The New Mobility Agenda gets a hearing in Barcelona with a “Come argue with me” session

This is to invite you to “attend” at least part of a session of a conference that is to take place next week in Barcelona on the topic of “Smart Cities”. You can find full information on the conference here, along with links to all working papers and videos that will be presented over the four days  The particular bit I would like to point you to is my keynote talk and challenge which opens the plenary on “Urban mobility: Achieving social efficiency”. A full set of working notes and background materials for my presentation is available here. As you will note I have serious reservations about pushing the concept of a “smart city”, which to my mind is a pretty loaded phrase, complete with tandem mindset. I invite your comments and critical remarks on any of the points that appear here, and I shall try to deal with them as possible. Thanks in advance. The final talk will be available on video, as will the presentations for all the speakers in this interesting session.

The New Mobility Agenda: Come argue with me

– Eric Britton, Opening keynote. Barcelona, 2 Dec. 2011

The author draws a line in the sand to separate once and for all the fundamental strategic differences between what he calls “old mobility” — by which he groups the costly and intrusive principles and practices which largely dominated public policy in cities worldwide over primarily the second half of the twentieth century – from the powerful in-process paradigm shift which brings us to the New Mobility Agenda, an informed strategy for public policy and private practice as now being practiced with variations in leading cities around the world.

The key strategic shift is to move away once and for all from our discredited twentieth century knee-jerk emphasis on vehicles, technology and infrastructure — and instead concentrate attention on people and what they want, what they need, and what makes them tick. The core of this strategy is to substantially reduce the number of cars moving or parked on city streets, while at the same time building up a great bouquet of alternative mobility services, the goal of which is to provide “better than car” transportation, concentrating on the needs of the 80% of the people who have been ill-served by old mobility practices.

To end with the good news: we are out of money, and better yet this situation is not going to greatly improve over the next three or four years directly ahead. This means that instead of spending and building ourselves even further into the deep ditch of unsustainability, we are going to have to stand back and concentrate on policy measures and packages of services which are low-cost but which when melded into a thought-out package will have very high impacts in all of the key areas. We have a great and exciting period ahead of us. Recalibrate!

Key words:
Sustainability. Access. Equity. Consistency. Continuity. 80%. Deep democracy. Space. Slowth. Propinquity. Mixed use. Quiet. Economy. Job creation. Local commerce. Fair housing. Inclusiveness. Social media. Technical virtuosity. Recalibrate!

# # #

* For the full working paper, click here.

* For conference information, here.

* Selected presentations from the conference will be featured in these pages.

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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2 thoughts on “The New Mobility Agenda gets a hearing in Barcelona with a “Come argue with me” session

  1. Eric,
    I’m sure you will enjoy the debate in Barcelona – I just hope you are not overwhelmed by the numbers of Smart City converts! Rest assured, there will be lots of us elsewhere supporting your presentation.


  2. I think it is a good and simple idea to say that within city limits (except on those superhighways), the speed limit everywhere is 20mph or 30kph.


    I don’t know about elimination of traffic lights. I am not a complete fan of clean streets. Third world streets are already clean and they are chaos and lots of people get hit and injured. And, as I was thinking to myself today, it is a complete fallacy to say that people/pedestrians seem to move perfectly through space without collision and therefore so should cars. The reality is that we do bump and jostle when things get crowded, but slow speeds and our scratch-proof clothing means that they are unnoted and without concern. I’m willing to let that happen with light traffic too. But we have to be honest and know that we will have accidents, but they won’t be fatal, or even very harmful in most cases.

    Robin Chase


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