Monday, July 6, 2009

100 Principal Voices comment on World Streets

World Streets needs to catch on before my feet get wet. (Netherlands)

On 19 June we invited our readers to provide short supporting messages concerning the contributions that World Streets is making to advance the new mobility agenda world-wide. Within two weeks a round one hundred readers from 37 countries had expressed their views on the importance of continuing the work of the planet's only sustainable transport daily. Listen to their voices, they are experts.

Number visitors signing in to support World Streets in June.
Number messages supporting World Streets to date
For the full messages, click here. In the meantime you can find just below an A to Z of extracts from 26 of them.

A. Even the name World Streets captures the intensely local nature of these issues that nonetheless have a global impact. (Ireland)
B. The best interactive platform to envisioning the change the cities around the world needed to transform the transport sector. (Spain)
C. Two boys were playing football in my street earlier this week. What a wonderful sight. Time to reclaim our World Streets! (UK)
D. What would I do without World Streets? It's always a great read, a source of inspiration, information, a sense of community... (South Africa)
E. Offers an excellent information and exchange service to busy professionals and citizens’ organizations. (Chile)
F. A great source for making "new" knowledge about transport in towns and cities more visible and available to the interested politician, planner, engineer, professional, activist and citizen. (Iceland)
G. The best source in the world for sustainable mobility information. (Sweden)
H. World Streets – ruthless common sense. (India)
I. We desperately need this kind of AGORA where we can gather, fight, disagree, and finally agree on sensible transport solutions (USA)
J. A beacon of light showing the way to sustainable living. (USA)
K. We commend the tremendous work that World Streets is doing. (Hong Kong)
L. Has radically changed my perspective about transport problems and possible solutions towards a sustainable future. (Brazil)
M. Wonderful to be reminded daily of being part of an international movement that is gathering momentum. (Singapore)
N. Will play an important role in molding professional and public opinion and strengthen the movement for equitable, sustainable cities. (India)
O. A great forum for sharing ideas about the many things we can do to make transport work better. (Australia)
P. A most useful resource that complements our work and provides support to our advisory projects in the developing world. (Germany)
Q. I can only hope that policy makers around the world will see this as a concrete example of going from idea to action – (Israel)
R. A perfect source for busy individuals bombarded with information-overload in this era of communication saturation (USA)
S. What we want - slow, shared, lively streets with lots of people on them. How we get it - supporting World Streets. (Sweden)
T. I admire you for the effort it takes to produce something as good, entertaining and useful as this. (Canada)
U. Keep it up¡ you are one of our last resources. (Colombia)
V. So useful that I am setting up an Italian version of it, thanks to Eric's strong and continuous support. (Italy)
W. We would certainly be poorer without it. (UK)
X. When I look at World Streets I wonder why it wasn’t done before, because it’s so obvious that we need an international platform like this! (Spain)
Y. Passion is great; financial support makes the passion available for the long term. (Denmark)
Z. World Streets needs to catch on before my feet get wet. (Netherlands)

Now, click here for full responses.

And by the way, who dropped in to pick up their free copy of World Streets thus far this morning? Have a look:

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Profiles: Streetfilm - Seeing it helps you to believe it.

The goal behind the Livable Streets Network, of which Streetfilms is one component, is to harness 21st-century communications technologies to create a powerful consensus for change in our cities -- and make them into safer, healthier, and fairer places to live, learn, work and play. But for this to happen the indispensable intermediate step is to find ways to help people change their minds, challenge their old ways of thinking about how they live and get around in their city. So with this in mind the Network is working with a wide variety of tools. One of these is Streetfilms.

The starting place behind Streetfilms is a firm belief that we live at a time in which there are many different ways of reaching people, one of them being through short films of the kind which you see in the millions posted on YouTube and the like. In order to make our contribution, we work from a solid base of web support and outreach, the Livable Streets Network, to which we have added a small team of young videographers who spend most of their time charting problems and potential solutions in and around our own city -- but also leaving time to travel to cities and projects around the world to document and share outstanding experiences and contributions.

If there were only one place, only one brilliant strategic approach that would do the trick of city transformation, this peripatetic working style would not be necessary. But we live in a world of huge varieties and great distances, which means that one day the next good subject for a Streetfilm may be a project or a problem in the Bronx or the Battery, and the next day it may be taking place in Columbia or Brazil, India or France, South Africa or Peoria. And when we spot that opportunity, it is our job to grab our cameras and make our way there to work with all those on the spot who are working hard to make their project succeed. In this way we are able to make our modest contribution of getting the word out -- working from bare-bones budgets and always with strong local support to get the job done.

Streetfilms is only one of a number of projects around the world that are trying to make this kind of contribution. And while film is just one of the tools at our disposal in order to help people first open and then perhaps change their minds, it is a tool that we are seeing from our experience really can work. Reports and conferences and books are necessary, but short films made broadly and freely available are part of the winning solution.

And since it does work, for us and for others, we strongly recommend that these efforts of communication and sharing should be broadly supported by individuals , organizations and government agencies across the board. And in many places. In fact, don’t you think you should be doing something like this in your city?

We look forward to the day in which we have many strong "Streetfilms competitors" in many places -- because if we are ever to meet the challenges of the necessary overhaul of our transportation systems , it is going to require all of our efforts and more.



Clarence Ericson, and Elizabeth Press,
The Streetfilms Team,
New York, NY, USA

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Honk! Selling New Mobility (Carsharing for two)

Here is a short video produced by the new Mobizen carshare start-up in Paris last year which, simple and short as it is, will click with some people and make a point. Have a look first and then let's talk about it.

Click here for passion.

But what is this video doing here?

There may be a fairly large number of people around the world who have deep knowledge about various parts of the new mobility agenda, and there certainly are many good projects and services which are showing the way, but somehow the bottom line results are simply not there. We continue to live in a high-cost, low-choice, high-carbon world. We are not getting the vital messages across. We are simply not selling our ideas.

We live in an era in which few people are willing to read long papers, never mind books or reports, so no matter how much of these we produce they will never in themselves be enough to get the job done. We have to learn to make better uses of media, so here in World Streets we will from time to time be picking out what we regard as interesting examples.

Do you have any good candidates for us? Be sure to share them, perhaps in the Comments section that follows just below.
* * * More on New Moblity Media here. * * *

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Friday, July 3, 2009

The best public bike system in the world?

Adam Cooper, Canadian, on why Canada's BiXi is the best public bike system in the world

Watch out world, the city of Montreal is on the move: this time powered by pedals. The second largest city in Canada is now home to North America’s largest bike sharing program. The BIXI system (Bicycle + Taxi) is Canada’s first attempt at large scale bike sharing; and from my initial experiences I will say it is extremely well done, maybe even the best in the world.

Beginning in the summer of 2008, Stationnement de Montreal, the City’s parking authority, was mandated to design, build, operate and maintain a bike sharing system, by the Montreal City Council. Less than one year later (May 12, 2009) the BIXI program was up and running. Operated by a non-profit company (the Public Bike System Co.), BIXI provides 3000 Canadian designed and manufactured bicycles at 300 stations located across the core of Montreal.

There is no doubt that the BIXI system is a pioneer and that Montreal has raised the bar on bike sharing. BIXI utilizes the latest in technological advances to improve on bicycle sharing systems found around the world, featuring; wireless data transfers, solar powered docking stations and a touch screen interface based on the parking authority’s highly reliable pay terminals. BIXI bikes are fully aluminum and very comfortable to ride, featuring; integrated LED lighting in the frame, an internalized chain, adjustable seat height and proprietary parts to reduce the risk of theft. Additionally, BIXI engineers believe they have developed a better locking mechanism than exists on the market today, addressing many of the concerns currently coming out of Velib in Paris.

Not only do these advanced technologies make the system appealing in terms of their sustainability aspects, they also reduce the cost of installation; no data or power connections are required, meaning stations can be placed anywhere in the city and be up and running in approximately 30 minutes. This adds tremendous value to the BIXI system when comparing against existing bike share systems which require construction crews to dig up the street. This one change presents a real value for the BIXI system, as construction of stations in other programs such as Velib, can take up to one month.

Further adding to the BIXI appeal is the mobility and scalability of the system. The stations are modular, operating on a “plug and play” style of connection, with many options for station configuration (the only thing they can’t do is perfect circles). What this means is that program operators can adjust the location and capacity of the stations after the program has launched. The system can be reconfigured for large public events and stations not functioning at their maximum utility can be expanded or contracted to meet the supply and demand constraints.

Although BIXI is still in its infancy, there is no doubt in my mind that this technology will be exported to other cities in Canada and around the world. For the current BIXI subscribers this adds further value to the $78 annual membership fee, as their BIXI key will allow them access any BIXI system worldwide. The attempt by the Public Bike System Co. is to build a community around bike sharing where members can access BIXI in any city they travel to. Further adding to the community aspect of the technology is the fact that users can log into a website and track the number of kilometers they have travelled, the amount of gasoline they have saved and the amount of CO2 they have offset by choosing to cycle

If any of this sounds interesting to you, then get a hold of BIXI who will deliver the system, scaled to your needs in a turnkey fashion. The not for profit nature of the company means they are willing to work side by side with your community to develop a bike sharing system that fits your needs. Finally, public bicycles are actually public. The option to deliver a high quality 3rd (4th?) generation public bicycle system to your community, free from advertising and corporate interests finally exists. Vive la velorution!
- Adam is an M.A. Planning Candidate and Research Assistant at the TREK Program Centre of the University of British Colombia. He is working on a thesis on public bikes and is participating in the World Eyes on the Street peer network and watchout.

For more on BiXi:
BiXi Home page
BiXi Montreal
Bixi-Velo Facebook
Wikipedia. on Bixi
Article: Number 19 on Time Magazine Best Inventions of 2008
PriceTags on BiXi

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Let's clean up the Wikipedia entry on 'carsharing '

Carsharing: the last nail in the coffin of old mobility

This is to invite you to check out the Wikipedia entry on "carsharing" -- -- and if your time permits to make use of your knowledge and experience to improve the (only fair) presentation as it presently stands.

It is important to have a first rate treatment on this high visibility, since for better or worse the Wikipedia often functions as a de facto first point of reference for any new concept in the field of sustainable transport and new mobility, whether by the media, researchers, policy wonks, or others looking for orientation and references on these important topics. So it is important to get them right.

In point of fact we took an original initiative back in 2005 to bring this particular entry on line , together with a number of our colleagues involved in the World Carshare Consortium; however as these things go the actual text has been gradually amended and not always for the better. So please accept this as a cordial invitation to log into the Wikipedia entry and improve it, both in terms of its information content and language.

If you are not comfortable in editing yourself, you are invited to send on your suggested changes here, and we can then have a careful look and enter them along with other incoming suggestions in the closing days of July, Carshare month on World Streets..

If you have other colleagues or know other groups with expertise in this field, it would be appreciated if you would let them know about this collaborative exercise so that they can join in as they feel it to be useful.

And yes, let us all give some thought to doing a bit of carsharing ourselves. At least give it a try. As we like to say: 'Carsharing is the last nail in the coffin of old mobility'.

The editor

PS. For the record, you have a good source of background on the topic at the World Carshare Consortium and its extensions, which brings together more than 450 carshare operators, researchers, suppliers and others taking leading roles in the field in more than thirty countries on all continents. Check it out, including the more than three thousand messages and notices that are on file there (and searchable for reference).

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Print: Car Free Development & New Street Design

This handy resource on car free developments and new street design just in from our hard-working friends over at the Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP). If you do not know their valuable work from an international perspective, click here to learn more.

Registered SUTP users can download this latest report by clicking here 1.11 Mb (after login). Unregistered visitors may click here for registration (at no cost) and then proceed to download after login.

From the report Preface

The idea of Car Free Development is gaining increasing attention around the globe. Designing streets for people, not just cars, is considered to be a key issue in efforts aimed at reducing car dependency and promoting low carbon mobility. Moreover, recent concepts summarised under the term New Street Design help to reconcile car traffic movement with the needs of pedestrians and the desire for attractive public spaces. These concepts significantly improve conditions for non‐motorised transport where completely blocking access for vehicles is impossible or undesirable.

In many developing and newly industrialised countries the level of car ownership still remains low compared to Western European or US standards. These conditions provide a unique opportunity to foster non‐motorised transport, to improve accessibility and to maintain economic viability. Avoiding the erroneous trend of car oriented city development pursued for many years in Western countries will benefit the vast majority of city dwellers in developing countries. In addition, it will contribute significantly to meet climate related CO2 mitigation targets.

This document aims at providing the reader with an overview of the latest available literature on Car Free Development and New Street Design. Moreover, it includes links to a wide range of related organisations and projects. We hope the information provided here will be useful for anybody interested in the subject.

For more information on our work, please see the last page of the document.

SUTP, Eschborn, June 2009

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July is World Carshare month on World Streets

July is World Carshare month on World Streets. What exactly does that mean and what might it mean for all of us here? In truth we have no clear idea at this point as to how this is going to play out, other than to use this great new medium that is World Streets in collaboration with the World Carshare Consortium which has been looking into this issues in a collaborative international expert forum since 1997. Let's see what happens when we put two good sustainability tools together.

Carsharing: the missing link in your city's sustainable transport system

The World Carshare Consortium is a free, cooperative, independent, international communications program supports carsharing projects and programs, worldwide. Since 1997 it offers a convenient place on the web to gather and share information and independent views on projects and approaches, past, present and planned future, freely and easily available to all comers. Today it serves as an information and exchange point for some 460 members coming if form more than thirty countries.

Why does the New Mobility Agenda support a concept that may to some appear to be so off-beat and marginal as carsharing? Simple! We think it's a great, sustainable, practical mobility idea whose time has come and whose potential impact is quite simply huge. Carsharing: the missing link in your city's sustainable transport system.

But carsharing is not yet a universal phenomenon as it should be. It is our firm belief that these is not one city, note one community even on this planet that should not be taking a careful look at carsharing. A better way to get around.

The following map showing people who came into the Consortium website this morning illustrates both the accomplishment and the challenge . . . we now have to get together to fill in all those empty white swaths. Let's see if we can now put World Streets and others to this great and worthy task.

July - Carsharing Month on World Streets

Our goal for the month is to see if we can encourage and publish at least two or three good articles each week over the month, and quite possibly if we are lucky one a day. After all the world has lots of carsharing in its future and if we can't help the world to understand that, well we are not doing our job.

Now we are counting on you to join in on this. So start to think about your contribution. Bear in mind that our readers come from many different places and while they are undeniably sharp when it comes to matters of sustainable transport, their knowledge of carsharing will often be a bit patchy.

Here are some of the kinds themes we would like to see addressed over the month.

• Outstanding public sector programs, research, etc. that are showing the way
• Cities that understand and are giving strong examples
• What can national programs, agencies do to support and speed the penetration of good carshare projects?
• Ideas for smaller community and even rural carsharing
• Carsharing in Global South cities
• What’s going on in Japan?
• How come no carsharing in China, India and South East Asia? (And when do we start?)
• The sociology of carsharing
• Who carshares?
• Carsharing on university and business campuses
• Combining carsharing and ride sharing
• iPhone et al one-click access to carshare use
• Does the future belong to Zip, Hertz, Avis, etc.?
• Coming carshare events where they can come and learn for themselves
• What about a list of outstanding carshare consultants available to work with you
• And update our World Carshare supplier list as well
• Outstanding reports and publications (critically presented of course).
• Bad News Department: I am sure you will have some candidates there
• Personal essay on experience with carsharing – learning, adaptation
• Videos

The idea is that after a month of total emersion (well almost) in a swirling sea of world carsharing, our readers are going to come away with a pretty sophisticated understanding of how this works and can work in their cities (and in their own lives)

So pitch in, do your bit, and reap the benefits of open teamwork.

Eric Britton, Editor

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The bottom line: Krugman on "Betraying the Planet"

Over at the New Mobility Agenda we hooked the timetable of our transportation reform program to climate issues at the beginning of this decade. And when President Clinton in announcing the creation of the Clinton Climate Initiative on 1 August 2006, warned "We have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions about 80% over the next 10 to 15 years," well we took his words to heart.

Now three years later, how do we look? The 5% to 8% annual reactions necessary to meet that timetable? Oh dear no. We have to the contrary continued to generate ever greater amounts of greenhouse gases and other pollutants than ever, and at accelerating rates. So what do we do? Just forget about it? Well, let's clear the decks today and have a look at what Paul Krugman wrote on this score in today's International Herald Tribune.

From the International Herald Tribune of 30 June 2009 * (Fair use - see below)

By Paul Krugman

So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century New Hampshire may well have the climate of North Carolina today, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and across the country extreme, deadly heat waves — the kind that traditionally occur only once in a generation — may become annual or biannual events.

In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.

But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.

Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.

Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn't it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.

= = = END = = =

It may seem strange but the bottom line, the real urgency for transportation system reform in and around our cities that we presently have to face, does not come from the more than 1 million people killed on our roads and streets each year; nor the 50 million or so who are injured in traffic; nor from the fact that in nine cases out of 10 every year it takes you longer and cost you more wherever it is you want to go, whether you are in your own car or not; nor from all the costs and uncertainties being faced as a result of uncertainties and escalation of petroleum and resource costs; and not even from the fact that our present no-choice transportation system is not serving very well the majority of people in our communities who are too young or old to drive, too poor to own and operate a car, too unfit for reasons of physical or mental orientation to drive , or who simply choose not to own and drive a car. But no, at the end of the day the real bottom line is the fact that our present transportation arrangements are crushing our planet at a rate which makes fundamental reform in all sectors our highest political and economic priority.

You have heard all that before? You continue to harbor doubts about the veracity of the claims being made in scientific circles about the extent of the damage and its future cost? Well let me suggest that you run for political office and that you vote against any form of climate control legislation. You will not be alone.

The editor, World Streets


Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Source and fair use: This article originally appeared in the New York Times of 30 June 2009. You can view their original article here. And click here to view World Street's policy on Fair Use. Comments welcome.

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Heads-up: Keeping up with World Streets

Using LinkedIn to keep up with World Streets

- Paul Minett, Trip Convergence Ltd, New Zealand

This is a practical post with a suggestion. I found that I was not keeping up with World Streets because I do not use the RSS feeds. And I wanted a weekly summary rather than daily emails or the monthly summary. Some people are hard to please!

Using LinkedIn to keep up with World Streets

What I found is that if you join the World Streets Working Group on LinkedIn - a free social/professional networking site -- you can get a daily or weekly (your choice) summary of the World Streets posts sent directly to your email. I use the weekly version to keep up myself.

Here is how you do it:
1. Sign in to LinkedIn at (or click on the link in item 2)

2. Go to Groups and click on the World Streets Working Group (alternatively just click this link:

3. Click the ‘Join Group’ button.

4. You will see that you get options for how often you would like to receive summaries of activity in the group. The way it is set up, all World Streets posts go to this group, and then are summarised for you at whatever frequency you would like. Like something you see there, a single click takes it to you the World Streets site.
An additional benefit of joining the LinkedIn World Streets group is that you can see who else is there, and communicate directly with others there who share this interest.

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Dialogue: Who is going to take the lead?

Who are going to be the main actors leading the transition to sustainable transportation in and around our cities?

This is not entirely self-evident since there are a fair range of what would seem to be possible candidates. However in order to sort this out, it will be important that we first have a realistic understanding of what has been going on up to now. And to say the least, the news is not good.

When it comes to "sustainable transportation" there is out there a rich world of rhetoric, claims, advertisements, notices, media pieces, announcements of projects and events, that taken together can give one the impression that something important, something even transformative is going on. But when you get down to the harsh reality of what is going on at the level of the street, a very different picture emerges.

The sad fact is that after twenty years of talk, and, it has to be said, a rising crescendo of messages and even actions, the sad news is that every day in just about every city on this planet, traffic is getting worse, the amount of scarce resources consumed continues to escalate, the injustices extended, the basic economics ever less viable, and the environmental cost steadily mounting and edging toward climate meltdown. We are failing to meet the challenge. It would be exceptionally weak-headed of us to be optimistic under these circumstances.

We all know that something must be done and that it should be done without further delay. However it is far less clear who is going to do what under these circumstances. The fact is that despite all of the conferences, reports, talk about treaties, and even pioneering projects and accomplishments here and there, there is a continuing leadership vacuum. Who is going to fill it?

The goal of this week’s open dialogue is to ask you for your views on this. Later we can build on your feedback and ideas in older to develop a broader analysis, but what better way to start than to ask the hundreds of knowledgeable people who check into World Streets every day for their own views.

To get us started on this, you will find your left a small reader poll asking for your views on this. In addition, you will find is always that there is space for comments right below here, and we invite your contributions with real interest.

Here are our candidates. If we missed anyone important, please let us know.

* International organizations
* NGOs
* Scientific/academic community
* National governments
* Industry and private sector
* Cities and local government
* Local associations/transport, environment, etc activists/groups
* The media
* Children, schools
* Foundations
* World Streets
* You – as a citizen, parent

The word is now to you.

The editor

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Bad News Dept: Law requires disabled people to wear signs (Indonesia)

Jakarta – June 28, 2009, The Straits Times

"Lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won't run them down as they cross the street."

Indonesia's traffic nightmare

Jakarta – June 28, 2009, The Straits Times
NEW laws requiring disabled pedestrians to wear traffic signs have met with frustration and derision in Indonesia, where in the eyes of the law cars have taken priority over people.

The laws will do nothing to improve road safety or ease the traffic that is choking the life out of the capital city of some 12 million people, and serve only to highlight official incompetence, analysts said.

Within five years, if nothing changes, experts predict Jakarta will reach total gridlock, with every main road and backstreet clogged with barely moving, pollution-spewing cars.

That's too late for the long-awaited urban rail link known as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which has only just entered the design stage and won't be operational until 2016 at the earliest.

'Just like a big flood, Jakarta could be paralysed. The city's mobility will die,' University of Indonesia researcher Nyoman Teguh Prasidha said.

Instead of requiring level footpaths and ramps, lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won't run them down as they cross the street.

Experts say the new traffic law is sadly typical of a country which for decades has allowed cars and an obsession with car ownership to run rampant over basic imperatives of urban planning.

'It is strange when handicapped people are asked to carry extra burdens and obligations,' Institute of Transportation Studies (Instran) chairman Darmaningtyas said.

'The law is a triumph for the automotive industry. It's completely useless for alleviating the traffic problem.' The number of motor vehicles including motorcycles in greater Jakarta has almost tripled in the past eight years to 9.52 million. Meanwhile road space has grown less than one percent annually since 2004, according to the Indonesian Transport Society.

'Traffic congestion is like cancer,' Institute for Transportation and Development Policy specialist Harya Setyaka said. 'This cancer has developed over 30 years as Jakarta begins to develop haphazardly beyond its carrying capacity.' A 2004 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency found that traffic jams cost Jakarta some 8.3 trillion rupiah (822 million dollars) a year in extra fuel consumption, lost productivity and health impact. -- AFP

- - -
Thanks to Sudhir Gota of the CAI-Asia Center, Manila, Philippines for this heads-up.

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Profiles: Guidelines for submittals

Preparing a World Streets Profile

We welcome well written articles that report on outstanding groups and programs dealing with problems and solutions in our chosen sector, looking out for tools and approaches that have potential very broad, hopefully universal application. Probably the best point of reference to guide your submittal is the tone and content of Streets itself. Beyond that considering authors are invited to check the contributor notes here.

It's a big world out there -- and as we all know are there are literally thousands of groups and programs, each doing their bit to advance the sustainability agenda in our sector. If for instance you simply scroll down on the left menu to our listing of hot links to key organizations and programs working in our area, you will see more than a hundred of them listed here. And if you click to our Knoogle New Mobility knowledge base, you will see that we have scanned and included more than twelve hundred. And you know others yet.

Profile subjects:

Against this rich backdrop, we are inviting World Streets Profiles on and from selected organizations and programs around the world whom we regard as important players showing the way in the push toward sustainable transportation, sustainable cities and sustainable lives, and about whom we figure our readers will want to know more. Some of these profiles will report on the work, accomplishments and offerings of international organizations and NGOs, others regional or cooperative programs, outstanding projects, and yet others quite local activities that nonetheless to our mind represent interesting models for study and possible replication in other places. Activist university, research and specialized consultancy groups will not be immune to our interest either.

And yes, we shall also from time to time be profiling private sector groups whom we see as potentially part of the solution. There is certainly wide scope for profiles where there is evidence of their strong commitment to the sustainability agenda. But at the same time, dear reader, be sure that we will not be doing any greenwashing in these pages. No time for that.

In short we are looking for reliable information and inspiration for the hundreds of discriminating readers coming to Streets each day from more than 50 countries around this gasping planet. We want them to come away from their read of your profile pleased to know more about you and your work, and better yet with a few ideas about some things that they might now be able to look into or get to themselves.

Note: Just to be sure we are clear on this. These Profiles are not intended to serve as announcements for a new or existing program, such as may exist on one of the early pages of your website. They are intended to be not so much purely descriptive as analytic, critical, and showing the lessons of experience and accomplishment. Thank you for understanding this.

Profile content:

A typical profile runs anywhere from 300 to 2000 words. However please bear in mind that you probably will have the reader's full attention no more than five to ten minutes. (At least not for the first piece that will be placed on line. There is place for links to more for those who wish to dig deeper.)

You certainly have figured this out for yourself, but let's just for the record run down the list of the kinds of things that our readers expect to see covered in a profile:
• Who you are?
• What you do?
• How you got started and why?
• How you do it?
• Why you do it?
• How you pay for it?
• How, if at all, do you work with others?
• What have you learned through the lessons of experience (good and bad) that you would draw to the attention of colleagues in other places considering something along these lines?
• Where can the reader turn for more background and details on your work, possibly useful tools and reports, accomplishments, etc. ?
• What you intend to do in the future?

And if you have any good graphics or photos that help the reader to get a better feel for your project, that can be very useful.

The idea is for our authors to be collegial and frank with their peers. So share with the reader too some of the outstanding lessons you learned, possibly at times a bit painfully, through your hands-on experience, just in case the reader is interested in trying or replicating all or some part of your approach. Your counsel as to potential problems, bottlenecks, and things to avoid/provide in advance for will be precious. And if you have at any point run into problems and had to change course, back-peddle or otherwise figure out how to cope, I am sure that our readers will be grateful to hear about this as well. They have to know how hard it is . . . but also to understand that with adequate preparation, monitoring, adaptability, energy and brains on their part it can be done.

From a reader perspective:

Bearing in mind that our readers are smart people coming from many countries around the world and with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience, we try to provide for them articles which are highly readable, informative, and which look at whatever it is from their perspective.

We invite you to start by considering our readers and what they generally are looking for when they come to Streets. Information and inspiration in about equal parts I would say. And if possible all that to be written in an engaging way, bearing in mind that they are busy people and there is a lot of competition for their time and attention. Bear in mind too as you draft your piece that your readers come from many different places, live and work often in very different cultures, and more than half do not have English as their first language, meaning that we really do try to avoid too familiar usage, insider jokes, and slang.

Questions? Suggestions? Nominations? This is the place to come. Write, call or Skype to . . .

Eric Britton, Editor
| | +331 7550 3788 | Skype newmobility |
| 8/10, rue Joseph Bara | 75006 Paris | France |

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Profiles: Shared Space Institute (Netherlands)

Sharing Knowledge on Shared Space

- Sabine Lutz, Shared Space Institute, Drachten the Netherlands

On June 23 a stunning article was posted on World Streets, by Paul Barter, of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the University of Singapore. He refers to experiments with shared space or ‘naked streets’ which have drawn considerable public attention in recent years. Indeed they have. From 2004 – 2008 seven European partners from five countries have been sharing knowledge on Shared Space.

It takes shared space to create shared understanding

In the Netherlands, since February 2009 the Shared Space Institute is operational, as one of the project’s tangible results. On June 10th 2009 the Institute had its official opening. The institute is dedicated to further exploring and applying the Shared Space principles. What do they teach us about the ins and outs of successful public spaces, and what changes need to be made to maintain them? And perhaps even more important: what does the Shared Space concept teach us about wealth and health of the people living there?

What does ‘Shared Space’ mean, and why do we think it’s needed?

Over the past decades, traffic objectives and traffic legislation have determined the way in which public spaces were designed. This was meant to improve traffic flows and traffic safety. But it was at the cost of the quality of the public spaces and the living environment of people. And it was also at the cost of the personal conduct in public, and the professional capacities of those who are responsible for public spaces.

In contrast to current practice, Shared Space strives to combine rather than separate the various functions of public spaces. By doing so, the quality of public spaces will be improved, and responsible behaviour will be evoked. So, when designing spaces, Shared Space relies on information from the surroundings to guide road users' conduct, instead of forcing them to strictly obey to traffic rules and signs. When there is a primary school, we don’t want to hide it behind fences and sign posts. Instead, we extend the school yard out into the street. We think that car drivers are not stupid. If they can see children playing in the streets, they will reduce speed and drive as careful they possibly could.

We need space for traffic and space for people

Of course, this does not mean that rules will be entirely superfluous. Without rules of the road, some well meaning drivers would drive slowly, others would drive quickly, believing correctly that they were doing so safely, and still others would drive quickly but not as safe as they thought they were. Therefore, Shared Space makes a clear distinction between traffic areas and those spaces, which should serve as people space and thus must invite to behave socially. In his article from Tuesday, June 23, 2009 on, Paul Barter very clearly pointed out the characteristics of these areas.

Both of them, roads and motor ways on the one hand and streets on the other, are depending on one another. Only if there is a suitable network for fast traffic, we can design all the other public space for the purposes it’s meant for: all those surprising and interesting things people want to share with each other.

We need to change our minds

But that’s not all. We learned that Shared Space does not only change our thinking about how to handle traffic and how to design our roads and public spaces. It also points out how to tackle the overwhelming power of rules and legislation in politics and in our daily lives. Shared Space gave way to the search for new ways to achieve key improvements in the interrelated areas of road safety, spatial quality, economic prosperity, governance, community capacity and confidence. It stimulates the capacity of communities to be more creative in the way they tackle a broad range of issues. And it also assists politicians, decision-makers, city staff and citizens to 'think outside the box' when looking for ways to address public issues.

Who is working at Shared Space Institute?

We are ten professionals in the Netherlands, experienced in various working fields, such as traffic engineers, urban planning, psychology, process management and geography. We are and connected to a worldwide network of researchers, practitioners and citizens. We all share the mission to develop a new way of thinking about public domains.

However, the quality of public space is not a goal in itself. We think it’s important to create ‘people spaces’, places where people can meet, engage and communicate. Space only has quality if it contributes to the quality of life. So, public space is about people and their living environment. And it is also about the quality and justice of society. As a consequence, society itself should be organised in a way that people can act as responsible members of that society.

Shared Research Program

Shared Space Institute is an international knowledge institute, dedicated to knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and knowledge implementation in the field of Shared Space. It is our starting point that public space is the heart of society. Through its quality, public space supports people in their humaneness.

Research and knowledge creation on these aspects are at the heart of our activities. Our approach is integral and cross-sector. This means that:
• research should always be carried out in partnerships with stakeholders in society, to make sure that it is based on the demands of society
• various disciplines should participate and that research should always be related to every day practice in the working fields
• our aim is not to gather theoretical information. Research never should be an aim on itself. If we say ‘research’, we always start from concrete projects
• these projects deliver research questions to be answered. The answers on their turn deliver knowledge to be applied in the projects.

Please find more background information about the Shared Space Institute’s research activities on:

Needless to say, that our staff is ready to support authorities, professionals and interest groups in development and innovation processes. You’re always welcome for a lecture or a field trip to interesting Shared Space locations. For more details about Shared Space – schemes in the Netherlands please refer to

Next steps?

At the moment, we are busy on working out the Shared Space – research program. Our main research question is centered at the cross roads of the knowledge domains as illustrated in the figure on the right. How are these domains connected to each other, and how do they influence each other? If you improve one of them, what changes does it cause to the others?

Of course, our research will further plunge into projects addressing safety issues, solving community severance, tackling congestion and enhancing economic vitality in streets and public spaces. Our main interest is at developing innovative approaches to the process of planning, designing and decision-making towards new structures for municipal organization and public engagement.

European collaboration

Perhaps interesting to mention: we would like to apply for European funding to build a partnership in the North Sea Region countries working on new strategies towards balancing rules and ethics to facilitate healthy social and economic organisms. We believe new alliances of public and private stakeholders can provide a better quality of life through a new sense of civility.

Our central result will be to deliver a proved strategy which allows to delegate responsibilities to where they belong. Partners will demonstrate this through sharing management and governance, and forming new alliances between authorities, agencies, networks and individuals. Our target groups are: public authorities, business clusters, research institutes, universities, public support agencies in urban and rural areas, and citizens' organisations. All those who are interested to join the partnership are invited to contact us.
To know more:
Shared Space Institute
Lavendelheide 21 NL 9202 PD Drachten
Sabine Lutz - s.lutz
P: +31 88 0200 475 M: +31 6 83 20 90 78
Editor's note:
Remember this? - The unexpected interview in Groningen: Homage to Hans Monderman

* Click here for 90 second video

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Happy Birthday Vélib’ (Oh dear, what’s wrong with you?)

Next month, on July 15th Paris will celebrate the second anniversary of the path-showing Vélib project. You have seen many different views from many corners of the planet about what is going on here: its perfection, its foibles, its extensions, and more recently news reports that it is about to go into the tank since there are no bikes left. With this in view, we thought we would celebrate this important anniversary with you here on Streets, with a series of visits and conversations in order to give you a State of the Vélib report as it gets ready to move into Year III. To set the stage, here you have our first Happy Birthday message.

Paris, 15 July 2008

Today is the first anniversary of the city of Paris’s highly innovative, much sung public bicycle project Vélib’, which as pretty much everyone by now knows is a contraction of the French words for bicycle (vélo) and liberty (liberté). Over this first year hundreds of thousands of Parisians and visitors have hopped on a Vélib’ and made something on the order of 26 million trips on the streets of this fair city, most of them paying nothing more than a modest subscription fee for what is otherwise a free trip.

There has been a great deal of media coverage and a large number of visitors - and visiting critics. As you can well imagine in a situation where all those people coming from so many places, with such different competences and with so many points of view, there are a wide range of views and opinions about the project, including its high points and shortcomings. These as you will see range wildly from the legitimate to the fanciful.

The purpose of this piece then is to provide you with a sort of Vélib’ FAQ, in which I have attempted to take note of the critical observations passed on through personal contacts, press articles, visiting delegations from a number of countries, newsgroups, blogs, e-mail commentaries, woman on the street interviews, etc., as well as daily use of the system myself. Basically then this is a kvetch or complaint list.

In the commentaries that follow I do not pretend to provide “scientific answers”, although in a number of cases the feedback you will find here does draw on polls, surveys and other more or less scientific compilations. But basically my specialty is pattern recognition -- and so what you see here is my attempt to spot the overall patterns and give you what I hope is a measure reaction to these complaints, questions and claims.

Finally, I want you to know that while I think Vélib’ is a very important project for many reasons, I do not wish to give the impression of defending any aspect of it. This is a new venture and one that is unique and highly innovational. It has many strong points, and things where further work and fine tuning is needed. This kind of open criticism openly discussed, a public critique, is what is needed both here in Paris. And possibly even more so back home if you are thinking about doing a “Vélib’’ of your own.

Now on with the show.

Eric Britton

Happy Birthday Vélib video
Before you dig in here let me invite you to have a look at a second Happy Birthday Vélib’ piece -- a video by the talented Elisabeth Press of StreetFilms in New York. Elisabeth spent a week in Paris researching her film, and spent enough time riding it to have a good understand of what works, and what works maybe a bit less well.

* Click here to view the 8-minute Happy Birthday video.

Thirty things that are terribly terribly wrong with Vélib’

1. The bikes are too heavy
They weigh 22 kg, roughly a third more than maybe your own bicycle. And sure! if your intention is to put it on your shoulder and carry it up five flights of stairs to your apartment, you’re absolutely right -- it’s real heavy. But the fact is that this cycle has been carefully designed in order to do the job that it needs to do. That extra weight turns out to be necessary to provide the full range of support and components necessary for it to do its job. And the necessary robustness -- bear in mind that little bike is going to be ridden by thousands of people of different weights, sizes, cycling skills, etc. over the year. And by and large when you are on the street and peddling away that weight is really no problem (though it can be a drag if you have a steep hill to climb, but you are there for the exercise anyway). In addition the weight and the careful balancing of the bicycle provides good stability, including on the cobblestone Streets which can be a little challenging (see below).

2. Paris is not doing enough to make the city safe for cycling
Let’s start by bearing in mind that until now there are very few cities in the world which are “safe enough”. Paris has doubled the number of safe cycling lanes and protection over the last five years, and is adding on the order or 40-50 km. of additional protection each year. In addition, there are the growing number of “slow speed’ projects which are reducing traffic speeds to 30 km/h, and in places, 15 km/h in an extended number of streets and zones. In addition, the city is pushing for a “Street Code” (as opposed to the national “road code” which is oriented to highways and high speed areas, which will among other things require that in the case of an incident the drivers of the heavier vehicles are required to prove their innocence– as opposed to the present practice which requires a proof of guilt (far harder to do). Bottom line: Paris is today a safe city for informed and prudent city cyclists. And it is getting safer all the time.

3. Bike lanes are inconsistent
There are two ways of looking at this. Starting from the pure Paris perspective: the streets and sidewalks widths and surfaces here vary enormously from place to place, meaning that it is out of the question to have the sort of unified cycle paths or lanes as will be seen, for example, in the better North American or other out of town leisure cycling projects. This means that there must be a wide variety of strategies for dealing with the opportunities and problems that arise when it comes to protecting cyclists in such radically different environments. So as you cycle Paris you will see a varied network consisting of painted lanes (which they do extremely well , I might add), longitudinal barriers separating bikes from motorized traffic, provision for one way cycling, a variety of ways of separating bikes from pedestrian traffic on sidewalks, careful signage, bike boxes, and more. There are also places in which you have to rough it out, share the road with the traffic. All of which is to say that this is above all a real world environment for “city cycling” and to do it well knowledge and experience helps.(Just like when you drive your Ferrari.)

If by contrast to Paris your city has been laid out with a uniform grid with wide streets and ample space for making a uniform sets of engineered cycle lanes, well go for it. But that will rarely be the case. So you will almost inevitably have to do as they have in Paris and use your noggin. Sorry.

4. Only for young healthy males
In Paris, something like 40% of all cyclists are female. And you will see plenty of older people on the streets, on Vélib’s or their own bikes. Moreover there is a strong trend – the more cyclists there are on the streets, the safer they become for cyclists. And as this happens, more women and older people will join the happy fray every day.

5. Paris drivers are aggressive and dangerous
More folklore than truth to this. This is a fairly common complaint of visitors who have myths in their mind about the French but who have not spent enough time in a bike on the road even in their own city. It is right to the extent that most people who are in temporary control of a couple of tons of hurtling steel and rubber, and in a hurry (and what driver is not?), such drivers and inevitably is going to constitute a menace to smaller, less visible vehicles, such as you or me on a bike. So, as long as drivers can speed, cycling is going to be a slightly risky venture.

But here in Paris if you spend enough time on the streets you will observe that drivers are being tamed. And the key to this is the greatly increased number of cyclists out on the streets today. The cyclists are de facto following the tried and true strategy: “occuper le terrain”, which can be loosely translated as “safety in numbers”. The more cyclists on the street, the safer it becomes. And that already is a strategy.

6. Can’t find a bike/parking slot:
This can be a problem, especially for people who are not accustomed to “working the system”. The odds are that if you try it enough there are going to be occasions when you can’t find a bike in the first (or second) station you go to. Or that if you are in a hurry and show up at your intended destination you may find it full. There are three strategic responses to this two-headed dilemma. The first is to wait. The second is to learn the system, in which event you just head like an arrow to the station you by experience know is more likely to offer what you are looking for (remember with 1451 stations in this small city (105 sq. km) you are unlikely to have to walk or peddle more than five minutes to get to the next station. Simplest of all, you can click button 4 on the Velib station monitor, and then you can with one more click (5) check out the status of all nearby stations for free bikes and parking slots. There are thousands of practiced users of Vélib’, and that’s what they do every day. (All while waiting for better times to come).

7: Can’t even get good information about bike/parking availability.
Yes you can, even if it is not yet perfect. You can if before your trip you check out the couple of web sites that provide you with this information with a single click. The one that I use daily is (I never leave home without it.). There is also an ‘official” one from the city of Paris at, and another excellent one is at

Of course you are not always at your computer, so what can I tell you to help you avoid bike angst. Well, you will see that the map on each Vélib’ station does indeed show the nearest stations, but they do not (yet) provide information on their status. (This already exists in Lyons and there is every reason to think we will be seeing it in Paris.) There is also a still-clunky WAP 1 gizmo that you can use with your mobile phone for which you can find instructions at (I for one have never had the patience, but that’s just me.)

The final word on this is that the city and the operators are working on it and we are sure to see continuing improvements, both in Paris and in the other leading city projects. In the meantime, develop your knowledge by using it, and you will see that you will use it every day.

8. Many broken bikes at stations
By my own rough calculation, on average I encounter one bike with a problem per ten or so. In most cases the problem is immediately apparent: a loose chain, flat tire, problem with the steering alignment, maybe something with the seat, and more rarely other less visible problems. For a while there has been a fad to cut off the bike baskets but on the basis of daily visual inspection this fad seems to have calmed. If there is something wrong with your bike the etiquette is that when you leave it off or discover the problem, you crank the seat down and turn it in the opposite direction. Then the next person (and the staff) will know immediately. Mechanical problems come with the terrain, and once again point up why managements and maintenance are the keys to the success of any of these systems.

9. My bike doesn’t work!
That probably because you failed to apply the 100% no-brainer start-up test of the regular user. You start by visually inspecting the bike for damage or malfunction. Then you pinch or kick both tires to verify air pressure, pick up the bike and spin the rear wheel, squeeze both brakes, and then adjust the seat to your size – all before flashing your smart card and checking it out. Now this does not guarantee 100% glitch free cycling, but it does 98% or better.

10. Velib’ is not “tourist friendly” – Some tourists credit cards cannot access bikes
Hey. Reality 1: The system is intended as daily transport for Parisians and not tourists (see below). All bank cards with smart chips work just fine, and Amex too. Otherwise no problem, you should most probably be renting a bike anyway.

11. Bikes are too expensive for tourists who want to use them to stroll through Paris
That’s quite right. If you keep it for an uninterrupted four hour stretch, for example, your bill will quickly run up to 19 Euros. That’s more than it would cast you for a full day if you rent it from a bike shop.

12. They are killing the bike retail business
Wrong. More cyclists on the street attract yet more cyclists. The number of people riding their own bikes has roughly doubled over this first year of Vélib’. And while some of these bikes have come out of the attic, others are coming new from the shops. The bike hire, purchase, and maintenance business is doing well in Paris. (But this did not happen by accident.)

13. The stations are not sufficiently visible to cyclists on the move
This is true. In other cities the stations are more visibly marked, but the Paris authorities decided to protect their built environment and not have aggressive signing or lighting of the stations. There is doubtless room for doing better, but the protection of the beauty of the city has to be a high priority.

14. Bus drivers are aggressive and threatening
I don’t observe this in my own cycling here. First of all the drivers are professionally trained, and those in particular who operate on the reserved lanes where cyclists share the right of way with buses and taxis proceed with great caution. I would offer that the onus by and large is on the cyclists (though the taxis drivers could do with better prepping) One nice touch you will see when you get into a bus lane here is that when the bus pulls up behind you to signal its presence, the drivers will ring a bicycle bell. Nice symbol and an agreeable way to share public space.

15 Vélib’ cyclists undisciplined and dangerous.
Performance is uneven here. While I observe that the Parisians by and large are safe cyclists (after all they know the terrain and are not just kidding around), the same is not always true of visitors who may, for lack of prudence or experience on the road, put themselves in the way of trouble. Both the city and the operator of the system are aware that increased efforts and information and education are called for. But it will be up to the tourists to do their part.

16. Vélib cyclists should be obliged to wear helmets
On the several occasions in which there have been accidents the media and some of the public suggest that helmets should be mandatory. Now, an ample amount of observation and work have been done on this subject such that it has been concluded by a majority of experts with knowledge of city cycling that this is something that should be vigorously encouraged but not mandated by law. Compulsory helmets would mean an end to city cycling as it is widely practiced today in the leading cycling cities and countries (See for more on this).

17. No bikes at the top of hills
They do tend to accumulate at the base of the hills since many folks apparently don’t want to pedal or walk their Vélib’ up a mountain (of which there are none in Paris of course but there are inclines that can raise a sweat.) So if you are looking for a bike and unless a nice lot of fresh Vélib’s has just been delivered to your favorite hilltop station, you may want to walk to the base of the hill to find your steed. (That said, the operator and the city have recently come up with a scheme which provides some incentive for getting your bike up to the top f the hill

18. No rear view mirror on bikes
Right. And in my view there really should be, but this is not an easy call. In any event, part of being a good cyclist is to profit from your unhindered full field of vision, which also requires the ability to look behind both right and left. But then again, not all or tourists or all our new Vélib’ users may have that level of skill. (Moreover we have to bear in mind that one more piece of equipment may not be without its fair share of maintenance challenges.)

19. Vélib’ is not reducing car traffic and pollution.
It is, but the calculation is a subtle one and can be carried out really only at a basic conceptual level. As a rough rule of thumb, one survey showed that more than 10% of all trips were reported as substituting for car trips. Thus if there were 26 million Vélib’ trips performed over the year, for an average trip of 4-5 kms. I..e, more than 100 million (polluting cold start, center city) vehicle kms of which 10% or so are substituting for car trips. Ten million vehicle kms-plus is a number, after all.

Beyond that what we are seeing here is a process: as people start to cross over to non-car solutions for their local transport requirements, the car itself slowly begins to become redundant for many city dwellers. Public bicycles are an important part of this conversion process. More use of bikes, of public transportation, of taxis, rental cars. And finally you go over to carsharing and sell that old banger once and for all. Or hang on to it for as long as it makes sense for your out of town trips.

20. They only steal passengers from public transport carriers
This is interesting, and not entirely baseless. However the synergies are not altogether negative . In Paris a bit more than half of all Velib trips might otherwise have been taken by bus or metro . There are however two, and at time quite considerable advantages of this dynamic trade-off. First of all if the Vélib’ user voluntarily takes a bike, it’s because she thinks it is quicker and often more agreeable. And since the transit services of Paris, like may other cities, are often pushed to capacity and beyond, so in good weather at least the Vélib’ option provide better conditions of transit for all those hoping to find a seat on the bus, train or subway. Win-win, as some insist on saying.

21. Bikes take away parking spaces for cars
They sure do, but given that most of those cars carry only one person most of the time, this modal shift is a good thing not only for the city but also for local commerce. People who come into stores by bike or on foot, come more often and, studies show, tend to spend more money for higher quality produce. Not only that, the Vélib’ trip can in most cases in the city be quicker and bring the customer closer to the point of purchase.

22. Bikes steal street space from cars.
Yes, that’s right, and so they should. Public bikes need a bit of road space, and if they get what they need it has to be taken from somewhere – that being namely the chaotic street space that is most often used to poor efficiency by high carbon, un-sustainable, high cost (to all concerned), threatening, often dangerous and space-hungry car transport. This needs to be accomplished carefully and with respect to those who up to now have depended on their cars for much or all of the transportation needs. So this needs to be managed as a subtle, strategic process.

23. Bus lanes are too wide
This point has been made on repeated occasions by the adversaries to Vélib’ , and more generally to the new mobility innovations in Paris. The shared lanes are 4.5 metres wide, which is the size required for safe overtaking and worked out through careful negotiations between all the concerned parties.

24. Paris buses not equipped to carry cycles
No they are not. And most probably given the size of the service area, the availability of public bikes and the density of the public transportation network, this is not a significant option for Paris. (But this does not mean that this is something that your city should not at the very least be looking into).

25. Vélib’s do not like cobblestone streets and intersections
They do not at all. And if your city has a lot of them you will do well to consider how to work around this problem. In such cases maintenance costs zoom up, and when it rains so too do the accidents. Cobblestones and public bikes are not friends.

26. Too ugly and numerous to position near to historic monuments and plazas
This is weird, but it is a point that has been made by several groups concerned with the protection of the built patrimony environment in Paris. The irony is that while there is plentiful provision for car parking near to these monuments and public spaces, yet for now the Vélib’ stands are required to hide on side streets. This is a situation which surely will not last.

27. Theft and vandalism are threatening the project
The reported figure is on the order of three thousand bikes stolen or completely trashed in the first year. That’s a lot, but think of it as on the order of 300 per month or ten per day. And that out of 15,000-plus bikes on the road every day. Difficult but surely workable. (This should not be taken as encouraging laxity on your part I you are thinking about a PBS in your city. The vandalism and theft challenge is a real one and an indicator among other things of the level of social peace and inclusiveness in your city. From this respect it is every bit as important as climate and topographic considerations, and of course the quality and extent of safe cycling infrastructure.

28. It’s a “left wing” project
Oh dear. This does seem to crop up in certain media from time to time. It’s a pure blue herring. Public bicycle systems are social and environmental systems that correspond to our 21st century need for low carbon, resource-efficient, high amenity life styles. And that’s all there is to it.

29. It is wrong to have street advertising
This is essentially a pure demagogic position. Each city will have its own policy about outdoor advertising. If a public bicycle project makes use of a partnership of this kind, what is important is to get it right. And the mechanics of that can be quite delicate. That’s for sure.

30. The whole project is just a gadget
This is a very mature challenge actually. The fact is that the Vélib’ project in Paris, and indeed in all the other high impact cities with such systems, until now accounts for only a sliver of the total number of trips needed to ensure a healthy economy. But they signal and support an important change to a new way of getting around in cities. And that is at the end of the day probably their major contribution. And BTW, they also work. Including in Paris.

Happy birthday Vélib’. Great going Paris!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Battle for Street Space - Part II

Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets

- Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Traffic Calming—The First Wave
For several decades there have been efforts to use roadway modifications, such as humps and chicanes, to control motor vehicle speeds on streets whose primary roles are non-traffic ones (Hass-Klau 1990). Such traffic calming began in north-west Europe and by now is familiar almost everywhere.

Early traffic calming tended to focus on streets at the lowest levels of the roadway hierarchy to reinforce the primacy of access and pedestrian activity at that level. More recently, adaptations of traffic calming techniques have been applied to some streets at higher levels of the hierarchy, such as short stretches of shopping streets and the main streets of towns. An early Dutch traffic calming innovation, the Woonerf or “home zone”, involved a complete redesign of urban residential streets to make it clear to motorists that they were guests in a home environment. This was a precursor to the more ambitious shared space experiments.

Tempo 30 Zones (Or “Twenty’s Plenty”)

A variation on traffic calming is to simply signpost very low speed limits, notably 30 km/h (or 20 miles/h). Many European cities now have extensive Tempo 30 zones (Figure 1). Graz in Austria has been a pioneer, with a blanket 30 km/h speed limit over much of the city. Only major roads allow higher speeds of 50 km/h or more. Sweden’s “Vision Zero”, which aims to eliminate road deaths and minimise the effects of the “foreseeable crashes” between pedestrians and motor vehicles, has prompted more Tempo 30 zones in that country.

Shared Space (Or “Naked Streets”)

The shared space approach to streets emerged in the 1990s, pioneered by the late Hans Monderman in towns across the northern region of the Netherlands. Sometimes called “naked streets”, this approach is also seen as a second generation of traffic calming that has been spreading rapidly with trials underway in many countries. Shared space completely overturns the idea that urban road safety depends on predictability and on clearly defining who has the right of way (Hamilton-Baillie 2008). Shared space designs often remove most traffic lights, signs and kerbs. No particular user or movement has automatic right of way. This forces road users (car or truck drivers, bicycle users and pedestrians alike) to proceed cautiously and to negotiate their way forward, mostly through eye contact. Australian innovator, David Engwicht (2006), calls this “safety through intrigue and uncertainty”. If this is difficult to imagine, then the videos at will help.

Low speeds are both a consequence of and a necessity for this social mode of negotiated motion. In high-speed traffic the human mind is not capable of negotiating with other road users through eye contact. We can only do this at or below about 30km/h. Both crash incidence and the probability of death or injury, even for pedestrians, are very low at these speeds (Shared Space project 2005). Trials have included main streets and intersections in town centres. Surprisingly, travel times hardly suffer because, although top speeds between junctions are much lower, there is much less stopping at intersections.

Even though shared space includes motor vehicles, they become very much part of the public realm at low speeds. Monderman made clear that shared space design is only for the parts of the network that can be designated as public realm. His vision of an expanded public realm includes many surprisingly busy streets. However, it does not include those major arterial roads on which high speeds remain important. These remain traffic space.

Accidental Shared Space

The informal emergence of shared space street dynamics can be seen when pedestrians and/or slow vehicles dominate a street space, leaving motorists little choice but to proceed on a negotiated and cautious basis. This is common in inner urban streets of many developing countries (Figure 2). It can be seen also on the narrow streets of Singapore’s Little India area. Such “chaos” is of course widely lamented, with pedestrians and other road users blamed for indiscipline. Moreover, at times of low pedestrian activity, traffic speeds do rise and crash risk and severity can become very high. However, the imposition of traffic-focused design in such places would often be a mistake. A better option for these streets might be shared space by design rather than by accident.

Bicycle Boulevards/Slow Streets Network

Traffic-calmed “bicycle streets” on which bicycles have clear priority over motor vehicles are common in German cities, among others (Pucher and Buehler 2008). A number of North American cities, notably Berkeley, California, have successfully used bicycle boulevards to enhance their network of safe, low-stress routes for bicycle users. Bicycles enjoy relatively uninterrupted journeys along these streets, whereas motor vehicles often face detours.

Multi-way Boulevards

Surprisingly, it is also possible to create public realm and local access functions on very busy roadways that move a large volume of fast-moving traffic. Multi-way boulevards are one way to do this. The Boulevard Book by Jacobs et al. (2002) highlights their potential and provides guidance on design. The trick this time is to create slow spaces at the edges

Some of the most elegant and successful streets in the world, such as many of the avenues in Paris, are multi-way boulevards. They are typically grand streets that have a central zone that is primarily traffic space. Then there is a tree-lined landscaped zone with walkways. This wide median separates the main traffic lanes from a smaller roadway next to another footway and the building line (Figures 3 and 4). In the best boulevards, this side-access street forms the low-speed public realm where traffic, bicycles and pedestrians can share the space safely. The authors argue that well-designed multi-way boulevards, such as Avenue Montaigne in Paris or the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, have good safety records, and the traffic lanes work better than equivalent space on conventional roadways. Many countries in Asia, including India, China, Vietnam and Indonesia, also have a tradition of multi-way boulevards. Some, such as CG Road in Ahmedabad, already work well while others could benefit from an effort to ensure low traffic speeds in the service lanes in order to include these lanes and their adjacent medians as part of the public realm.

“Road Diets”

“Road diets” is another innovation that allows public realm to be created with minimal impact on the utility of traffic space. As you may guess from the name, arterial roads have their traffic lanes reduced (and sometimes narrowed). However, a centre turning lane or turning bays are added, often with medians and an expansion of pedestrian and cycling space as well. In many situations, all this can be done without a loss of vehicle capacity.

Department for Transport (DfT) U.K. March 2007. Manual for Streets manforstreets

Engwicht, D. 2006. Intrigue and Uncertainty: Towards New Traffic Taming Tools. Creative Communities International (This is an e-book which can be downloaded via

Hamilton-Bailie, B. 2008. Shared space: Reconciling people, places, and traffic. Built Environment 34 (2), 161- 181.

Hass-Klau, C. 1990. The Pedestrian and City Traffic. Belhaven Press, London.

Jacobs, A.B., Macdonald, E. and Rofé, Y. 2002. The Boulevard Book: History, Evolution, Design of Multiway Boulevards. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Patton, J.W. 2007. A pedestrian world: Competing rationalities and the calculation of transportation change. Environment and Planning A, 39(4), 928 – 944.

Pucher, J. and Buehler, R. 2008. Making cycling irresistible: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Transport Reviews 28 (4), 495-528. http://

Shared Space project. June 2005. Room for Everyone: A New Vision for Public Spaces. Report of the European Union Iterreg IIIB project ‘Shared Space’. Available via

Shared Space project. Oct. 2008. Final Evaluation and Results: It Takes Shared Space to Create Shared Understanding. Report of the European Union Iterreg IIIB project ‘Shared Space’. Available via http://www.sharedspace. org

Svensson, Å. ed. 2004. Arterial Streets for People. Report of the ARTISTS Project (Arterial Streets Towards Sustainability). Available via themes/urban_policy/urban_environment/La

Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where he teaches infrastructure policy, urban policy, transport policy and an introduction to public policy. He has published studies of transport policy in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. His current research interests are in innovation in transport demand management, public transport regulation, and contested priorities in urban transport policy.

This article appeared in the May number of JOURNEYS, a new LTA Academy publication (The Land Transport Authority of Singapore) and is reproduced here with their kind permission and that of the author. We felt that this is such a good survey it deserves wide circulation and international, and we are pleased to provide it here. To view the original article and illustrations, you are invited to click here.

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