The Battle for Street Space – Part I (World Streets Archives)

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– Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Experiments with shared space or “naked streets” have captured imaginations and considerable media coverage in recent years. Most of the excitement stems from surprise that streets without kerbs, road markings or signage can work well and achieve “safety through uncertainty”. This paper looks at another equally important insight from shared space.

It focuses on a series of innovations that, like shared space, re-arrange the roles of streets in new ways to yield a “dividend” of expanded urban public realm, with little or no loss of transport utility. Such a space dividend should be especially welcome in dense cities that are both congested and short of public space.


What are streets and roadways for? An obvious answer is traffic movement. But that is clearly not the whole story. A second role is to allow the reaching of final destinations— the role we call “access”. Thirdly, streets can be valuable public places in their own right. In addition, moving high-speed motor vehicles differ enormously from movement by low-speed, vulnerable modes such as bicycles. Unfortunately, speedy motor traffic movement and the other roles of streets are in serious conflict. For almost a century, the tension between these roles has been at the heart of debate over street design (Hass-Klau 1990; Jacobs et al. 2002). This article reviews emerging resolutions to this tension.

The Battle for Street Space

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Wanted: Crowd-Sourced Transportation Analysis (An open thread for collaborative tool building)

This is the second of a two-part article by Charles Komanoff, activist, energy-economist and policy analyst, looking at goals and tools for finding the right strategy for implementing some form of congesting charging measures in New York City’s crowded streets. He invites comment on his proposed “Balance Transportation Analyzer” tool.

Wanted: Crowd-Sourced Transportation Analysis

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Book review: Mobility: A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future

* by Ethan Goffman. Posted 8th September 2015 in 

john-whitelegg-inter-view-with-satnam-ranaFor the past couple of decades, a small group of thinkers, calling themselves variously ecological economists, degrowthers, and voluntary simplifiers, has undertaken a seemingly quixotic quest against the global obsession with growth for its own sake. They question the idea that increased gross domestic product will invariably help all people regardless of social standing, and question even more the environmental sustainability of limitless growth. A new book, Mobility by John Whitelegg, a British professor of transportation planning and former local government councilor, puts forth a kind of corollary to this thinking, attacking the pursuit of mobility for its own sake.

Important announcement: Mobility has been priced to  move. Available in both paper and eBook form for less than USD 10.00. See
(Thank you John for thinking about students, fund-strapped NGOs and readers in developing, smaller cities with tight budgets.)

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Weekend weirdness: Where Can I Buy “Eric Britton”?

eric britton strange non book-smallNormally your editor tries very hard to keep all postings here focused on the important topics which you will find introduced in our original Mission Statement of 2009, but here exceptionally is a more personal short story which raises some puzzling problems. And I may not be the only one in our extended sustainability family who has run up against this particular weirdness. Continue reading

2013 Book announcement: NO (MORE) EXCUSES

Memorandum:  First background on book in process to appear end-2013.

 No ExcuseS, Sir! 

(A tale of cities, indolence, complexity and finally . . .   simplicity)

Introduction: No Excuses is a book  in progress by Eric Britton about cities and people, and how we get around in our day-to-day lives.  It is about the failure of a generation — but also how with a little imagination and a lot of willpower we can do it better on all scores, and in a way that is fairer for all.

uk-bus-queue-no excusesIf we say it is about cities and not transport, it is because the focus is not on the usual  transport infrastructure, technology or big investments of hard-earned taxpayer money. That is the old way of looking at it, the mindset that effectively dominated transport policy and practice in the 20th century and which is just starting  to lose its hold today.  Good things are happening but still in far too few places. These are the places and projects, and the people and strategies, that No Excuses is all about. Continue reading

World Streets Reader (First edition)

Here please find a selection of articles taken from the archives of World Streets, each of which reporting briefly on a concept or event that I as editor and author consider to be worthy of the attention of our several thousand international readers. I am reviewing these for ideas, materials and clues in support of a book in progress under the title “The Third Transportation Revolution: Cities, Indolence, Complexity and the Equity Agenda”. More will be posted on this project shortly.

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Mile upon mile of emptiness

We do not normally “do” roads here in the pages of World Streets, our primary focus, even fixation, being not on vehicles and highways but rather on streets and people. But we would be foolish to forget that making full and continuing full use of our peripheral vision is critical if we are ever to understand context and to be able to see broader patterns. So from time to time we do, usually with the help of others, have a look at the roads end of our business. Continue reading

Ridesharing Institute II. If you will, but Public Transport on the first line please

In yesterday’s feature which was intended to inform the exchanges at this week’s TRB session concerning the eventual creation of a continuing program to support and expand ridesharing as a central sustainable transport policy, the point is made that the project should concentrate whatever resources it can stump up on ridesharing, as opposed to traditional public transport which has its own institutional and support system (for better or worse) while ridesharing from a policy and institutional perspective is still an orphan. But Simon Norton begs to differ: Continue reading

Locked in Suburbia: Is there life after Autopia?

Something like ten percent of our lonely planet’s population are today thoroughly locked in — or at least think they are — to an “automotive life style”.   While in barely two generations  the earth’s population has  tripled, the automotive age has, step by silent surreptitious step, changed the way we live — and in the process made us prisoners of just that technology that was supposed to make us free forever. That’s a bad joke and bad news. But there is worse yet, and it comes in two ugly bites. For starters, in addition to the ten percent of us already hapless prisoners of our cars, another twenty percent of our soon seven billion brothers and sisters are standing in line eagerly in the hope of getting  locked in as quickly as possible. And as if that were not bad enough, the consensus among most of the experts and policy makers is that our goose is forever cooked, and there is little anybody  can do about it. Well, maybe not. Spend some time this Monday morning with Paul Mees, as he attacks this received belief and suggests . . . Well, why don’t I just get out of the way and let Paul speak for himself. 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

Victoria Transport Policy Institute Summer 2010 Newsletter

This carefully compiled seasonal report from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute is a fine tool and up to date source guide for researchers and policy makers worldwide. We are pleased to present it in its entirety here, together with references you will find handy to take these entries further. Thanks for your continuing fine work Todd.

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Cars and the no-choice syndrome

World Streets gives considerable time, space and thought to the whole complex tissue of the relationships that exist between people and cars. Auto-dependence and freedom of choice. People and the ways in which they access and use cars. Their reasons for owning a car. And when it comes up, people vs. cars. Robin Chase, one of the founders of Zipcar has given a lot of thought to this too, and today shares with us some ideas about the inevitability of choosing cars.

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New Politics, New Economics and New Mobility : Frugal Transport comes of age in Britain?

John Whitelegg, Editor of World Transport Policy and Practice, offers up a lead editorial in the latest edition of the Journal which was published today and is freely available here. His proposal makes particular economic sense at a time of great economic uncertainty, and of course not only in the UK. His core recommendation: (a) Cancel systematically all public investments that do not pass the sustainability test. What goes? (b) £10 billion for unnecessary road building. (c) £32 billion for uncalled for high speed rail. And (d) elimination of all but a handful of domestic aviation subsidies and investments. And with those frugal savings, the new government team can really go to work to guarantee the sustainable transport agenda.

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The Hundred Faces behind World Streets

We firmly believe that the move to sustainable lives is a very personal matter. For that reason every article that appears in World Streets is accompanied by a short bio note and photo identifying the author. We want you to know who they are and what they look like. These are not autonomous or institutional pieces; everything that appears here has a name and face behind it. Today we have assembled for your viewing pleasure small photos of 160 of our authors and collaborators. There are more and of course we really do need to have each identified by name and country. In time.

The people whose faces you see here come from France, Italy, South Africa, Britain, China, Sweden, Finland, England, Singapore, and Uganda — just to identify the top two rows.

* * * Click images for enlargements. * * *
Do you notice a fair proportion of women among our authors? That is no accident. Indeed it is one of the primary challenges of our entire program under both World Streets and just behind it the New Mobility Agenda: to, in a purposely contentious word, feminize the sector. From the top down. Up to now we are managing about 30% female participation here; that is good but not good enough. So give us some time to work on it. (And in the meantime have a look at Http:// for more on this.)

Age profile of our collaborators? Broad! On the one hand we have contributions from some of the most important original senior thinkers, innovators and doers in the field. That’s very good. But we don’t stop there. We work very hard to ensure that we are also continually bringing in a large number of talented young people, and in the process helping to prepare the future leaders.

What do all these people do in life (when they are not writing for Streets?)? As you can imagine their activities cover a very wide span indeed. They are university professors, policymakers, international civil servants, transport system operators, scientists, inventors, doctors and public health workers, a couple of mayors, graduate students, journalists, filmmakers, community workers, activists, and the long list goes on.

Here is one thing they all have in common: in everything they do for and with World Streets, and indeed in many other parts of their work and lives, they act as volunteers and responsible citizens. That it turns out is necessary in this case since from the beginning our decision was to run World Streets “off the economy”. It was our guess that this was going to be the best way to set this off from the rest and to get the job done. A different paradigm encouraging different thinking. So we decided not charge for anything, not to take advertising, and, symmetry obliges, we do not pay for anything. You can bet that none of our collaborators are going to get rich through this association — but you can also bet that there is great satisfaction on their part.

And since this is about sustainable transportation and sustainable cities, it would seem fair for us to know at least something about how these people actually get around themselves and their day-to-day lives. They are, I can tell you from personal acquaintance with many of them, quite fit lot and this is no accident. A number of these people cycle and walk for transport every day. (That reminds me, we should carry out some kind of small survey of our authors and collaborators in order to see if we can learn something about their transportation habits.)

What sets them off from the rest? As editor and oft-times collaborator in projects in many parts of the world, I have been able to get to know many of them quite well indeed, often over some years. What can I say about them that might not be immediately apparent from the pictures? The phrase comes to mind from the wonderful film that we shared with you all earlier this week on courage and leadership when the former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus, who when confronted by the press concerning his lack of political allies and links with the power structure, he countered by saying ” Soy un hombre independiente”, I am an independent man. Yes that’s it – they are independent men and women. (See film here –

How can we end this? Here is who we are: Chinese and Americans, Swedes and Indians, French and Germans, English and Irish, Japanese and Koreans, Dutch and Australians, Serbs and Croats, Finns and Turks, Filipinos and Malaysians, Austrians and Czechs, Danes and Canadians, Brazilians and Mexicans, Argentines and Slovenes, Russians and Poles, Swiss and Chileans, Portuguese and Taiwanese, Indonesians and Kazakhstanies, Greeks and Icelanders, and more.

We are this. We are an ad hoc, unplanned, independent, uncontrollable, United Nations of concerned citizens. We are assuming our responsibilities. And we are going to win!

One day on World Streets: 9 May 2010

Eric Britton,
Editor, World Streets

Bottom line: Roads are for vehicles. Streets are for people. (No matter where you are in the world.)

Your editor was on automatic pilot this early morning, reading with half an eye the International Herald Tribune/New York Times as is his habit, and behold there in the Letters to the Editor column were a series of words which at first glance he thought he had written himself. (More coffee clearly needed.) Wrong, it was Lee Schipper commenting on an earlier Times piece on “Building Cambodia’s roads”. I quote:

Building Cambodia’s roads

Regarding the article “Cambodia’s routes to riches” (Jan. 19): While rural roads connecting major population centers are important for development, Cambodians rely mostly on bicycles, small motorbikes and their feet for transportation. This majority of travelers is usually the first sacrificed for cars and trucks. New roads tend to cut through smaller villages and lead to the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists, who are rarely considered by the road-building authorities.

Striking a balance between development, auto-mobility for the minority of Cambodians with cars, and the livelihoods of the majority, ought to be more important than opening tourist centers. Is this the only way for Cambodia to develop?

Lee Schipper, Ph.D. –
Project Scientist, Global Metropolitan Studies, UC Berkeley
Senior Research Engineer, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, Stanford Univ.

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Most of us who have managed to make our way to the right side of these issues have for some time made the vital distinction between roads and streets, for which the Executive Summary is: (a) roads are for vehicles and (b) streets are for people. And once you have figured that out, all kinds of good things can follow. (And you can find quite a bit more on this here by clicking

Thanks Lee for reminding us once again — and as we gear up to make our collective voice heard in Haiti this is one of the key points we need to make, make early, and make in a way that our voices get heard.

Eric Britton

Editorial: Après Copenhagen. Now what?

Five times since late evening of the fatal Friday 18th in Copenhagen, I have attempted to get out a strong editorial on this important subject, sustainable transport included, but thus far I have yet to crack my task. Be patient and in the meantime remember what kind old Henry Ford once so famously wrote: “Of all the kinds of work I known, thinking is the hardest. And that’s I guess why people do so little of it”.

But should you be at all curious to follow my tortured path, during all of which I was trying hard to find a way to be at once both lucid and useful, if you click here you will find my first late Friday night attempt. If I may, there are a few thoughts in there that still may be worth a minute of your time. However upon careful inspection I decided to back away from the early versions of the posting because I found it too verbose, muddy, too roughly reasoned and still incomplete.

But above all I found that in its first iteration it was too openly, one might even say arrogantly critical, and not sufficiently positive. At this point we need to lay off the criticism and carping, that’s the past, and now get put our heads and hearts together to see what needs to be gleaned from all this terrible experience (the word is not too harsh) for the future. Which is after all ours to grasp.

Have a look at the revised version here in the next few days. I am confident that you will find it better and hopefully even of some use as we struggle to pick up the pieces from COP15.

The editor

Lester Brown: "International agreements take too long. We only have months, not years, to save civilisation"

World Streets is not the only one deeply apprehensive about the outcome of COP15. Lester Brown, Founder and President of the Earth Policy Institute, and a friend and colleague of many years, was interviewed by the Guardian yesterday, and since he cuts so close to the chase on the climate emergency issues which provide the metric for our high concern about immediate-term transportation reform, we reproduce it here in full.

Source: Countdown to Copenhagen. The Guardian. 3 Nov. 2009

We only have months, not years, to save civilisation from climate change

International agreements take too long, we need a swift mobilisation not seen since the second world war

For those concerned about global warming, all eyes are on December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. The stakes could not be higher. Almost every new report shows that the climate is changing even faster than the most dire projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their 2007 report.

Yet from my vantage point, internationally negotiated climate agreements are fast becoming obsolete for two reasons. First, since no government wants to concede too much compared with other governments, the negotiated goals for cutting carbon emissions will almost certainly be minimalist, not remotely approaching the bold cuts that are needed.

And second, since it takes years to negotiate and ratify these agreements, we may simply run out of time. This is not to say that we should not participate in the negotiations and work hard to get the best possible result. But we should not rely on these agreements to save civilisation.

Saving civilisation is going to require an enormous effort to cut carbon emissions. The good news is that we can do this with current technologies, which I detail in my book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

Plan B aims to stabilise climate, stabilise population, eradicate poverty, and restore the economy’s natural support systems. It prescribes a worldwide cut in net carbon emissions of 80% by 2020, thus keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations from exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm) in an attempt to hold temperature rise to a minimum. The eventual plan would be to return concentrations to 350 ppm, as agreed by the top US climate scientist at Nasa, James Hansen, and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC.

In setting this goal we did not ask what would be politically popular, but rather what it would take to have a decent shot at saving the Greenland ice sheet and at least the larger glaciers in the mountains of Asia. By default, this is a question of food security for us all.

Fortunately for us, renewable energy is expanding at a rate and on a scale that we could not have imagined even a year ago. In the United States, a powerful grassroots movement opposing new coal-fired power plants has led to a de facto moratorium on their construction. This movement was not directly concerned with international negotiations. At no point did the leaders of this movement say that they wanted to ban new coal-fired power plants only if Europe does, if China does, or if the rest of the world does. They moved ahead unilaterally knowing that if the United States does not quickly cut carbon emissions, the world will be in trouble.

For clean and abundant wind power, the US state of Texas (long the country’s leading oil producer) now has 8,000MW of wind generating capacity in operation, 1,000MW under construction, and a huge amount in development that together will give it more than 50,000MWof wind generating capacity (think 50 coal-fired power plants). This will more than satisfy the residential needs of the state’s 24 million people.

And though many are quick to point a finger at China for building a new coal-fired power plant every week or so, it is working on six wind farm mega-complexes with a total generating capacity of 105,000 megawatts. This is in addition to the many average-sized wind farms already in operation and under construction.

Solar is now the fastest growing source of energy. A consortium of European corporations and investment banks has announced a proposal to develop a massive amount of solar thermal generating capacity in north Africa, much of it for export to Europe. In total, it could economically supply half of Europe’s electricity.

We could cite many more examples. The main point is that the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables is moving much faster than most people realise, and it can be accelerated.

The challenge is how to do it quickly. The answer is a wartime mobilisation, not unlike the US effort on the country’s entry into the second world war, when it restructured its industrial economy not in a matter of decades or years, but in a matter of months. We don’t know exactly how much time remains for such an effort, but we do know that time is running out. Nature is the timekeeper but we cannot see the clock.

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You may find some interest in the comments which follow his piece which you can call up at the end of the Guardian pieces at

Lester R Brown is president of Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. He can be contacted at

Editor’s note:

While the focus and approach of World Streets and the New Mobility/Climate Emergency Project behind it, is quite different from the views set out above, we certainly do share Mr. Brown’s sense of high urgency. And some considerable despondence concerning what is likely to come out of Copenhagen.

Not that there are not going to be many people and groups working very hard to secure come kind of reasonable outcomes, but as we tried to point out in our editorial on this of 26 October, “Winning the World Climate Game: Brainwork challenge“, this is clearly a situation in which the ball (that is our planetary problem) is bigger than the court (our problem-solving mechanism, frame). So somebody better get out there and start to redraw the lines. (Stay tuned.)

Kaohsiung Car Free Days and a Green Transport Program: Low-carbon, high-amenity transport, one city at a time

With mounting visible evidence of the reality and extremely high cost of climate change, people in Taiwan increasingly feel the importance of being a part of the earth. And the city of Kaohsiung,  Taiwan’s second largest city, has decided to do something about it.

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