Our mobile conscience 

Dealing with good and evil (in traffic)

drawing head held anxietyIn 2010 a 38-year-old motorist filled with remorse entered a police station in the Netherlands to give himself up. Twenty years earlier he had run over a child and was ridden with guilt. The man explained that he slept badly since the accident, suffered from nightmares and could not find a decent permanent job. The approximately five-year-old child unexpectedly crossed the road and he could not brake in time. While another motorist took care of the victim, he drove away and since then he lived contrary to his conscience. Until it was too much for him that morning and he decided to surrender himself.

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Did someone say, White Chairs?

amsterdam white chairsDuring Rotterdam’s public art festival Wereld van Witte de With, urbanism office M.E.S.T. reanimated this idea. But instead of bikes, the designers left 350 white chairs in public space in Rotterdam. The chairs served as a terrace for all the decentralized performances, and fed a discussion about public space and ownership at the same time. People were allowed to use the white chairs freely and to take them to any other location as long as they remained part of public space. The white chairs were slowly spread across the city. According to the festival organization, they were even spotted at the Central Station of Leiden, a town somewhere between Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Continue reading

Did someone say, White Chairs?

Man and car: Who is driving whom this morning?

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

Autolib’ to the starting line

This weekend saw the first public testing of the much bruited Autolib’ carshare project currently getting underway here in Paris. And as you wait for our in-depth coverage, on-the-spot  interviews and film  we thought you might find it handy to refresh your understanding of the basic objectives and challenges, with this reprint of our 10 December 2010 article in which we try to take a balanced view of this ambitious transportation project.  You will be hearing a lot more about Autolib’ in the coming months. If it works, it will be a major transformative project and will make a lot of people start to think in quite different terms about how they are going to get around in the city in the future. (For a quick print update try here and here.  And for a short video, here) Continue reading