Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Honk! Basel Mobility Ticket (For visitors)

We have often said that new mobility is a strategy which is ultimately made up of a very large number of often very small things. Here is one example of the latter for your consideration: the Basel Mobility Ticket. Do you have one in your city? Should you?

It could not be simpler, so much so that you will wonder why you or your city had not thought of it before. It works like this.

Every visitor who stays in a hotel in the City of Bale in Switzerland is immediately handed a Basel Mobility ticket. It looks like this:

The ticket offers the visitor free transport on the city's public transport system, the TNW Tarifverbund Nordwestschweiz, good for unlimited travel on the city's buses and tramways. It is thus a partnership between the transporter and the city, with the cooperation of the city's tourist office and all the local hotels. The service is paid for by the general visitor's tax which is added to all hotel bills.

It's interesting to us that while the great idea has been around since start-up in 1999, it is the only city we know that has adopted this measure. Surely there must be others, but surely too it has the makings of what should be a universal New Mobility measure, one more small step in the direction of sustainable transportation, sustainable cities and sustainable lives.

Now what about a Mobility Ticket for your city? One small good idea that will surely lead to others. New Mobility is viral.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Governance: The politics of transportation

"Two cheers for the market. Not three."*

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:

Save the Dresden Elbe Valley
- By Günter Blobel
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

Brief Description

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.

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Honk! Winter perils pedicab venture in Cape Town?

Will winter swamp new pedicab venture in Cape Town?

- Cape Town, South Africa. 8 June 2009

Winter arrived in Cape Town this week – and with it, the rain (50mm of it this afternoon alone). But unlike in most international cities, umbrellas do not spring up like mushrooms the moment the raindrops appear. Capetonians hunch their shoulders and scurry from one building shelter to the next, because here, the rain does not fall from above. It attacks from the side, from below, from all directions it seems – and only a newcomer would think an umbrella could mitigate against the galeforce-powered storms.

But this season, central Cape Town’s streets have been brightened by 10 newcomers: blue and yellow 18-speed pedicabs imported Colombia. They are equipped with hydraulic brakes, brake lights, indicators, hooters and seatbelts – even sunshields and flimsy rain covers. But that’s for the passengers…

Thus Bertie Phillips, project founder and CEO of Cyclecabs Cape Town, found himself spending the weekend in outdoor gear stores, shopping for rain ponchos – and hoping that the winter wind and rain will not dampen the spirits of the new cyclecab riders. Cape Town has neither an umbrella nor a commuter-cycling culture, so the bright yellow cycle-specific ponchos beloved by Europeans cannot be found here.

Pedicabs have long been a feature on the streets of cities from London to Bogota, but they have been slow to gain momentum locally – licensing and liability issues as well as that lack of cycling culture are the main stumblng blocks.

Transport planner Phillips has been planning the venture for some time, though. ‘I wanted to launch Cyclecabs for Velo Mondial 2006 [an international NMT conference hosted in Cape Town], but there was not enough time. I had the plan in the back of my mind and decided that with Fifa World Cup 2010, the timing was just right.’

The Cyclecabs took to the streets in late April, and have provided formerly unemployed recruits from the NGO Men at the Side of Road with the prospect of a business career. The eight riders are shareholders in the promising enterprise, and will soon have the opportunity to run pedicab businesses of their own under the Cyclecabs banner.

Riders have received a range of training, from riding the pedicabs and understanding the rules of the road to developing core business skills, which ‘is critical because it’s not just about creating jobs but empowering them as entrepreneurs’.

The original idea was that riders would be required to rent a pedicab each for a R50 daily fee, and build their own businesses – but the winter rains have delayed this next phase. Instead, riders will receive a weekly stipend of R250 as well as meals, to help them until spring time.

By Gail Jennings, Mobility Magazine, Cape Town, South Africa

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Friday, June 5, 2009

World Streets/World Environment Day 2009

The theme of this year's World Environment Day is combating climate change through direct citizen involvement, community action and global partnerships And since that too is our strategic bottom line -- i.e., when we figure out how to achieve big GHG reductions we are well on the way to all the rest of our key objectives (See Mission Statement) -- we are honored to make WED 2009 the principal feature of today's edition. Team work for our small planet!

About WED 2009:

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day's agenda is to:

1. Give a human face to environmental issues;

2. Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;

3. Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;

4. Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

The theme for WED 2009 is 'Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change'. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.

This year’s host is Mexico which reflects the growing role of the Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets.

Click here to go to WED site - http://www.unep.org/wed/2009/

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Profile: Open Green Map's global launch today

We have known the GreenMaps team since we ran into them in Stockholm in 2000 as part of the Stockholm Challenge Environment Awards. They looked great to us back then and they still do today. Like World streets they are at once local and global. That's the ticket.

Here is an announcement about their latest collaborative local/global project which launches today in cooperation with World Environment Day.

Open Green Map Launch! June 5 Celebration!

Green Maps highlight local natural, cultural and green living sites to promote personal and community well-being. Transforming local information into global interaction, the new Open Green Map social mapping platform spurs healthy participation as it shares diverse public viewpoints. Preview our platform in progress here!

Open Green Map's global launch celebration will take place on Friday, June 5 - World Environment Day! On the same day, special events are being planned all over the world: Cape Town, Geneva, Jakarta, Stockholm, Baltimore, Pereira Colombia, the UK towns of Swansea, Clackmannanshire, Neath Port Talbotand other places!

Get involved and support this effort! Download a press release or slideshow and watch the video below. Help spread the word. Participate by Twitter, too. Follow us at Greenmap. Include the word 'greenmap' in your tweet so it will be automatically mapped on twittermap.tv!

For more on Green Maps - http://www.greenmap.org/. Here is a quick summary taken from their website to get you going:

Green Map System promotes inclusive participation in sustainable community development worldwide, using mapmaking as our medium.

We support locally-led Green Map projects as they create perspective-changing community ‘portraits’ which act as comprehensive inventories for decision-making and as practical guides for residents and tourists. Mapmaking teams pair our adaptable tools and universal iconography with local knowledge and leadership as they chart green living, ecological, social and cultural resources.

Over 365 unique, vibrant Green Maps have published to date, and hundreds more have been created in classrooms and workshops by youth and adults. Both the mapmaking process and the resulting Green Maps have tangible effects that:

* Strengthen local-global sustainability networks
* Expand the demand for healthier, greener choices
* Help successful initiatives spread to even more communities

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Query? Whatever happened to road hierarchy?

The following open question on the present status of "road hierarchy" uses and standards for planning just in from Stephen Marshall of the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL - and right up the middle of the street (as it were) of our concerns here. Full contact information follows. You are invited to post your responses directly to him, but it would be good for all here if you could also register it just below as a Comment to this posting. We hope to report on this in due course as the results come in.

Dear all

Following Manual for Streets and other local streets-oriented design guidance, where does this leave road hierarchy?

By road hierarchy I mean the conventional set of road types such as Primary Distributor, District Distributor, Local Distributor, Access Road.

I am asking this list because it can be difficult to track how this is actually used, through published documents, since a document may not mention hierarchy explicitly, but it may still be applied in some way. Or, even if mentioned in a document, it is not always clear how practitioners actually use it, when designing a road network.

I am interested in hearing of any cases where:

(i) Road hierarchy is still used - even if not expressed explicitly in documents - if so, how is it applied?

(ii) Road hierarchy has 'evolved' where there may be new road types added over and above the basic set - if so, what are they?

(iii) There is more than one set of guidance coexisting (e.g.
conventional engineering guidance + urban design guidance) - if so, is the relationship between the two clear and consistent, and how are they actually applied in practice?

(iv) Urban design style street types are used, but are expected (implicitly or explicitly) to correspond to levels in the conventional hierarchy (e.g. a Boulevard may be equate with a District Distributor; a Mews may be an Access Road) - if so, how does this work?

(v) Road hierarchy is applied to the "higher levels" (e.g. trunk roads, county roads) while the lower level use a range of labels (e.g. access street, high street, etc.) - if so, how is the high/low level split decided?

(vi) Road hierarchy is no longer used - if so, what if anything has replaced it?

I would be interested in hearing of any examples of these instances, and how they work, especially in the UK (e.g. local authority practice), but also non-UK examples where the equivalent of road hierarchy applies.

I will let the list know of any interesting results coming out of this. This is part of an investigation into better integration / articulation of road / street hierarchy / layout principles. This research is part of the EPSRC funded project SOLUTIONS (Sustainability Of Land Use and Transport in Outer NEighbourhoodS).

Stephen Marshall, Senior Lecturer, ucftsma@UCL.AC.UK
Bartlett School of Planning, University College London
Wates House, 22 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0QB,
Tel +44 20 7679 4884, Fax +44 20 7679 7502

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Honk! Mind traffic (Almost your car)

Honk! Let’s reach out a bit to see if we and you can open up our mental space with drawings, photos, photographs, videos, jokes, too long stories, what have you . . . each of which intended to help us by using that other and perhaps more clever side of our brain to get perspective or possibly some new ideas about our very serious topics: sustainable transportation, sustainable cities, and sustainable lives.

You are invited to share with us your ideas and materials for this new World Streets column that will appear weekly, and from time to time a bit more often. (We have to be careful not to abuse.)

A good place to post you idea is via the Comment tool just below. Alternatively send them directly to the editor at editor@Worldstreets.org.

And here is our first-ever Honk! just to get you going. A 42 second video clip prepared by the Mobizen carshare company here in Paris as part of a campaign to get across the idea that carsharing is just a bit different from the old way we used to do it, and that Mobizen understands. To check it out for yourself: Click here.

(You may be surprised how well you understand French.)

* Click here to call up all Honks! to this date.

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Update: Public bike developments in Italy

Over the months of April and May the Italian Bicincitta PBS program added six more cities to their “Community Bicincitta”, bringing them to a total of 42 in Italy and 2 in Spain. Brief background on each new city project together with links and contact information follow.

1. Terni, with 5 workstations,

2. Syracuse , opened at the recent G8 summit, the first service of Bike Sharing in Sicily and first service Bicincittà - offering both traditional and bicycles with pedal assisted (e-bikes),

3. Bassano del Grappa, with 5 stations in the historic center,

4. Bergamo, larger project with 15 stations throughout the city, managed by ATB;

5. Schio, revolutionizes the design of sustainable mobility with new Municipality of bicycle lanes safe and secure and the system of Bike Sharing BiciSchio;

6. Asti, in Piedmont, offering a free service for all citizens.

For further information, visit their website at www.bicincitta.com . The specific services can be indentified under their “Adhered Cities” link on the top menu.

Photo showing the "La BiGi" service in Bergamo.

* For more on how Bicincitta works, click http://www.bicincitta.com/progetto.asp

We shall in due course be presenting an overview of the Bicincitta project, along with all of the other major PBS projects worldwide.

Contact info:
Via Genova, 2 - 10040 Rivalta (TO) - Italia
Tel 0119023711 - Fax 0119023721

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

World Streets Monthly Editions

World Streets Monthly Editions are available here. They offer a print version of the entire content of the month's postings. And while the articles in each case are presented without the section with comments and discussion, these can be had readily in each case -- if you click the Read on link at the end of that article, which will take you directly to the full posting and the discussions on the website.

MS Word versions of full month's contents available here:

* World Streets this month: June 2009 (to follow)
* World Streets this month: May 2009 (
* World Streets this month: April 2009
* World Streets this month: March 2009

** But there is not doubt that the most convenient way to consult the month's contents if via the site itself. Have a look here: **
* Article archives for June 2009
* Article archives for May 2009
* Article archives for April 2009
* Article archives for March 2009

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Op-Ed: Can Cape Town’s new mayor drive improved public transport?

Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor Dan Plato elected Executive Mayor of
Cape Town, South Africa, and has pledged to improve the state of public transport. The 48-year-old Plato replaces Helen Zille, who has taken up the position of Premier of the Western Cape after the April elections.

‘Our citizens want jobs, first and foremost,’ Plato reminded his electorate in his acceptance speech. ‘But it is not for the Cape Town local government to employ people and create jobs. We need a stable economy, and we need money to stream into Cape Town. We need to enable businesses to thrive.’

Currently, businesses are constrained by poor electricity supply, acute poverty, crime, municipal red tape – and poor public transport,’ he said. It follows, therefore, that improved public transport is one of the keys to job creation and a thriving economy – considering that only 40% of South Africans own private vehicles.

Now to a reader outside of South Africa, Plato’s pledge to improve public transport might seem an obvious pledge to make – especially ahead of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, now just under 365 days away. The developed world everywhere is focussing on improving public transport, as well as on getting more people onto bicycles or car- and ride-shares, and grappling with air quality, gridlock and cleaner fuels.

In South Africa, however, we have yet to create public-sector-led public transport (or sidewalks and bike lanes, for that matter…). Our transport needs are met (in the most loose application of the term ‘met’) either by private vehicles or by a militant, unregulated and unsafe minibus taxi industry (which moves about two-thirds of public transport passengers).

Yet South Africa’s promise to implement the first phases of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) before the World Cup have been mired in politics, between the opposition-led Cape Town and provincial/national government; and between all tiers of government and the minibus taxi industry (they believe they stand to lose their livelihood).

Cape Town thus far – to differentiate its scheme with those of other South African cities – insists on referring to an IRT (Integrated Rapid Transit) system rather than a BRT.

And instead of lobbying national treasury to have funding moved forward from 2010/11 to 2009/10 (to have a Phase 1A built for 2010), officials, we are told, have been making budget cuts instead, suggesting that a public transport system is not, in fact, a FIFA requirement… (FIFA has responded by saying that the organisation itself will transport fans and VIPs, although the mini-bus industry, of course, had hoped for that slice of the pie…).

‘The point with BRT is that it is not supposed to be glorified city bus service,’ says a frustrated national government transport official, watching the Cape Town situation unfold. ‘BRT is supposed to be a fundamental urban transformation, which creates liveable and walkable liberated zones. You will never get this with a city bus service that is shiny new vehicles and nothing else.’

‘It will be a tragedy for Cape Town to have a R4bn stadium and a R500m city bus service that calls itself a BRT....’

Plato and his team of transport officials have pledged that ‘the City will work closely with the national and provincial departments of transport to ensure the successful implementation of the IRT system,’ but Cape Town could end up with a compromised end product, or a loss of decision-making and implementation authority entirely.

The BRT system has now become a presidential and cabinet level issue. It is the first real transformative test since 1994 in the public transport sector. If South Africans do not fight for it now, we will still be fighting for it in 10 years’ time, as the challenges are not going to be solved with multi-million new freeways and minibus taxi upgrades…

By Gail Jennings, Mobility Magazine, Cape Town, South Africa

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"Pedaling Revolution" - Book review from today's International Herald Tribune

Today's International Herald Tribune carries a book review of "Pedaling Revolution; How Cyclists are Changing American Cities, by Jeff Mapes. I firmly doubt that any of our regular readers are going to learn a great deal from the book as described here. But it is perhaps useful for us to get some understanding of what is going on in the States -- in people's minds as well on the city streets -- as the process that interests us here begins to kick in.

For a first paragraph of the review and the link to the full text, read on:

Full disclosure: I’ve ridden a bike around New York as my principal means of transport for 30 years, so I’m inclined to sympathize with the idea that a cycling revolution is upon us, and that it’s a good thing. Like Jeff Mapes, the author of “Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities,” I’ve watched the streets fill over the years with more and varied bike riders. It’s no longer just me, some food delivery guys and a posse of reckless messengers. Far from it.

* For remainder of review, click here. Or, if that does not work for you, here.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Op-Ed: Chaotic India has an Urban Edge

- Dinesh Mohan, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

“The unprecedented urban growth taking place in developing countries reflects the hopes and aspirations of millions of new urbanites. Cities have enormous potential for improving people’s lives, but inadequate urban management, often based on inaccurate perceptions and information, can turn opportunity into disaster.”
- State of World Population 2007, UNFPA.

“I regard the growth of cities as an evil thing, unfortunate for mankind and the world, unfortunate for England and certainly unfortunate for India...It is only when the cities realize the duty of making an adequate return to the villages for the strength and sustenance which they derive from them, instead of selfishly exploiting them, that a healthy and moral relationship between the two will spring up.”
- M. K. Gandhi

Here we have two views about cities, almost reconcilable. The first by a humane visionary, and the second a consensus view of some professionals in the early 21st century including me. It is difficult to say who will be right in the “long run”, especially in light of the assertions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their predictions about global warming. But, cities are here to stay, and I guess Gandhi’s second concern (above) will have to be taken seriously if IPCC is correct in their assessment.

For many millennia human beings had to limit their greed because excess consumption demanded more manual labour. This limited their travel, the size of house they could build, clothes they could own and food they could eat. This put a limit on the use of natural resources. The industrial revolution changed all that. Our machines provide us with ready to cook food, houses, clothes and effortless travel. This has changed the concept of needs and greed. Our world is now a place where the rich and powerful can use up huge amounts of energy to transform natural resources into objects of daily use, travel and ultimately weapons of mass destruction. The world view has changed into a belief that there are endless resources and science and technology has solutions to every emerging problem without constraint. Most of the responses to IPCC warnings have this belief as their base. But, Gandhi’s concerns refuse to go away, even if at times I find it very difficult to be a faithful follower.

Greed overpowering need is even more dominant in the domain of urban transport. Transportation planning has generally relied on the most simplistic applications of “technology solves all” paradigm. The heady experience of speed from late nineteenth century onward has dominated all thinking. Human beings had not experienced comfortable speeds greater than 5 km per hour for all of their existence as a species except in their dreams. The launch of the train, motor car and the airplane in late 19th and early 20th century changed all that. With no genetic hunches to go by, we became speed addicts and like any other addict placed all concerns secondary to the new craving. Scientific theories and models taught all over the world for a century assumed that the main objective of a trip was to ensure smooth and unlimited movement of cars and if there were any “unintended” effects like deaths, diseases and destruction of living patterns (called externalities by economists) they could be resolved by greater application of technology.

International experience

Unending problems of traffic congestion, CO2 production, accidents and pollution in every single city of the world has forced us to re-evaluate both our theories and practices. Many urban planning groups and professionals all over the world are into deep introspection. Experts like Professor Hermann Knoflacher from Vienna warn us that “Car traffic is cooling social relationships by heating up the atmosphere! Traditional transportation engineering is a discipline to maximize congestion and as a side effect damages the urban fabric and finally the city. Global warming as a consequence is inevitable.” Voices like his are not alone or new. Jane Jacobs, the legendary urban planner explains our current problems “Of course, if you have advisors that come from the West as advisors you're likely to get such a city. What American traffic engineer going to the Middle East doesn't want to make limited access highways and doesn't think in terms of wide streets and automobile capacities? They victimize American cities this way. Why won't they victimize foreign cities this way?”

These are not voices of doomsday advocates. Their concern arises from the fact that most western cities have not been able to solve the problems that we are grappling with in India. According to the latest report from the Texas Transportation Institute congestion has increased in every single urban area in the USA in the past 25 years in spite of all investments in transit and road construction. Peak time delay in urban areas increased almost threefold between 1982 and 2007. The report warns us that “One lesson from more than 20 years of mobility studies is that congestion relief is not just a matter of highway and transit agencies building big projects”. USA is not alone in this. Almost all cities in the world face severe congestion on arterial roads. During peak times car speeds average 10-15 km/h in cities like London, Paris, Tokyo, Jakarta, Tehran or Mexico City. The fact is that rich cities have not been able to reduce car use to very low levels in spite of extensive public transport infrastructure in place (See Table 1).

All the cities in included in this table (except Singapore) had matured before the onset of the twentieth century, before cars became dominant. Their structures were determined by the need for people to walk or take the tram or the train. Even they have not been able to keep car use to very low levels. These data show that the car is used for more than 40% of the trips in most cities even when public transport is available. Evidence from cities like London, Paris and New York indicates that public transport use is greater than 60% only in the small inner core where parking is very limited and roads are perpetually full. In the rest of the city car use is generally more than 60% as roads are less crowded and there is easy availability of parking. Detailed studies from these cities point out that car owners generally shift to public transport only when no parking is available at the destination and average car speeds are less than 15 km/h. This empirical evidence suggests that car use (not ownership) is low only when walking and bicycling trips also form a significant proportion of all trips in cities.

It appears that car use is encouraged when high speed entry and exit is ensured to city centres by building multi-lane wide avenues and elevated roads through the city. The classic example of the decay of American cities is given as proof of this phenomenon. Public transport use also becomes difficult when large colonies or gated communities are put in place. These neighbourhoods ensure long walking distances to public transit and discourage use. It has also been observed that when cities have very noisy roads and elevated metros, richer citizens move to quieter suburbs requiring long car commutes.

This international experience should give us some important pointers. All urban transportation policy reports prepared by consultants in India assume that car use can be reduced just by providing more pubic transport facilities and assert that if their prescriptions are followed 70-80% of the trips would then be taken by public transit. The fact is that no city in the world has accomplished this feat! Further, car use as a proportion of all trips is so low in India that only very innovative thinking and practices may reduce growth in personal transport trips. In the richest cities of India, Mumbai and Delhi, recent estimates suggest that car trips constitute less than 10% of all trips. In all other cities this proportion would be lower. Additionally, the share of public transport is in these two cities is certainly higher than most of the cities in Europe or North America. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine how car and motorcycle use can be contained as we get richer if the international experience is anything to go by. Obviously, business as usual and copy-cat emulation of rich cities is not going to help.

. . .

The way forward in the face of global warming

What does sustainable transport mean for us? At a fundamental level it requires less energy consumption. The choices available are: low emission vehicles, alternative fuels, fewer trips, shorter trips, more use of public transport instead of private vehicles, and maximising the number of walking and bicycle trips. Obviously, all options will have to be pursued for maximum gain. But, we will have to establish priorities on our political agenda as the shift is not going to be easy or painless both socially and technologically. Let us examine each option briefly here.

At present our policy makers are putting the maximum stress on low emission vehicles and alternative fuels. This is horribly short-sighted. For the next twenty years there is no hope of huge reductions in CO2 primarily through low emission vehicles because the small gains will be more than offset by the rising number of vehicles and longer trip lengths. We know that as fuel consumption reduces people travel more and end up using more fuel. Production of biofuels has already become controversial internationally because of rising food prices. In a food and water short India, this is going to be even more difficult. Most international experts do not see biofuels as a solution in India. Even vehicles driven on electricity are not CO2 efficient because thermally produced electricity produces more CO2 (including transmission losses, etc.) than diesel/petrol powered vehicles. And, this does not include the negative effects of the huge amounts of fly ash associated with electric power. Even in public transport an efficiently run bus system produces about half to two-thirds the CO2 per passenger than a metro rail system. This is not to suggest that we should not have low emission vehicles, we must, and sooner than later. But, it will not be the main stay for a sustainable transport system.

Fewer trips, shorter trips, more use of public transport instead of private vehicles, and maximising the number of walking and bicycle trips has to be the priority, and it has a lot to do with how we develop our cities and streets. Now we know that no matter how many roads we build and how wide they are they always get filled up with vehicles. The number of vehicles people own is always more than road space available as evidenced by road conditions in small towns of India to car and road based cities like Los Angeles in USA. Therefore, vehicle emissions in a city are directly proportional to the area of road space in a city. The higher the percentage of road space and more the number of elevated transportation corridors in a city more the pollution and CO2 emissions. This also applies to one way and signal free roads. These roads force people to travel longer distances and keep their vehicles on roads for longer times. For example, my neighbour used to get out of his house, turn right on the main road and go 2 km to his office. Now all the turns have been blocked, he has to turn left, go 2 km to the next major junction and then make a U-turn to travel 4 km more to his office. Instead of 2 km, now his daily office trip is 6 km!

Public transport will only be used by choice if it is safe to walk and cross the road to take the bus. Provision of very safe roads then becomes a pre-requisite for promoting public transport and hence cleaner air. In a hot country the access trip to the bus must be less than 5-10 minutes away,or less than 500 m. This means that no city block can be more than 800-1,000 m long. At present many of our neighbourhoods and gated communities are larger than that. This discourages public transport use. The short walk must be safe from crime also. This can be ensured only if there are shops and street vendors on the road. So mixed land use, and intensely so, becomes imperative.BUs use in hot climates can become a mode of choice if all buses are air conditioned. An air conditioned bus only adds half a rupee per trip over its life time.

How do we ensure fewer and shorter trips? Rich and highly qualified people find it more difficult to find work close to home than those less qualified or poorer. Therefore, poor people should not be forced take long trips by moving them to the periphery. Short trips for most residents of the city can be enabled by policy. Poor neighbourhoods should be allowed to exist cheek by jowl with rich ones and all should be less than a sqkm in area. Small shops, restaurants, hospitals and businesses have to be an integral part of residential areas to make all this possible.

If the above conditions are met then you can have dedicated bus and bicycle lanes on all major roads of a city. A typical arterial road being two car lanes, one dedicated bus and bicycle lane each, a 2 m pedestrian path and a 1 m tree line in each direction. Such a road can move at least 35,000 persons in each direction at peak time. If such roads exist every 0.8 -1 km all over the city you have adequate capacity for moving people. Such a road does not have to more than 45 m wide.

This is the way forward for a sustainable transport option. Our cities are ready for it. Many of these options are present “illegally” already. We have to recognise them as solutions and not problems as we currently do. Unless we re-think our plans for flyovers, wider roads, gated communities, “slum” removal, and elevated transport corridors, our cities will turn out to be “warmer” than we can tolerate.

For the complete paper as published by the Journal Civil Society - http://web.iitd.ac.in/~tripp/media/dmarticles/chaotic%20india-civil%20society.pdf

To contact the author:
Dinesh Mohan, PhD - dmohan@cbme.iitd.ernet.in
Professor and Coordinator
Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme
WHO Collaborating Centre
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Room 808, 7th Floor Main Building
Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110016

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World Streets – May 2009 Contents

During the month of May a total of 34 articles, Op-Ed pieces, and commentaries were featured in World Streets, coming from authors or on projects in Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, UK, and USA. You will also find a handful of videos and tools, plus an invitation to read World Streets (Ruas do Mondo) in Portuguese.

To view them you have several options:

* A PDF file which you can call up and print up by clicking here.

* Or if you scroll down the left menu, you will see under World Streets Archives that all of May’s articles can be called up with a single click there.

* You may also find it handy to use the Search function to locate a specific title, subject, author, etc.

* For a recapitulation of all past published items, the best place to get start is by clicking here, our Archives, Library and Reading Room.

Your comments and suggestions on these archiving procedures are more than welcome.

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Honk! Battered Bicycles in Paris

Vélib, Paris's pioneering, city-transforming public bike project has had its fair share (actually unfair share I would say) of vandalism and theft, and while it does not threaten the integrity and viability of the service, it is part of the landscape of public bikes and needs to be understood and taken into account. There is, in fact, a great deal that can be done to reduce the magnitude of these challenges , and indeed steps are being taken here. That said, let's have a look at some of the examples of damage, which have been collected for us by vigilant Eyes on the Street Sentinel in Paris, Larry Langner.

And here you have a poster placed on one of the JCDecaux street signs in Paris, warning that: "Breaking a bike is easy. It can't defend itself".

And then: "16,000 bikes vandalised, 8000 disappeared. Velib is yours. Protect it.

For more examples, click to http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-264472

* Editor's note: Click here to read report on "Reports of Vélib’s Demise Greatly Exaggerated"

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Op-Ed: The choice challenge (Try nudging)

‘Nudging’ travel behaviour change through the design of information systems…

- Erel Avineri, University of the West of England

Today’s travellers have a wealth of information at their disposal to help plan and execute their journeys. The availability of travel information to the public has changed dramatically in recent years with the increasing use of the internet and mobile communications. Millions of portable satellite navigation systems are sold every year in the UK and Europe. The number of people using web-based journey planners to inform their journeys is increasing. The rapid technological developments in the field of Advanced Traveller Information Services (ATIS) demand a greater understanding of what part this technology is now playing in relation to travel behaviour, and how such systems can be designed to benefit both individuals and transport systems as a whole.

It has been generally argued that when making choices between alternative transport options, travellers behave in a reasonably rational way, and can be approximated to act according to their interests, as long as they are provided with complete and accurate information on each of the alternatives – they try to minimise money and other costs, and maximise their utilities from the journeys they are making. Due to the size and complexity of the transport system, choosing between alternative routes, alternative modes of transport (car, bus, train, cycling, etc.) or the timing of their journeys is not always an easy task for travellers.

Providing travellers with reliable and updated information on travel options is therefore acknowledged as having the potential to improve travellers’ choices in ways that are beneficial for individuals and society. Stemming from its 1998 Transport White Paper, the Department for Transport has given, and continues to give, notable attention to traveller information systems as part of its approach to transport policy.

Individual travellers are commonly seen as rational human beings who, through choice making, maximise their utilities. However, insights and (theoretical) understandings from psychology and behavioural economics are now emerging through the literature to paint a more complex picture of decision-making processes. Empirical studies provide much evidence that in real life, the behaviour of travellers is typified by bounded rationality. Travellers’ limited cognitive resources have a strong effect on their use of information. Recent evidence showed that even when provided with explicit information on their travel choices, travellers turn out to interpret and value this information in a way that systematically violates the assumptions of rational behaviour. But it is not just the content of information that influences our choices. Inspired by the work of cognitive psychologists, researchers at UWE Bristol found that travellers are heavily influenced by context, ie. the manner in which travel information is being presented.

Thaler and Sunstein ( from the University of Chicago) argue in favour of the so-called Libertarian Paternalism approach, as a way to help people make the ‘right’ choices without restricting their freedom of choice. In their recent book (‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness’), they suggest the incorporation of small features in the environment to attract people’s attention and highlight the ‘right’ choices for them and alter their behaviour. The art and science of ‘nudges’ could inspire the further design of ATIS, to help travellers make better choices. The following are a few (out of many) examples that illustrate such nudges.

Defaults: a default is the option that individuals receive if they do not explicitly request something different. Defaults have strong influence on behaviour – and they tend to become a habit. Some journey planners provide travel information on more than one mode of transport. In the design of a journey planner, travellers could be provided by default with information about car transport, even if they are planning to use public transport – this default might increase the attractiveness of car transport.

On the other hand, setting public transport as the default mode could nudge people to consider this as the first option. No matter how defaults are set, it is important not to restrict the choices available for the traveller – making information on all alternatives available.

Framing and ‘loss aversion’: People tend to feel and behave differently when information about their choices is presented (or ‘framed’) as gains or losses. The following illustrates three possible ways of presenting the same information on two commuting choices.

Under the rational choice model, the format of the information should not matter. However, since people are more sensitive to losses, they might find the cycling option specifically attractive in the third alternative. This is a rather simple example of how the designers of travel information systems can help people to make more sustainable travel choices simply by choosing a specific format to present information about time (and other attributes) of the alternative choices.

Salience: A specific challenge ATIS designers are faced with is how to provide travellers with information on the environmental costs of their journeys. A growing number of travellers are already aware of, and have concerns about, the greenhouse emissions they generate. When informed about environmental impacts, they might make sustainable choices. However, many of the negative impacts of our travel choices are not salient. For example, it is difficult to the driver to easily imagine the air pollution and climate change caused by carbon emissions.

Carbon emissions are invisible to travellers; it is therefore difficult for them to associate their travel behaviour with environmental costs. Without feedback, a behavioural change is less likely. Providing drivers with daily information on their carbon emissions might make them ‘visible’, and could make it easier for them to do the right thing. Recent research reports on the effect of in-vehicle data recorders on drivers’ behaviour; this on-board technology collects and records information on the movement, control and performance of the vehicle. It was found that drivers, through the provision of daily feedback on their performance, tend to improve their safety behaviour. Using the same technology to provide drivers with environmental costs, against some targets or against previous performance, could provide them with a psychological incentive to change their behaviour.

The effectiveness of travel information systems may be enhanced if more consideration and emphasis is given to the design of the information context.
The libertarian paternalism approach is not offered as an alternative to other measures to influence travel choices. In some cases, synergy between the pricing and the soft intervention by nudges could be an effective policy. ‘Getting the prices right’ by taxes and subsidies could be the first step of a transport policy; however, the effect of pricing policies on behavioural change is limited – partly because of individuals’ bounded rationality. Travellers do not always associate their behaviour with the relevant costs and this slows down the process of behavioural change. Nudges can help individuals to overcome cognitive biases, highlight the better choices, and increase the size and the speed of behavioural change – without restricting choices or limiting travellers’ freedom of choice.

In liberal democratic regimes, where the public and political acceptability of regulation and enforcement are low, the libertarian paternalism approach, through the nudging of travellers, could be one of the most promising approaches to deal with the need for a radical and urgent behavioural change. The last 10 years have seen a rapid evolution of the field of travel information provision. The technological level of today’s systems, the widespread availability of travel information services, together with the insights from behavioural sciences, makes the incorporation of nudges into travel information systems more easy and cost-effective than ever. This could be the trigger to achieve the behavioural change we urgently need.

Dr Erel Avineri, Erel.Avineri@uwe.ac.uk
Reader in Travel Behaviour, Centre for Transport Society,
University of the West of England, Bristol
This article appears in the current edition of The Science & Technology Review, issue 2, pp. 133-134. Published by PSCA International. www.publicservice.co.uk. World Streets thanks them for permission to reproduce the full text of the article here.

* Listen to the author on "Nudging" in the following podcast presentation - http://www.tsu.ox.ac.uk/news/podcasts/eavineri081215.mp3

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Shared space - From Living Streets

“Shared space”: whereby road signs and segregation are minimised

The concept of shared space places importance on how drivers make decisions about their behavior. A shared space can be one in which motor traffic is not physically separated from people or cyclists, and there is an absence, or severe reduction of, traffic signals, signs, road markings, humps and barriers.

When no user has obvious priority, all users look out for each other. Shared space means drivers are forced to pay more attention to their surroundings by looking out for pedestrians and cyclists. It encourages drivers to make eye contact and interact with pedestrians, rather than assuming they have right of way and ignoring life going on around them. It may sound counter-intuitive, but trial schemes have reduced pedestrian casualties by nearly half. Thorough consultation with all user-groups is essential to ensure that schemes meet the needs of everybody.


• Raised pavements have existed since before the Roman times, but only became common in towns and cities in the 19th century. As motor traffic and speed increased it became more common to separate pedestrians and motorcars;

• The use of traffic lights, guard railing and road signs have increased, all of which make drivers respond automatically without regard to the world around them. Pedestrians can be viewed as inconvenient barriers to smooth traffic flow, even in streets whose primary function is for shopping, or living in;

• Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman observed that traffic efficiency and safety of urban streets improved when redesigned to encourage people to negotiate their movements with others;

• Shared space is used widely in some parts of the Netherlands and Germany, and is becoming more common in the UK with schemes in Southampton, Brighton, Kensington and Ashford.


• A pedestrian-friendly environment, with reduced traffic speeds and railing allowing freedom of movement;

• Motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are compelled to engage with each other;

• Schemes have huge potential to reduce the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured on our roads. The redesign of Kensington High Street in London, which incorporated shared space concepts, resulted in the number of casualties being reduced by 47%;

• Reduction in traffic congestion: A proposed shared space plan for Exhibition Road in London is expected to reduce the amount of traffic by 30%.

Further Reading
* European shared space project site: http://www.shared-space.org/
* video demonstrating shared space in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLfasxqhBNU
* UK’s Manual for Streets town planning guidance: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/pdfmanforstreets.pdf

Rob Cann, Policy Coordinator, robert.cann@livingstreets.org.uk
Living Streets, http://www.livingstreets.org.uk
London, UK

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brainfood: Canned video interviews via Skype

If you have a minute you may want to have a quick look at this. You may find some use in it. A few weeks ago some friends from The Movement Design Bureau in London (Eyes on the Street), called over to suggest that we might spend a few minutes together to demo a Skype video link they are working with in a program they call Re*Move (forgive them, they're English).

To give our video some content they invited me to wing it on the subject of a kind of "layered conference" that I have been giving some thought to for the last months, namely to investigate in some depth and from different angles the concept of and potential for sharing (as opposed to old-time ownership) in this strange new world of ours. . . including various aspects of sharing in transportation.

I thought you might possibly want to have a quick look and cogitate a bit about how you might in time want to put this approach to work in some of your own projects? Remember. They are just getting underway with this. It's still brainfood.

From Re*Move, The Movement Design Bureau

Eric Britton's shared vision for future transportation

Eric Britton has a plan. The man behind worldstreets.org, thinks a lot about the future of transport, and its connection to the overheating nature of the planet. His 'Plan B' vision is a radical twelve point blueprint that he thinks needs to be gone through to stop us cooking the planet - and is an interesting read.

In the green transport field right now, alongside electric cars, high-speed rail, and all the usual stuff that gets tossed around, perhaps the most intriguing idea concerns not the development of new products, but the networking together, and sharing of existing ones. Our cars, bicylces, space - how do we 'use' them more effectively? Take cars. Right now, we're fast-forwarding to a world of hybrids and EVs - but what's the point when we've still got single vehicle occupancy, one-person-to-one-car ownership, and one hour in every 24 utilisation rates?

The problem is that at the very heart of the notion of today's car is a concept built around ownership, freedom and the ability to cut yourself off in a little glass and steel box. Your car is a space that, right now, you probably only choose to 'share' with your friends and family. Sharing a car with a complete stranger (even if you're not both in it at the same time) is a relatively big leap to make, but it's something worth thinking about.

That's what Eric wants to look into in more depth. So in the video chat (above) we had with him a few weeks back, he described the idea of a conference - for want of a better word - to draw people together to talk about sharing within the bounds of future transportation. On the first day, Eric suggests transportation-related talk should be banned. Instead, the attendees - linked together with experts and interested parties across the world via video and Internet, would seek to understand the human psychology behind sharing things. Then on the next days, this would be developed into the field of transportation applications. The big news? Eric doesn't think it will work without a woman at the helm...

Can we make this happen? Can you help? Watch the video, let us know what you think, and check out World Streets for more.

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Honk! Swine flu increases traffic fatalities in Mexico City

This is a very short note, but I thought folks on the World Streets blog might appreciate this traffic factoid from here in Mexico.

Apparently the swine flu in Mexico City caused few real deaths but many traffic deaths. The large drop in the volume of cars increased velocities and also increased traffic fatalities. There were 12 traffic fatalities in the 6 days before the government issued their swine flu alert and 75 traffic fatalities in the 6 days after.

Here is the kicker: the increase in traffic deaths (63) dwarfs the number of swine flu deaths (8) during those six days.

Thought that might be of interest.

Kind regards,
Tom Bertulis
ITDP, Mexico City

SOURCE: See Comment below

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back from Seoul: Denis Baupin on Cities against Climate Change

We try very hard in World Streets to stick to our topic, which is already broad enough. But from time to time we reach out to give attention to the basic underpinnings of public policy which shape the basic environment of our sector and our ability to do something about it. In this spirit, we are pleased to present here a recent "reflection" made by Denis Baupin, Deputy Mayor of Paris in change of sustainable development policy, upon his return from the second meeting of the C40 Cities against Climate Change conference which just concluded in Seoul. You will find below the French language original, and after that if you scroll down a loose translation which your editor has roughed out into English.
Les 19 et 20 mai, Denis Baupin a participé, au nom de la Ville de Paris, à la réunion biannuelle du C40, l’alliance des 40 plus grandes villes de la planète contre le dérèglement climatique. Vous trouverez ci-dessous pour information son compterendu « personnel », en ligne sur son blog www.denisbaupin.fr.

De retour de Séoul: Les villes contre le dérèglement climatique

- Denis Baupin, le 21 mai 2009

Les 19 et 20 mai, j’ai participé, au nom de Paris, à la réunion biannuelle du C40, l’alliance des 40 plus grandes villes de la planète contre le dérèglement climatique. Après New York, il y a deux ans, et avant Sao Paulo en 2011, elle se tenait cette fois à Séoul. Le moins que je puisse en dire est que j’en reviens avec des sentiments forts, mais contrastés.

Un mouvement en marche
Tout d’abord, et c’est le plus important, cette réunion a fait la preuve que, pas à pas, quelque chose est en train de se passer : une prise de conscience réelle et sérieuse. Prise de conscience des risques considérables que le dérèglement climatique fait peser sur la planète et l’humanité, prise de conscience de l’urgence à agir, prise de conscience de notre responsabilité, nous, notre génération, pour tenter d’enrayer le processus.

Entendre les maires de Toronto (Président du C40), de Londres, de Sao Paulo, de Séoul, de Copenhague, de Sydney, de Rotterdam, le gouverneur de Tokyo, les représentants de Berlin, Milan, Varsovie, Karachi, New Delhi, New York, Los Angeles, Addis Abeba, Johannesburg, Lagos, Stockholm, Melbourne et Paris, mais aussi Bill Clinton (dont la Fondation appuie financièrement le C40) dire les uns après les autres à quel point le dérèglement climatique leur importe, décliner leurs projets, rivaliser d’arguments et de volontarisme, a parfois un côté un peu lancinant et rébarbatif. Mais cela exprime malgré tout une évolution majeure des discours et des priorités affichées. Pour nous écologistes, qui avons longtemps été seuls à prêcher dans le désert sur ces questions, c’est indéniablement un pas important qui a été franchi.

Et ce d’autant plus que, réunion après réunion, une communauté humaine s’est constituée : pour tous ces élus, techniciens et associatifs, tous à la fibre plus ou moins militante, engagés dans ce combat, chaque rencontre est non seulement l’occasion d’échanger sur nos projets, sur la meilleure façon d’agir, mais aussi de participer à une aventure humaine incroyable - quelque chose qui nous dépasse -. De tous les continents viennent des personnes d’origines, de cultures, de religions différentes, mais qui partagent toutes le sentiment de vivre quelque chose d’exceptionnel, face à un défi hors norme : c’est la première fois que l’humanité doit gérer une épreuve qui touche tous les terriens.

Au-delà de cette prise de conscience commune, la seconde utilité majeure de cette rencontre est l’échange d’expériences. J’étais pour ma part amené à plancher, sur la base du travail effectué à Paris, sur les politiques de mobilité d’une part et sur les énergies renouvelables en ville d’autre part. Quelle satisfaction de voir combien l’ampleur du travail accompli est reconnu par ses pairs, qui eux-mêmes s’affrontent aux mêmes contraintes politiques et techniques, mais aussi d’échanger sur les bonnes idées, les expériences menées, les innovations (que de questions sur Vélib !)… Quel plaisir aussije ne résiste pas à le mentionnerde voir le vice-gouverneur de Tokyo présenter fièrement une plaquette de prototypes de mini-hydroliennes urbaines et de mini-éoliennes, sur la base des mêmes intuitions que nous avons à Paris des potentiels énergétiques sous-exploités, démontrant qu’à Paris comme à Tokyo, on cherche sur les mêmes pistes.

Durant ces deux jours, il n’y avait pas moins de 16 ateliers. Je n’ai évidemment pas pu assister à tous, mais de toute part, la qualité des échanges était au rendez-vous, les progrès perceptibles, année après année. Un exemple parmi d’autres de coopération entre villes que je trouve particulièrement emblématique car portant sur l’une des plus graves menaces à venir : en octobre 2008 nous avions tenu une rencontre à Tokyo sur « l’adaptation » des villes aux conséquences du dérèglement climatique, c'est-à-dire comment faire en sorte que les dégâts soient les moins graves possibles puisqu’on sait quil y aura de toutes façons un début de dérèglement climatique. Depuis s’est mis en place un réseau des « villes-deltas » animé par Rotterdam, tant ces villes vont être amenées en tout état de cause à répondre à des problèmes similaires d’une ampleur considérable.

Le troisième point fort de cette rencontre a été la montée en puissance d’un véritable lobby des villes vis-à-vis des Etats. Pour le C40, comme pour d’autres réseaux de villes et de territoires aujourdhui coalisés, l’objectif est non seulement que la conférence des Etats à Copenhague débouche sur un succès (c'est-à-dire un accord sur les suites de Kyoto) mais qu’y soit également reconnu la part que les villes auront à jouer dans l’application de cet accord. Objectif résumé par trois mots « Engage, Empower, Ressource » : des engagements clairs et chiffrés avec un calendrier ; des pouvoirs et compétences supplémentaires confiés aux villes qui s’engagent pour le climat en matière de réglementation (d’urbanisme, de logement, de transport, etc. permettant de lever des obstacles à l’action) ; des ressources contribuant à financer les villes qui agissent pour le climat (fiscalité sur le CO2, un partage des revenus des ventes aux enchères des quotas de CO2, etc.). Clairement les villes revendiquent de prendre leur part de l’effort, à condition que les Etats « ne se mettent pas dans leur chemin » et au contraire facilitent leur action. C’est en fait la généralisation au niveau planétaire de ce que des Etats et villes américaines ont engagé pendant l’ère Bush : agir, ouvrir la voie sans attendre l’Etat fédéral et contribuer ainsi à sa transformation.

Cette « politisation » des villes sur le terrain des Etats qui n’était pas gagnée d’avance, est aujourdhui un acquis. Et j’aurais l’occasion du 2 au 4 juin prochains d’aggraver encore mon bilan carbone en allant à Copenhague pour une rencontre des villes pour finaliser leurs revendications quelques jours avant de les porter à Bonn se tiendra l’une des dernières réunions des Etats, préparatoire au sommet de décembre. Surtout, au-delà des revendications, c’est finalement une diplomatie internationale des villes qui est en train de se mettre en place, une sorte de contre-pouvoir des Etats, capable de peser en cas de carence de ces derniers, pour leur forcer la main. Ne serait-ce que parce quau niveau des villes, nous sommes bien placés pour savoir quil ne suffit pas de voter des textes et d’édicter des lois ; le plus souvent, l’essentiel est dans la mise en œuvre.

mais aussi de grosses faiblesses

Pour autant, malgré ce bilan très largement positif, je ne peux laisser sous silence des craintes quant aux faiblesses de cette conférence.

La première faiblesse, - et la plus importante- porte sur le poids des mesures prises. Que pèsent tous ces projets d’isolation thermique, d’éco-quartiers, de traitement des déchets, de transports collectifs, de renouvelables, de mobilités douces, d’éclairages plus économes, etc. face aux logiques lourdes d’un mode de développement et de production encore très loin de s’inverser ? Comment ne pas y penser dans une ville comme Séoul l’automobile est reine, les autoroutes pullulent, les tours grimpent, et les cheminées d’usines (en banlieue) sont bien plus visibles et nombreuses que les panneaux photovoltaïques ? Derrière ces discours volontaristes, quels moyens sont réellement mis en œuvre ? Quelles ambiguïtés se cachent derrière les termes de « développement soutenable », « d’énergie propre » et de « croissante verte » répétés par les nouveaux convertis, jusqu’à en avoir la nausée ?

Moi-même qui représente Paris, et qui défends devant mes collègues les projets que je porte avec volontarisme, je ne peux m’empêcher de m’interroger : aurais-je vraiment les moyens de les mettre en œuvre ? La volonté politique (pas la mienne, mais celle de la municipalité) sera-t-elle vraiment au rendez-vous ? Comment s’inscrira-t-elle dans le temps, quand on voit comment la politique de mobilité s’est tout à coup affadie, quand on voit surgir les projets de tours, d’équipements énergivores et peu utiles (stades, etc.) aux dépens d’investissement plus urgents ? D’autant plus convaincu de l’importance de la volonté politique pour avancer que j’ai pu en mesurer l’efficacité, je me convaincs quun mouvement est malgré tout engagé et quil est inéluctable, ne serait-ce que parce que les contraintes écologiques s’imposeront. Les villes ne peuvent agir quau rythme des compétences et des moyens quelles ont. Tout chemin commence par de petits premiers pas qui, certes, peuvent paraître hésitants, mais au moins indiquent la direction à prendre.

Mais le problème, avec le dérèglement climatique, comme cela fut fortement souligné lors des conclusions de ces deux jours, c’est que le temps joue inéluctablement contre nous. Chaque jour qui passe sans changement, c’est autant de tonnes de CO2, de méthane, etc. parties dans l’atmosphère de façon irréversible. La lourdeur de nos procédures, l’inefficacité des prises de décision, au niveau des Etats mais aussi des villes, nous risquons de les payer durement.

La seconde faiblesse touche, pour les villes comme pour les Etats, au profond décalage entre Nord et Sud. Même si le C40 comprend 20 villes du nord et 20 du sud, force est de constater que dans les prises de parole, dans l’organisation même de la conférence (y compris la capacité à se rendre à Séoul). Les plus pauvres sont les plus mal servis, alors quils sont les moins responsables du dérèglement climatique et probablement les plus importantes victimes. Pauvre parmi les pauvres, le continent africain, certes représenté par certaines de ses grandes villes, a ainsi vu sa parole fortement minorée. L’enjeu est pourtant crucial : la conférence de Copenhague risque bien de buter cette fois brutalement sur le refus du sud de la planète (dont l’empreinte écologique par habitant est inférieure à 1) de prendre des engagements si le nord ne reconnaît pas sa lourde responsabilité et n’accepte pas de mieux partager, notamment pour aider les pays du sud à s’adapter aux conséquences du dérèglement climatique. Je suis donc intervenu en ce sens pour que le message que les villes porteront auprès des Etats manifeste cette volonté de solidarité nord-sud.

Ce ne fut pas ma plus lourde tâche. Car un troisième point m’est apparu tout aussi inquiétant, portant sur la place du nucléaire, évoqué à plusieurs reprises par des intervenants, et notamment le gouvernement de Séoul, comme une des « énergies propres ». Il est toujours pénible, dans une assemblée consensuelle, chacun tente de mettre en évidence les avancées communes, d’apparaître comme le vilain petit canard qui rompt l’unanimisme, même s’il est partiellement artificiel. J’avais déjà le faire lors de la réunion de Tokyo quand, pour prévenir les conséquences du dérèglement climatique sur l’agriculture et l’alimentation, des chercheurs japonais préconisés l’utilisation massive d’OGM. J’avais perçu alors dans l’assemblée des regards soulagés que la contradiction ait été apportée. Le scénario fut à peu près le même quand j’ai fait part de mon désaccord pour qu’on puisse classer dans cette enceinte le nucléaire parmi les énergies propres. De la part des quelques Verts présents représentant leurs propres villes, des sourires entendus, ce n’était pas une surprise. Mais aussi nombre de témoignages par la suite me remerciant d’avoir fait cette intervention, ajoutant pour l’un d’entre eux « Surtout venant du seul Français dans la salle » ! La chose m’avait jusque- échappé : que ce soit le seul représentant du pays le plus nucléarisé du monde qui fasse cette remarque ne lui donnait que plus de poids.

Pour autant, l’alerte est bien présente. Ce n’est pas une découverte. Mais y compris dans de tels rassemblements les idées écologistes sont de mieux en mieux prises en compte, la vigilance face au « nucléaire contre l’effet de serre » reste de mise.

S’appuyer sur les acquis pour continuer d’avancer

En guise de conclusion très provisoire, je reste pour autant convaincu que l’évolution à laquelle nous assistons ces dernières années est historique. L’avenir dira si elle sera suffisante pour avoir un impact réellement significatif. Rien ne permet aujourdhui de relâcher la vigilance ; surtout pas les rapports des scientifiques qui décrivent une situation toujours plus alarmante ; ni la menace du retour au gouvernement français de Claude Allègre, le plus célèbre négationniste du dérèglement climatique (après Bush, mais de celui- on est débarrassé).

Raison de plus pour poursuivre notre action, ne pas faire la fine bouche sur les acquis, et s’appuyer sur cette prise de conscience planétaire pour accélérer le mouvement. Les six mois qui viennent seront cruciaux : de la mobilisation des peuples du monde, des corps sociaux, des collectivités, de leur pression sur les gouvernements dépendra le résultat de la négociation de Copenhague. Si Copenhague est un échec, les conséquences sur l’évolution du climat dans les années qui viennent, pourraient être bien dramatiques et se compter en centaines de millions de victimes des catastrophes, personnes déplacées et réfugiées. Si Copenhague, au contraire, se conclut sur un succès, sur une capacité de l’humanité à réguler ses gaz à effet de serre, le pire sera peut-être évité. Et sur la base de cette capacité à adopter des compromis planétaires, d’autres grandes négociations pourront peut-être être engagées sur la biodiversité, le partage des matières premières dont les réserves s’épuisent et sur un échange plus équitable.

Une utopie ? Peut-être. Mais il dépend de chacun de nous de ne pas rater cette occasion historique.


Rough translation follows: (We invite our bilingual readers to help us improve on this. Please copy your proposed revisions to the editor.)

On 19/20 May Denis Baupin, Deputy Mayor of the City of Paris for Sustainable Development, participated in the name of his city in the biannual meeting of the C40 group, an alliance of 40 of the great cities of the planet against climate modification. You will find here his personal reflections on his trip and findings.

Back from Seoul: Denis Baupin on Cities against Climate Change

- Denis Baupin, 21 May 2009

On 19 and 20 May, I represented the City of Paris in the biannual meeting of the C40 alliance of the 40 largest cities of the planet against climate change. After New York two years ago and before Sao Paulo in 2011, this year we met in Seoul.

The least I can say is that I come back from the meeting with strong feelings, some of which mixed.

A movement in motion...

First and most important, the meeting made it clear that, step by step, something important is going on: a growing awareness . Awareness of the risks that climate change poses to the planet and to humanity. Awareness of the urgency to act. Awareness of our responsibility, that we, our generation, must now step forward to try to halt the appalling process that has been engaged.

I listened to the mayors of Toronto (Chair of C40), London, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Copenhagen, Sydney, Rotterdam, the governor of Tokyo, representatives of Berlin, Milan, Warsaw, Karachi, New Delhi, New York, Los Angeles, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, Lagos, Stockholm, Melbourne and Paris, and also to Bill Clinton (whose Foundation supports the C40) . . . repeat one after another how climate change is important, and then go on to describe their projects, their arguments and their will to succeed – all this at times a little one-sided and certainly a little daunting. But nevertheless, demonstrating a significant shift in their statements and priorities. For us environmentalists, who have long been the only one preaching in the desert on these issues, it is undeniable that an important step has been taken.

And over the two days, meeting after meeting, a human community was formed: for all these elected officials, technicians and associations, more or less militant, engaged in this fight, each session gave us not only the opportunity to discuss our projects, our ideas on how best to act, but also to participate in an incredible human adventure - something that transcends us. Coming together from all continents and people of different origins, cultures, different religions, but all sharing the feeling of living something exceptional, together in the face of an extraordinary challenge, the first time that humanity must somehow manage an event that affects everyone on Earth.

Beyond this common awareness, the second major high point of the meeting was the opportunity to exchange experiences. I for my part presented a report telling about our work and accomplishments in Paris, on our policies for sustainable mobility on the one hand and on renewable energy throughout the city on the other. What satisfaction it is to see the extent to which our work is recognized by our peers, who similarly have to face the same political and technical constraints, but also to share news on good ideas, experiments, innovations (many questions on Vélib!) ...

What a pleasure, too - I cannot resist to mention it - to see the vice-governor of Tokyo proudly present a plate of mini-prototypes of urban hydroliennes and mini-wind turbines, based on the same intentions that we have in Paris to find and harness underexploited renewable, showing that Paris and Tokyo are on the same tracks.

During these two days, there were no fewer than 16 workshops. I was not able to attend all, but everywhere the quality of the exchanges was notable, perceptibly progressing year after year. One example among others of cooperation between cities that I find particularly symbolic, because it addresses one of the most serious threats still to come. In October 2008 we held a meeting in Tokyo on "adaptation" of cities with the consequences of climate disruption, i.e. , what to do to ensure that the damage that will occur is the least grave possible, given that we at least now aware that this sharp change is indeed going to happen. This led to the creation of a network of “city-deltas "hosted by Rotterdam, in the knowledge that these cities are all going to have to figure out how to respond to similar problems of considerable magnitude.

The third striking occurrence of this meeting was the emergence of a true lobby -- of Cities vis-à-vis States/Nations. For the C40, as with other networks of cities and other political units today, the aim is not only that the conference of States in Copenhagen will succeed in its goals (i.e., an agreement to follow up on Kyoto) but that it is also recognized the cities will play a major role in the implementation of this Agreement.

An objective summed up in three words by "Engage, Empower, Resource": Clear commitments and targets with a timetable, with additional powers and responsibilities to be entrusted to the cities who are committed to the climate in terms of policies and regulations (planning, housing, transport, etc.. to remove obstacles to action). As well as the importance of contributing resources to finance the city in its actions on climate (CO2 tax, a revenue sharing auctions of CO2 allowances, etc.).

Clearly cities will have a major role to play, provided that the Nation States "do not get in their way" but rather come in to facilitate their work. What we are now seeing is the global generalization of what a growing number of cities committed to during the Bush era: that is, acting, both individually and collectively and thus showing the way, without waiting for the federal state to decide.

This "politicization" of the cities on the ground previously held at the national level was not won in advance. It is a real achievement.

And I will now have the opportunity from 2 to 4 June to further exacerbate my carbon footprint by going to Copenhagen for a meeting of cities to stake their claims, a few days before taking them to Bonn for one of the last national meetings, preparatory to the December Summit. Above all, it is important that this new role of the city of international diplomacy is put in place, providing a sort of counterweight to national governments, capable of weighing in the balance and, if necessary to force their hand. If only because at the city level, we are well placed to know that it is not enough to pass legislation and enact laws, most often the key is in implementation.

... But also great weaknesses

However, despite this largely positive review, I cannot leave you in silence concerning the some of the weak points of the conference.

The first weakness - and the most important – is the reality of the net impact of the measures taken up to now. What really is the weight of all these projects of thermal insulation, eco-areas, waste treatment, sustainable transport, renewables, of mobility, more efficient lighting, etc. – in the face of the enormous inertial weight of an established pattern of living and development far from being turned around, or even modulated.?

What really to think when face in a city like Seoul where the automobile clearly reigns supreme, where highways abound, towers and factory chimneys climb (including in suburbs) – all of which much more visible and numerous than their photovoltaic panels? Behind all our fine speeches, how are the financial and other resources actually being implemented? What ambiguities behind the terms "sustainable development", "clean energy" and "growing greener" repeated endlessly by bright new converts to the point of nausea?

In my role representing Paris, together with my colleagues defending the projects that I try to carry out with determination, I cannot help but wonder: will we really have the means to implement them? The political will (not mine, but that of the municipality), will it really be there?

How indeed is this going to work out over time, when we see how our sustainable mobility policy is suddenly fading, when we are witnessing proposals for building more towers, more energy devouring projects of little real usefulness (stadiums, etc.). -- at the expense of far more urgent investments? All the more convinced of the importance of political will to move forward as I could gauge their effectiveness, I am convinced that a movement is still engaged and that it is inevitable, if only because ecological constraints are going to impose it. Cities can move ahead only on the base of the skills and resources they have at their disposal. Every path starts with one small first step which, admittedly, may seem hesitant, but at least it can show the direction to take.

But the problem with climate change, as was strongly emphasized in the conclusions of these two days, is that time is against us, inevitably. Each day that passes without fundamental change on our part, will see many more tons of CO2, methane, etc.. entering the atmosphere with irreversible impacts. And given the cumbersome procedures, inefficient decision-making at the state level but also the cities, we risk to pay a very high price.

The second crucial weakness for the cities as in the States, is the deep gap that exists between North and South. Although the C40 includes 20 cities in the North and 20 from the South, it is clear that in taking the floor, in the organization of the conference (including the ability to travel to Seoul)., that the poorest are the most poorly served -- and while they are least responsible for climate change they are probably the most hard hit victims. The poorest of the poor, the African continent, certainly represented by some of its major cities, has seen their influence greatly reduced.

The issue is crucial: the Copenhagen conference may well face this time the refusal of the South of the planet (including where the ecological footprint per capita is less than 1) to make commitments if the North does not recognize its heavy responsibility and accepts to do its full share, especially to help the southern countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. I intervened with the message that the Cities must make clear to the States the high importance of North-South solidarity.

But that was not my most difficult task. As a third point and no less worrying series of statement favoring nuclear energy, mentioned several times by speakers, including the government of Seoul, as a "clean energy". It is always painful in a consensus meeting, where everyone tries to highlight the common progress, to appear as the ugly duckling that breaks the unanimity, even if it is partly artificial. I had already done as much at the meeting in Tokyo when, to prevent the consequences of climate change on agriculture and food, Japanese researchers recommended widespread use of GMOs. I had seen in the assembly looks of relief that the contradiction has been publicly stated. The scenario was roughly the same this time when I expressed my disagreement about policies favoring nuclear energy. From the few Greens present representing their own cities, this was met with smiles and came as no surprise to them. But also a number of other representatives came up later to thank me for making this point, one person adding that "It was especially striking coming from the only Frenchman in the room"! Actually this point had escaped me: that coming from the mouth of the only representative of the most “nuclearized” county in the world lends this statement even more weight.

However, the warning is there. This is no new discovery. But the truth is that even in such gatherings as this where the ideas of environmentalists are increasingly taken into account, continuing vigilance against the "nuclear against the greenhouse effect" polemic is still required.

Building on the gains to continue to advance

As a provisional conclusion, I remain convinced that the trend we have been witnessing in recent years is historic. Time will tell if it will be enough to have a meaningful impact. Nothing should get in the way of our continued vigilance, neither the reports of scientists who describe a situation increasing ever more alarming, nor the threat of return to the French government by one Dr. Claude Allègre, the most famous Holocaust denier of climate change (after Bush that is, but at least we are now free of him).

All the more reason to continue our action, to recognize the achievements and to build on this growing awareness to accelerate the global movement. The six months ahead will be crucial: the mobilization of the peoples of the world, social bodies, communities, pressure their governments depend on the outcome of the negotiations in Copenhagen.

If Copenhagen is a failure, the impact on climate change in coming years will be dramatic and be counted in hundreds of millions of disaster victims, displaced persons and refugees. If Copenhagen, by contrast, ends with a success on the ability of mankind to control its greenhouse gas emissions, the worst may be avoided. And on the basis of this ability to adopt global compromise, other major negotiations may then be initiated on matters such as biodiversity, the sharing of raw material reserves are depleted and a more equitable exchange.

Utopia? Perhaps. But it depends on each of us not miss this historic opportunity.

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