The Uber Generation: Rogue Capitalism or Critical Paradigm Shift

World Streets is today kicking off a series of invited articles by authors from different countries and backgrounds, presenting their views on the topic of “The Uber Generation: Rogue Capitalism or Critical Paradigm Shift”. It is expected that this series will continue  over the months ahead. The present posting is being circulated to friends and others who have expressed interest in this particular angle of the New Mobility Agenda as an advance announcement and call for criticism, ideas and contributions.

china taxi drivers bashing taxis

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Separating women from the mainstream of life

Demand for women-only public transport rising globally

A headline in The Rakyat Post, a self-proclaimed independent daily in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur published an article under this heading. You can read the full text here.

mexico - women only metro

Editor’s note: This saddens me greatly, not only for the indignities, affronts, and dangers suffered by women in these cases, because somewhere out there must be a better solution than this.

121 years ago for the first time, and only as a long, hard and for the most part lonely fight,  did women gain the right to vote as full equals in New Zealand — and it has taken more than a century for women to be able to exercise full voting rights in all but a handful of countries in the world. It has been a long and hard battle, and one is not sure that such measures as discussed in this article are really a step in the right direction.

Complex problems in complex systems tend to resist single solutions.

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2014: The Battle of Ideas

Challenging year ahead. Here are the main program areas to which we intend to give attention over the complex systems networkcourse of the year ahead. All of these are complex system challenges and require patient attention and mental flexibility if we are to find the best way to proceed in each case. And in each case it is not enough to be right in terms of the basic principles — it is every bit as important to be able to communicate them and to convince the public, government and other key actors that these ideas and approaches are worth getting behind. Nobody ever said that the move to sustainable transport and sustainable cities was going to be simple.

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Come out and claim the road – by Sunita Narain

india bicycle dovesI write this column from my bed, recovering from an accident that broke my bones. I was hit by a speeding car when cycling. The car fled the scene, leaving me bleeding on the road. This is what happens again and again, in every city of our country, on every road as we plan without care for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. These are the invisible users. They die doing nothing more than the most ordinary thing like crossing a road. I was more fortunate. Two cars stopped, strangers helped me and took me to hospital. I got treatment. I will be back fighting fit.

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“They are supposed to scream”. Mayor Enrique Peñalosa

The acrimonious discussions and representations before the highest court of India in which the road lobby is currently doing its best to put an end to the concept of reserved lanes for more space-efficient public transport, with the single stroke of a pen, is something that all of us who are committed to the concept of sustainable and just transport can learn a few lessons. From the other side of the planet this article that appeared last week in Next American City  in its entirety below. It brings to mind the memorable words roared by former mayor Enrique Peñalosa a few years back on the subject of the ever-bitter struggle between the car lobby vs. more effective ways of getting around in his city: “Don’t you understand Eric? they are supposed to scream”. Continue reading

No Parking, No Business 1: What if the other guy actually has a point?

Last Saturday morning, the 23rd of June, I thought to ask an open question to several of our New Mobility Agenda fora as follows:

Has anyone out there ever run across a solid report or study showing that local businesses suffer financially when a zone is pedestrianized or made bike accessible? Or that real estate prices take a nose dive when such improvements are made? Most of us here are familiar with the other side of this coin, but it occurred to me that this such critical references might be useful to us all, given that these local conflicts and claims come up time and time again in cities around the world.

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The Battle for the Street: Who won? Who lost? What next?

[Have a look at this good historical piece by Christopher Gray which appeared in today’s New York Times under their Streetscapes/Traffic Wars rubric.]
IN the future, perhaps our time will be known as the first decade of the Bicycle Wars, with righteous armies fighting over traffic lanes, bike paths and sidewalks, indeed over the very purpose of the streets themselves. Like many wars, it’s a question of territory, and the pedestrian has been losing for years. Continue reading

Ten reasons why I really hate bicycles (and cyclists) in cities.

The following in this morning from an unidentified but  apparently pretty  disgruntled motorist who asked that we make his grievances widely known in the pages of World Streets.  So in the spirit of equal time and with no more ado, World Streets turns over the stage to him. Let’s listen to what he has to say:

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Op-Ed. Time to put a stake in the ground

Our friend and occasional contributor from Lahore Pakistan, Hassaan Ghazali, is a very severe critic not only of transport policy and practice in his country, but also of the many cultural and political facts of life which form the fundamental bedrock of the decisions which shape (or misshape) the sector (and with it our day-to-day lives). Bad decisions, very bad decisions in our sector, are rarely just accidents or one-off occurrences. They are deeply embedded, almost invisible to most, and there are entrenched reasons behind them, whether in Pakistan, Paris or Peoria. Here he explores man/car/technology relationships which can be seen in many places around the world.  In short, most of us have a problem with the car. But it’s not the car that is the problem. It’s us. That’s the first thing we need to come to grips with. All of us in fact. Read on. Continue reading

The Battle for the Streets of New York City

What was the song? “If you can do it here you can do it anywhere. New York New York”? Well there just may be something to that. Here is some of the latest on how the proponents of more and safer biking in New York City are using social media to gain support from the citizen base, while at the same time an irate lobby is doing its best to keep the streets as they were and, as they hope, ever shall be. Amen Sister. (BTW, this is by no means a unique conflict. It could be your city.) 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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No Accident! Traffic and Pedestrians in the Modern City

As most of our regular readers are well aware, World Streets is no friend of speed in cities. To the contrary, it is our firm position that a considerable number of the basic objectives associated with sustainable mobility and sustainable cities can be achieved if we do no more than to reduce top speeds in and around our cities in a strategic and carefully thought-out way. The great technological virtuosity of traffic engineers and technical planners permit us to do this, while at the same time retaining a well working transportation system, a healthier city, and a viable local economy. Listen to what John Rennie Short and Luis Mauricio Pinet-Peralta have to tell us on the subject.
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Lessons in Leadership / Profiles in Courage "Bogotá Change"

The Colombian presidential elections will be held in less than three weeks on May 30. The campaign is all about ideas, leadership, and courage. And what could be more critical for a country or a city event to have these lined up together with a proven capacity to innovate, administrate, and to ensure that good policies and measures are continuously being scrutinized for performance and adapted to ensure that they are making the fullest possible contribution, year after year after year? Grab a cup of coffee and check out “Bogotá Change”. You are going to learn something.

* * * Click to “Bogotá Change” here * * *
Not all that long ago Bogotá, the Colombian capital, was considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities. At an altitude of over 2,600 meters up in the Andes mountains, seven million people were fighting a losing battle against drug crime, corruption, poverty and, not least, against each other.

But in 1995 the colorful and independent Antanas Mockus surprised many by being elected to become the city’s Mayor, after having been fired as the vice-chancellor  of the university where he had mooned his ungovernable students in a fit of rage. Mockus’s anarchistic and untraditional methods set about a social revolution that meant that Bogotá today is a role model for cities such as New York and Mexico City. ‘Bogotá Change’ tells the story about how this happened, and shows that politics in fact can be both funny and deeply inspiring.

If you are interested in how a city in a developing country was transformed through leadership, vision, and much work, this video done by a professional movie producer from Denmark is a good investment of 60 minutes of your time.

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Musing: Thoughts on Communicating Science Losing the battle for hearts and minds

Food for thought as we try to turn our great ideas into reality (at which most of us are not so hot. Present company included I am afraid.) Here is a think piece musing on our communications skills by our long-time colleague Keith Sutter from Australia. He takes us into “minds”, “hearts”, “gut”, and then, since it is the weekend and we can deal with it, “reproductive organs”. His source argues that that these are the four “layers” of communication, rather like a pyramid, with the layers getting broader as they move towards the base. Oops.

COMMUNICATING SCIENCE

Introduction

On February 3 2010, while being the Crawford Miller (Oxford-Australia) Visiting Research Fellow at St Cross College University of Oxford, I was able to attend the Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management (CPTM) Smart Partners Hub meeting in London.

The meeting was on “Smart Partnership, Climate Change and Science”. I was asked to say a few words on the state of the Australian debate. That statement was based on a short aide memoire I had prepared for The Club of Rome. (This will published in due course by the European Support Centre of The Club of Rome: www.clubofrome.at) A summary of the total meeting has published by CPTM. (http://www.cptm.org)

The purpose of this note is to amplify a few comments I made in the context of reporting on the Australian climate change debate: the problem of communicating science.

Science and the Media

I am not a scientist and so I look at the science profession from the outside – that of being, among other things, a foreign affairs presenter on Australian television and radio. It is evident that the science profession is losing the battle for hearts and minds when it comes to the climate change debate.

Welsh physicist Sir John Houghton has been quoted as saying something similar. He told BBC Wales on February 12 2010 that most scientists were now in a “PR war” with [climate change] sceptics: “We are in a way and we’re losing that war because we’re not good at PR. Your average scientist is not a good PR person because he wants to get on with his science”. (“Climate Change Scientists Losing ‘PR War’ to Vested Interests”, reprinted: Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/print/52766)

This is not necessarily a new issue. Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine, has produced a large biography of Albert Einstein. (Walter Isaacson Einstein: His Life and Universe, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007, p 269.) After his work on Relativity, Einstein became a very famous scientist. He became a trend-setter: “In the current celebrity-soaked age, it is hard to recall the extent to which, a century ago, proper people recoiled from publicity and disdained those who garnered it. Especially in the realm of science, focussing on the personal seemed discordant” . He became the world’s most famous scientist – but his fame got him into trouble with other scientists!

In May 1959 another dispute erupted: CP Snow (1905-80), a celebrated novelist with a science background from Cambridge, spoke about “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” (annual Rede Lecture, University of Cambridge) . He argued that there was then a gap between scientists and “literary intellectuals”: scientists didn’t read Charles Dickens and humanities professors didn’t know the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Snow warned that many key decisions in public life were being made by people without much knowledge of science. The situation probably has not improved in the past half century. (Robert Whelan “Fifty years on, CP Snow’s ‘Two Cultures” are United in Desperation” The Daily Telegraph (London), May 5 2009)

Communicating Science

One of the best books I have encountered recently on this problem of how to communicate science is by Randy Olson Don’t be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style (Washington DC: Island Press, 2009). Olson was a science academic who changed life in mid-career and went to California to learn movie-making (he now specializes in science and environmental movies). One of his theatre lecturers told him “not to be such a scientist” and the reprimand stayed with him.

I have found his book helpful to understand, how in effect the Australian Labor Party Government headed by Kevin Rudd could move from winning an election in November 2007 partly on the climate change issue, to losing the public debate over climate change in two years (with the then Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, losing his own position to a rebellion within his own party and for him to become the world’s first party leader to lose his position because he was supporter of taking action against climate change; he has been replaced by a climate change “sceptic”)

Olson argues that there are four “layers” of communication, rather like a pyramid, with the layers getting broader as they move towards to the base.

1. At the top of the pyramid is the “mind” – which is where most scientists spend most of their time. They communicate learnedly with each other in a careful, heavily foot-noted style.

2. The next layer down is the “heart”: the locus of love.

3. The third layer is the “gut”: locus of fear.

4. The base of the pyramid are the “reproductive organs”, which is why so many people, companies and organizations use romance etc for marketing – it is the easiest way to reach the broadest number of people whatever is being sold: cars, chocolate, clothes etc.

Applying the top three layers of the Olson model to the Australian climate change debate, we can see how the model helps explain the change within Australia.

In the years 1996-2007, the Australian Prime Minister was the conservative John Howard. Australia had been committed to the Kyoto Protocol process and for a while it seemed that the incoming Howard Government would continue that process. But then, under pressure from US President George W Bush, Howard suddenly announced that Australia would not proceed with the Kyoto Protocol. The US and Australia were the two developed countries to stand outside the process.

Howard was lobbied by some of his more moderate colleagues, such as his eventual (albeit temporary) successor Malcolm Turnbull, to accept the Protocol and so negate the support going to the Opposition Labor Party headed by Kevin Rudd. Howard remained stubborn to the end and he lost the November 2007 election (and even his own seat – only the second time since federation in 1901 that a prime minister had been rejected by his own constituency).

Rudd’s Labor Party had campaigned on many issues. The climate change one had struck a chord with most of the electorate (including moderate Liberals). Rudd (in Olson’s model) reminded Australians of their love of the Great Barrier Reef (the “”world largest living object”) – the “heart” – and the fear of the risk that it could be destroyed by climate change – the “gut”.

Rudd argued that Australia should act to protect the Great Barrier Reef. This was rather misleading because Australians account for only 1 or 2 per cent of the total global emissions and so no matter how good Australia’s climate change record might be, Australian actions alone could not save the reef. However, this was overlooked by commentators in the interests of securing the dramatic Labor victory in November 2007.

But then Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister moved up Olson’s model. He left the “heart” and “gut” and he started to read out speeches written in the “head” style by public servants. He – and his colleagues – failed to communicate with the same skill they had had before the election to the “heart” and “gut”.

Meanwhile, the conservative Opposition initially disowned the Howard climate change policy and endorsed the Rudd Government’s December 2007 ratification of the Kyoto Protocol – the first time that the first action of a new Australian Government was to ratify a treaty.

But the climate change sceptics then got to work – as per Olson’s model – on the “heart” and “gut”. They argued that the proposed Rudd emissions trading system (ETS) would really be an “extra tax system” (appealing to the “gut” and fear of a new tax). They warned that climate change policies would cost jobs (“heart” and the love of being employed). In late 2009, the sceptics within the conservative Opposition party rebelled against their moderate leader Malcolm Turnbull and replaced him with one of their own (Tony Abbott).

As at early 2010, the Rudd Government has no new emission trading system, little chance of securing any ambitious climate change measures, and a declining popular interest in the subject of climate change. It is unlikely on current showing that Rudd will make as much fuss of climate change in the 2010 election as he did in 2007.

New Thinking on Communication

Being smart is not much use if that cannot be communicated. The lesson of the Olson book is that much more attention needs to be given to the basics of communication.

A good lesson here is from the oil industry. The industry distinguishes between “upstream” and “downstream” activities. The upstream activities relate to finding oil and drilling for it. The downstream activities relate to the distribution out to the consumers. Science needs to pay more attention to the “downstream” activities. The Olson book provides some ideas.

Another good example comes from nurse Georgia Sadler. (See: Malcolm Caldwell The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, London: Abacus, 2000, pp 253-55.) She wanted to educate women on certain health issues. She did the right thing – speaking at religious institutions, community organizations etc. But the women who came to hear her were already aware of the issues. How could she reach the women who were not coming to her presentations?

Sadler used creative thinking. An American woman has a more intimate relationship with her hair stylist than with virtually anyone else. She realized that a hairdressing salon would provide women with a relaxed atmosphere in which to hear new ideas. She sought advice on how to educate hairdressers on how they could in turn inform their clients about the health issues. She then created a highly successful education programme.

Conclusion

The conclusion is, then, we need to find more innovative ways of communicating science to the general public. There are certainly plenty of “lateral thinking” ideas available on communication. It just needs a more innovative mobilization of those techniques. Perhaps this could be a CPTM “Smart Partnership” project?

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About the author

Keith Suter is a futurist and media personality in the areas of social policy and foreign affairs. His first doctorate was in the international law of guerrilla warfare and his second in the economic and social consequences of the arms race. He is a member of the Club of Rome, President of the United Nations Association (NSW) and President of the Society for International Development (Sydney Chapter). He lives in Sydney Australia and can be via webeditor@keithsuter.com. .

Okay, we may be losing this war but . . .

… if you keep looking about you will notice that there is more and more, and better and better, media coverage of the bottom line issues of climate, sustainable development and the role that sustainable transportation can play in the process. Today, for instance, there is an article in America’s premier reference paper, the New York Times, in which Elisabeth Rosenthal reports on “Buses May Aid Climate Battle in Poor Cities”

July 10, 2009, The New York Times

Buses May Aid Climate Battle in Poor Cities

By Elisabeth Rosenthal

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Like most thoroughfares in booming cities of the developing world, Bogotá’s Seventh Avenue resembles a noisy, exhaust-coated parking lot — a gluey tangle of cars and the rickety, smoke-puffing private minibuses that have long provided transportation for the masses.


But a few blocks away, sleek red vehicles full of commuters speed down the four center lanes of Avenida de las Américas. The long, segmented, low-emission buses are part of a novel public transportation system called bus rapid transit, or B.R.T. It is more like an above-ground subway than a collection of bus routes, with seven intersecting lines, enclosed stations that are entered through turnstiles with the swipe of a fare card and coaches that feel like trams inside.

Versions of these systems are being planned or built in dozens of developing cities around the world — Mexico City, Cape Town, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ahmedabad, India, to name a few — providing public transportation that improves traffic flow and reduces smog at a fraction of the cost of building a subway.

But the rapid transit systems have another benefit: they may hold a key to combating climate change. Emissions from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles in the booming cities of Asia, Africa and Latin America account for a rapidly growing component of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. While emissions from industry are decreasing, those related to transportation are expected to rise more than 50 percent by 2030 in industrialized and poorer nations. And 80 percent of that growth will be in the developing world, according to data presented in May at an international conference in Bellagio, Italy, sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and the Clean Air Institute.

To be effective, a new international climate treaty that will be negotiated in Copenhagen in December must include “a policy response to the CO2 emissions from transport in the developing world,” the Bellagio conference statement concluded.

. . .


* For the full text of this article, please click to http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/10/world/americas/10degrees.html?_r=1

* See also their excellent slide show on Bogota’s TransMilenio at http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/07/10/world/0710BOGOTA_index.html

* There is a good video on the TransMilenio that you can pick up toward the bottom of the Times piece.

* But if you have any problem accessing it, drop us a line at help@worldstreets.org or Skype us at newmobility and we will arrange to get you a full “fair use” copy.
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A closing thought for you:
There is a not-slight chance that the Times and a number of the best of the long-established print dailies may not be around all that long — and is it not thus ironic that this menace comes exactly at a time when they are making an ever more important contribution to public awareness of both the problems and the need for the kinds of new and less familiar measures that are definitely going to be part of the new mobility retrofit of our gasping sector? That’s the bad news. The good news is that Elizabeth and the growing cadre of journalists and reporters who are running with our message are not about to go away. I am confident they will find other means for getting the news through. And oh yes, we will still be here.

Eric Britton, Editor

The Battle for Street Space – Part II

Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets
– Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Traffic Calming—The First Wave
For several decades there have been efforts to use roadway modifications, such as humps and chicanes, to control motor vehicle speeds on streets whose primary roles are non-traffic ones (Hass-Klau 1990). Such traffic calming began in north-west Europe and by now is familiar almost everywhere.

Early traffic calming tended to focus on streets at the lowest levels of the roadway hierarchy to reinforce the primacy of access and pedestrian activity at that level. More recently, adaptations of traffic calming techniques have been applied to some streets at higher levels of the hierarchy, such as short stretches of shopping streets and the main streets of towns. An early Dutch traffic calming innovation, the Woonerf or “home zone”, involved a complete redesign of urban residential streets to make it clear to motorists that they were guests in a home environment. This was a precursor to the more ambitious shared space experiments.

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The Battle for Street Space – Part I

Earning a Public Space Dividend in the Streets

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

Abstract: 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.

Introduction

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

The essence of a street is that it serves all these roles simultaneously—providing for traffic movement and access, and as public space for urban activities. However, mainstream roadway management has spent many decades seeking, like Le Corbusier, the “death of the street”. It tends to turn everything between kerbs into “traffic space” where motor vehicle movement is the design priority (Patton 2007).

Motorised traffic, slow modes and pedestrians are strictly segregated in both space and time. The role of streets as “public realm” has been largely restricted to the pavements (sidewalks) and to pedestrian zones. Most cities are desperately short of attractive public space and space for the networks needed by the gentle but vulnerable modes such as walking and cycling.

Since the 1930s, traffic engineers have routinely classified every roadway in a hierarchy according to the degree to which it serves either traffic movement or access. Major arterials and expressways which are at the top of the hierarchy are managed primarily for maximum vehicle mobility. Any access functions are carefully limited to contain “friction” with the mainstream traffic. Only streets at the lowest level of the hierarchy are used mainly for access. Furthermore, the planning process often seeks to remove as much activity as possible (and hence, the “public space” role) from roadways and their vicinity. The influential UK report of 1963, Traffic in Towns by Colin Buchanan, reinforced the idea that segregation was essential (Hamilton-Baillie 2008).

The roadway hierarchy has no place for streets that serve both traffic and multiple other purposes (Svensson 2004). Yet, traditional urban streets and main streets remain ubiquitous. They provide (inadequately) for both access and mobility and are sites of perennial conflict. Such conflict is especially obvious in the heavily used streets of many dense Asian cities. The conventional traffic engineering approach offers little guidance for such multi-role streets (Svensson 2004).

Expanding Public Realm without Evicting Motor Vehicles

Recently, a series of promising street management innovations has emerged that re- assert in new ways the multi-purpose nature of the street. (See Box Story “Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets”.) They offer ways to increase the public realm without removing the motor vehicles or seriously undermining the utility of the motorised traffic system. Does that sound too good to be true?

These innovations exploit common insights and principles. First, they involve making a strong distinction between “traffic areas” or “highway” and public space or the “public realm” (Shared Space project 2005). Traffic areas are the realm of conventional traffic engineering where high-speed motor vehicle movement is primary, with its flow carefully segregated from slower users like pedestrians and cyclists.

Second, some of this redefined “public realm” can be shared. It includes new spaces designed for the peaceful co-existence of public place activities, slow movement by vulnerable modes as well as motor vehicles, especially those seeking access to the vicinity. The key to such co-existence lies in keeping speeds low, ideally to no more than about 30 km/h (Shared Space project, 2005). Low speeds mean that motor vehicles need not be excluded but those present will mainly be making access movements or on the “last mile” (or the first) of their trips.

Third, these innovations shift the boundary between public realm and traffic space, so that a surprising amount of what we now think of as traffic space becomes part of the low-speed public realm. In shared spaces and in other slow zones, such as Tempo 30 zones and bicycle boulevards, whole streets and intersections are converted to public space. In multi-way boulevards, public realm includes everything from the building line to the outer edge of the central, high-speed traffic lanes. This newly expanded public realm serves local motor vehicle access, slow-mode movement, public space roles and sometimes some through-traffic (with low priority and at low speed). Only the high-speed traffic movement is excluded and kept within traffic space.

Fourth, a key design goal is that both the public realm and traffic space should work better by being kept distinct (Shared Space project 2005). Cities still need high-speed traffic space of course, just as some pure pedestrian space must also remain. But a surprising amount of shared public realm could be reclaimed without diminishing total traffic capacity. The key is that most of the expansion of the public realm envisaged here would take over traffic space that does not work very efficiently anyway. For example, the capacity of many of today’s motorised traffic lanes is reduced by turning movements, kerbside drop-offs, parking, loading and other street activities. After transforming such spaces into public realm, the remaining traffic space can be re-designed more thoroughly for its traffic function. Moreover, the new public realm retains some traffic function, albeit at low speed, as a safety valve at times of extreme congestion.

A high percentage of traffic volume in most cities is carried by roads at the top of the roadway hierarchy. Much of the remaining traffic is in fact short-distance traffic, or is on the first or last “mile” of a longer trip, or is circling for a parking spot. Such traffic does not need high speeds. In fact, a slower environment is more appropriate for access movement. Furthermore, although public realm requires very low peak speeds, the approaches discussed here also usually reduce the need for stopping and starting, so that average speeds and travel times are often little changed. Therefore, reclaiming such space as public realm has less impact on traffic performance than one would think based purely on the percentage of traffic space “lost”.

Expanding the low-speed public realm would also allow us to be much more tolerant of a diverse range of small, vulnerable vehicles that currently do not fit easily into our transport systems. These include bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards, kick scooters, wheelchairs and many other “Personal Mobility Devices”.

Barriers to Change

As with most innovations, change will take more than a simple policy decision. In most countries, roadway management practices are deeply embedded in institutions, their missions, objectives, performance-measures and boundaries of responsibility between agencies; in professional guidelines, codes and design standards; and in traffic rules and road user education.

Fortunately, little change is needed in conventional roadway management when it is applied to its appropriate domain i.e. the highspeed arterials and highways. It is only within an expanded public realm and at its boundaries that drastic change is called for. Standard practice must no longer apply to such spaces. Level of service (LOS) has no place here. Nor do conventional approaches to road safety, such as removal of “fixed hazardous objects”. Roadways that form part of the shared public realm should not resemble highways despite the presence of motor vehicles. Design principles for such streets, including signage and road markings, must be different from those for traffic space.

The public realm of streets needs a whole new set of procedures, guidelines and metrics of success. More research is needed to develop them. This is beginning to happen through experimentation in many countries (Shared Space project 2008; Hamilton-Baillie 2008; Jacobs et al. 2002). The Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have revised their guidance manuals on street design (e.g. DfT 2007). Traffic engineers will need to adapt their problem solving to the special challenges of designing shared public realm. They will need to collaborate more with urban design professionals and urban planners, who will also need to take more interest in the streets that they have long neglected.

Conclusion:

This article has provided a quick review of promising new ways to reconcile movement, access and place-making within our precious urban rights of way. New public space is gained through including low-speed access movement by motor vehicles within the public realm. It is this “public space dividend” that has been my focus. It may be too soon to tell if these ideas can deliver on their promise. We may only find out by trying them out.

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This article was first published in the May edition of JOURNEYS, an Academy publication of the Land Transport Authority of Singapore(LTA). We thought that many of our readers might not have picked it up, so we are most pleased to reprint here with their kind permission and that of the author.

Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where he teaches infrastructure policy, urban policy, transport policy and an introduction to public policy. He has published studies of transport policy in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. His current research interests are in innovation in transport demand management, public transport regulation, and contested priorities in urban transport policy.