Civic Plan for a Climate Emergency

wierd city buit si-fi environment

Building the 1.5 degree, socially-just city

Discussion document for policy makers & civic leaders

Paul Chatterton, School of Geography, University of Leeds, UK. Full text HERE

This climate emergency is also a ‘city emergency’. Most of the world’s population will soon be urban. Cities are locked in to high energy throughputs, are responsible for about three-quarters of global GHGs and energy use, have ecological footprints larger than their city limits, and remain locked in to high-growth, high-consumption lifestyles.

In the context of growing awareness of the severity of climate breakdown, the central role cities play in this, and the lack of rapid action, municipalities around the world are declaring ‘climate Emergencies’. To date 40 municipalities in the UK have signed such a declaration. Worldwide around 50 million now live in cities that have declared emergencies. This is an exciting addition to city level action through, for example, the C40 Leadership Group and the Global Covenant of Mayors.

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“It’s the pace of the technology meeting the pace that our municipalities move at”

Dockless bike pile up image silenthill imagine China

Image: SilentHill

Ouch! And so well said!

These few telling words from  Stacy Thompson, director of the Livable Streets Alliance, a transportation advocacy group watching out for the public interest in Boston Massachusetts — in the context of a critical commentary on the dockless bike wars that are  presently ravaging cities and challenging governments around the world.

And this of course is what World Streets is supposed to be all about: The Politics of Transport in Cities.  Satcy has put our challenge into a nutshell.

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Op-ed: LLoyd Wright In Response to Free Public Transport?

Following up on Simon Norton comments here of 2016/08/07

Lloyd Wright“Public Space” is generally mostly free. This includes footpaths, parks, and town squares. If one advocates charging for public transport, it would seem most of the same arguments would apply to public space. And yet few would actually support such a position, principally on grounds of equity.

There are also ways to make public transport funded on a sustainable basis while making it free to the user. There are cities which utilize a parking levy to completely cover all public transport costs.

Such modal funding transfers also carry a great deal of appropriateness when one considers the actual societal costs brought by private motor vehicle use and the actual societal benefits of collective transport.

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Keynote : International Forum on Livable City and Eco-Mobility – Hsinchu, Taiwan. 29 January 2015

taiwan Hsinchu eb in traffic smaller long

Intersection in the central  OSK  demonstration site

The following PowerPoint slides were created to accompany a fifty minute keynote address by the editor of World Streets to the International Forum on Livable City and Eco-Mobility hosted by the Hsinchu city government in Taiwan on 29 January 2015. (A video of the address to be made shortly available.)

The presentation addresses and comments on the challenges being faced by this recently elected new administration, including in the context of his book in progress “Convergence: General Theory of Transport in Cities “, with discussion as well of sections of the recently published book of the Canadian urbanist and writer Charles Montgomery, “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design”.

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Great gaping chasms of public space (and private minds)

Just how bad are “best practices” when it comes to the streets and sidewalks of our cities?

When it comes to city streets it is truly weird what we seem to be placidly willing to accept as “normal”.

Sweden cartoon showing road space eaten by cars

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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

Do It Like The Dutch & Danes: Guide To Becoming A Bike Friendly Mecca

Why are some European cities cycling mad? And how can other cities copy their infrastructure? ECF spoke to Kalle Vaismaa, co-author of the book “Best European Practices in Promoting Cycling and Walking”. (Article source: European Cyclists’ Federation ECF)

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More on public, private and social space. Andrew Curry reports from occupied London – Part II

Hopefully we have learned at least one hard lesson of life, and that is that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. And here right before our eyes we have a case in point with the Occupy movements that are sweeping Europe and North America, a public crisis that is most unexpectedly taking place on “public land”. And then suddenly, with no advance notice, everything starts to morph and the issues involved start to encompass not only the continuing unchecked egregious abuses of the financial community but also important (for democracy) issues of public  space — one of our consistent concerns here at World Streets. So in an effort to make sure that we do not miss the opportunity behind this crisis, we pass the word back to Andrew Curry so that he can build further on his article under this title earlier this week Continue reading

More on public, private and social space. Dispatch from Andrew Curry reporting from occupied London

We think quite a lot about space here at World Streets, from at least two perspectives. First and naturally enough given that the goal of transportation/mobility/access is specifically to find ways to bridge space, in one way or another, and for better or for worse. And second, because when we get to cities, and given the bulimic, gorging nature of our present dominant transportation options, space starts to get in very short supply (the so-called elephant in the bedroom syndrome). But it is not just space per se; no less important is the quality of public and social space in cities that is (or at least should be) a continuing concern of policy makers and citizens alike. So when we spotted a thoughtful piece such as Andrew Curry’s short article that follows, we are glad to be able to share it with our readers. Continue reading

Tragedy of the Commons: The car as enclosure

Chris Bradshaw, Canadian planner and new mobility innovator, takes us on a quick peek into cars as “enclosures” of what should more rightly be the common domain in our cities. When we look at it this way, the concept of a “right to park” starts to look quite different. We are once again back to the concept of “worst practices” on the one hand, and on the other, our the understanding of space as public, private . . . or social. All of a sudden we have a new and quite different base for discussion and policy. Continue reading

Moving Beyond the Automobile – Exit Parking

The tenth and final video in Streetfilms’ Moving Beyond the Automobile series, looks into the necessary reasons and some of the techniques for parking reform. While the context is New York City, the  lessons are universal. From doing away with mandatory parking minimums, to charging the right price for curbside parking, to converting on-street parking spots into parklets and bike corrals, cities are latching onto exciting new ideas to make more room for people in our cities and repurpose the valuable public space that lines our streets. Continue reading

Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City

The author of this careful and quite extensive book review of the battle for America’s streets is Karthik Rao-Cavale, a graduate student at Rutgers University and an associate editor of our sister publication, India Streets. He writes: “This review was originally written for a class I am taking with Prof. John Pucher here at Rutgers University. I am putting up this review here even though the book reviewed talks mainly about the United States, because I feel that the lessons learned are most immediately applicable to developing world. It is a lengthy read, but I hope you will enjoy it.”

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Parks vs. Parking: What do Indian cities need?

Chennai had prepared a plan some years ago for a multi-storey parking deck  in T. Nagar where the Panagal Park now stands. T Nagar, once a quiet residential neighbourhood, is now the shopping centre for all of Chennai and has tremendous levels of congestion. The parking plan was called off due to protests by walkers and elderly citizens. I recently got the happy news that a revised plan to build an underground multi-storey parking facility below the Venkatanarayana Road playground also got struck down in the Madras High Court. The court reasoned that the city was lacking in open spaces – which are now considered an integral part of the constitutional right to life. The parcel under consideration is zoned as an open space and has been in use as a playground for more than 60 years. The court found that this activity cannot be disrupted for providing services to motorists who visit this central neighbourhood in the city for shopping. Continue reading

Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich.

Earlier this week I proposed the idea of a group read and commentary on Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”, but as I thrashed through my personal library I was unable to lay my hands on what I remember as a small book with a yellow cover. Luckily Jane Voodikon, a Jason Chang Fellow and journalist from Chengdu, came to the rescue with a link to the full text which follows (thanks in turn to clevercycles.com and certainly with the full approval of Illich given the fact that Amazon’ best price for the hard cover edition today was $269.21). How do you think these remarks and views stand the test of time? We need to bear in mind the political (Vietnam, Cold War, Allende,  1968, etc.) currents of the time, along with the Oil Crisis, Club of Rome, The Limits of Growth,  etc., discussions, concerns and panics of the early seventies.  But none of this detracts from the singular vision that this exceptional observer and finest of men has given us.

So here you have it. The whole thing. Print it out. Mark it up. Share your thoughts. Let me take a single phrase from the book to get the ball rolling: “Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.” (And this almost two decades before the phrase “sustainable development” first appeared on the radar screen.  So off we go with Illich as our guide!) Continue reading

World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 16, No. 2. August 2010

The Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice is the long standing idea and print partner of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda. The summer 2010 edition appears today, and in the article that follows you will find the lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg, along with abstracts of the principal contributions. (For a more complete introduction to WTPP click here.) Continue reading

Honk! “Straddling” Bus? (Have a stupid weekend)

The happy life is one where every day something happens that makes us smile. Today we were blessed with this article that appeared in China Hush under the title  “Straddling” bus–a cheaper, greener and faster alternative to commute. Your editor was fascinated and hopes that you will be too.

Thank you Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co., Ltd. for your brilliantly stupid idea. We have entered it as a candidate for our world famous World Streets Worst Practices award for 2010.  Wish them luck! Continue reading

Parking slots are like . . . toilets?

This is supposed to be the fatal ten day stretch during which your valiant editor has promised to be out there pounding the pavement to secure sources of finance so that we can keep World Streets going. But every day interesting ideas and proposals for projects keep slipping in over the transom, some of which just too hard to resist. Here is today’s slip in his otherwise firm resolve. Sorry. Simply irresistible.
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Promoting road safety and clean air in Kathmandu

This is the second article in a series coming in from Nepal, showing how the combination of traffic restraint and the push toward the creation of pedestrian- friendly areas is giving results in their capital city. The reader should bear in mind that the traffic situation on most of the city streets is extremely chaotic and dangerous, above all as a result of the explosion of fast-moving two wheelers. The city also suffers from major air quality problems due to a noxious combination of heavy traffic, dirty engines, thin air, natural meteorological factors and its location in the high Kathmandu Valley.

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Paris’ Plan to Kick Cars Off Its Riverbanks

In the pages of World Streets we lean heavily to giving attention to concepts and policies which promise near-term relief from the worst abuses of old mobility. But this does not mean turning our backs on longer-term thinking and strategies, as long as they do not contravene the basic sense of priorities which are needed for a consistent and effective sustainability policy. Here is a brief article that appeared in this week’s Time magazine which reports on views, pro and con, about the possibility of converting some significant chunks of Paris’s urban highway for uses by people, instead of cars.

Paris’ Plan to Kick Cars Off Its Riverbanks

– by Jeffrey T. Iverson,Paris. Time Magazine, Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010

On a recent Sunday in Paris, stroller-pushing parents, rollerbladers and cyclists eased their way up and down an unusually tranquil stretch of the Seine’s left bank. Normally this road is filled with thousands of cars zipping along, but once a week it is transformed into an oasis of calm as part of an experiment by City Hall to see what happens when cars are banned from Paris’ riverbanks. So far the experiment, which has been going on for the past few years, is proving popular. Delphine Damourette, 31, a Montmarte resident whose cobblestoned neighborhood is a rollerblader’s hell, says the traffic-free Sundays give her a taste of her city as she most loves it — during summer vacation, when Paris slows down, cars disappear, and pedestrians reclaim the Seine. “It would be great if Paris were like this all year long,” she says. Soon, she may get her wish.

If Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has his way, by 2012 the 1.2 miles of left bank expressway between the Musée d’Orsay and the Alma bridge will be permanently closed to automobiles, while traffic on the right bank will be slowed, all with the goal of turning the urban highway into a “pretty urban boulevard.” The estimated $50 million project — dubbed “the reconquest of the banks of the Seine” — calls for the development of 35 acres of riverside, with cafés, sports facilities and floating islands. “It’s about reducing pollution and automobile traffic, and giving Parisians more opportunities for happiness,” Delanoë said at the April 14 project unveiling. “If we succeed in doing this, I believe it will profoundly change Paris.”

But Parisians have already been through several years of policies — some drastic, some less so — aimed at ending the automobile’s reign in the capital. Are they ready for another transformative transportation project? Deputy Mayor for the Environment Denis Baupin, who as transportation chief from 2001-2008 launched tramways, bus lanes, bike paths, the Vélib’ public bikeshare and other schemes — all while weathering virulent criticism and monikers like Khmer Vert — thinks they are. “If we can talk about reconquering the banks of the Seine today, it’s because we first had the Sunday [closures] … which allowed people to acclimate to the idea that it was possible, pleasant and positive,” he tells TIME. “Mentalities have changed, and desire has grown for a city that’s going somewhere, that’s transforming and becoming more ecological.”

In seeking to take back the Seine, though, City Hall has started a new fight on one of the most historic battlegrounds in Paris for competing visions of the capital. The 1967 creation of the right bank expressway was part of a wider plan to crisscross the capital with high-speed roads, reflecting former President George Pompidou’s belief that “Paris must adapt itself to the automobile.” That philosophy hit a roadblock in 1975 when grassroots opposition successfully blocked plans for an elevated left bank expressway that would have passed in front of Notre Dame.

The victory was a benchmark for France’s nascent green movement and constituted “the last gasp of the Los Angelesation of Paris,” says Eric Britton, Paris-based economist and founder of the transport think tank New Mobility Agenda. “It was the beginning of another idea about how to handle mobility, transport infrastructure and the environment in general.”

Yet 35 years later, more than 30,000 cars still zip down the Seine expressways every day, and for critics of Delanoë’s idea, like French radio commentator Marion Ruggieri, they are “no less than the umbilical cord of the capital for everyone working and living in the suburbs.” Worried about how closing the river’s banks to traffic will affect those who depend on their cars to make a living, Ruggieri told France INFO radio, “Bertrand Delanoë wants a museum city, petrified in its clichés, reserved to tourists and the privileged, all this in the name of pollution.”

Other detractors scoff at City Hall’s claims that traffic diverted by the project will be absorbed into the upper quays and that drivers’ commutes will only increase by 6 minutes. Environment deputy mayor Baupin, however, is confident that, when forced to, people will change their habits. It’s already happened. Thanks to municipal policies such as lowering speed limits and replacing thousands of parking spaces with wider sidewalks and bike and bus lanes, daily car trips in Paris were reduced by 450,000 from 2001-2008. The hope is that by making the river banks automobile-free, more drivers will leave their cars at home and use the east-west-running bus lines, metro, and RER commuter trains along the Seine — all currently under expansion.

But in the end, they may have no choice. “This thing is inevitable, the reclaiming of waterways is happening worldwide,” says Britton. “Major cities like Bordeaux and Lyon have banned automobiles from their river banks in recent years and invested millions to develop green promenades, tramways and other transportation alternatives — projects widely embraced by residents today after initial skepticism. Outside of France, transformations have taken place even in industrial cities like Bilbao in Spain — which since the 1990s has cleaned up the infamously polluted Nervión river and moved its port downstream to reclaim its banks — and Kaohsiung in Taiwan, the country’s busiest port, where the city has transformed shipyards and military complexes into green space and leisure areas.”

Baupin believes that all these examples point to a permanent shifting of the tides. “Not a city in Europe would build the Georges Pompidou expressway today,” says Baupin. “The movement has finally reversed.” Technically that won’t be confirmed until Paris City Council votes on the project in July. But with the right bank to still be partially occupied by cars whatever happens, Baupin and the Greens won’t be fully satisfied. “This is only a step,” he says. It seems the banks of the Seine haven’t seen their last battle yet.

Source: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1985219,00.html

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About the author:
Jeffrey T. Iverson has been reporting from Paris as a TIME Magazine contributor since 2007. Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, he graduated from New York University with a master’s degree in French Studies and Journalism in 2005, and today writes on a variety of subjects including Paris city politics for TIME, Paris Magazine and other publications.