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.
This little picture gives us a few ideas about cars in China today. Important if we bear in mind that today is the first day of the future.
China, we have long said, is the only elephant in the world of nations who can turn on a dime. Here’s one example.
EPI Bicycle Share Fact Sheet
The prevalence of bicycles in a community is an indicator of our ability to provide affordable transportation, lower traffic congestion, reduce air pollution, increase mobility, and provide exercise to the world’s growing population. Bike-sharing programs are one way to get cycles to the masses.
What is our goal in the sustainability wars? If it is to feel noble because we are doing the “right thing” and to build our programs and plans of attack on that (call it “moral suasion”), we run the risk of ending up a proud soldier lying dead on the field of action with the last words from our mouths, that of Gott mit uns (god is on our side). Those of us who feel deeply enough about these issues to wish to act effectively have to put our pious thoughts and personal preferences aside and gear up 100% for a single goal — to win! Sun Tsu had a few thoughts on that in The Practical Art of War.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Public Bicycle Share (PBS) Systems are growing in popularity and spreading across many cities and countries. In Asia, the number of PBS’ has grown close to a 100 from just one in 2007 and Asia also boasts of the largest system with about 90,000 cycles in Wuhan, China. Europe too saw the number of systems grow six fold in just six years.
Clean Air Asia has been working to raise the profile of Non Motorized Transport (NMT) and now with the University of Queensland is conducting this survey to understand the perception on PBS, especially in Asian cities. We request you to answer the questions to gives us better insights on PBS.
More than 600 cities around the globe have bike-share systems, and new systems are starting every year. The largest and most successful systems, in places such as China, Paris, London, and Washington, D.C., have helped to promote cycling as a viable and valued transport option.
The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) studied 25 bike-share systems throughout the world, analyzing which ones perform the best and why. That informed ITDP’s Bike Share Planning Guide, which has copious data and fascinating charts to pore over, helping cities create bike-share systems that will thrive
This guide evaluates international best practice in bike-share, helps to bridge the divide between developing and developed countries’ experiences to provide guidance on planning and implementing a successful bike-share system regardless of the location, size, or density of your city. For more information on the growth of bike-share systems, watch this Streetfilms video, Riding the Bike Share Boom.
As we look at the city of George Town, with a population of some 750,000 living with the city limits of ca. 120 sq/km (roughly the size of the city of Paris), one of the things that comes most immediately to mind is that, despite the significant challenges posed by the current transportation arrangements, it is certainly not an example of a major Asian megalopolis, or even a “large city” by Asian standards. And even if we take into account the entire George Town Conurbation, the total population is just a bit more than 2.2 million.
So what can we call it? What about a medium-sized Asian city?
May the Year of the Snake be the year in which China no longer follows the old tired paths of the twentieth century, but shows the world new ways to tackle city mobility improvement with striking on-street examples of affordable and efficient ways to move into a new era of harmony and transportation with a human face.
Here are our seven wishes for efficiency, harmony and mobility in Chinese cities in this Year of the Snake. Continue reading
While musing about China these days, and particularly about how they are handling policy and invement decisions involviing transport, mobility and public space during this period of possible change of thinking at the highest policy levels there (See World Streets http://wp.me/psKUY-2Kb), I am listening this weekend once again, decades later, to the still surprising Nixon in China of John Adams. And wondering how my Chinese friends might react to this.
This is excellent piece of analytic work by a young Canadian scholar, strips away many of the all too easy myths about China and Chinese copycat culture, and puts before us quite a different picture of their competitive potential for a very different future. . Let me quote the author’s opening paragraph which does a good job of setting the stage for what follows.
Conversations about innovation in the United States are rife with the adversarial language of exceptionalism. Rather than view China’s economic rise as a threat, American businesses and policy makers should take an open-minded look at the Chinese national innovation system. Innovation, according to the Chinese, should be in service of overcoming social and environmental challenges, not only generating prosperity and new inventions. And rather than viewing innovation as an individual pursuit, the Chinese recognize the necessity of a strong government role.
And from this end I want to transpose this message specifically to the transport sector as it concerns us here at World Streets. If in the past we have seen that the Chinese response to their rapid city growth and exploding transportation requirements has been to mimic the (worst of) the West yard by yard, can we reasonably assume that they will continue on such a path in the future? I for one doubt it, so let’s keep a weather eye on the new generation of problem-solvers, solutions and approaches they are going to put to work. Since we all surely will have a great deal to learn from them. But now let’s hear what Eric Kennedy has to say about China’s new national innovation system:
THINKING ABOUT CHINA: 2013-2015
The drive to sustainable transport and sustainable cities in China is one of the central focuses of the World Streets 2013-2015 work program just getting underway (it would have to be, wouldn’t you say?), as you will see on the small menu item just to your top/left here. Thus far it is organized in two parts:
- What World Streets has had to offer thus far – Click here
- And from our Facebook page of this title – Click here
– – – >But stay tuned. More to follow here
We have been asked to post the videoconference keynote address to the second World Share/Transport Forum that took place in Changzhi China from 24-25 October with Chinese subtitles which you will find here. Additional background information on the project follows below.
Changzhi, China. 24 October: The Second World Share/Transport Forum opens in Changzhi today, with the mission of looking into the concept of Share/Transport for selective adaptation, application and extension in Chinese cities. The Forum is supported by a collaborative effort led by the China Urban Transport Development Strategy and Partnership Demonstration Project (CUTPP): National Development and Reform Commission, the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It builds on and extends the pioneering work on share/transport initiated by the international team who laid the base for the first World Forum that was convened in Kaohsiung Taiwan in September 2010.
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.)
The poor state of pedestrian facilities in some Asian cities was highlighted in the report published by the Asian Development Bank and the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities. Ironically, the lowest walkability ratings are found to be along public transport terminals and schools where footpaths, pedestrian amenities and access for persons-with-disabilities are sorely lacking. Continue reading
Guangzhou is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. The economic hub of China’s southern coast, it has undergone three decades of rapid modernization, and until recently the city’s streets were on a trajectory to get completely overrun by traffic congestion and pollution. But Guangzhou has started to change course. Last year the city made major strides to cut carbon emissions and reclaim space for people, opening new bus rapid transit and public bike sharing systems. Continue reading
While Paris and London hog the world’s media attention with Boris’ Bikes and the Velib, by some accounts the Chinese city of Hangzhou now boasts the world’s largest and most used public shared bicycle system. Rory McMullan, contributing editor, reports on his impressions of the city, its transport network and the public bike system from an on-street carbon-free visit during the Chinese New Year.