panang - Lim Mah HuiDr. Michael Lim Mah-Hui

The gentleman on the bike, Dr. Michael Lim Mah-Hui, is a city councilman in George Town, Penang, Malaysia. With an international background in economics, finance and public policy, he also has a long time interest in the challenges of sustainable development, livable cities, equitable transport, land use and historical preservation. He is active both as an elected councilor but also as a concerned and active citizen. He is in this, in his own words, for the long haul.

In a recent presentation to the City Council of Penang Island “Bicycling as One Component of a Comprehensive Transport Plan” — he wrote:
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Extra-urban Mobility Revolution Coming to your Doorstep

If I live outside of a city — say, in a classic spread suburb, rural area, commuter town or other hard to serve low density area — and if I happen not own a car, or on days when my car is not available, I am going to have an extremely hard time getting to work or wherever it is I need to go this morning.

rural carshare cowIn principle I have a few choices, for example: (a)  Get down on my knees and beg for a ride from family or neighbors. (b)  Try to find (and somehow get to) a bus or local pubic transport (in a period of ever-decreasing public services and budget cuts, so good luck!). (c) Search out a taxi if you can find one, call, wait for it eventually to show up and then pay a hefty amount. (d) For work trips, and if I am lucky, there may be a ride-sharing scheme.  Or, for many less comfortable but still possible, (e) the  hitchhiking option. (f) Or do like an increasing number of my fellow commuters and buy a cheap motorcycle. And perhaps most likely of all (g) be obliged to reschedule or forget the trip. But at the end of the day, and all things considered, I am forced to conclude that the reality of life in suburbia and rural areas today is: no car = no mobility. Harsh!

But stuff changes.We are entering a new and very different age of technology, communications and mobility, and as American writer Josh Stephens reminds us in the following article, things are starting to look up.

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Climate Change. . .  and why we are not taking it seriously

open car open rooad closed mindLisa Bennett,  a writer and communications strategist focusing on climate change, has just published an article in Grist in which she picks out ten problems that we just about all have with our behaviour, our psychology and our attitude toward the future, and in particular the inevitably uncertain future of climate change. We have extracted the ten points she speaks to in this summary below. For the full article you will have to turn to Grist here –http://goo.gl/hO9E3E.

The bottom line has to be that to the extent all those concerned are until now unable to mobilize enough people on these issues to make a difference, we are simply going to have to be  far better in making our case — and making and making and making it — than we have been up to now. Hard work ahead. Brain work! Let’s listen to Lisa.

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The Mayor of Paris invites you to leave your car in the garage

velib-guy Paris has a sustainable transportation strategy. It is working pretty well and they continue to make steady progress on it, though with miles to go before they sleep. What makes Paris particularly interesting and instructive  as a real world example is that  for many years it did not, and by the early 70s there were first big infrastructure initiatives knocking at the door that would have certainly turned it from being a city for people into a city for cars. And that particular destiny, by the way, was not just  a random series of events. It was premeditated,  largely shared in policy circles and destined to happen. At the time, in 1974, the Prefect for Paris (Paris did not at that point have its own mayor and hence a focal point and guardian of that special qualities) famously said (in my approximate but not inaccurate memory) “Parisians are born with two legs and four wheels”. Oops!

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Invitation to “Brussels”: European Citizens Mobility Forum on a New Mobility Paradigm, 23 March 2015

IRU Brussles report - cover photo of young womanOn the assumption that your plans may not have you in Brussels on Monday in time to join the meeting, but that you are nonetheless interested to follow the event and what might come out of it, this is an invitation for you to join the event as an “auditor”. In this capacity, all you need to do is sign in here and let us know of your interest. You will then receive the latest version of the brainstorming piece as will be discussed during the peer review session, working notes and observations of the participants, and a copy of the final wrap up report about a week later with, hopefully, a certain number  of followup steps or proposals. This will also give you an opportunity for comments and critical views which will be shared with the participants and other auditors (if we have your permssiion to do so).

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