A consistent central theme of World Streets is that without the full-throated participation of an active citizenry, sustainable transport and sustainable cities will remain a distant and unattainable dream. In this article David Engwicht gives us his view on why the usual bottled consultation techniques that often do little to achieve better and safer streets do not make the grade. Then he goes on to share his thoughts as to how we can do better. Continue reading
Each year our friends over at Streetsblog in New York City publish a heart-rending testimonial to the mayhem that automobiles have wrought over the year on their city’s streets and the cost in terms of lives lost by innocent pedestrians and cyclists. Putting names, faces and human tragedy to what otherwise takes the form of dry numbers, faceless hence quickly forgettable statistics is an important task. We can only encourage responsible citizens and activists in every city on the planet to do the same thing, holding those public officials (and let’s not forget, we call them “public servants” and for excellent reason) responsible for what goes on under their direct control. Continue reading
About two weeks ago I sent out a red flag to a short list of my most respected British transport/environment colleagues with a cry for help in preparation for a keynote speech I had been asked to deliver to a conference scheduled to take place this Thursday, 2 December, in Liverpool, and where the speaker just before me is a respected ministerial representative of the latest British government. I confessed to my distinguished British friends that I was at best half-educated in terms of the current policy and practice debate in Britain and needed a fast tutorial before exposing myself to a critical audience. They responded fast, generously and most usefully as you will soon see here in a follow-up piece to the conference; but one of the responses opened up his perceptive comments with an amusing analogy which I thought you might enjoy this morning. Continue reading
If you get it, New Mobility is a no-brainer. However, while newmob is a great starting place, it is not going to get the job somehow miraculously done just because it is the only game in town when it comes to sustainable transport. We have a few potential sticking points here that need to be overcome first. Let’s have a quick look.
After some years of talking with cities, and working and observing in many different circumstances, here are some of the barriers are most frequently encountered in trying to get innovative transportation reform programs off the ground, including even in cities that really do need a major mobility overhaul. Continue reading
One of the amazing/complicating things about the world of mobility in cities is that it is one of those slices of daily life where everything touches something else and then something else again. Which means that nothing ever obliges us by standing still long enough so that we can fix it fast, once and for ever. It’s all about process.
So here is a report from today’s New York Times on a pretty exciting waterfront project here in Paris for which World Streets’ editor was interviewed this week and about which, when you get right down to it, is pure New Mobility Agenda. As you can see he managed to patch in some of our common concerns here (see closing section below), along with some words on the importance of value capture and tax reform, followed up by a good closer from Todd Litman in Vancouver. You will recognize and I hope appreciate it.
Sustainable mobility: Step by step. Step by consistent persistent step.
Whatever it might be there seems to a lot of it apparently going on in various places around Europe — or at least that is what this map seems to suggest. But what exactly is it? Where do you go to find more? Stay tuned. We will be looking at this in the days ahead together with the team that is drawing this map.
Well here it is a bit larger so that at least you can start to read the legends. (And if you click the map you get an even larger, clearer image.)
What if we take a look at the above and contrast it with the map we get showing the locations of the last 80 origins of people who visited World Streets this afternoon. Do we see a pattern, no matter how rough? Hmm.
Let’s leave it at that for today since the team behind the project is not quite ready to maek their formal anouncement with the full story and the ready to use toolset. But soon. We’ll stay right on it.
In the meantime conjectures, and even information, are welcome.
We started World Series last year not because we felt that we were going to tell you everything you need to know about sustainable transportation, but rather to offer you a lively independent platform with worldwide coverage in which all of those of us were concerned with these issues can exchange ideas and commentaries freely. Here is a good example of a shared learning process that does not have to stop with the two cities directly involved in this report. Continue reading
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.
Roy Russell, founding Chief Technology Officer of Zipcar, read yesterday’s feature article on carsharing in North America and immediately wrote to add his experience, thoughts and views on this to further round out the big picture on carsharing in the US . (Additional comments are as always warmly solicited.)
New York City is changing, and safe and abundant cycling is part of the new face of the city. It’s one thing to hear about it from those in the middle of the often painful process, but it can be bracing to ask an expert from outside to have a look and report what they see.
Gordon Price, keen observer of cities, politician, cyclist and World Streets Sentinel travels to NYC for us and reports what he sees. Signs of hope. Lessons for your city? In his words, this latest report of the Price Tags series on transforming world cities (www.pricetags.wordpress.com):
This is a celebration of active transportation in NYC – how New York is leading the way to the post-Motordom city. With an interesting comparison to Portland and Vancouver.
Visit New York City with Gordon and his camera, and check out the state of play as things stand as of summer 2009. Cycling NYC 2 presents 34 pages of photographs and commentary on what works, and what is causing friction as the cycling agenda gets pushed ahead by a strong team with high, consistent commitment from the highest levels of local government, with vigorous support from transport and environment groups, the non-profit sector, academics and specialized consultants, citizens and increasingly the media. (This last being a huge change in the local landscape and certainly one that you should be working on in your city. It pays off!).
If they can do it there, we can do it anywhere, might be a line to remember.
More on Gordon Price and his work:
Gordon is Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. A former six-time City Councilor in Vancouver, he has written extensively on Vancouver and transportation issues (The Deceptive City, Local Politician’s Guide to Urban Transportation. He also publishes an electronic magazine on urban issues, called “Price Tags” (www.pricetags.ca). In 2009, he was appointed by the Mayor of Vancouver as a member of the “Greenest City Action Team.”
Too often when it comes to new transport initiatives, the practice is to concentrate on laying the base for the project in close working relationships with people and groups who a priori are favorably disposed to your idea, basically your choir. Leaving the potential “trouble makers” aside for another day. Experience shows that’s a big mistake.
A Big House/Open Door Approach
Concerned local/regional government agencies, transporters, business groups, local employers and others should be brought early on into discussions, planning, implementation, and follow-up. It is vital to bring to the table as wide a range of groups and interests as possible, from the city and in the surrounding region in each case, including those whose views may be negative about any of the kinds of major shift in today’s transportation arrangements. Nobody likes change out of the blue, especially those “imposed” on us by people who are indifferent to our problems and priorities It is natural to block these unwelcome proposals.
The world’s transport system wastes lives, health, and money – and is choking the planet. There is a world transport crisis. Three thousand people are killed every day in road-traffic accidents, air pollution from vehicles is bathing our cities in a chemical soup and deaths from respiratory diseases exceed deaths in traffic accidents. Citizens need to take control.
Three quarters of the way through World Carshare month, a quick resume of action and accomplishments thus far, along with a small shopping list for our active collaborators of work to be completed in the weeks ahead, hopefully.
Quite a reasonable flow of materials and comments have come in as a result of this first attempt on our part to see what happens if we provide a specific topic focus for one month of attention and collaborative inputs under World Streets. If you click here or under the corresponding item on the toolbar just to the left, you will be able to call up all of the articles and commentaries received under this topic heading to date.
Interesting reading if you wish to know more about this great way to get around, and as you certainly know there is always ample space for your comments and questions. This being one of the potential advantages of this kind of wide open collaborative knowledge-building operation.
We would draw your attention to the following map which records the location of visitors coming into the world carshare program site over the last 24 hours, and which gives a very good idea of the physical geography of carsharing. The overall pattern you can see here is pretty much consistent with what normally comes in through our World Carshare site. The continuing heavy concentration in Europe and North America, with the ANZ countries jogging just behind. The developing East Asian axis, the occasional ding from Saudi and the Emirates, but for the most part the Middle East, Africa and even Latin America dead as doornails. We present this latest map here as food for thought.
We are staying right at the heels of the 462 registered members of World Carshare, and intend to encourage and push as best we can in order to bring over to our World Streets readers more information, in the form of:
* Country profiles
* World Carshare supplier inventory update
* Commentaries on critical issues for Carsharing
Two points to close out this brief note:
First, as with bike sharing projects as well, it is our long held and continuously reinforced position as students of carsharing operations around the world that the key inhibiting factor to more and better services continues to be in the insufficient understanding of city administrations and local government concerning the benefits of these two great ways of reducing traffic and its associated environmental and other damages. There is very definitely a real international brief to do something about this.
Second, we can be absolutely sure that the carsharing postings and inputs here will continue well past the end of this month,; however once we have a more complete view of this month’s accomplishments, we will be reporting on that as well.
Carsharing: A new mobility transport mode that every city and community on the planet should be looking at for near term implementation. Carsharing is ready to go. What about your city? What about you?
Who are going to be the main actors leading the transition to sustainable transportation in and around our cities?
This is not entirely self-evident since there are a fair range of what would seem to be possible candidates. However in order to sort this out, it will be important that we first have a realistic understanding of what has been going on up to now. And to say the least, the news is not good.
When it comes to “sustainable transportation” there is out there a rich world of rhetoric, claims, advertisements, notices, media pieces, announcements of projects and events, that taken together can give one the impression that something important, something even transformative is going on. But when you get down to the harsh reality of what is going on at the level of the street, a very different picture emerges.
The sad fact is that after twenty years of talk, and, it has to be said, a rising crescendo of messages and even actions, the sad news is that every day in just about every city on this planet, traffic is getting worse, the amount of scarce resources consumed continues to escalate, the injustices extended, the basic economics ever less viable, and the environmental cost steadily mounting and edging toward climate meltdown. We are failing to meet the challenge. It would be exceptionally weak-headed of us to be optimistic under these circumstances.
We all know that something must be done and that it should be done without further delay. However it is far less clear who is going to do what under these circumstances. The fact is that despite all of the conferences, reports, talk about treaties, and even pioneering projects and accomplishments here and there, there is a continuing leadership vacuum. Who is going to fill it?
The goal of this week’s open dialogue is to ask you for your views on this. Later we can build on your feedback and ideas in older to develop a broader analysis, but what better way to start than to ask the hundreds of knowledgeable people who check into World Streets every day for their own views.
To get us started on this, you will find your left a small reader poll asking for your views on this. In addition, you will find is always that there is space for comments right below here, and we invite your contributions with real interest.
Here are our candidates. If we missed anyone important, please let us know.
* International organizations
* Scientific/academic community
* National governments
* Industry and private sector
* Cities and local government
* Local associations/transport, environment, etc activists/groups
* The media
* Children, schools
* World Streets
* You – as a citizen, parent
The word is now to you.
Günter Blobel is one Nobel Prize winner who is not resting on his laurels. Friday’s New York Times published an Op-Ed piece which goes right to the heart of the concerns and priorities of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda – the politics of sustainable transportation and the need for wise governance to provide the dynamic frame that is needed for the energies of democracy to work. We thank Dr. Blobel for agreeing to share his thoughts with World Streets.
Eyes on the street in Dresden:
Published: June 4, 2009, International Herald Tribune
The Dresden Elbe Valley is likely to be deleted from the list of World Cultural Heritage sites at the annual meeting of the World Cultural Heritage Committee of Unesco on June 23.
This is due to the construction of a huge four-lane highway bridge that bisects the Elbe Valley site at its most sensitive position, thereby destroying one of Europe’s last river landscapes.
Ultimately responsible for this impending calamity is Chancellor Angela Merkel herself. As chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union she failed to correct the misguided politics of her party colleagues in Dresden, the capital of the federal state of Saxony. She did not publicly oppose their numerous provocations of Unesco. And with her assertion that this is a “regional” problem, she has ignored Germany’s contractual obligations to Unesco.
-> The full text of this article is available from the NYT on-line by clicking here.
– Günter Blobel, professor at Rockefeller University in New York City, was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He is founder of the nonprofit Friends of Dresden, to whom he presented the lion’s share of his million dollar 1999 Nobel award.
Here is some first background on this important project and clash from Unesco World Heritage Website at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1156
Dresden Elbe Valley
The 18th- and 19th-century cultural landscape of Dresden Elbe Valley extends some 18 km along the river from Übigau Palace and Ostragehege fields in the north-west to the Pillnitz Palace and the Elbe River Island in the south-east. It features low meadows, and is crowned by the Pillnitz Palace and the centre of Dresden with its numerous monuments and parks from the 16th to 20th centuries. The landscape also features 19th- and 20th-century suburban villas and gardens and valuable natural features. Some terraced slopes along the river are still used for viticulture and some old villages have retained their historic structure and elements from the industrial revolution, notably the 147-m Blue Wonder steel bridge (1891–93), the single-rail suspension cable railway (1898–1901), and the funicular (1894–95). The passenger steamships (the oldest from 1879) and shipyard (c. 1900) are still in use.
* For full text of article click here.
And from a Unesco report of 04.07.2008.
Dresden’s status was called into question in 2006 because the Waldschloesschen bridge now under construction was viewed as a threat to the valuable cultural landscape. UNESCO has recommended the bridge be replaced with a tunnel.
Voters approved the bridge construction in 2005, however UNESCO offered a grace period last year so alternatives could be evaluated.
* For full text of article click here.
Editor’s comment: From a New Mobility perspective.
Here we have a perfect microcosm of the kinds of conflicts we face every day and in every corner of this beleaguered planet in the struggle for sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. On the one side, unexamined inertial attitudes reinforced by a broadly shared failure to recognize the imperatives of this very different new century. And on the other hand, a failure of the proponents for preservation to reach deeply enough into the issues and choices to convince.
I would like to think that it is not too late to band together to encourage an immediate halt to construction subsequent to an independent review of the bridge options, of which there are surely a number which can be packaged in such a way as to deal with the concerns of those who need to get from A to B in their city. There are organizations and groups in Germany, and internationally, who can work with the city and key actors on all sides to help sort this out in a way that deal with the concerns of the public while at the same time preserving their magnificent heritage.
It would seem to me that the strong push to the Green parties across Europe in the just-concluded European elections, and in Germany, signal that the time is right for this kind of review and rethink. It is not just a matter of one bridge and one city, but of the future of the planet. No less!
We intend to keep on with this governance dialogue, which to our minds is not getting nearly enough attention. It is of course deeply political, and that is the one area in which progress is most needed. How to get a strong majority of citizens behind the sustainability agenda? Stay tuned.
Here is one more of myriad Bad News examples of public officials getting it very very wrong. In this case Montgomery County council staff has recommended cutting the county’s CarShare program in half. (Montgomery County is in state of Maryland, situated just north of Washington, D.C.)
Will they ever learn? No, not unless we all help them. Which of course is why we are here. (Comments as always warmly welcome.)
Montgomery weighs cuts for climate change programs
By: Washington DC Examiner Staff Writer, 04/30/09 *
Montgomery County officials want to scale back some of the county’s ambitious efforts to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to help bridge a budget gap of more than $550 million.
The county set a goal last year of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and has instituted a number of programs to help meet that goal. But with the county deep in the red, officials now propose to switch from biodiesel fuel to low-sulfur diesel, reduce the number of cars available for a county carpool pilot program and cut funds to buy equipment for telecommuting workers.
Council staff recommended cutting almost $100,000 that County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed to spend on laptops, BlackBerry devices and network hardware so that 25 county employees can telecommute as part of a program designed to cut commutes and the greenhouse gases that come with them.
Senior legislative analyst Keith Levchenko wrote in a memo to the council that he was “skeptical” of the value of spending so much money on the program, because most employees already have a computer and phone at home and might only telecommute a few times a week.
“It is not clear that this is the best investment of dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Levchenko wrote.
County council staff has also recommended cutting the county’s “CarShare” program in half. The pilot program started in January, with the county making 28 cars available for county employees to share at a cost to the county of $1,100 per car a month.
Through April 14 the program was only used seven times, for a total of 27.25 hours, according to county council staff. Reducing the number of cars available for the program from 28 to 14 would save the county $184,000 a year, staff said.
The county’s motor pool said it has stopped using biodiesel fuel in some of its vechicles to save money, and because there have been quality issues with the fuel, which is a mix of diesel and discarded vegetable oil. County officials said the low-sulfur fuel they now use instead is on average 8 cents a gallon cheaper, and the switch will save the county $250,000 next fiscal year.
* * * *
It’s not easy being green
Environmental programs being recommended for cuts:
• Biodiesel fuel: County vehicles would return to low-sulfur diesel.
• Telecommuting: Council staff recommends cutting $100,000 for equipment that would allow 25 employees to telecommute.
• CarShare program: Staff recommends cutting this new program in half.
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* Click here for World Streets Fair Use policy
“Manual for Streets, published March 2007 by the UK Department for Transport, gives new advice for the design of residential streets in England and Wales. It represents a strong Government and Welsh Assembly commitment to the creation of sustainable and inclusive public spaces.”
“The Department’s policy-making process received an award recently, with Traffic Management Division winning a Royal Town Planning Institute prize for its Manual for Streets. The award recognizes that it is radically changing designers’ and local authorities’ approach to residential street design for the better. It emphasizes that streets should be places in which people want to live and spend time in, and are not just transport corridors. In particular, it aims to reduce the impact of vehicles on residential streets by asking practitioners to plan street design intelligently and proactively, and gives a high priority to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport.” – From the Dft project website (below).
The report is available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/
Yes but when you get to the street in Wales here is what you see (Ian Perry reporting from Cardiff). . .
All Local Authorities in Wales have failed to respond to the offer of training or more information on the Manual for Streets according to one of its authors. The document is based on solid research and has won much praise and many awards and yet Local Authorities continue to design streets as they always have…
Only one person out of the 20 people in attendance at a presentation on the Manual for Streets organized by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, held in the council offices of Cardiff Council, worked for a Local Authority (and not Cardiff), with the remainder working in the private sector as engineers or consultants – who reported that private developers were interested in applying the findings of the research into Manual for Streets, but wary of Local Authorities refusing to adopt streets.
It would seem that the public sector in Wales is not interested in embracing different practices.
Thanks to the watchful Eyes on the Street and World Streets Correspondent, Ian Perry, Cardiff, Wales, UK
Editor’s note: We strongly invite commentary and if available further information on lessons to be learned from this experience.
This quite long article is we believe worth a close read, because it provides us with one more example of the professional and leadership skills that are needed to lead the transition from old, in the case of New York from the very old to the New Mobility Agenda and the sustainable cities and sustainable lives that go with it. If there is one key phrase that caught this ear, it is her statement: “I’m radically pro-choice”. The Editor
I really liked the format of the paper, but what I liked best was the Bad News Department!
Just as you have talked about the attempts to detract the success of the Velib in Paris, so also Mayor Boris Johnson’s scrapping of the westward extension of the London Congestion Tax is being used in Mumbai by the car lobby to state that “The Congestion Tax is a failure in London, and therefore it cannot be used in Mumbai”. That it cannot be applied in the format that has been used in London is because of various other reasons, not because the concept per se is bad and therefore doomed to failure. (This was in a lot of newspapers, and my views on the same were also published, but I unfortunately did not make copies!)
Mumbai desperately needs some form of congestion reduction techniques: whether it is fiscal or policy measures, it will have to be tailored to meet our socio- cultural issues, as well as the unique geography that Mumbai has. However, the scrapping of the extension of the congestion tax in London has set back any progress we were making in that direction.
I wonder if any other city has had a similar experience?
Bina C. Balakrishnan
Consultant- Transportation Planning & Engineering