The Take It Down Department. (A suggestion from one of our diligent readers)

Robert Moskowitz, who follows matters of transportation and public policy with interest from Los Angeles, and who periodically shares with World Streets information, clues and comments on matters of old and new mobility, poses the following for our consideration this morning:

“I’ve noticed there’s a whole infrastructure in our cities in charge of putting up stop signs, traffic lights, and the like, but no infrastructure in charge of taking them down when they’ve outlived their usefulness. If I were a traffic scientist, I would have studied and published on these topics. But I had no standing and no time to have more than opinions.”

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Bodhisattva in the metro

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

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

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

Merci Christine.


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Le origini e la diffusione del car sharing in Italia The origins and structure of Car Sharing in Italy

With this latest report from our Italian sister publication Nuova Mobilità, we put before you our second article on the growth and status of carsharing in Italy. Italy, as you will see here, has a very different development trajectory from most of the rest of Europe or North America. What else is new? La creatività italiana
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Letter from Kathmandu: Promoting walking as sustainable transport in cities

Does anyone notice anything a bit strange in these two photos of traffic in Kathmandu Nepal on any typical day. To the left we have boiling Asia-style traffic propelling speeding high carbon males. While to the right we see a woman and a girl making their way as best they can by foot. Hmm. Continue reading

How to build more traffic? It’s not hard. Read on.

A bit down on the resource column just to your left is an early warning system of sorts which calls up relevant articles from an eclectic collection of independent sources that publish regularly in areas related to our field. One of these is Planetizen, where yesterday we spotted this thoughtful interview we thought you might wish to check out. It’s an old story, but good research helps us to get beyond the purely anecdotal. And now that we know it, the job is to get that message across where it counts.

Freeways Responsible For Emptying Out Cities

– Interview by Tim Halbur, managing editor of Planetizen

A recent study shows that for every significant freeway that gets built in a major city, population declines by about 18%. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, author of the study, talks with Planetizen.

Photo: Nathaniel Baum-SnowNathaniel Baum-Snow is a professor of economics at Brown University. His research has been remarkable consistent and urban-centric since writing his dissertation in 2000 on “The Effects of New Public Projects to Expand Urban Rail Transit.” Baum-Snow’s work came to our attention when he was cited in a recent Boston Globe article quoting his study that concluded that each new federally-funded highway passing through a central city “reduces its population by about 18 percent.” The implication of this type of data-driven evidence of the effect of highway construction on cities is often hard to find, so we went to the source.

BAUM-SNOW: There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence we see out there in metropolitan cities that a lot of jobs exist in the suburbs, and that that wasn’t nearly as true 40 or 50 years from now. But amazingly enough, there’s not a lot of systematic, empirical evidence about the extent of which that employment decentralization has occurred, and their isn’t a lot of empirical evidence about how commutes have changed over time. In the process of writing my first paper about highways and suburbanization, I tried to read everything I could about this and I couldn’t find anybody who’d looked at this in a systematic way across metropolitan areas.

And it turns out that not only has the nature of residential and employment locations have changed dramatically, but the nature of commuting patterns have also changed dramatically. Now, the vast majority of commutes do not involve the central city at all, even commutes made by people who live in metropolitan areas, whereas in 1960, the majority certainly involved central cities either as origins or destinations or both. And that’s a major change. I think the next step is to try to understand all the things that generated that change.

PLANETIZEN: Over the last couple of decades, planners have shifted their attention to thinking about regional planning. It seems to me that your research could indicate that regional planning is unnecessary, because people tend to live and work in their own locality. Is that your take?

BAUM-SNOW: Actually, I think it’s an argument in favor of having more regional land use and transportation planning, and the reason is that if suburb A builds a highway to connect to suburb B, that’s going to effect the distribution of commutes not only between those suburbs but also the commutes in the region as a whole. So there are going to be these externalities where someone in suburb C has a faster way to get to work, so they’re going to start using it and filling up this new highway. And a business downtown might say, hey, there’s this new infrastructure, let’s go locate out there and I can have a lot more space to work with. So anytime one part of a region changes something, it’s going to effect population and employment throughout the metropolitan area. So I think it’s important to engage at the regional level.

I think that zoning and densification are important. But there’s no way to make people or firms locate in a densely packed manner without providing the transportation infrastructure to allow them to do it. So you have to have some sort of policy at the metropolitan area-level. And what you can get is local communities imposing costs on everybody else by doing something like imposing big exclusionary zoning right next to the urban core. And that’s clearly not economically efficient for the region as a whole- they’re obviously trying to protect their housing values. So I think that it’s important for regional government to be proactive and realistic with transportation planning.

Everybody would like to live in a dense neighborhood as long as they have the biggest house on the block. So they have a lot of living space, but their neighbors are all contributing to the sidewalk life. There’s a balance there that is hard to get around, so there is a role for zoning that encourages density and gets the transportation infrastructure set up in a way that is feasible.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jbrownell.

PLANETIZEN: So was the creation of the highway system a good thing overall or a bad thing?

BAUM-SNOW: I do think that there was a welfare benefit from highway construction for a lot of people. People get to live in bigger homes, they have more choice in where they’d like to live. Now most households are dual-worker households, which wasn’t true back in 1950. Highways have allowed two people living in the same house to commute to different areas each day, so I think there’s been a welfare gain from that. So it’s sort of a mixed bag, but I think most people would say that although there have been some costs, the highway system has been a good thing.

A lot of people think that decentralization is about fleeing to the suburbs out of central cities, but if you look at the change in the spatial distribution of the population across large metropolitan areas, you find that it’s really much more of a spatial phenomenon. You see that the population density in the more peripheral regions of central cities actually went up quite a bit over the last 50 years, while the population of the central business districts went down.

PLANETIZEN: And how did you, as an economist, get interested in issues of transportation and land use planning?

BAUM-SNOW: Growing up I’d always been interested in urban transportation. I always loved riding the subway, and one of the first puzzles my parents gave me as a kid was a puzzle map of the United States with all the states and the interstate highways. And I would memorize the subway maps and bus maps, stuff like that. So it was always something I liked.

And as I got older, I would explore different neighborhoods in Boston (where I grew up), and I was fascinated how you could have such heterogeneity in land use patterns and in socio-demographic patterns within such a small space. So in college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I had an interest in public policy and politics, and I took a lot of different classes. Economics struck me as a field that had the best hope in helping me think about all of these things in a satisfying way.

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Nathaniel Baum-Snow is an assistant professor of economics at Brown University. You can access his research papers at his website here.

About the author:
Tim Halbur is managing editor of Planetizen, the leading news and information source for the urban planning, design and development community. Tim is the co-author of Planetizen’s Insiders’ Guide to Careers in Urban Planning and Where Things Are, From Near to Far, a book for children about city planners and what they do. He is also an audio producer and artist, collaborating with artists Amy Balkin and Kim Stringfellow on Invisible 5, a self-guided critical audio tour along Interstate 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles engaging with issues of environmental racism.

Car Sharing in Sweden in 2010

Carsharing is one of those areas of sustainable transport where people really know what they are dong. There is plenty of theory behind it but to get the job done one needs to be on top of the details and active on the ground — whether at the level of the operators or start-us, or for those rare public officials who understand their importance and get invovled, at the level of the city and more broadly. Given this, it is a miracle that we are able to get our any of busy colleagues to take the time away from their pressing responsibilities to share with us all their understanding and vision of carsharing in their country. This latest country survey provides excellent coverage of the situation in Sweden, thanks to Per Schillander of the SRA.


This is a basic description of Car Sharing in Sweden in 2010, as it appears in the SRA approach*.

Developments in Sweden lagged a few years after the pioneering countries. Today the situation is similar for car share organizations (CSO) in many countries, with an increasingly self-sustaining and stable commercial car share industry and a number of smaller CSOs, run by local associations.

In Sweden there are currently two major commercial car share contractors, City Car Club and SunFleet Carsharing. Over the past year we have seen and Ekobilpool appear as small competitors in Stockholm. While the two big handle about 150 and 300 vehicles respectively, the new ones only a handful of cars. Moreover, there are some small pilot projects for electric vehicles in a car share organization.

The local association car share groups are more, about 40, but deals in total with about 150 cars. Most have no ambition to grow and is unlikely to play any significant role in the continued development. The exceptions are in the current situation of Gothenburg car coop with 35 cars and Stockholm car share and Lund car share with a dozen cars each. These three have, together with a couple of other (big) car share organizations in the Nordic countries, a common reservation system and see themselves as major stakeholders in a future, bigger and more niched market. The same reservation system is also used by SunFleet Carsharing, which opens for an operational partnership. Possibly several small CSOs will change direction and move towards a more proactive role on a local market.

Besides these two types of open/public car share organizations are, at businesses and public administrations, a widespread and growing numbers of closed fleets. The workplace has a number of vehicles for official business and these, in varying degrees, are run like a car share operation.

A wide range of local governments have, supported by SRA, introduced internal car share organizations and thus increased the efficiency of their vehicle handling. A dozen public administrations (municipalities, provincial governments etc.) have taken a step further and procured the car share service by an external provider – any of the above mentioned. The latter is also an opportunity to open the fleet for businesses and the public – a development that benefits all parties and that the SRA supports.

The possibility of opening the CSO for multiple customers is often the main arguments for the tendering of the service. It is worth noting that these procurements of fleets stand for the largest growth in the industry. The picture below illustrate a desirable evolution in how a company or organization looks upon and deals with their cars and car travel. On the lowest level, they don’t really care. As climbing up the following stairs they develop a greater amount of responsibility, accurate monitoring and higher qualities. The “final stair” I reached when the company procures an open CSO, sharing the vehicles with others in the city.

In addition to its own public procurement several players act for more car sharing. Skåne Sustainable Mobility, Sustainable Travel in the Umeå region, and the county associations in Dalarna, Örebro, Östergötland and Västra Götaland are some active regional partners. Efforts are also made in several places linking car sharing with public transport. Practical collaborations are still only running in Gothenburg and Stockholm.

The website, run by SNA, had the last year a significantly better appearance and function. Its main function is to show where the country’s shared cars are stationed. Despite the relatively anonymous existence it is already a rather well-attended site and raises the interest for cooperation in our major cities. The page is also useful for capturing the general issues of and interest in car sharing. On the page is also available the published statistics for car share organizations in Sweden 2009.

Car share organizations with more than 10-20 cars, free resources by installing an administrative support system. The development of telematics for car sharing has been a major issue throughout the 1990s. Administrative support is no longer a critical success factor, but more of an obvious prerequisite for the rational operation of shared fleets. Telematics has also gone from being a purely administrative system, with reservation, logbook and recordings reported back, to now be strategic telematic platforms, with a wide range of applications. Driving behavior, alcohol interlocks, speed record, seat belt use, access, service, track & trace and damage reporting are just some of the functions that can be activated with the new platforms. In this area the operation needs to some extent coincides with the rental car business and many professional services.

The rental car industry has for years remained at a safe distance from the “nonprofit colored” and a bit “suspicious” car share industry. Some attempts on their part went less well, but now several major players in the rental car industry have launched its own car share concept. Probably, they see opportunities to streamline their core business while broadening service offerings. With such appearances business might grow significantly. SunFleet Carsharing, owned by Hertz, are after many tough years now showing profit, which should interest the rental car industry.

The development of the car share telematic platforms will likely be coordinated with other developments in other parts of the car manufacturing industry. Most of the features offered by the mentioned telematic platforms will probably be standard features and which can be activated if wanted (and for a fee).

The trend towards greater accountability (e.g., CSR) and a higher degree of quality assurance (including transport) is likely to increase the interest of outsourcing car fleets. This is a development that SRA strongly applaud and support.

One of the main characteristics of CSOs is to free space. (Each shared car replaces an average of five private cars.) As the CSOs grow the need to support their growth and to manage their impact in the physical planning will increase. Part of the issue is to adjust the municipal parking standards down – a job that pays some attention. For some years, there is also a discussion about how to allocate parking spaces for shared cars. An interesting solution is the redistribution of street space into property space and to reserve it for car share vehicles. Car share organizations are inherently flexible and another challenge is to manage a changing need of parking spaces.

Cooperation between car share organizations and public transport is often portrayed, and rightly so, as a critical success factor for both parties. Since 2008, the regional public transport company Västtrafik and the two dominant CSOs in Gothenburg have a cooperation agreement. The agreement says that if you have a seasonal subscription card of Västtrafik you may join the CSO for three months without the monthly fee. The first two months these CSOs got a couple of hundred new customers.

The local and regional public transport companies in Stockholm and Skåne have so far shown a rather cautious interest in the issue, but we will certainly see more of this type of “free” collaboration in the future. Recently, similar collaborations started in Umeå. More integrated transport (public transport, car sharing, taxi, etc. on the same card) has been tested in many places and will perhaps also established in Sweden. In some places in Germany public transport provides a complete service, including car sharing.


* Address the ability to allocate parking in streets to shared cars. The last completed national parking study, although SRA reminders, did not propose this change in focus. The ability to act through local “space planning acts” should be examined.

* Address the differences in the rules for VAT deduction. For leased cars and taxis, customer may deduct all VAT, for hired cars and shared cars, however, only half the amount of VAT. To get the car rental industry into the car share business and to attract more car sharing procured in the public sector, the rules must be assimilated.

* Continue to propagate for car sharing as a key factor for flexible travel in cities. Inform municipalities, counties and companies about the benefits of organizing their transportation needs with car sharing and public transportation. Explain the system benefits of open car share organizations that serve a variety of partners in the city.

* There is a significant gap between the market potential, awareness and appreciation and use of car sharing. Probably, there is significant potential to capture through more active marketing, such as the site

* SRA should continue to conduct national monitoring (statistics) and analysis of the car sharing market. SRA should also continue to act as a national and international party and interface for car sharing

* Continue to gather knowledge about car sharing. The following ingredients are present for a publication:
• domestic market potential (completed January 2009)
• status in the world – a list and fuller description
• status in Sweden – list and fuller description
• VAT – rules of deduction and tax rates for car sharing
• public transport – new models, strategies
• extended functions – speed and fuel record, alcohol interlocks, etc.
• procurement requirements – optimized solutions
• key figures for enterprises and organizations
• review of administrative systems (from 2008)
• parking – utilities, standards, policies

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April 1, 2010 marks the start of a new governmental authority – The Swedish Transport Administration. The new administration is charged with the task of developing an effective and sustainable transport system including all modes of transport. In close dialogue with regions and municipalities, the new Transport Administration is responsible for the collective, long-term infrastructural planning for all modes of transport. The Transport Administration is also responsible for building and maintaining the national highways, roads, and railways. In addition, the Transport Administration is responsible for efficient use of the infrastructure and for promoting safe and environmentally adapted transports.

About the author:
Per Schillander: Master of science, 30 years of experiences in different tasks in environment and transport areas. Employed by the Swedish road administration since 1998, as a small part national expert on car sharing. All year cyclist (southern Sweden). Big lover of music, sailing, wildlife etc. A never resting improver of house, garden, mind and society.

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Honk! Any idea what this might be?

Whatever it might be there seems to a lot of it apparently going on in various places around Europe — or at least that is what this map seems to suggest. But what exactly is it? Where do you go to find more? Stay tuned. We will be looking at this in the days ahead together with the team that is drawing this map.

Well here it is a bit larger so that at least you can start to read the legends. (And if you click the map you get an even larger, clearer image.)

What if we take a look at the above and contrast it with the map we get showing the locations of the last 80 origins of people who visited World Streets this afternoon. Do we see a pattern, no matter how rough? Hmm.

Let’s leave it at that for today since the team behind the project is not quite ready to maek their formal anouncement with the full story and the ready to use toolset. But soon. We’ll stay right on it.

In the meantime conjectures, and even information, are welcome.

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

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

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

When we set out to lay the base for this journal in 2008, we never for a moment considered calling it “World Roads”. Our focus was and is on the fact that if roads are for vehicles, streets are definitely for people. Let us have a look at what one young “lapsed engineer from India” has to say about this in the context of his home city of Mumbai, with lessons that ring just as true in places like Manhattan, Madrid, Melbourne . . . or surely your city as well. Continue reading

Mid-week recess: STOP right now!

The transportation sector has around for a long long time. And over all those centuries and years of heavy hurtling dangerous traffic we have learned some lessons and done some things that, well if you really think about it, do not always add up. Here is one of those old ideas that Gary Lauder, co-creator of the Socrates Society at the Aspen Institute, takes four and a half speedy minutes to demolish for us. The humble stop sign. Or in this case the humble two million dollar stop sign. Oops!

[This presentation is part of the TED “Ideas worth spreading” series. And if Gary speaks too quickly for you (he does really rattle on at quite a breathtaking pace), you always can call up sub-titles, though thus far only in Bulgarian, English, and French.]


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Thanks to Robin Chase for the good heads-up on this. (Robin muses well at Her latest postings regularly appear in our “Latest from the world’s streets’ rubric which you will see if you scroll down a bit in our left hand resource column/section here.)

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.

World Streets / The Resource Base

World Streets has four main functions: (a) It is a specialized daily journal. (b) A collaborative international network. (c) An in-depth international resource. And finally (d) an active lobby for sustainable transportation, sustainable cities and sustainable lives, supporting projects and programs all over the world. Here we introduce the resource/research function which, as you will see, provides exceptionally deep and broad coverage of the sector from a truly international perspective.

Please start here:

We cordially invite you to give this a careful read the first time you come to this site, because this is your key to getting full value from this carefully constructed toolset.

The resource base and toolset introduced here has been specifically pieced together with our readers and their needs in mind. Our readers come from many different parts of the world, with often very different cultures and historical endowments, and levels of available resources for dealing with all these issues that vary hugely. What they have in common is that overwhelmingly they either work with cities or public agencies concerned with matters of transportation, environment, city development, land use, public health, etc., or are activists or researchers, professors or students, operators or regulators, consultants or concerned citizens. Or are representatives of the media, new and old.

These are the kinds of people and institutions who we have set out to serve.

How to make best use of the site and toolset:

The blog itself is divided into two main sections. The one that most people are immediately aware of and turn their eye to is the larger central column which presents the main content of the daily newspaper. That is our intention.

However, day after day, month after month the sheer quantity of articles and commentaries that appear here tend to gradually enter into something which is analogous to a close drawer on your desk. It is there, it is maybe important for you at some point, but how to get at it when you need it? That is the second part of our challenge.

So to this end, we will focus here entirely on the smaller column just to your left here, the “rest of the iceberg” if you will. This turns out to be a bit more complicated and is worth introducing carefully so that you can get best use of it. We are confident that the time you invest to familiarize yourself initially with this extensive tool set will be well compensated.

Let us start by simply listing the main headings/categories. that constitute the resource base. And then once you have a quick look at the overall collection we can then examine each in turn and in more detail.

Here is the overall listing as it stands at this date:

1. First time visitor ABC’s
2. World Streets in World Languages
3. Search World Streets: 2009/2010
4. The latest from World Streets
5. Featured series for (month)
6. Featured video clips for (month)
7. Latest news from the world’s streets (Headlines and links)
8. Editorial/volunteer team
9. New Mobility building blocks
10. Subscribe, support World Streets 2010
11. Free daily delivery: RSS
12. New Mobility combined search engine
13. World Streets weekly archives
14. Search all key sources (See below)s
15. Key sources, links, and blogs
16. World Streets sentinels
17. World Streets correspondents
18. In Memoriam
19. They are talking about . . .
20. (Some draft sections)

Now going into more detail:

It is our hope that the entire process will be sufficiently well labeled and logical that most of our readers will simply be able to click through them to see where they lead. But we thought it might be useful as well if we supply some more detailed indications, which is what we shall now do, taking each in the indicated order.

1. FIRST TIME VISITOR ABC’S – This important introductory section is divided in turn into five parts:

A. Start here / The Brief– This 4 page/4 minute introduction is proposed is must reading if the readers to understand fundamentally what this initiative is all about. It is a fast read, quickly setting out the main defining points and characteristics of World Streets, and the New Mobility Agenda just behind it.

B. New Mobility / The Strategy — Plan A: Goals, strategy, building blocks. Once again we propose this as an essential read for the first time reader, since it sets out the basic issues and political philosophy that underlie entire approach and selection of the journal. This is not just any collection of “interesting articles” that involve issues of transport in and around cities. It is about sustainable transportation quite strictly defined. Please read.

C. World Streets / The Resource (this page)

D. Expert views / The reaction — 101 readers report their critical views on World Streets. Replaces here because we believe it provides important perspective from readers with high expertise in many areas and for many parts of the world. As editors we can tell you how good we think we are all day long, but these words from entirely independent people provide you with something you can count on.

E. Implementation / Now what: — contribute, subscribe, support, get involved in making World Streets of success. This is for us an extremely important section, though life being what it is and timing as short as it is, we have to keep in mind that many readers will be too busy to give this their attention. We hope you will, because your collaboration is part of what is needed to make this collaborative venture work. Thanks for taking the time to read this.


This is tricky, but very important. It is easy to have prejudices on this in terms of the violence of the translations can do to your language; but be patient, there is more to it than that. There is a language reality out there of which many people working in the field internationally are not necessarily aware. And that is that the bulk of the people on this planet who are involved in transportation policy and practice in any given place where English is not the primary language, simply do not have the time to devote to reading articles, even summaries of articles, that are in something other than their main working language. That is a reality. But since World Streets has the pretension of being a truly worldwide cross-cultural source, we have tried to figure out how to make some kind of inroads into this seemingly intractable problem. With that in mind and making use of this borrowed toolset, from our very first day of publication we have tried to take advantage of best available technology in order to provide workable translations for the roughly 6,000,000,000 people on this planet for whom English is not their main working language. For more on this, have a look at .


Remember our analogy that the past content of World streets runs the risk of being equivalents of potentially interesting papers and reports that are caught in a closed-door of your desk? As an example as of March 2010 have been more than 500 articles and commentaries published in the course of the first year. But these are not just articles were given day, but potential resources. This search function scans via your selection of keywords the entire contents of World Streets from its inception. The same familiar approach as for Google. Try when you need it and we think you will not be disappointed. (In other parts of this resource section you will see additional Combined Search Engines which we have created to scan the contents of hundreds of related sources worldwide. You will see more on that below.)


This tool sets out two searches, the first of which calls up the latest articles appearing in the journal with the most recent up top, while the second is the same for your comments.


The items under this heading vary from month to month depending on the goals and orientation of the overall program in that period. In all cases however they are standardized to the extent that the first item calls up the World Streets Monthly Report for the last full month, while the last item — Check out (month’s) featured clips — provides an introduction to the selected video clips for the month, which appear immediately below and are directly clickable.


because we live in a multimedia world, and because in order to advance the sustainable transportation agenda we have to take advantage of every tool at our disposal, this section presents each month a selection of short videos which we propose for viewing, perhaps during your coffee break. As you can imagine, we give careful thought to the selection.


In the big and varied world in which we live the concept of creative linking is a very important one. On the other hand we must be extremely careful since, given the enormous wealth and great facility of making these contacts, you can always end up connecting to everything, and then at the end of the day have no time to do your own work. So in this case what we decided to do is to select a total of a dozen sources of news, generating for the most part daily news, which treat in various ways the main issues to which World Streets is dedicated. (Not necessarily reflecting our views and priorities but working energetically to make these issues and trade-offs better known.

The idea is that our readers will be able to run down that list in a minute or two, and then if they spot something that appears to be possibly relevant for their work, all they have to do is click to it and the original source will be at their service. And if you wish to see more from that source, you can also find them listed in the “Key Sources” section just below. There is considerable variety in the range and tgype of sources selected here, but that is as it must be in a world in which issues are complex and the answers are sure to be surprising. Let us use our peripheral vision to make sure we are not missing anything important.


This short section introduces the team of volunteers who are cooperating to lead and support this independent and until now largely unfunded effort in support of sustainable transport worldwide. The second part of this listing provides information such as guidelines for contributors, comments on fair use, and a rough shopping list setting out some of the technical and other innovations and competences that we would hope to build and program without too much delay.


-> Marquee: This running display has been set up in order to give someone who is sufficiently curious a review of the way that we view the main components and delivery modes that together constitute the New Mobility Agenda. Admittedly it is almost impossible to read in its present form, but the content is important and will be the subject of articles and clarification in the near future. The bottom line point is this: the future of transport and cities is not a question of cars used in the old way and/or public transit is delivered in the old way. There is a lot more to it than that, which indeed is what World Streets is all about. To continue.

-> Behind World Streets: the New Mobility Agenda: world streets is basically the unified publishing arm of the New Mobility Agenda, whose numerous programs, libraries, message services, and links feed into the Journal and provide it with much of its backing and content.

-> Knoogle search > 800 selected world sources: Knoogle is the Combined Search Engine and specialized knowledge browser that we initiated in 2008 and have subsequently continued to develop it into a search tool which provides access to a very large number of carefully selected sources dealing with sustainable transportation and sustainable cities worldwide.

-> Meet the World Streets Sentinels: The “sentinels” are colleagues working in this field around the world who have agreed to share with us their findings and observations within their cities and countries. (This program is and will continue to be under development.)

-> Read Nuova Mobilità: Nuova Mobilità is our sister publication, the first in what we hope will develop into a series of affiliated projects aiming to provide useful materials on our topic to professionals and others working in that country and language group. The site is in Italian, however on the upper left you will see there is the possibility of into English or other language of your choice. We invite you to drop in and have a look from time to time to see how our Italian sisters and brothers look at the challenges of sustainable transportation.


This section invites our readers to be part of the solution and to join in to support this collaborative program through financial contributions, their willingness to work with us to find sponsors, their availability for writing articles and other forms of technical support, and in general joining in this international collaborative effort. The very important part of this concerns are invitation for readers who share our values to set forth in order to work with us as ambassadors in order to help us intensify and contact organizations known to them, and in particular within their own countries, for future collaboration and exchange.


One click access to setting up your preferred RSS feeds for both articles and comments.


Just before we get to the Journal’s archives, which organized by week and year, we thought it would be useful to place another search engine which gives the reader the choice of looking through those archives directory, clicking on yet more general look through the very large number of sources that are covered by our Knoogle knowledge browser. Or more generally the full Web.


Every week somewhere between five and seven new articles are posted, and these archives are intended to be handy to check out daily postings going all the way back to the first edition in March 2009. In most cases when one is referencing anything more than a week or two back, unless you know the approximate date, probably the best way to locate the items you are looking for is via the preceding search engine. Another excellent possibility is to use the key word items that are associated with each article.


Yet another search engine, this time aiming at the more than 200 carefully selected sources that are listed just below. So put in other words, if you are curious as to what this collection of outstanding sources as to say on any given subject, you have a very simple tool here in order to carry out your research.


This is a potential gold mine for researchers. We give great importance to this collection of sources and are continuously soliciting our readers to review them and suggest further additions, or if they feel the source is not up to the standard to be dropped from the listing. At the time this page was prepared there were some 204 sources identified on that list, all available with a single click. And all fully searchable through the preceding customized search engine.


This world map identifies the first one hundred-plus people working in more than forty countries on all continents who have stepped forward with offers to share with all interested latest information and clues from their cities, good news and bad news that has perhaps lessons for others. This listing is continually in process, and recommendations for qualified people are much appreciated. (For more, click here – )


List of some of the people reporting on projects, problems, etc. in their cities in different parts of the world. (Ever in process)


If you are familiar with the work of these pioneering figures, you will understand why we are here and working to build on the foundation they have so generously given us.


this is not a particularly sophisticated collection of links, but we at least find some use in reviewing them from time to time to get a better feel for the extent to which World streets, Nuova Mobilità and the New Mobility Agenda are being referenced or in the news.


20. TABLE OF CONTENTS (working draft)
This is at this point a catch-all with ideas for bits and pieces to be integrated, perhaps, into the resource base at an appropriate time


# # #

Dear reader.

I have to admit it. This has been a long slog, for us to write and you to read. But that is exactly what sustainability is all about: new mental architecture, carefully thought-out philosophy, breadth of vision, consistent criteria, great energy, unremitting discipline, deep collaboration, and an ability to hang in there for the long slog. This is not a job for lazy people. :-)

Eric Britton
Editor, World Streets

Il bike sharing in Italia: un’istantanea del 2010. (This is a W/S language laboratory experiment)

You may have noticed that the first half of the title of this journal is the word “World”, and that to us carries a real obligation. If we bear in mind that there are barely five hundred million of us who use English more or less easily as our daily working language, that leaves something like six billion who do not. Oops. So if we feel any commitment at all to be true to that first half of our title, this is clearly something we have to figure out.

Figure out with a little help from our friends, fortunately, in this case Google Translate. So this first “language lab” experiment will be in cooperation with our excellent Italian sister publication Nuova Mobilità, from whom we have selected a recent article that we know will be of interest to many of our readers — and then to turn it over to you so that, if you wish, the full text will be accessible to you in an operational if not quite Shakespearian English (or more than a dozen other languages of your choice), with a single click. And oh yes, the topic is our report on bicycle sharing in Italy. But of course you already figured that one out.

And once you have an opportunity to review both the substance of the article and to organize your thoughts as to the usefulness of this kind of translation, it would be great to hear from you. This you can do either by posting your comments to the editor at or alternatively clicking the Comment button at the end of this article to post them directly here.

– – > Now all you have to do is to click here for full text of the article in English.

[Not happy with the quality of the language as it appears? Two quick points then if I may: First, may I suggest that you think of this as an opportunity to learn from a person who is highly knowledgeable on the subject but who does not fully master your language? Would you still wish to listen to such a person on that subject? Second, let’s not forget that this is still work in progress, and if you had been following it for the last few years you would note enormous, steady improvement. So stay tuned, it will get steadily better and your patience will be rewarded. But at the end of the day, it’s your choice.

Note: The Google Translate tool in the top left column for now works only to translate our articles from English to the other indicated languages. ]

# # #

Da Giorgio Ceccarelli riceviamo questo interessante report sul bike sharing in Italia: molte cose sembrano essersi mosse negli ultimi anni e molto resta ancora da fare per raggiungere una qualità di servizio paragonabile a quella di altri paesi europei. Le difficoltà che incontrano i servizi di biciclette pubbliche in Italia sono conseguenti anche alle particolari caratteristiche demografiche del nostro paese, oltre che alla mancanza di scelte politiche coerenti.

Il bike sharing in Italia
Giorgio Ceccarelli

Attualmente in Italia sono attivi circa 130 sistemi di bike sharing con una prevalenza nei Comuni del Nord e del Centro rispetto al Sud.In particolare le regioni in cui si rileva una maggiore presenza del bike sharing sono:
Emilia Romagna (19) – Piemonte (16) – Veneto (15) – Lombardia (13). Seguono Marche, Puglia, Liguria e tutte le altre regioni, escluse Campania, Calabria e Basilicata.
(fonte: relazione dell’Ing. Lorenzo Bertuccio al Congresso del Club delle Città per il Bike Sharing – Milano, ottobre 2009)

Questa quantificazione tiene conto soltanto dei sistemi di bike sharing evoluti (che possono essere definiti di terza generazione) e non considera i casi del tutto riconducibili al tradizionale noleggio, quale è ad esempio quello di Bolzano.

A loro volta questi 130 sistemi possono essere suddivisi in due tipologie:

  • meccanici a chiave
  • a scheda magnetica.

Nel primo caso l’utilizzatore deve acquisire tramite uno sportello una chiave che inserita nel posteggio libera la bici e lo identifica; la bici dovrà essere riconsegnata, senza particolari limiti di orario, nello stesso stallo per poter ritirare la chiave.

I sistemi a chiave sono in genere gratuiti e permettono l’utilizzo delle bici in città diverse con la stessa chiave.

I sistemi a scheda magnetica invece permettono la riconsegna in un qualunque altro posteggio e soprattutto permettono, mediante la regolazione tariffaria, di incentivare l’uso della bici per un breve periodo, in modo da riconsegnarla e permetterne l’utilizzo ad un altro utente: quindi poche bici per tante persone.

I sistemi a scheda magnetica inoltre hanno la possibilità di registrazioni tramite internet e di pagamento tramite carta di credito o telefoni portatili; sono inoltre i sistemi che, come vedremo, aprono le nuove prospettive dell’integrazione tariffaria tra i vari sistemi di trasporto.

In tutti i Comuni che utilizzano la scheda magnetica, esclusa Roma, la tariffa prevede la prima mezz’ora di utilizzo gratuito, con le successive ore a pagamento via via aumentato, fino a prevedere dei veri e propri blocchi dell’abbonamento se si superano le quattro ore di utilizzo, come è previsto ad esempio a Milano

L’utilizzo dell’una o dell’altra tipologia di bike sharing in Italia dipende in pratica dalla divisione del mercato tra due sole aziende fornitrici:

  • C’entro in bici per il sistema a chiave
  • Bicincittà per il sistema a scheda.

Su circa 130 sistemi attivi ad oggi 2/3 sono chiave e 1/3 a scheda, con una distribuzione territoriale molto legata alla localizzazione d’origine e alla conseguente penetrazione commerciale delle due aziende fornitrici.

C’entro in bici che ha sede a Ravenna è prevalente nelle zone dell’Emilia e del Veneto, mentre Bicincittà è di Torino e ha la prevalenza nel Nord Ovest; Bicincittà è inoltre presente anche sul mercato internazionale con i sistemi di Pamplona e Losanna.

Questa forma di duopolio legato a una partizione territoriale tra sistemi tecnicamente diversi è sintomo di come il bike sharing in Italia sia ancora giovane e debba ancora evolvere verso una molteplicità di offerta caratteristica di un mercato più maturo.

Unica eccezione a questa partizione rigida del mercato fra due aziende, ciascuna con la propria differente tecnologia, è rappresentata dal Comune di Milano, che utilizza il sistema sviluppato dalla società americana Clear Channel.

Milano è attualmente il sistema italiano di maggiori dimensioni: denominato BIKEMI, è stato inaugurato nel Novembre 2008, prevede 1.300 bici distribuite su circa 100 stazioni ed è economicamente basato sul sistema di concessione di spazi pubblicitari in cambio dell’attivazione e gestione del servizio da parte di Clear Channel.

Dato il successo registrato da BIKEMI, che ha quasi raggiunto il livello di saturazione rispetto agli utenti previsti, è in progetto la sua estensione fuori dalla Cerchia dei Bastioni, arrivando a toccare nodi ferro viari periferici e poli universita ri: in totale 170 nuove stazioni a 33 stalli e un parco di 5.000 bici clette

Sono però emersi problemi tra l’Amministrazione e la ditta appaltatrice, legati soprattutto al tema economico degli introiti pubblicitari, che in qualche modo stanno rallentando il previsto sviluppo del sistema.

Una nota particolare meritano i sistemi di Genova e Siracusa in quanto rappresentano in assoluto le prime esperienze di utilizzo di biciclette a pedalata assistita su veri e propri sistemi di bike sharing, mentre già se ne potevano trovare su tradizionali ciclonoleggi.

Il sistema di Genova, inaugurato nell’Aprile 2009, è denominato MOBIKE, dispone di 55 bici distribuite su 6 stazioni ed è stato realizzato grazie a un contributo del Ministero per l’Ambiente a favore della mobilità elettrica. E’ realizzato e gestito direttamente da Bicincittà.

L’utilizzo delle biciclette assistite può essere indicato in una città come Genova che presenta molte parti collinari, anche se le postazioni realizzate ad oggi, collocate lungo l’arco del vecchio porto e nelle zone centrali, presentano un dislivello fra loro inferiore a 50 metri, decisamente accettabile anche per una bici tradizionale.

L’utilizzo del bike sharing genovese risulta comunque fortemente penalizzato dalla quasi totale mancanza di percorsi protetti per le bici.

Analogamente il sistema di Siracusa, aperto poco dopo Genova, si basa sulla tecnologia di Bicincittà e utilizza un finanziamento dato dal Ministero per l’Ambiente in occasione del G8.

Il sistema è in questo caso di tipo misto con la previsione a regime di 200 bici tradizionali e 50 assistite, distribuite su 15 stazioni.

Tra i sistemi di cui si attende una prossima apertura è da segnalare quello di Torino, la cui inaugurazione è prevista nel Giugno 2010.

Dopo due gare andate deserte, l’ultima gara di appalto è stata vinta da Bicincittà che avrà la gestione di spazi pubblicitari in cambio di un sistema, denominato ToBike, che prevede 1200 bici su oltre 100 stazioni: si tratta finalmente di un progetto di grande impatto che dovrebbe coprire una parte importante della città.

In attesa dell’apertura di Torino, il bike sharing di Milano si può ritenere ad oggi l’unico sistema che in Italia sia numericamente paragonabile con le grandi realizzazioni europee: tutte le altre città presentano numeri di bici o di postazioni nettamente inferiori.

In particolare, con riferimento al numero di biciclette previste, i sistemi in Italia numericamente più consistenti dopo Milano sono:

  • Brescia (200)
  • Ravenna (140)
  • La Spezia (135)
  • Bergamo (120)
  • Trento (88)

Rapportando il numero di bici al numero di abitanti, tra i migliori rapporti risultano:

  • Modena (1/900)
  • Milano (1/1.000)
  • Cuneo (1/1.100)

Siamo dunque ben lontani da valori tali da rappresentare un significativo contributo alla mobilità urbana, come quelli che troviamo ad esempio in grandi città francesi quali Parigi (1/100) o Lione (1/160).

In generale quindi l’Italia si caratterizza per un elevato numero di sistemi prevalentemente di piccolissima dimensione.

Nella tabella seguente il dato italiano è confrontato con quello di Francia e Germania:

Si può inoltre ragionevolmente supporre che questa tendenza aumenterà nei prossimi anni con il prevedibile estendersi dell’interesse per il bike sharing nelle città del Centro e del Sud.

La diffusione di sistemi di piccolissima dimensione è una tipicità italiana che può dipendere dalla conformazione del nostro territorio, caratterizzato da una urbanizzazione diffusa, con molte città medie o piccole.

Le dimensioni limitate delle città probabilmente non consentono di innescare livelli di redditività tali da consentire la realizzazione da parte di privati di sistemi di bike sharing in cambio della concessione di spazi pubblicitari, come invece avviene altrove.

Ne deriva quindi la necessità da parte delle Amministrazioni locali di rivolgersi quasi esclusivamente a fondi pubblici con la conseguenza di avere finanziamenti limitati, tempi incerti e prospettive non sicure circa il mantenimento del servizio.

Non è da sottovalutare inoltre l’ostacolo alla creazione di sistemi numericamente importanti rappresentato dalla arretratezza italiana nella realizzazione di infrastrutture ciclabili.

Spesso nelle nostre città i percorsi ragionevolmente fattibili in bici si riducono a poche aree centrali in cui solo le zone 30 o le zone pedonali consentono di muoversi con un minimo di sicurezza.

Lo sviluppo del bike sharing può avvenire se coordinato con altre azioni aventi come obbiettivo la ciclabilità, così come accade se le Amministrazioni si dotano di un apposito Biciplan che, oltre al bike sharing, preveda percorsi, facilitazioni per chi va in bici quali rastrelliere o scivoli, promozione e informazione, manutenzione dell’esistente.

Ad oggi in Italia sono pochi gli studi o le ricerche sul fenomeno del bike sharing e non esiste una approfondita analisi di carattere generale su di esso.
Si muovono comunque in questo senso le iniziative di alcune Associazioni, tra cui si possono segnalare:

Il C.C.B.S. – Club delle Città del Bike Sharing, promosso da Euromobility, , l’Associazione Italiana dei Mobility Manager, a cui aderiscono oltre 30 città.

Il C.C.B.S. ha come scopo la promozione del bike sharing e organizza annualmente un convegno in cui viene presentato il report aggiornato delle situazione in Italia, costituendo al momento la visione più complessiva che si possa trovare.

F.I.A.B. – Federazione Italiana Amici della Bicicletta , aderente a E.C.F. European Cyclist Federation, che promuove tra l’altro un forum di discussione dedicato al tema e la raccolta di documentazione sul bike sharing nel sito istituzionale.

Il progetto europeo OBIS – Optimising Bike Sharing in European Cities , che si propone di identificare i fattori di successo, i limiti e le potenzialità del mercato sia a livello europeo che negli otto stati che hanno aderito al progetto.

Giorgio Ceccarelli, architetto, è consigliere nazionale della Federazione Italiana Amici della Bicicletta – FIAB e responsabile sul tema del bike sharing e delle biciclette pubbliche.
Si occupa di progettazione legata ai temi della mobilità attraverso il ridisegno e il recupero di spazi urbani e di uso collettivo, con particolare attenzione all’applicazione di metodologie partecipative.
Nell’attività rivolta alla bicicletta, oltre progetto di percorsi e alla redazione di piani comunali per la ciclabilità, ha curato il servizio di bike sharing del Comune di Genova, primo sistema realizzato con biciclette a pedalata assistita.

Vai all’elenco di post sul bike sharing

Musing: Thoughts on Communicating Science Losing the battle for hearts and minds

Food for thought as we try to turn our great ideas into reality (at which most of us are not so hot. Present company included I am afraid.) Here is a think piece musing on our communications skills by our long-time colleague Keith Sutter from Australia. He takes us into “minds”, “hearts”, “gut”, and then, since it is the weekend and we can deal with it, “reproductive organs”. His source argues that that these are the four “layers” of communication, rather like a pyramid, with the layers getting broader as they move towards the base. Oops.



On February 3 2010, while being the Crawford Miller (Oxford-Australia) Visiting Research Fellow at St Cross College University of Oxford, I was able to attend the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management (CPTM) Smart Partners Hub meeting in London.

The meeting was on “Smart Partnership, Climate Change and Science”. I was asked to say a few words on the state of the Australian debate. That statement was based on a short aide memoire I had prepared for The Club of Rome. (This will published in due course by the European Support Centre of The Club of Rome: A summary of the total meeting has published by CPTM. (

The purpose of this note is to amplify a few comments I made in the context of reporting on the Australian climate change debate: the problem of communicating science.

Science and the Media

I am not a scientist and so I look at the science profession from the outside – that of being, among other things, a foreign affairs presenter on Australian television and radio. It is evident that the science profession is losing the battle for hearts and minds when it comes to the climate change debate.

Welsh physicist Sir John Houghton has been quoted as saying something similar. He told BBC Wales on February 12 2010 that most scientists were now in a “PR war” with [climate change] sceptics: “We are in a way and we’re losing that war because we’re not good at PR. Your average scientist is not a good PR person because he wants to get on with his science”. (“Climate Change Scientists Losing ‘PR War’ to Vested Interests”, reprinted: Common Dreams:

This is not necessarily a new issue. Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine, has produced a large biography of Albert Einstein. (Walter Isaacson Einstein: His Life and Universe, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007, p 269.) After his work on Relativity, Einstein became a very famous scientist. He became a trend-setter: “In the current celebrity-soaked age, it is hard to recall the extent to which, a century ago, proper people recoiled from publicity and disdained those who garnered it. Especially in the realm of science, focussing on the personal seemed discordant” . He became the world’s most famous scientist – but his fame got him into trouble with other scientists!

In May 1959 another dispute erupted: CP Snow (1905-80), a celebrated novelist with a science background from Cambridge, spoke about “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” (annual Rede Lecture, University of Cambridge) . He argued that there was then a gap between scientists and “literary intellectuals”: scientists didn’t read Charles Dickens and humanities professors didn’t know the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Snow warned that many key decisions in public life were being made by people without much knowledge of science. The situation probably has not improved in the past half century. (Robert Whelan “Fifty years on, CP Snow’s ‘Two Cultures” are United in Desperation” The Daily Telegraph (London), May 5 2009)

Communicating Science

One of the best books I have encountered recently on this problem of how to communicate science is by Randy Olson Don’t be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style (Washington DC: Island Press, 2009). Olson was a science academic who changed life in mid-career and went to California to learn movie-making (he now specializes in science and environmental movies). One of his theatre lecturers told him “not to be such a scientist” and the reprimand stayed with him.

I have found his book helpful to understand, how in effect the Australian Labor Party Government headed by Kevin Rudd could move from winning an election in November 2007 partly on the climate change issue, to losing the public debate over climate change in two years (with the then Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, losing his own position to a rebellion within his own party and for him to become the world’s first party leader to lose his position because he was supporter of taking action against climate change; he has been replaced by a climate change “sceptic”)

Olson argues that there are four “layers” of communication, rather like a pyramid, with the layers getting broader as they move towards to the base.

1. At the top of the pyramid is the “mind” – which is where most scientists spend most of their time. They communicate learnedly with each other in a careful, heavily foot-noted style.

2. The next layer down is the “heart”: the locus of love.

3. The third layer is the “gut”: locus of fear.

4. The base of the pyramid are the “reproductive organs”, which is why so many people, companies and organizations use romance etc for marketing – it is the easiest way to reach the broadest number of people whatever is being sold: cars, chocolate, clothes etc.

Applying the top three layers of the Olson model to the Australian climate change debate, we can see how the model helps explain the change within Australia.

In the years 1996-2007, the Australian Prime Minister was the conservative John Howard. Australia had been committed to the Kyoto Protocol process and for a while it seemed that the incoming Howard Government would continue that process. But then, under pressure from US President George W Bush, Howard suddenly announced that Australia would not proceed with the Kyoto Protocol. The US and Australia were the two developed countries to stand outside the process.

Howard was lobbied by some of his more moderate colleagues, such as his eventual (albeit temporary) successor Malcolm Turnbull, to accept the Protocol and so negate the support going to the Opposition Labor Party headed by Kevin Rudd. Howard remained stubborn to the end and he lost the November 2007 election (and even his own seat – only the second time since federation in 1901 that a prime minister had been rejected by his own constituency).

Rudd’s Labor Party had campaigned on many issues. The climate change one had struck a chord with most of the electorate (including moderate Liberals). Rudd (in Olson’s model) reminded Australians of their love of the Great Barrier Reef (the “”world largest living object”) – the “heart” – and the fear of the risk that it could be destroyed by climate change – the “gut”.

Rudd argued that Australia should act to protect the Great Barrier Reef. This was rather misleading because Australians account for only 1 or 2 per cent of the total global emissions and so no matter how good Australia’s climate change record might be, Australian actions alone could not save the reef. However, this was overlooked by commentators in the interests of securing the dramatic Labor victory in November 2007.

But then Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister moved up Olson’s model. He left the “heart” and “gut” and he started to read out speeches written in the “head” style by public servants. He – and his colleagues – failed to communicate with the same skill they had had before the election to the “heart” and “gut”.

Meanwhile, the conservative Opposition initially disowned the Howard climate change policy and endorsed the Rudd Government’s December 2007 ratification of the Kyoto Protocol – the first time that the first action of a new Australian Government was to ratify a treaty.

But the climate change sceptics then got to work – as per Olson’s model – on the “heart” and “gut”. They argued that the proposed Rudd emissions trading system (ETS) would really be an “extra tax system” (appealing to the “gut” and fear of a new tax). They warned that climate change policies would cost jobs (“heart” and the love of being employed). In late 2009, the sceptics within the conservative Opposition party rebelled against their moderate leader Malcolm Turnbull and replaced him with one of their own (Tony Abbott).

As at early 2010, the Rudd Government has no new emission trading system, little chance of securing any ambitious climate change measures, and a declining popular interest in the subject of climate change. It is unlikely on current showing that Rudd will make as much fuss of climate change in the 2010 election as he did in 2007.

New Thinking on Communication

Being smart is not much use if that cannot be communicated. The lesson of the Olson book is that much more attention needs to be given to the basics of communication.

A good lesson here is from the oil industry. The industry distinguishes between “upstream” and “downstream” activities. The upstream activities relate to finding oil and drilling for it. The downstream activities relate to the distribution out to the consumers. Science needs to pay more attention to the “downstream” activities. The Olson book provides some ideas.

Another good example comes from nurse Georgia Sadler. (See: Malcolm Caldwell The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, London: Abacus, 2000, pp 253-55.) She wanted to educate women on certain health issues. She did the right thing – speaking at religious institutions, community organizations etc. But the women who came to hear her were already aware of the issues. How could she reach the women who were not coming to her presentations?

Sadler used creative thinking. An American woman has a more intimate relationship with her hair stylist than with virtually anyone else. She realized that a hairdressing salon would provide women with a relaxed atmosphere in which to hear new ideas. She sought advice on how to educate hairdressers on how they could in turn inform their clients about the health issues. She then created a highly successful education programme.


The conclusion is, then, we need to find more innovative ways of communicating science to the general public. There are certainly plenty of “lateral thinking” ideas available on communication. It just needs a more innovative mobilization of those techniques. Perhaps this could be a CPTM “Smart Partnership” project?

# # #

About the author

Keith Suter is a futurist and media personality in the areas of social policy and foreign affairs. His first doctorate was in the international law of guerrilla warfare and his second in the economic and social consequences of the arms race. He is a member of the Club of Rome, President of the United Nations Association (NSW) and President of the Society for International Development (Sydney Chapter). He lives in Sydney Australia and can be via .

Honk? Green power for electric cars Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time.

Here we go again. Green power? A nice little electric car is a great way to get around in a city. I should know since I drove one in Paris for the better part of a decade (eyes right). Whether or not it is a good idea to multiply the kinds of cars that the main players have in mind (definitely not the one you see here) by say one billion or even some notable fraction of that is another matter. Have a look at this good attempt from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment to make some sense out of this one, where often enthusiasm and self-interest way outpace solid information. And then let’s talk about it.

Green power for electric cars
Harvesting the climate potential of electric vehicles

– A study by CE Delft
– Commissioned by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment


Transport is the sector with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Since 1990 its emissions have increased by 38%. (Including emissions from international shipping and aviation. Source: Statistical Pocketbook Energy and Transport 2009.)

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recognised this problem in September 2009 in his ‘political guidelines for the next Commission’. He said: “the next Commission needs to maintain the momentum towards decarbonising the transport sector as well as the development of clean and electric cars.”

A number of European countries have launched national programmes and promotion strategies for electric cars ranging from support for research and development to purchase incentives. But current EU policies offer no guarantee that more electric vehicles on Europe’s roads will lead to savings in carbon emissions over coming years.

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment have commissioned a study that:

• Analyses the impact of electric vehicles on the European power sector and on CO2 emissions.

• Assesses how policies should be changed in order to maximise greenhouse gas emission savings from the introduction of electric vehicles.

The report is released as the EU begins to develop its electric vehicle initiative and action plan (announced for May 2010).

The study finds that electric vehicles can in principle substantially contribute to decarbonising road passenger transport. They compare favourably to (even advanced) internal combustion engine cars in that:

– They are substantially more efficient than conventional vehicles.

– They can be fuelled with electricity generated from a large range of energy sources, including renewable sources with virtually zero CO2 emissions.

– They have no direct emissions.

– They can charge up with energy generated by renewables when there is a surplus of supply.

However, increasing the number of electric vehicles without a change in current legislation could result in:

– An increase in oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the EU car sector, compared to a situation without electric vehicles.- An increase in coal- and nuclear-based electricity production, instead of an increase in energy production from renewable sources.

Below are the main findings of the report and its recommendations to ensure that electric vehicles become an effective tool to reduce CO2 emissions.

1. Ensuring that electric vehicles reduce CO2 emissions from the car sector

Existing EU legislation on car emissions allows manufacturers to use sales of electric vehicles to offset the continued production of gas-guzzling cars. So-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles allow carmakers to sell 3.5 high-emitting cars for every electric car they sell, without affecting the overall CO2 target for their fleet. The report shows that this has the effect of actually increasing oil consumption and associated CO2 emissions, compared to a situation without electric vehicles. It finds that increasing sales of electric cars to 10% of total car sales could lead to a 20% increase in both the oil consumption and CO2 emissions of the overall fleet (conventional and electric vehicles).

The so-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles also reduce the contribution of electric vehicles to reaching the transport target of the EU’s renewable energy directive. The directive requires that 10% of the energy supply for the transport sector in 2020 come from renewable sources (biofuels and renewable electricity). Biofuels and renewable electricity for vehicles are in direct competition to achieve this target. As long as biofuels remain largely unsustainable, renewable electricity is the greenest option.

Policy recommendations:
a) Abolish so-called super credits for electric vehicles granted under EU legislation on CO2 emissions from cars and under forthcoming legislation on CO2 emissions from vans.

b) Ensure binding and ambitious 2020 targets for CO2 emissions from cars and vans that will increase overall efficiency for both combustion and electric vehicles.

2. Ensuring that the additional electricity demand resulting from the uptake in electric vehicles is met by additional renewable electricity

Carbon emissions from electric vehicles depend on the type of electricity they consume. When charged on renewable electricity, electric vehicles have a greenhouse gas impact of nearly zero. Charging them on electricity produced with coal results in equal or higher emissions than for comparable conventional vehicles.

The additional power demand for electric vehicles is expected to be relatively low. Assuming an uptake of up to 30 million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on EU roads, the increase would be less than 3% compared to current EU demand. But without demand management, any increase in energy consumption could simply increase fossil fuel and nuclear energy production. (Increasing electricity demand from transport is therefore likely to have an upward effect on the CO2 price in the EU’s emissions trading scheme. This effect has not been fully studied in this report, but is expected to remain small in the coming decade, as the additional electricity demand will be limited.)

In order to avoid these market distortions, EU member states should boost the supply of renewable electricity. They should also monitor and report estimates of the share of renewable electricity used in cars for the purpose of reaching their 10% renewable energy transport target. This would stimulate the deployment of smart charging technologies that favour renewables and create an attractive market for electric vehicles.

Policy recommendations:
c) Encourage member states to raise their renewable electricity targets in line with the additional demand for electric vehicles.

d) Encourage member states to report the estimated share of renewable electricity actually used in electric cars, and not simply the share of renewables in national electricity production.

3. Enabling the use of renewable electricity in electric vehicles
To enable a greater share of renewable electricity in the power mix and in electric vehicles, the electricity system should be made more flexible to allow for the integration of energy from variable renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy. Electric vehicles can play an important role in this development, as they combine long periods of connection to the grid with large storage capacity in their batteries. But they will only do so if they are equipped with on¬board metering systems. These would help them manage electricity input and primarily be charged when surplus electricity – mostly from renewables like wind and solar – is available on the power grid. Unless charging is properly managed, electric vehicles will not play a role in enabling the future renewable energy system.

To guarantee that car manufacturers apply the necessary technology for smart metering, the technology needs to be standardised and enforced through EU legislation. The standardisation and compatibility of such hardware and the ability of cars and electricity grids to exchange information would guarantee that drivers of electric vehicles could charge up anywhere.

Policy recommendations:
e) Develop smart cars and smart grids that are able to exchange data and that favour the use of renewable electricity.

f) Standardise charging technology to ensure that every driver can charge up anywhere in Europe.

# # #

Press release: Report:

Greenpeace – Franziska Achterberg: Greenpeace EU transport policy advisor, +32 (0)498 362403 (mobile),

Transport & Environment – Jos Dings: Director, Transport & Environment, +32 (0)498 51 53 19 (mobile),

CE Delft – Bettina Kampman: Senior researcher/consultant,
+31 (0)15-2150171, +31 (0)6 21520939 (mobile),

Listening to children

Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice
Volume 15, Number 1. March 2010
Editorial – John Whitelegg:

This issue contains two articles that on first reading may appear totally unrelated. This is not the case. The Kinnersly article – “Transport and climate change on a planet near you ” – is a comprehensive reflection on the links between economic growth, poor quality democracy, lack of will to deal with sustainability and biodiversity and the perversity of reckless decision taking that supports a business as usual (BAU) model of the world.

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Lesa þessa grein í íslenskum (World Streets and the many languages of our small planet)

Some of us who have been working internationally on the tough challenges of sustainable transportation and sustainable cities have for some years made best possible use of machine translation tools as available on the web. For years this has required a heroic combination of great interest, enormous patience and some linguistic ingenuity to figure out what the contents of the original x-language piece might actually be saying. But when one is curious and deeply interested, one perseveres and with a bit of luck is able to figure out something if not all of what the whole thing is supposed to be all about.

(For example, you doubtless recognized that the Icelandic language title to this article reads easily in English as “Read this article in Icelandic”. Of course you did.)

Fortunately, life has become considerably easier over the last year or two, as the best of the free translation services have made giant steps in terms of quality and usefulness. To this end we have worked over the course of the last decade pretty consistently with the increasingly satisfactory Babelfish/Yahoo engine at and more recently with the Google translate tool which you can find at

When we started publication of World Streets in March of last year, we decided from the beginning and for a variety of reasons which have to do above all with our readers’ requirements and interests to do our best to create seamless “other language” access to the contents of our new worldwide daily sustainability journal. If you have not yet had an opportunity to check our initial position on this, let me invite you to have a look at

Today the front page of the International Herald Tribune carries an article on recent developments in machine translations which you might like to have a look at. You will find it posted at . (If for some reason you are not able to get the full text from that address, drop us an e-mail to and we will send you a copy.)

Flip-flop translation

In closing, let us take a look at what might be a worst-case, flip-flop translation. Our point of departure is here, the last sentence in the IHT article.

Mr. Och acknowledged that Google’s translation system still needed improvement, but he said it was getting better fast. “The current quality improvement curve is still pretty steep,” he said.

And this is how it looks when we translate it first into Icelandic, and then the Icelandic text back into English. (In principle, if the past is any guide, this should not look very sharp. Let’s see.)

The Icelandic test run:

Mr. Och admit that Google translation system is still in need of reform, but he said it would get better quickly. “The current quality improvement curve is still pretty steep,” he said.

Hmmm. Now that is, you have to admit, pretty reassuring. Let us see if we can try a tougher test moving through a non-European language of fundamentally much different construction, say traditional Chinese. Here is what we get after our Google round-trip on this:

The Chinese test result:

Austrian district, admitted that Google’s translation system still needs to be improved, but he said it was getting better and better faster. “The current quality improvement curve is still quite steep,” he said.

Still, “Austrian district” and all Google’s machine has handed us a pretty good understanding of what Mr. Och had to say.

Now what about Haitian Creole: (Noting that this still an alpha version)?

Ok men acknowledged that Google’s translation system still needs improvement, but he said it was faster. “Curve current improvement is still beautiful cliff,” he said.

Ok men, with three simple tests now behind us, what can we venture to say about machine translation 2010 Google-style?

It is a tool, it works, it is not perfect.

But if you need it and you are ready to supplement it with your good sense and knowledge of context, it would be foolish not to use it when the occasion presents itself. (On the other hand, be prepared to have your that-language colleagues bellyache that the translated version in their language is not strictly idiomatic and further that it is, we have been told, “ugly as sin”. Ugly perhaps, but not all of our best friends are necessarily all that pretty.)

Thanks Google. And to all of the rest of you in this competitive sector who are going to respond with improvements of your own, thanks too.

Eric Britton

Nuova Mobilità reports on carsharing in Italy

As you are seeing in the other country reports in this series, the state of carsharing in 2010 is very much a different story in different places. To get a feel for the status of carsharing in Italy today, check out the latest article from our sister publication Nuova Mobilità, along with a choice: either the original article as it appears in Italian, or a machine translation into workable if not quite perfect English. Take your pick.
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International Women’s Day . . . and World Streets

Today is the ninety-ninth anniversary of the first International Women’s Day, a day well worth celebrating. And while we are at it a perfect occasion to remind ourselves of what we need to be thinking about and trying to do over the next twelve months to make sure that when 2011 and that important 100th anniversary roll around, we have made our own best effort for a better and brighter future for all. Because. . . women hold the key to the future of not only sustainable transportation but also to a sustainable and just world. It’s that simple. Continue reading