Report from China: Op-Ed by Robert U. Ayres
In December I travelled to the city of Kunming, in Yunnan province, China. The occasion of the trip was to attend a conference on planning and give a talk on economics at that conference. The host was the newly appointed provincial Governor, who is also the Communist Party Chairman for Yunnan. The organizer was the former chief planner for Singapore, and the attendees were academics and civil servants in the urban planning departments from all of the major cities of organizer was the former chief planner for Singapore, and the Yunnan province. I was invited on short notice (only two weeks) and I was asked to provide a copy of my talk in advance, without much detailed information about the actual situation. What I did know about China was more applicable to Beijing and Shanghai than to Kunming. So, I had to “punt”, as they say.
The objective here is to combine vision, policy, technology and entrepreneurial skills in such a way to create and make available to all a combined, affordable, multi-level, convenient, high choice mobility system which for just about everybody should be more efficient than owning and driving a car in or into town. Let us start with this as our goal and then see what is the work that must be done in order to turn it into a reality.
Matts-Åke Belin has a job title that might sound a little foreign to an American ear, but one that’s very important in his home country of Sweden: traffic safety strategist. He holds that position with the Swedish Transport Administration, where he has been one of the key architects of the policy known as Vision Zero. Since approved by the Swedish parliament in October 1997, Vision Zero has permeated the nation’s approach to transportation, dictating that the government manage the nation’s streets and roads with the ultimate goal of preventing fatalities and serious injuries. It’s a radical vision that has made Sweden an international leader in the area of road safety.
There is a program in Seattle, WA that wants to teach you to become an “Undriver”. — Go to http://undriving.org/ for details.
Using creative methods to brainstorm and implement different ways to cut down on driving trips, their mission is to challenge people to reduce car trips in any way, shape or form.
Think of this as an Executive Summary in a single page to identify and clarify policy for a core element of a very complex urban system of many parts and linkages. In fact, the very one we are attempting to deal with here: the impacts of the many too many cars syndrome. But what is we treat this as a step in a useful direction.