Category Archives: cities

Equity/Transport: View from the slums of Nairobi

We present this here as one of a series of postings which are intended to serve as food for thought and broader background on our topic as lived and seen from different angles and environments around the world, as we move ahead on the key cooperative program in Helsinki. Continue reading

Weekend musing: Lewis Mumford on the city in 1963. (Le plus ça change)

This is not the first time anyone addressed these themes.  In the City in History, a classic text of urban design. Mumford urged in 1963 that technology achieves a balance with nature and hoped for a rediscovery of urban principles that emphasised humanity’s organic relationship to its environment. Forty-five years on, the film clips look incredibly old and the message delivered in a rather morbid and factious manner (to quote Jane Jacobs), with a slightly ‘Outer Limits’ or ‘Twilight Zone’ ambience. Yet some of the key ideas promoted by Mumford have increasing resonance with the sustainability and green agenda of the early 21st century. In the increasingly praxis orientated and commodified world of urban design, whether anyone is listening or not is another matter.

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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

More on public, private and social space. Dispatch from Andrew Curry reporting from occupied London

We think quite a lot about space here at World Streets, from at least two perspectives. First and naturally enough given that the goal of transportation/mobility/access is specifically to find ways to bridge space, in one way or another, and for better or for worse. And second, because when we get to cities, and given the bulimic, gorging nature of our present dominant transportation options, space starts to get in very short supply (the so-called elephant in the bedroom syndrome). But it is not just space per se; no less important is the quality of public and social space in cities that is (or at least should be) a continuing concern of policy makers and citizens alike. So when we spotted a thoughtful piece such as Andrew Curry’s short article that follows, we are glad to be able to share it with our readers. Continue reading

Learning from each other: Four Cities, Four Ways

Every time I go into a city that is struggling with its transportation/environment situation, I have the feeling that it would be a great thing for them to develop for themselves a “sharing and learning film” along these lines. Perhaps one day . . .

In the beginning was New York City and its historic transportation mess:
Streetfilms, the sharp media end of the innovative www.streetsblog.org program out of New York City, has recently put on line for free download a full feature version of a documentary originally produced in 2006 as part of the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign. The film, “Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock“, explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to present. Even now, five years later, it gets its important points across.

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Mobility, Democracy and Politics: Interview with Monsieur le Maire

What’s happening on the new mobility scene in France in 2011? Here you have, in French but with good subtitles, an interview by one of the outstanding political innovators in the field of sustainable transport policy and practice in France. Roland Ries is serving his second term as mayor of Strasburg, and at the same time heads up the national transport political group GART. He also, by the way, as a member of the French Senate drafted the law defining carsharing in France, thus opening up a part of the way to more and better carsharing nation-wide. Spend three minutes with this short video to get a feel for what the leading edge in France is thinking and doing about transport in cities. You will quickly see that this is a world-level message. Play it for your mayor and talk to her about it.

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Unfair, unsafe and unwise – a major crisis abuilding for sustainable transport in Britain

Dear British Friends and Colleagues,

Forgive me if I am being naïve, but based on what I am reading and hearing it strikes me that there is a major crisis abuilding for sustainable transport in Britain in the months immediately ahead — as a result of the coalition government withdrawing funding from a lot of mainly small and local (since they really have to be small and usually local and focused if they are to succeed) sustainable transport initiatives This strikes me as a caring if distant observer as unfair, unsafe and unwise. Continue reading

Transport, environment and public policy in hard times

We have no money gentlemen, so we shall have to think.
– Ernest Rutherford, on taking over the Caversham Laboratory in 1919

On 2 December the managing editor of World Streets, Eric Britton, was invited by the organizers of the National Autumn Conference of ACT TravelWise to present the keynote address, following an opening presentation by Norman Baker, MP and Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Transport of the just-elected UK coalition government. The theme of the conference was “The Right to Travel – Getting more for less” — and Britton was asked to bring in some international perspectives and possibly some less familiar ideas for the largely British audience after the Minister’s presentation. Continue reading

Kaohsiung 2010 Papers: Share/Transport in India – Threats, Challenges, Opportunities

Sharing is an inherently natural process of establishing a joint use of resources It is a primarily self-initiated and regulated process. In this regard share transport can be seen as an informal, unregulated or loosely regulated, low-cost (even works on micro credit, when loose change is unavailable to complete the transaction), small or medium scale sharing of transport infrastructure (such as roads, streets and spaces) and/or vehicles in time and/or space. Sharing of Transport in this format, across the Indian Sub-continent and indeed many other developing countries in South-East Asia, has always been a part of the informal public transport network and is mostly as old as the city itself. Continue reading

Hundreds of Cars, No Garage: Recipe for a low carbon future – Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

We are trying to get a better look at how sustainable transportation is coming along in Australia, as an example of one of the several handfuls of heavily motorized countries which have for decades concentrated on building (and in the process unknowingly locking themselves into) what is basically an all-car infrastructure. This is the second in what we intend to be a series of articles on this topic. Published with the permission of the author, a professor in the media department of a leading Australian university, it takes an outside-looking-in perspective of our topic. Continue reading

Transport in Cities: Plan A is Not Working (1)

The goal of today’s column is provide an opening statement and then to invite short contributions (200 words or less) from our international colleagues around the world as to why “Plan A” is not working in the transport sector of our cities.

Why is this? The response almost always given is that there is not enough money for doing it right. For my part I have serious doubts about this.

We would like to see if by putting our heads together on this here in this forum we can together usefully pinpoint and question some of the broadly shared preconditions of policy and practice in the sector, not in order to criticize or cast blame but rather to see if through our collective efforts we can help come up with some positive ideas for near-term improvement.

A bit of first background to get us started:

Any fair-minded person who looks around the streets of our cities as things stand here halfway through 2009 has to be struck by the fact that our transportation arrangements are in very rough shape in almost all cities worldwide .

This is not to say that there are not many people, programs, groups and institutions out there trying very hard to do better. It is just that the bottom line, whether functional, economic, environmental, or social, is highly problematic and actually crumbling in almost all cases. This is highly troubling, especially because there are in fact many things that we can do in order to improve performance in many places and at many levels.

What can we do to work our way out of this situation? Well what about starting by taking a few steps back (yes, that is right, back!) in order to see if we can spot some basic patterns here, the idea being that once we have this in view we may be able to put our fingers on a couple of key pressure points that may permit us to reverse some of these downward trends.

Primary building blocks of Plan A dysfunctionality: The first is surely the fact that we are so busy trying to put details after detail right that we do not recognize that there is de facto something like “Plan A” going on at all — which, if we did get this message, would almost automatically lead us to start to think about something else . . . Call it “Plan B”.

Plan A is in almost all cases a pure example of “in the box” “problem-solving”. To the innocent-eyed outsider it appears to be a clear case of surrender to the trends and the conditions which create them. Here are couple things which strike this observer about Plan A:

* It is overwhelmingly inertial, i.e. in most areas it accepts trends and constraints rather than challenging them directly.
* Focuses largely on infrastructure.
* Treats supply as if that were the main key.
* Broadly accepts existing institutional arrangements.
* Consistently ignorant of, or alternatively fails to give full scope to, the critical externalities.
* More concerned with products than services.
* Weak on people in all their varieties of conditions and needs.
* Offers abundant excellent explanations as to why anything more far-reaching, radical, and eventually powerful is not possible.

In a next article in this series I propose to get these issues in more detail. But for now let me be leave the word to you and invite your comments and suggestions.