World Transport Policy & Practice. Vol. 24 No.1. March 2018

Editorial

This issue brings together two important strands of thinking in sustainable mobility and the bigger picture around how the world is changing and now faces a rather stark choice.  We can either go down the route of high quality, people-centred, healthy, active, child-friendly cities or we can finish the job started  by Henry Ford and  shape a future dominated by vehicles and technology, exterminate  walking, cycling and public transport and deeply entrench our total submission to a space greedy, dollar-greedy, unhealthy technological domination of the way we live.  The latter is the world of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles (AVs) and is now attracting large scale support and buy-in from politicians, corporations and environmental groups.

* Full text available here – https://goo.gl/9aecLD

In this issue we are delighted that Jeff Kenworthy has set out a very clear case and argument for the sustainable ethical, child-friendly option that is available and is already working in many best practice cities around the world.  He provides a wealth of evidence and case studies to show that we can design high quality cities with low level of car dependency and a very high quality of life. This is supported by Wiki, Kingham and Banwell who pick up the Donald Appleyard revelations around “liveable street” and how attractive social spaces and quality of life depend on low traffic volumes.  We can have a high quality of life based on community activity and social interaction but only at low levels of traffic volumes.

The article on public transport  planning and funding in Casablanca reminds us all that the issues around sustainable mobility are being tackled in different ways in Africa, China, India and South America and require a very sensitive and evidence-based  approach to the development of solutions.  The European and North American model of widespread car ownership and use and huge subsidies from tax dollars to road building, car parking and vehicle manufacturing is being exposed around the world and colleagues in the countries struggling with congestion and pollution need assistance to provide alternatives to even more road building and motorised transport subsidies.  Casablanca has made a great deal of progress on its public transport projects but as Asmaa Aitboubkr shows that we need  to do a lot more thinking and prioritisation about equity and social justice and this means delivering traffic reductions and increases in walking  and cycling and reductions in road traffic danger.

The forces that are re-shaping our world in ways that Henry Ford would have approved of so that we  become even more dependent on sitting in cars and using vehicles for as many trips every day of any length to as many destinations as possible, are very strong.  Electric vehicles (EVs) have successfully colonised the thinking of many transport planners and sustainability organisations for their ability (allegedly) to sort out climate change.  Our view is that they do not represent a solution to climate change problems and the huge reductions in greenhouse gases that are required to deliver even a small chance of heading-off the worst consequences of climate change.  This is a difficult subject for all of us working on sustainability issues.  The EV has an excellent track record in shifting thinking, planning, spending and delivery into car world and contributing to the demise of walking, cycling and local public transport.

Support for EVs requires a very strong reminder of prioritisation of options in urban planning, transport and design.  This has been put very well indeed by Michael Cramer, MEP of the European Parliament Committee on Transport:

“Electric mobility can be part of the solution – but only if we overcome a narrow vision focused almost exclusively on private cars. Let’s start by reducing transport demand and by shifting to modes that are already very environmentally-friendly, like walking, cycling, public transport and the railways. It is absurd that some people now want to build overhead contact lines on motorways, while only 53% of the EU’s rail network are electrified.

“Electrifying transport can make sense provided that we choose a targeted approach. Let’s first focus on highly-used vehicles such as taxis, shared cars, buses and trains. And e-bikes already offer a real alternative for longer-distance commuting or cycling in hilly areas. Moreover, even the EU transport ministers confirmed that e-cargobikes could carry out more than 50% of all freight operations in European cities.

“E-mobility must be thought across all modes, and as such it is only a propulsion technology that can never replace good planning and clever policies.”

We are very pleased indeed that we have been given permission to publish the letter sent by 15 German transport professors to a major German newspaper on EVs and very grateful to Professor Helmut Holzapfel for arranging the translation. The letter makes some very important points that have been missed or misunderstood by many environmental organisations in the UK including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. EVs are not a solution to climate change problems.

The world of car-centric thinking has now moved heavily into autonomous vehicles (AVs) sometimes known as driverless cars (DCs). In this issue we have an article by John Mullins who works on AVs for a major UK based car manufacturer heavily  involved in AV’s. The views expressed are his own, in his private capacity. His main points are well made and will stimulate debate. I disagree with most of his points but this journal does not censor and wants to stimulate debate and will be delighted to publish any comments on AVs and their impact on re-shaping cities, societies and public health

In this issue we carry a book review of “Driverless cars: on a road to nowhere” by Christian Wolmar. The book and the review are very critical indeed of the hype around AVs and the ways it is intended to transform  mobility and cities and (possibly) exterminate walking, cycling and public transport.  We hope that readers will look at Mullins and the book review and contact us with comments.

Christian Wolmar is very good indeed at identifying the hype around AVs and the very poor track record on delivery.  In one of those wonderful serendipity moments that often crop up in the fertile world of sustainable mobility writing this editorial coincided with the receipt of a press release on AVs:

Driverless car will be able to turn water vapour to tea as they travel

Commuters could soon be taken to work in a driverless car which is so clean they could relax on the journey with a cup of tea – brewed using water from the tailpipe.

The state-of-the-art Hyundai Nexo is a crossover SUV vehicle which runs on electrical energy generated by hydrogen fuel cells.

Unlike traditional combustion engines, hydrogen cars don’t emit carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide so its only by-product is water vapour.

The water produced by Nexo could even be stored and used later to pour on plants or even used to make a cup of tea or coffee.

 – Source:  SWNS Digital, London

We do not know whether this is real or a “wind-up” and a joke but it fits very well indeed with Christian Wolmar’s emphasis on hype.  Assuming for the moment that it is real we note that there would appear to be nothing that driverless cars cannot deliver and help us all to improve our sad lives by making it possible to make tea from water dripping out of an exhaust pipe.

The articles in this issue bring into very sharp perspective two visions of the future.  We can have tried and tested, ethical, sustainable, socially just policies and interventions that shape our cities in ways that are very child-friendly and like Freiburg are delightful places to walk and cycle and prioritise non-car modes as the preferred solutions.  Alternatively we can have a future dominated by vehicles, streets that are dripping in vehicles and are unpleasant environments for residents and cities that are decidedly not child-friendly but are totally given over to an auto-utopia and a future that would be welcomed by Henry Ford, road builders and global corporations.  On current form the choice has been made and it is auto-utopia and several billion vehicles taking over every aspect of street life.

–  John Whitelegg, Founding Editor, World Transport Policy Practice

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Table of contents

  • Editorial
  • Abstracts and Keywords
  • Planning as if Children Mattered: A Case for Transforming Automobile Dependent Cities and Some Examples of Best Practice. –  Jeff Kenworthy
  • Re-working Appleyard in a low density environment: An exploration of the impacts of motorised traffic volume on street livability in Christchurch, New Zealand.  – Wiki J., Kingham S., and Banwell K.
  • Transportation Equity in Morocco: Preliminary analysis of Casablanca’s Tram Line. Asmâa Ait Boubkr
  • Electromobility: Will a changeover to electric-powered vehicles make transport systems environmentally friendly?  — Working Group of German and Austrian Emeritus Transport Professors
  • Driverless Cars Technology. What next? 30 Million cars on roads now, projected growth rates 20/30/2040?  Upsides and downsides.  — John Mullins
  • Driverless Cars: On a road to nowhere. Christian Wolmar — (Reviewed by John Whitelegg)  

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Abstracts and Keywords

Planning as if Children Mattered: A Case for Transforming Automobile Dependent Cities and Some Examples of Best Practice  — Jeff Kenworthy

Abstract

The automobile with its accompanying urban sprawl, roads and parking has changed cities dramatically in the last century from places where walking, cycling and public transport were the dominant or even only modes of transport. While the automobile can be a good servant it is a very bad master and has led to a host of environmental, economic and social problems for cities. One of the casualties of automobile dependence is the independent mobility of children and other vulnerable populations in cities, such as the elderly and those with disabilities.

This paper shows the extent of these problems and many of the fallacies that lie behind the idea that the car-based model of urban development has uniformly led to a better quality of life for everybody. It is presented in three parts. The first part provides a brief review of the problems of automobile dependence and the differences in this dependence between American, Australian, Canadian, European and wealthy Asian cities (Singapore and Hong Kong).

The second part considers some of the primary ways in which the character and qualities of cities can impact on the ability of cities to meet the mobility and other needs of people, especially children. It particularly tackles the question of density. It shows how assumptions about the benefits of low density and the negatives of high density have been overstated and how children have become a key casualty in this planning and policy-driven fallacy, which has helped drive cities towards greater automobile dependence.

The third part of the paper shows how unnecessary it is to continue along such paths by showing some best practice examples from around the world of cities that have ensured a better balance of transport modes and a much fairer and just system of land use and transport planning for children and other vulnerable populations, often making up about 50% of urban populations. Zurich, Vancouver, Freiburg im Breisgau, Portland, Munich, Stockholm and Seoul are examined, as well as the somewhat unifying concept of traffic calming.

Conclusions are drawn about the key things cities need to do to avoid the problems of automobile dependence and to begin to transform themselves into places that better meet everyone’s needs and which contribute to environmental, social and economic improvement.

  • Keywords: Children, Urban Density, Sprawl, Cities, Automobile Dependence, Community, Independent Mobility, Public Realm, Walking, Cycling

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Re-working Appleyard in a low density environment: An exploration of the impacts of motorised traffic volume on street livability in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Wiki J., Kingham S., and Banwell K.

Abstract

Street space was once an essential element of urban environments and provided a place for community interaction and engagement. This role however is increasingly being subverted by vehicular dominance. As a result street space no longer acts as a driver for social interaction in many places, which has significant impacts on the liveability of streets and the wellbeing of their residents.

This study sought to assess the extent to which motorised traffic volumes impact street liveability and community severance in Christchurch, a relatively low density city in New Zealand. Based on Appleyard’s work of the late 1970s, data was collected from six streets, in two areas, categorised into three motorised traffic volume classifications. Results showed that residents on light trafficked streets have more neighbourhood connections and community interactions and perceive their street to be more liveable. Furthermore, residents on heavy trafficked streets had a negative perception of their street environment, smaller local home areas and a decreased sense of belonging to their community.

This affirms relationships found in previous research and raises questions about what and whom the residential street spaces of Christchurch are, and should be, designed for.

Keywords: traffic, low density, environment, community, liveability, Christchurch.

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Transportation Equity in Morocco: Preliminary analysis of Casablanca’s Tram Line. Asmaa Ait Boubkr

Abstract:

In Morocco, the city of Casablanca – The 5th largest city of the country, with five million inhabitants- is facing important transport challenges of current burgeoning cities: the social sustainability of transportation sector remains inadequate, notably for the poor and women.

In order to remedy to this situation, the Moroccan Government has designed a broad program of investments in Casablanca by implementing a network of four tramway lines. Improving Casablanca’s transportation systems tends to achieve social equity objectives. However, transport equity analysis has not gained enough attention in tram line project studies as a concept of its own. This research is a preliminary analysis of mobility equity in the city of Casablanca undergoing the implementing of the first Tram Line.

Keywords: Vertical Equity, disadvantaged people, mobility, social,  equity.

 

* Full text available here – https://goo.gl/9aecLD

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About the editor:

Managing Director of Eco-Logica, John Whitelegg is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University,  and founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. Research interests encompass transport and the environment, definition of sustainable transport systems and a sustainable built environment, development of transport in third world cities focusing on the relationships between sustainability and human health, implementation of environmental strategies within manufacturing and service industry and development of environmental management standards. He has published widely on these topics. John is active in the Green party of England and Wales and is the national spokesperson on sustainable development.

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About the editor of World Streets

Eric Britton

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and international 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: The Politics of Transport – https://worldstreets.wordpress.com . | Britton online: https://goo.gl/9CJXTh

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