Streetsblog: Doing its job year after year in New York City. In memoriam 2012

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

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

Happy New Year . . . and what BTW is this “New Mobility Agenda” business all about?

To kick off the New Year, it would seem like a good idea for us to remind our uk-bus-queuereaders and contributors (and ourselves) of what we think this phrase means. This is important here since these three words are at the core of what World Streets is all about, as well as the main meat of our in-process  collaborative book for 2013, No Excuses, Sir!  A tale of cities, indolence, complexity and, finally, simplicity. Continue reading

Bogota 21: Toward a world-class transit-oriented Metropolis (with commentary)

This report sponsored by Siemens under a program initi­ated by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and De­velopment (BMZ) recommends “that about 4.2% of the national Gross Do­mestic Product (GDP), needs to be spent annually to develop Bogotá into a world-class transit-oriented metropolis”. The report has been  implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für In­ternationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, active in Colombia for almost 50 years, and Siemens, a German global corporation present in Co­lombia for nearly 60 years.  And to see it for yourself,  click here for the full report that has just been released. http://despacio.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Bogota-21-english.pdf Continue reading

Life and Death of Urban Highways: New Report from Embarq

If the twentieth century was known for building highways, the twenty-first century may be known for tearing them down. A new report jointly produced by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and EMBARQ, The Life and Death of Urban Highways, re-appraises the specific conditions under which it makes sense to build urban highway and when it makes sense to tear them down. Continue reading

Whenever I hear the word revolver . . . I reach for my culture.

We have long-held a theory at the New Mobility Agenda that you can never tell where the next good idea is going to come from. So you really do have to keep your eyes, ears and minds wide open, and learn where you can, where you can, from whom you can. For example, Volkswagen in the New Mobility Agenda? Well, what not? Let’s show you one great idea that you may not have seen the first time around and that we have just this morning plucked out from our archives.
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Op-Ed: What/who keeps holding back New Mobility reform?

If you get it, New Mobility is a no-brainer. However, while the New Mobility Agenda 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. There is plenty of competition for all that space on the street and  between the ears. We have a few potential sticking points here that need to be overcome first. Let’s have a quick look to get this exchange off the ground. After some years of talking with cities, and working and observing in many different circumstances, here is my personal shortlist 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

Honk! Getting off the ox (when it comes to cars and cities).

There is a bit of ancient Hindu  wisdom that goes, roughly: How can a man riding an ox and looking for an ox, ever find the ox.  The answer being of course, only when he gets off the ox. Thus it is in life, but for many of us it is somewhere between hard and impossible to ever get off the ox of our perceptions and set values. But there are, thankfully, creative people who can do this.

Here by way of a quick warm-up is one quick demonstration of this off-the-ox approach from the lively mind of Jean Tinguely of his Cyclograveur, in short a bicycle that, as you pant and pedal, paints beautiful (?!?) pictures. And now t for your weekend reading pleasure let’s have a look at what our friends over at Streetsblog have just reported on another more timely off-the-ox transportation project, this time by the ever-ingenious Chris Burden with his post-Tinguely road-wrapping machine, Metropolis II.  Off we go. Continue reading

The New Mobility Agenda gets a hearing in Barcelona with a “Come argue with me” session

This is to invite you to “attend” at least part of a session of a conference that is to take place next week in Barcelona on the topic of “Smart Cities”. You can find full information on the conference here, along with links to all working papers and videos that will be presented over the four days  The particular bit I would like to point you to is my keynote talk and challenge which opens the plenary on “Urban mobility: Achieving social efficiency”. A full set of working notes and background materials for my presentation is available here. As you will note I have serious reservations about pushing the concept of a “smart city”, which to my mind is a pretty loaded phrase, complete with tandem mindset. I invite your comments and critical remarks on any of the points that appear here, and I shall try to deal with them as possible. Thanks in advance. The final talk will be available on video, as will the presentations for all the speakers in this interesting session. Continue reading

The Transportation Majority. (And why can’t our politicians count?)

 Policy makers have given ample proof that they just don’t get it. They plan and spend hard-earned taxpayer money for a distinct minority of all citizens and voters. It is amazing that they still manage to get elected. What’s going on in their heads? Continue reading

Towards Carfree Cities X: What happened in Guadalajara from 3 to 10 September 2011?

From the Editor’s Desk:
This year’s World Carfree Network Conference was organized by the dynamic and fast growing city of Guadalajara, under the title Towards Carfree Cities (Hacia ciudades libres de autos), and with the support and management of two local activist groups, Ciudad Para Todos and GDL en Bici. I was invited to provide the opening keynote address on the topic of “Better Cities with a Lot Fewer Cars”, to kick off a weeklong festival of events, discussions, and presentations in the context of their program.  My chosen themes were (a) deep democracy and (b) the need for immediate action.  I was wonderfully received and learned a lot during my busy week with them. Continue reading

Car Crazy: Lee Schipper on the Perils of Asia’s Hyper-Motorization

Our old friend and long time colleague Lee Schipper is sitting in a hospital bed in Berkeley California today, and since your editor is stuck in Paris and can’t visit him, we thought that while he gets his strength back we would  reach into our and others archives and publish a series of pieces to celebrate his deep knowledge of all that World Streets is about, his  excellent judgement and his world level communications skills. (And if you have something by Lee that you would like to share with our readers as we wait for him to swing back into action, please send it on.)

 

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The Transportation Majority. Can’t our politicians count?

Public transport? Cycling? Walking? Car pooling? Car sharing? People stuck at home? Elderly? Handicapped? Poor?  People unable to get to a job? Or who have to take hours to get there and don’t have a choice? Spend my hard-earned money for them? Bah! Who needs it? Why bother if it’s just for a few marginal people? Let’s concentrate our attention and investments on the big problems, those of the majority of people. Us drivers and our cars. We are the transportation majority. Continue reading

City as a time capsule: Urban highway construction mania still booming in 2011

Transport planning and policy in Lahore Pakistan today, as reported by public policy consultant Hassaan Ghazali, looks like something that was dragged out of a moss-covered time capsule on a hot day: a tawdry reminder of the kind of old mobility thinking, interest-wrangling and mindless investments of hard-earned taxpayer money that challenged and in many cases helped destroy the urban fabric of cities across North America and in many other parts of the world half a century ago. Continue reading

A family of small mice needs some help with new mobility

Today we want to tell you about a children’s book on our subject, and beyond that to see if any of you out there might be interested in lending a hand so that we can create a handsome electronic version, and possibly in other languages.

– Alvin reports from Paris.

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To fix Sustainable Transport: Ensure Full Gender Parity in all Decision and Investment Fora (QED)

Today is International Women’s Day. And not only that, 2011 marks the one hundredth anniversary of this great and necessary idea. So what better occasion for World Streets to announce publicly, loudly and yet once again our firm belief that the most important single thing that our society, our nations and our cities could do to increase the fairness and the effectiveness of our transportation arrangements would be to make it a matter of the law that all decisions determining how taxpayer money is invested in the sector should be decided by councils that respect full gender parity. We invite you to join us in this challenge and make it one of the major themes of sustainable transport policy worldwide in 2011. Continue reading

Editorial: The Seven Simple Truths of Sustainable Mobility (Come argue with me)

Sometimes in life things can be simple. Let’s look at one case.

Doubtless the most severe single problem holding us back in the hard up-hill struggle for “sustainable transport” in cities and countries around the world is that so far everyone seems to have a different definition and a different agenda.  Google offered 947,000 entries under this phrase this morning and all it takes is a quick tour of the Google News rubric to  get a quick education on the enormous range of interpretations of what the phrase means to different people, places and interests. Continue reading

Testimony: Science and Technology Select Committee, UK House of Lords

In the last weeks I was asked to provide written testimony and evidence in answer to a “Call for Evidence” for the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee on the subject of “Behaviour Change —Travel-Mode Choice Interventions to Reduce Car Use in Towns and Cities”. As can happen in these things, in my remarks I moved away from the chosen topic (instruments for behaviour change),  on the grounds that there are other more fundamental issues that need to be tackled first. In the following you will find my submittal of last Monday to the committee, whom I thank for giving me this opportunity to share my views.
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Thanksgiving 2010 and Morning in America

On the eve of Thanksgiving 2010 sitting here in Paris, my thoughts not unnaturally turn to my native America. And since our view here is from the street I have to think a bit unhappily about why is it that we in this great country do not seem to be able to let go of “old mobility” – i.e., whenever you spot a problem you build something to solve it (also known as the Edifice Complex) – as the highest-possible cost, least civil, one size fits all solution to our problems of efficient transport and fair access in and around cities. Of course we Americans invented old mobility a long time ago — and at the time it seemed like such a logical and dynamic solution to the connection challenges of a vast growing nation. As indeed it was. But suddenly it’s 2010, the twentieth century is long behind us, and if we look carefully at the low quality of what we are seeing on our city streets across the nation it would strike one that perhaps it is time to rethink OM from bottom to top and come up with something a lot better. For example New Mobility, which without our having to define it here is the basic strategy and value set that is behind the far more successful city transport arrangements we can see in hundreds of leading cities around the world – and none of them sadly are American.

Why and how have we arrived at this sad state of affairs? Well, let me ask a foreigner working in this field who has long lived in and long admired America to tell us about what he thinks is going on. Sometimes when you are lost it helps to stop the car, roll down the window, and ask for some directions. Let’s try. Continue reading