lot more.

To modernize and meet the demands of a growing economy and expanding population, back in 1943 Moses argued that Portland must surround itself with freeways—an inner ring carrying traffic through the city with another freeway ring encircling its outer limits.

“Every citizen of Portland has a right to be proud of the fact that this community is prepared, while there is still time, to face the future with unclouded vision,” wrote Moses.

In 1956, the US Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, promising the federal government would cover 90 percent of the costs of all new freeway construction, kicking off a freeway construction boom in Portland and around the nation. The last electric light rail company in Portland went out of business the day after the region’s first freeway was built in 1958.

RELOCATION IN ACTION

In late August, just over I-405 from Portland State University, Shawn Granton stood on an orphaned section of the South Park Blocks. The measly chunk of lawn and the Southwest neighborhood around it was cut off from downtown when the freeway plowed through the area in the mid-’60s. The freeway was part of an urban renewal plan, Granton explained to a dozen gathered cyclists. It removed an entire block of high-density apartment complexes—the kind the city now wants to build downtown under its modern urban renewal policy that awards developers tax breaks as an incentive.

“Freeways become big walls in cities and divide neighborhoods,” said Granton, who has led his dead freeways bike tour of the city for three years. In shorts and sunglasses, he shouted over the thunder of the freeway. The grassy nub on the south side of the freeway was left intact as a compromise after neighbors complained about the removal of a block of parkland.

In 1964, the Oregon State Highway Division put out a helpful pamphlet on how to remove people whose homes would be demolished by the construction of I-405. “Relocation in Action” follows one Miss Crosby, age 63, who lives on a $100 monthly welfare check and whose diverse, mostly lower-income apartment building is about to be leveled to make way for the road. Like everyone else in the building, she is nervous about finding a new home. All turns out well in the end, of course: a helpful highway employee helps Miss Crosby secure an apartment in the Northwest Towers, a 13-story “modern, fireproof” building near downtown.

BOOM!

Jumping on the federal government’s desire to pick up 90 percent of the tab, the city and state tore out a path for I-84 through the Eastside and for I-5 through North Portland. The Fremont Bridge went up—white, just like Moses imagined. This was a glorious age of freeways. Construction rolled forward with few roadblocks.

“The I-5 through North Portland had a huge impact, but the people had no voice,” says Val Ballestrem, education manager of the Architectural Heritage Center, who wrote his master’s thesis on Portland’s anti-freeway movement. “There were some people living in the path of I-5 who got together, met with city officials, and were told, ‘There’s nothing you can do.’ And they just gave up.”

“There was no requirement at that time to do an environmental impact study for big projects like this,” explains Metro Planning Director Andy Cotugno. “City and business thought it was a great idea and the neighborhoods that got impacted had no rights at that time.” A photo of the construction shows a street lined solely with empty porches—the homes behind them had already been razed.

By the time Portland wrote up a (failed) bid to host the 1968 Olympics, planners had built enormously on Moses’ vision for a freewayed Portland. The map printed inside the glossy yearbook-sized Olympic sales pitch includes not just the freeways we know today, but also the Mount Hood Freeway running up SE Division, Laurelhurst Freeway along 39th Avenue, the Sellwood Freeway, Prescott Freeway, and a mile-long freeway tunnel running under the West Hills.

BUST!

But 10 years later, everything had changed. The Mount Hood Freeway, Laurelhurst Freeway, and others were erased from the planned map of Portland’s future. I-205 had been whittled down from a planned eight lanes to six—its extra space being designated for a public transit right-of-way that just last week finally became the much-celebrated MAX Green Line. Portland had essentially reversed direction in one short decade, while nearly every other major American city was still gung ho about the roads ahead.

The first freeway to dissolve was Harbor Drive. Built in 1942, the wide slab of asphalt ran over what is today Tom McCall Waterfront Park, now where tourists and idyllic children roam with ice cream, Barack Obama spoke, and once a year the Oregon Symphony shoots live cannons in a performance of the 1812 Overture. In the ’50s and ’60s, the freeway, streaming with big-finned cars, was featured on postcards promoting a modern Portland. By 1975, it was gone.

“There was a shift in local government in the late-’60s. It went from a good-old-boy network to a much younger generation of politicians,” explains Ballestrem. Urban planning historian Gregory L. Thompson wrote that when one young politician arrived in Portland in 1973, the politico noted that everyone had a copy of anti-freeway handbook Rites of Way tucked into their hip pocket.

When the state began buying up land next to Harbor Drive to widen the waterfront freeway in 1968, a citizen alliance against the expansion found open ears at city hall and the governor’s office. Old-school traffic engineers said closing the freeway would be a disaster, but Governor Tom McCall, Mayor Neil Goldschmidt, and County Commissioner Don Clark heard the citizens’ opinion that most car traffic could be rerouted to the city’s newly built freeways, like the I-5. Throughout the summer of ’69, Portlanders organized “consciousness-raising picnics” to rally people against Harbor Drive. Three years later, a governor’s task force declared that the low-traffic, 30-year-old road should be ripped out and replaced with a park.

SAVING SOUTHEAST

Riding high from the Harbor Drive victory, environmentally minded politicians and Portlanders took on the next freeway foe. Money was in the bag from the federal government to build a freeway like North Portland’s I-5, which would cut through Southeast to aid suburban commuters. This Mount Hood Freeway would have been four city blocks wide for the entire length of SE Division. The highway commission had already started buying up the right of way and tearing down old homes along Division when opposition started picking up steam.

Unlike I-5, though, the neighborhood had legal channels for their protest. Not only were the freeway planners required to write up an environmental impact statement for the project, but also Portland was in the midst of a major downtown revitalization effort.

“You connect the dots. You had a freeway that would create more sprawl at a time [when] we’re trying to do things to recapture downtown,” says Metro’s Cotugno. “In the process it would divide a community. Why should the inner-city neighborhood just roll over to produce a suburb?”

Neighbors worried about air pollution and the neighborhood filed a suit against the freeway, using the environmental impact statement to argue that the freeway’s site was poorly chosen. Meanwhile, Oregon bigwigs pulled strings in Washington, DC. The alternative transit-minded politicians scored a big win in August of 1973: Congress changed national law to allow regions to kill planned highways and put almost all the federal money set aside for those projects into non-freeway transit projects instead.

Soon after, a judge decided in favor of the anti-freeway neighbors. If the state wanted to build the Mount Hood Freeway, the judge said, they would have to restart the nearly decade-long planning process. In fall 1974, Governor McCall officially informed the federal government that his state would be “deleting” the Mount Hood Freeway. Instead, $23 million of the $165 million freeway pricetag would go into building the region’s public transit system.

THE PRICE OF “PROGRESS”

The Mount Hood Freeway’s $165 million budget looks like pennies compared to the costs of our current freeway projects. Oregon and Washington are currently embarking on the largest single transportation project in the region’s history. If the states’ transportation departments get their way, the current six-lane I-5 bridge to Vancouver will become a 12-lane, $4.2 billion bridge called the Columbia River Crossing (CRC). Unlike the freeway projects of old, light rail and a better bike path are included in the CRC design. But there are many parallels. Modern environmental groups like Coalition for a Livable Future say the 12-lane bridge will increase traffic and promote sprawl. Some of the old-time activists who organized the anti-Harbor Drive picnics are these days attending rallies against the CRC.

“It’s another one of these roads that’s being espoused as ‘We have to have it in order to make everybody’s lives easier,’” says Ballestrem. “But it’s going to do the same thing that all these other big roads did. Building a bigger road is just going to encourage driving the automobile.”

Out of the national network of 43,000 miles of interstate freeway built with federal dollars in the 20th century, Metro’s Andy Cotugno says only about 25 freeway projects did not get built across the entire country.

Then and now, Portland’s pioneering spirit has always taken the road less traveled.

Historic postcards provided courtesy of local know-it-all Dan Haneckow (cafeunknown.com). Much of the historic information in this piece is from Gregory L. Thompson’s article “Taming the Neighborhood Revolution: Planners, Power Brokers, and the Birth of Neotraditionalism in Portland, Oregon” (Journal of Planning History).

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The Road Not Taken

- Robert Frost (1874–1963).

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Report from South Africa: Wheeling and Healing

One billion needful people live in Africa and when it comes to sustainable mobility they are not getting a lot of help from the wealthy North. It’s not that they need us to send them all our treasure, that’s not the point. It’s our example that counts. Let’s start to give dignity to sustainable, healthy behavior on our own streets and we will have done out part. Gail Jennings reports on biking pride and prejudice in South Africa.

Wheeling and Healing

- Gail Jennings, Eyes on the Streets Seniin Capetown

CAPE TOWN, Aug 5 (IPS) – Every weekday morning, a stylish procession leaves the offices of MaAfrika Tikkun NGO in Delft, Cape Town; bumps and jolts through the gravel entry gates; then hits the tar and scatters into every corner of the township…

“Those people, they are mos kwaai jong (now very cool) – they drive a bicycle now…” says an envious onlooker.

In an area portrayed by the press as crime-ridden, bleak and desperate, the MaAfrika Tikkun health workers cruise the streets between shacks and houses without anxiety, on their elegant, black, single-speed Africabikes, their wire baskets and backpacks filled with the accoutrements of home-based care.

“People say it looks like a bike from the past,” says Esmerelda Piers, who’s been working as a home-based carer since 2006. “Everyone wants one. We lock our bikes, but people see it almost like an ‘ambulance’ bike and they won’t take them from us.”

Piers was one of 108 MaAfrika Tikkun healthcare workers who received a bicycle in late 2008, donated by US-based project BikeTown Africa. The project aims to hand over a further 1,000 bicycles to health workers in 2009.

The carers make home-visits, dress wounds and ensure that people with chronic illness (such as TB, diabetes and HIV and AIDS) are taking their medication. They also monitor the growth and wellness of newborn babies.

Piers has lived in Delft for 19 years, and like most carers used to walk from patient to patient. “It is slow, and tiring, and sometimes you have to rush to get to the next patient,” she says. “If you want to take a taxi, you have to pay out of your own bag.”

South Africa’s national government pays home-based carers a stipend to visit a minimum of between four to ten patients a day (depending on the level of care needed). But sometimes carers don’t get to see everyone, says Beryl van den Heever, who manages the MaAfrika Tikkun team. “It can take a long time to wash and listen to just one patient. Sometimes carers were only getting to see five people properly.

“Now, our carers see 8-12 people a day, they spend more time with the patients, and they can respond to emergencies more quickly…”

Community-based health services such as home-based care play a vital role in enhancing public health and alleviating the pressure on health facilities, says Faiza Steyn, director of communications, of the Western Cape provincial department of health.

In the Western Cape alone, there has been an 83 percent increase in the number of NGO-appointed carers over the last year, and they have provided home-based care to more than 24,000 people during this time.

Home-based carers work mostly in three areas: what the department of health calls ‘dehospitalisation’, patients who have been discharged from hospital but still need care; adherence support, particularly for chronic and TB, diabetes, hypertension and psychiatric illnesses; and health education campaigns.

Charles Rosant, in his third month as a home-based carer, tells of how he visited a patient who had no food in his home. “How can I ask him to take his medicines with no food?”

“It is being able to help like that that makes be stand up every morning,” says Rosant – who got on his bicycle and sped to the nearest shop to buy bread for his patient. “With walking, I would have only gone back to him the next day.”

On another occasion, the Delft team were able to rally additional carers when they needed to create a ‘makeshift ambulance’ to carry a patient to hospital. “We would never have got so many people together so quickly otherwise,” says Piers.

But they don’t move so quickly that they’re no longer able to stop, chat and remain part of the community. ‘We ride slow enough to people to come out of their houses and ask us questions,’ says Piers. ‘We can still give advice “on the move”.’

In terms of energy expended over distance, a casual rider can travel four times the distance by bicycle as on foot, says Bradley Schroeder of BikeTown Africa, and carry up to five times more goods. And in terms of speed, it takes about as much effort to walk at four km an hour as it does to ride at 16 km an hour. Bicycles also have lowest operating costs of all transport modes.

Sixteen kilometres is the average distance Trudy Makerman travels each day, to complete her rounds as a carer – from home, from patient-to-patient, and back home again.

Makerman is a healthcare worker in the fruit farming district of Robertson, Western Cape. Together with Stoffel Klein and Nicolene Regue of Robertson’s Rural Development Association, she travels long distances – 10-20 km – on steep gravel roads to visit babies and people with chronic illnesses.

In November 2008, the Association received a delivery of bicycles from national government programme Shova Kalula. Since then, the team has been able to visit between 500 and 550 patients a month (and spend more time with each of them – as they don’t have to rush off on foot to the next farm), compared to the 100 to 200 patients they saw when they walked.

“Walking there was not the big problem,” says Makerman. “It was the eindpad [the walking back], once the day was hot. (Their working days start at 8 am and end at 12.30.) We were tired by then, from the work. I would want to rest before visiting the next patient, I did not always have the energy for them.”

Her bicycle also enables her to leave home later in the morning, and get back home earlier, giving her more time with her family (and herself).

“My bicycle is just right for me,’ says Makerman. ‘People can shout that I am too old [she is 43] and why don’t I get a car. But for me, my bicycle takes me away from my stress. It is good for me and good for my patients. All health workers should have one!”

Piers also finds personal benefit in her bicycle. ‘I go to see friends and cousins in Belhar, in Bellville, I go shopping, I visit my cousins… each time, I save at least 30 rand ($3.50) in taxi fare.’

And she takes her children with her, but only on her older bicycle – “My nine-year-old and my six-year-old, they both fit on the bike, but I won’t use my work bicycle for this!”

“But you know, it is not about the bicycle,” says Piers – unaware that she is echoing the title of that famous autobiography. “Some people want to become carers because they will get a bicycle, but for us, the bicycle is just the cherry on the top. When someone thanks me for a job well done, I know why I am doing this. And the bicycle helps me do it better.”

Credit: Gail Jennings of Mobility Magazine in Capetown and IPS.

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One of the fundamental themes of World Streets is South/North transmission of ideas and examples. Here is one that any community in the North will do well to think through for themselves.

The editor