While you are away from the office and all the pressures of your workplace, here for your after-work reading pleasure are the twenty most read articles to appear in World Streets since opening day in 2009. Quite a varied lot, and when your editor reads them he generally prefers to do so not at a desk but seated comfortably with a tablet or largish window smartphone in hand to take advantage of those unstructured unexpected free moments that can pop up in any day. After all, World Streets is intended for the reflective back of your mind, not the whirring over-charged front.
The just-elected new Mayor of Paris, Madame Anne Hidalgo, has prepared a revolutionary sustainable mobility project whereby virtually all of the streets of the city will be subject to a maximum speed limit of 30 km/hr.
The only exceptions in the plan are a relatively small number of major axes into the city and along the two banks of the Seine, where the speed limit will be 50 km/hr, and the city’s hard pressed ring road (périphérique) where the top permissible speed has recently been reduced from 80 to 70 km/hr. At the other end of the slowth spectrum are a certain number of “meeting zones” (zones de rencontre) spotted around the city in which pedestrians and cyclists have priority but mix with cars which are limited to a top speed of 20 km/hr. A veritable révolution à la française.
The regeneration of Poynton Town Centre and its high street, Park Lane, involved a bold approach to the busy traffic intersection in Fountain Place. Martin Cassini’s short film documents the background to the project, and the dramatic changes in the fortunes of Poynton, and explores the implications for other towns and cities struggling to cope with the impact of traffic.
On 10 Nov. 2010, World Streets ran an article under the title “The P2P carsharing saga continues: The WhipCar story” by the young entrepreneurs introducing their new WhipCar P2P carsharing start-up, which story you can find here – http://wp.me/psKUY-13b. After more than two years of hard work in developing an entirely new, uncharted market for Britain, they have just decided, in their words that: “we have discovered there are still barriers to widespread adoption of peer-to-peer car rental in the UK. As a small team with limited resources, we have taken a good long look at these scaling challenges. And, after much thought, we have made the extremely difficult decision to close WhipCar.”
Let’s have a look at what they have to say in terms of lessons learned, and at the end of this short piece share with you a couple of thoughts on the meaning of this in the broader context of carsharing and P2P.
Trained as a development economist, Francis Eric Knight Britton is founding editor of World Streets and managing director of EcoPlan International, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government, business and civil society on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development.
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
This open project from EPOMM — the European Platform on Mobility Management — is an absolutely brilliant idea. It does not require much explanation to get started; you can be off and going if you simply to click here and dig into their Google map. That said, a few words of introduction may not be altogether without their use to help you take full advantage of their good work. Continue reading
This is an important article. It appears simultaneously in the Summer of 2011 edition of our sister publication, the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. With a view to ensuring its broadest international readership we are posting it here with pleasure, and with permission of the authors. We do this with particular interest on the grounds that their central thesis — that is, our faster than one might have expected evolving attitudes toward car ownership and use — is one that is central to the preoccupations of World Streets and all our associated programs. Continue reading
It all started innocently enough with this newspaper article that appeared in the Press Trust of India on April 26. But when posted to the Sustran Global South peer forum for comment, the floodgates opened. For full background on this vigorously discussed, even polemic proposal, we invite you to check out the discussions at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sustran-discuss/message/6637
A Short History of Social Mobility in five small frames – from a collection of drawings and pastels that first appeared in the edition “Nothing is easy” (Rien n’est simple) by Jean-Jacques Sempé, published a century ago in 1962. But even back then the message was howlingly clear. Amazing to think of how little it is understood two generations later, even though the indisputable proof is right before our eyes. If only we choose to look.
Porto Alegre Brazil. 25 February 2011. At least forty people were injured when a mad driver slammed his car into a pack of more than 100 cyclists in the city of Porto Alegre in Brazil. The cyclists, mainly young people, were staging a peaceful demonstration calling for a reduction in the number of cars on the streets. The 47-year-old male driver fled the scene of the incident Friday evening and was later arrested after authorities found his abandoned car over the weekend.
In the field of transport, no matter how straight-forward the issues may seem to be to the busy citizen, merchant, reporter or policy maker, when it comes to making wise policy it really does take a certain level of time and attention to detail to come to grips with the underlying issues and priorities that shape the outcomes. The awful conundrum encumbering the mobility issues of our new century from a policy perspective is that just about everything turns out upon study to be unobligingly complex, interdependent, complicated and time lagged – no matter how simple it may appear to be on the surface. In the article that follows, the authors have a go at a lot of the too-easy thinking that is the main currency of the High Speed Rail discussions in places like Britain and the US, where the only experience with these technologies and operations has been that of a far-away time-lagged dream machine. Let’s embrace a bit of complexity here. Continue reading
WhipCar is a very recent British start-up in the still little known peer-to-peer car owner/rental business. World Streets recently interviewed the group’s founders and managers, Tom Wright and Vinay Gupta, to get at their side of this unfolding rather surprising 21st century alternate car story. (And the first thing they told us was that it’s not quite carsharing. Let’s have a look.) Continue reading
Earlier this week I proposed the idea of a group read and commentary on Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”, but as I thrashed through my personal library I was unable to lay my hands on what I remember as a small book with a yellow cover. Luckily Jane Voodikon, a Jason Chang Fellow and journalist from Chengdu, came to the rescue with a link to the full text which follows (thanks in turn to clevercycles.com and certainly with the full approval of Illich given the fact that Amazon’ best price for the hard cover edition today was $269.21). How do you think these remarks and views stand the test of time? We need to bear in mind the political (Vietnam, Cold War, Allende, 1968, etc.) currents of the time, along with the Oil Crisis, Club of Rome, The Limits of Growth, etc., discussions, concerns and panics of the early seventies. But none of this detracts from the singular vision that this exceptional observer and finest of men has given us.
So here you have it. The whole thing. Print it out. Mark it up. Share your thoughts. Let me take a single phrase from the book to get the ball rolling: “Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.” (And this almost two decades before the phrase “sustainable development” first appeared on the radar screen. So off we go with Illich as our guide!) Continue reading
The interest for a human and sustainable transport is growing in the public and private sector, at local, national and global level. Our cities and our planet cannot rely on cars for our transport needs, even if they become more energy-efficient or even carbon neutral. We have to create accessibility for people. With current planning and design, roads are isolating people from important destinations. The public domain should be designed with priority for people over motorised traffic. Apart from emission reduction, mobility with zero emission should get value. It is the combination of a human-rights-based orientation with eco-efficiency, that will direct us to a real sustainable transport system. Continue reading
We here at World Streets always have problems with “cities of the future” visions, not so much because they are almost always consistently wacky in some totally weird unreal-world way, but because they tend to project things so far into the distant, almost always thoroughly magical future, that they get us off the hook for doing anything about it TODAY. So sit back and relax, dear citizens and voters, and let the benevolent forces of the economy and technology solve the problem for you. Hmm.
There are a good number of proponents around the world supporting the idea that public transport should be free. It certainly is a tempting idea. And if we here at World Streets have our own thoughts on the subject (stay tuned), it is always good practice to check out both sides of the issues. Just below, you will find four short statements taken from the Wikipedia entry, setting out arguments against FPT. More to follow on this but in the meantime we are interested in hearing from our readers and colleagues around the world both with (a) their comments on these criticisms and (b) yet other critical views. (This is sure to be a bit exciting.)
* Note: See numerous, extensive comments below.
Say good-bye to Old Mobility
Plan Zero – also known as “old mobility” or “no plan in sight” – with its stress on more supply, more vehicles and more infrastructure as the knee-jerk answer to all our mobility problems — has been the favored path for conceptualizing, decision-making and investment in the sector over the last 70 years. It is well-known and easy to see where it is leading. Aggressing the planet, costing us a bundle, draining the world’s petroleum reserves, and delivering poor service for the majority . . . Plan Zero is a clear failure. It’s time for directive, coherent, effective action without waiting around for reprieve or good news from some evasive short term fix of distant technology promise. It is time to move to a New Mobility Agenda and fifteen pragmatic, affordable, near term steps to sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. Continue reading