In the late spring of 2012 the diligent editor of World Streets was visited by a young Canadian writer who announced that he was working on a book about “Happy Cities”, and in this context wanted to talk about my experience in and thoughts on the happiness arena, with particular attention to issues concerning ordinary people, people like Thee and Me, in our day-to-day lives: issues of mobility and public space, needs meet and unmet, individualism and community, time and distance, behavior and equity, economy and democracy . . . in Paris and around the world. Why not? What the hell, maybe I will learn something from him.
Charles Montgomery’s merciless interrogation lasted a full day,followed by extensive correspondence over the course of the next year. Toward the end of 2013 his book “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design” was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York. One year later the 368 page volume has just appeared in an affordable paperback edition, and is now widely available in bookshops, and of course the Internet. (PS. Support your local bookshop, it is a happier experience!) We thank the author and the publisher for permission to share the following extracts with our readers to celebrate the low-cost editions now available.
WHY ARE THEY THERE? NOW? (Work trip in Jakarta on one more busy morning) Each person behind a wheel there made a choice to be there. For better or worse. How can we give them Better Choices? That’s the rub.
What many people call “transportation” . . is at its very essence not about road or bridges, nor vehicles or technology, and not even about money. Above all it is about people, their needs, fears, desires and the decisions they make. And the backdrop — real and mental — against which they make those decision. The transport planner needs to know more them and take this knowledge into the center of the planning and policy process. What makes them tick, individually and collectively. What do they want and what they are likely to resist. And people, as we all know, are intensely complicated, personal and generally change-resistant. .But if we take the time and care we can start to understand them, at least a bit better. Which is a start.
Penang Street of Harmony Project celebrates mutual tolerance illustrated by this amazingly cosmopolitan microcosm.
– Anwar Fazal takes us for a walk down the Street of Harmony in Penang.
The island of Penang, Malaysia, has long been a magnet for a multitude of people from all over the world and has over the last two centuries succeeded in integrating countless cultures and religions into its very fabric.
Penang is very special. It was a place that opened up for all the communities of the world. That particular special flavor, sometimes in many places in the world, is all too often lost over history. But in Penang, uniquely, it continued.
There is much Penang can teach the world today about acceptance and harmony in diversity.
* * * Walk down the streets of Penang with Anwar Fazal. | View: https://vimeo.com/219493364
In a city, as in life, we normally register only what we set out to look for. The anomalies, the absences, the troubling, somehow escape our attention. But when it comes to transport, everywhere the eye might wander there are valuable clues, both visible and invisible, for planners and policy makers. However, if we fail to use our eyes we miss out on valuable information. And as a result our cities do just that much less well.
SLOW CITY PENANG – AN INVITATION
From the New Mobility Fine Arts Collection, Summer 2017. From 1 July – 1 September
An online exhibit of shared photos, drawings, renderings, street art, child scribblings, videos, poems, proposed projects events . . . .illustrating these two very different sides of life in Penang: fast and slow. the good, the bad and the at times very ugly.
– See https://www.facebook.com/NewMobilityArts/ for details
To understand Luud Schimmelpennink’s White Bicycle Plan, it helps to have a look at the broader context of values, philosophy and politics that were prevailing in Amsterdam at that time – the Provos, a Dutch counterculture youth movement in the mid-1960s.
And if one concludes that this was more or less what was going on in other parts of Europe and North America, you would be right. And a bit wrong. The Dutch were digging deeper. At least this part of Dutch society was.
An important element of our Better Choices sustainability strategy is to achieve our carefully-considered objectives for the city, often very demanding, without avoidable social conflicts and divisions into opposing camps. For that we need to be attentive to soft policy techniques.
Softness is often confused with weakness. But not in the martial arts. The goal of the soft technique is deflecting the attacker’s force to his or her disadvantage, with the defender exerting minimal force. With a soft technique, the defender uses the attacker’s aggressivity, force and momentum against him or her, by leading the attack(er) in a direction to where the defender will be advantageously positioned (tai sabaki) and leaving the attacker off balance; a seamless and to many invisible movement then effects the appropriate soft technique.