Vision: Some first reflections on what is, what can be a “Soft City”.

To create a city that works for all, we need to have a vision. Policy without vision is like driving blind-folded. In this short posting we would like to explore the vision of a Soft City.  You will have your own ideas on this but here are ours.  And of course your comments and suggestions are as always most welcome.

  1. The Soft City is recognizable. Has a clear sense of identity. When you’re there you know where you are.
  2. Proximity: In contrast with the reality of sprawl and limited accessibility for the majority,  a place where many things you need in your daily life are within a comfortable and safe walk or bike ride.
  3. The Soft City is quiet and clean.
  4. And safe – for all but above all for women and children (who are visibly apparent on the street).
  5. There are people on the streets (eyes on the street, assuring safety and amenity).
  6. Traffic is light, unobtrusive and moves slowly – in tempo with the others sharing the street.
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Op-Ed:“The automobile was never an appropriate technology for [cities]. As a form of mass transit for the world, it is a disaster.”

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* Recommended reading for anyone who aspires to catch up quickly on what is going on in the evolution of thinking and practice concerning transport planning, policy and practice in cities in this very different 21st century.  New rules! Excerpts from Bruce McVean’s The New City lecture given on 11th February 2013 at Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture. Title to this piece borrowed from Taras Grescoe in Straphanger

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LIBERTÉ . . . SUR LA RUE J’ÉCRIS TON NOM . Paris takes one more determined step toward a car free city

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Paris mayor’s attempt to curb traffic along Seine leaves some commuters fuming

Mayor Anne Hidalgo called move ‘historic’; opposition decried it as ‘autocratic’

By Michelle Gagnon, CBC News Oct 01, 2016  – http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/paris-cars-gagnon-1.3786615

CBC reporter and producer Michelle Gagnon came to Paris to enquire about the Paris plan to retire parts of a city highway and turn it into a carless, truckless, busless urban walk, linger, bike and play way. Her article opens like this:

– – – > Comments here: https://goo.gl/Guwn2V

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WHAT DO I MEAN BY A “CAR FREE CITY”? 

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* Most definitely not a city without cars, but a city in which living without a car is, on the grounds of convenience, comfort and economics for many preferable to living with one.  It is not about government interference or compulsion. It is a scenario which offers more and better choices.  (Does your city offer that choice?)

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SEDUCTIVE BUT DESTRUCTIVE GOALS: Congestion-free and affordable driving

Penang. Highway construction. Source: Reuters

Penang. Highway construction. Source: reuters

Urban transport decision-makers face huge pressures to keep driving uncongested and to keep it cheap. But take a look at cities that have worked long and hard to get free-flowing traffic and affordable driving. I doubt you will like what you see. This point was a central theme of Paul Barter’s chapter “Achieving Sustainable Mobility” which appears in The State of Asian and Pacific Cities 2015 jointly published late last year by UN-ESCAP and UN-HABITAT.

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World Car Free Cities: A Progress Report

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Cities around the world are beginning to work with this ice-breaking sustainability approach. It’s not just research or theory; it is policy and practice. But this is not an easy road. Proper preparation and follow-up are critical for success.

Since 1994 New Mobility Agenda and World Streets have offered information, references, discussion space and an open forum for ideas, exchange and collaboration for people who care about sustainable mobility and sustainable cities, and aren’t afraid to work at it.

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