– By Eric Britton, World Streets/New Mobility Agenda, February 2011
Scottish Transport Review, Issue 50. ISSN 1462-8708 http://stsg.org/str/str50.pdf
A Mental Architecture problem
“When it is dark you can see the stars”
Perhaps the main reason we are doing so poorly these days in transport is that we are making three fundamental errors in what we are looking at, the manner in which we are looking at it, and what we are doing with it:
Comment: Have we learned any of these lessons in the last eight years? Or are we still turning over our motors in traffic? Your call!
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
On the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day:
Today, 8 March 2011 is International Women’s Day, the one hundredth anniversary of
this great and necessary idea. So what better occasion for World Streets to announce publicly, loudly and yet once again our firm belief that the most important single thing that our society, our nations and our cities could do to increase the fairness and the effectiveness of our transportation arrangements would be to make it a matter of the law that all decisions determining how taxpayer money is invested in the sector should be decided by councils that respect full gender parity. We invite you to join us in this challenge and make it one of the major themes of sustainable transport policy worldwide in the year immediately ahead.
Thank you Mayor Hau Lung-pin for this invitation to come to Taipei City this year to discuss the celebration of the city’s tenth successive Car Free Day — and as part of this collaborative brainstorming process to draw on my experience of some seventeen years working with this, one hopes, transformative transportation approach to taming cars and traffic in different cities around the world.
This year’s Green Transportation Forum has given me an opportunity to meet once again with many old friends and distinguished colleagues working in the sustainable transport sector, and to hear about the progress the city has made in working with this approach in this first decade. In all I ended up spending a full week in the city and the surrounding region, in order to have a better appreciation of the overall transportation situation, which of course is what the Car Free Days are supposed to be all about. The goal of the Green Transportation Forum was to lay the way for the CFD X celebrations on Thursday, the 22nd of September. And if you turn to the closing annex here you will find a summary of the principal events organized by the Taipei city team for this year’s celebration.
But after ten years might it not be a good time to think about making some major structural changes in the CFD formula and procedures, perhaps with a goal to being more ambitious about what we would like them to achieve for the city in the decade ahead? The Forum gave us an opportunity to compare notes on this. We had a lively time brainstorming on this topic, and I believe came up with some interesting ideas for next steps , as you will see in the following summary. In closing I would like to thank Mayor Hau and his team for a warm welcome and highly efficient series of events. Every time I come to Taiwan I end up learning a great deal and this visit was no exception. Thank you all.
– Eric Britton, World Streets and EcoPlan International, Paris. 7 October 2011
“Regulations that prohibit shared taxis are an example of worst practice.” – Ann Hackett
In eleven short words Ann Hackett has put her finger on one of the most egregious “Worst Practices” in our field. And, as it happens, one that we know enough about to easily resolve.
This 2011 report by May Hald, Petter Christiansen and Vibeke Nenseth of the Norwegian Center for Transport Research on carsharing in Oslo gives us a good feel not only for carsharing activities in that one city but also more generally user preferences and choice factors in Norway and Scandinavia.
A collaborative network activity such as World Streets needs to find its own best combination of Sir Isaiah Berlin’s variant on the Greek parable of the Hedgehog and the Fox (“the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”). Given the huge information overload with which we live in this highly strung twenty-first century, it is absolutely critical that we play the hedgehog and stick rigorously to our topic. But… at the same time the many sided reality is that our topic by its very nature requires us also to be a fox. Thus are the contradictions and challenges of maturity. Continue reading
What is it about what the English call a motor car that, when an otherwise perfectly decent human enters it and slams the door shut, somehow there is a total transformation of that person gripping the stirring wheel into something, into someone who is just a little bit less decent and a little bit less human. A consistent theme of World Streets is that over the last hundred years or so our cars have not only transported us but they have also in the process also transformed us. Oops. And in the process they have fatally (I chose my word) altered the dimensions of the space in which we live our daily lives, and in the same process made this thing that was supposed simply to transport us from A to B at our leisure, into a defining part of our daily lives — and indeed in some ways part of ourselves. A cruel critic might say, half Faust and half Frankenstein. Continue reading
Michael Kimmelman reports in today’s New York Times about the new trend whereby “All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created.” That is certainly good news and true, but there is a bit more to it than that as you will see if you read on. Continue reading
As we move ahead with the Safe Streets project over the course of the year ahead, there will be a small group of people to whom we shall be referring from time to time who have, through their insights and contributions, basically redefined the entire field of transport in cities. And Mrs. Jane Jacobs is of course one of this wonderful group. We are honored to be able to share these leadership profiles with you, and for Mrs. Jacobs we pass the word to Michael Mehaffy who reminds us of her contributions and takes on her critics head-on. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
The letter that follows is, as you will quickly surmise, not an actual communication from one elected official in one case, but rather a composite, the distillation of experience that I have had over these last years of trying to push the sustainable transportation agenda in many parts of the world, almost always in conjunction and in dialogue with mayors and other city leaders. As you will see, it is not that they are adverse to or not interested in the concepts behind sustainable transportation and sustainable cities. It is just that they have a great many other things on their mind, including staying on top day after day of the considerable challenges of managing their city — and, in not very long, running once again for reelection. This is the political reality of which those of us who would be agents of change must be aware, that politics is the art of the possible. Now let’s turn the stage over to our mayor:
This open project from EPOMM — the European Platform on Mobility Management — is an absolutely brilliant idea. It does not require much explanation to get started; you can be off and going if you simply to click here and dig into their Google map. That said, a few words of introduction may not be altogether without their use to help you take full advantage of their good work. Continue reading
Your editor was kindly invited by Mayor Hau Lung-pin to come to Taipei City this year to discuss preparations for the celebration of the city’s tenth successive Car Free Day — and as part of this collaborative brainstorming process to draw on my experience of some seventeen years working with this, one hopes, transformative transportation approach in different cities around the world. The presentation is in three parts:
* Rethinking Car Free Days in Taipei City: Part I – This introduction
* Rethinking Car Free Days in Taipei City: Part II – Keynote Address
* Part III: Letter and comments from Jason Lin, Commissioner of Transportation, City of Taipei
Policy makers have given ample proof that they just don’t get it. They plan and spend hard-earned taxpayer money for a distinct minority of all citizens and voters. It is amazing that they still manage to get elected. What’s going on in their heads? Continue reading
From the Editor’s Desk:
This year’s World Carfree Network Conference was organized by the dynamic and fast growing city of Guadalajara, under the title Towards Carfree Cities (Hacia ciudades libres de autos), and with the support and management of two local activist groups, Ciudad Para Todos and GDL en Bici. I was invited to provide the opening keynote address on the topic of “Better Cities with a Lot Fewer Cars”, to kick off a weeklong festival of events, discussions, and presentations in the context of their program. My chosen themes were (a) deep democracy and (b) the need for immediate action. I was wonderfully received and learned a lot during my busy week with them. Continue reading
Our long-time colleague and very dear friend Lee Shipper left us on Tuesday evening, warmly surrounded by family and loving friends. Since he meant so much to so many of us who have been involved in the uphill struggle for sustainability in all its forms and corners of our lives, I thought it would be appropriate to open up these pages over the next days, and possibly more than that, to a selection of pieces in which the author reflects on the kind of very special person that Lee was. Continue reading
Our old friend and long time colleague Lee Schipper is sitting in a hospital bed in Berkeley California today, and since your editor is stuck in Paris and can’t visit him, we thought that while he gets his strength back we would reach into our and others archives and publish a series of pieces to celebrate his deep knowledge of all that World Streets is about, his excellent judgement and his world level communications skills. (And if you have something by Lee that you would like to share with our readers as we wait for him to swing back into action, please send it on.)
It is the consistent position of this journal that much of what is wrong with our current transportation arrangements in cities could be greatly alleviated if we can find ways just to slow down. It is very powerful — and it’s just not that hard to do. Get comfortable and have a look. Continue reading
The overflowing inbox this morning brought a reminder of a tool to which in this age of info-overload we had not given much thought of late – the expanded and honed TRID database. This is not just a good database and handy resource — it is an EXCELLENT tool for planners, policy makers, academics, and quite possibly you. If you are not already using it, at the very least check out the quick presentation here. We shall shortly publish a more complete critical introduction to this excellent transportation research resource. In the meantime, here is a quick intro and key to putting it to work. Continue reading