Friday, August 5, 2011

Car Free Day in Vilnius. Finally a mayor who really cares.

[caption id="attachment_7021" align="alignright" width="168" caption="Have a nice day"][/caption]

Here is a rough chronology showing how information gets around in the world-wide sustainable transport network in 2011. Last Monday, 1 August, someone named (whom we do not know but whom we definitely like and who by all indications lives in Lithuania), uploaded a 104 second video onto YouTube with commentary in Lithuanian, showing a dynamic mayor dealing directly with the classic sustainable transport problem of illegally parked cars encumbering circulation in designated bike lanes in the capital city of Vilnius. That was the first stop on a lightning journey around the world that in a few days brings us here.

The clip was an instant hit in Lithuanian, so Meras decided the next morning (2 Aug.) to share with the world and so posted it again, this time with English langauge subtitles.

The following morning the video was spotted by a sustainable transport consultant in Portugal (Paulo Espinha) who immediately forwards it to a 100-strong World Streets Facebook Group for Portugal "Nova Mobilidade (Pense diferente!)" (New mobility. Think different), while at the same time an American carshare innovator and consultant, Dave Brooks, pipes it over to World Streets direct from Portland Oregon. The small world syndrome was hard at work.

Through this process, in barely four days more than two million people have already viewed the English langauge clip, while more than one million talented souls have given proof of their abilities to understand a good story in Lithuanian and checked into the original site to see the story.

Now, just in case you have not yet seen it yet, let's have a look at this clip - and then perhaps briefly reflect on it together .

* Clip here to view orignal English-language clip in its own window

Now that you have had your look let me ask: Is there anything like a useful lesson in this from a policy perspective? On the YouTube site it is reported that more than seven thousand viewers thought this was a good idea, while another 500 thought not. What do we think?

Well your editor thinks that, all the inevitable cries and cavils aside, this does give us an idea of the sort of thing that we also have to do if we are to get the message out and win the sustainability wars (which at present we are losing shamefully). You may not like it, you may find that it lacks grace or subtilty (how could you?), but three million people have looked at it in just a few days and they, for better or worse, have got a message.

I think we would be very stupid indeed not to learn the lessons here. We have to work with our whole brain.

Let's see, that's 104 seconds, grabs the attention of millions of people with a communications budget that is close to zero, while no one yawns or bickers about what the message is. . . Hmm.

Eric Britton

PS. People like and remember stories.

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