Vision: Some first reflections on what is, what can be a “Slow City”.

FB SC - slow city 1

Draft notes for a thinking exercise and comment.

–  Eric Britton, Institut Supérieur de Gestion, Paris, 6 June 2017

To create a city that works for all, we must start with a vision. Policy without vision is like driving blind-folded. In this short posting we would like to explore the vision of a Slow City.  You will have your own ideas on this but here are ours.  And of course your comments and suggestions are as always most welcome.

  1. The Slow City is recognizable. It is not ambiguous.   Has a clear sense of identity. When you’re there you know where you are. You walk down the street and you can almost smell it.
  2. There is no single formula or pattern for a Slow City. Every city has to figure it out for themselves.
  3. Proximity/Mixed use: In contrast with the reality of sprawl, social isolation and limited accessibility for the majority,  a place where many things you need in your daily life are within a comfortable and safe walk or bike ride.
  4. The Slow City is quiet, friendly and clean.
  5. And safe – for all, but above all for women and children (who are visibly apparent on the street).
  6. There are people on the streets (eyes on the street, assuring safety, amenity and human contact).
  7. Traffic is light, unobtrusive and moves slowly – in tempo with the others sharing the street.
  8. Mixed use: It offers schools, education and culture within a comfortable walk or safe bike ride.
  9. And commerce, services and jobs.
  10. It is lively and diverse, and deeply local.
  11. Active civil society, caring groups and NGOs to speak for and defend vulnerable populations.
  12. Open government, open data
  13. May well be a satellite city in a larger metropolitan region. A city within a city.
  14. It is soft on the planet and has a strategy to reduce GHG and other harmful emissions.
  15. It is frugal.
  16. It is self-governed – and the people there vote.
  17. You want to live there.

And when it comes to mobility and public space:

  1. The city offers more and better mobility choices.
  2. Mobility is seen as a right. And it needs to be affordable.
  3. An active policy guaranteeing fair mobility and access for all who live there.
  4. A place you can live quite happily without owning a car.
  5. But which offers a considerable range of other, mainly shared modes (carsharing, ridesharing, bike sharing, shared taxis, DRT, electrical transit systems (urban rail, trams, trolleybuses)
  6. Something like 80% less valuable public space being given over to dead (i.e., parked) cars who  are not paying their way.
  7. It is plugged in, smart if you will. 21st century transportation is 50% information.
  8. It has a strategic parking policy working to reduce the space given over to parked cars in the city (rendering this valuable public space available for other much more important  social and amenity uses)
  9. The body of existing experience and knowledge is altogether sufficient and available to those cities that would put it to work. It is not a knowledge problem.
  10. Nor a technology problem (the technology is there, proven and waiting to be put to work)
  11. Nor is it a money problem.
  12. It is a leadership,  behaviour and public awareness challenge (the hardest of all).

This may see very idealistic and unstructured – as is appropriate for a brainstorming exercise at this early stage.  However, if you do a bit of research you can see soft cities emerging, above all but not only at the leading edge in cities in Western Europe.  The Slow City is an emerging reality.  An invitation to democracy.  And plenty of listening, hard work and making sure there are more and better choices

# # #

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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