Op-Ed Archives: Danijel Rebolj on The Cultures of Mobility

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The Cultures of Mobility

What message could a private citizen, an engineer no less, from a small city of a country with barely two million inhabitants send to the Secretary of Transportation of the United States of America? Happily, there is more to transport and social policy than mere size. So if you decide to continue reading, I may have a modest message for you after all.

This evening, 6 February 2009, an interesting event will take place in my city. A thematic event has been organized, dedicated to the “Culture of Mobility”. In this we want to show (again) at the culture of mobility and the culture of the city are one and the same.

Maribor, my beautiful city, the second-largest in Slovenia, is to become the cultural capital of Europe in 2012. Today’s event will start with a documentary film to open up the perspectives of transportation decision-makers in the city of New York, “Contested Streets: a Mobility Tour of Four Great World Cities”. “Contested” takes its point of departure the old habit of automatically building new infrastructure for cars every time a traffic problem arose. The world-famous and world-practiced “forecast and build” culture

This one-hour film shows very clearly what makes the difference between cities where one would like to live, and those where one has to survive. (If you have not seen it, you can catch a trailer for it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEcJnZtBQy8&feature=channel_page you can order the DVD from the New York transportation alternatives group at http://www.transalt.org . Recommended.)

But in any city, anywhere in the world, you are going to find very similar people on each side of this classic debate: on the one hand those with long-practiced, straight forward but mostly unsustainable ideas. And those with a more thoughtful vision of sustainable prosperity.

When it comes to deciding between the two the real difference lies in the consciousness of the decision makers. Which ultimately determines the path a city takes in its evolution.

Thinking about traffic problems, transportation and mobility eventually brings us to thinking about the culture of a community. And then further down to the question of the quality of life and to the basic values of life. If you know the difference between a car and a bicycle, then you know what I mean. If not, try a bicycle. So, is there anything in this message you didn’t know already? Probably not. But it’s good to know there are people with similar visions all around the globe, isn’t it.

URL for video trailer

Dr. Danijel Rebolj, danijel@rebolj.si
University of Maribor, Faculty of Civil Engineering
Maribor, Slovenia

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See www.messages.newmobility.org for latest version of this report of the New Mobility Agenda.

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