Thursday, December 30, 2010

Democracy: Destination or voyage?

[This thinkpiece comes from my personal blog and while it rambles a bit  from the central focus of W/S, it ponders some issues that are to my mind definitely worth a detour. The excellent article by Pasi Sahlberg on "Learning from Finland" that appeared in Monday's Boston Globe is certainly worth your time. There are many analogies with our troubled sector when it comes to learning from each other. Eric Britton]

Democracy: Destination or voyage? Let's hop into the car, fill it up with some cheap gas,  and take a quick tour of historic America with the help of legendary photographer Margaret Bourke-White.  The image you can see just below caught my attention yesterday, arriving here during the festive holiday season thanks to a posting in from the Rebuilding Place blog of urban designer/consultant and activist Richard Layman from Washington DC. As you can see it's … Read More

via Network Dispatches

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From Australia: Community Consultation – A failed experiment

A consistent central theme of World Streets is that without the full-throated participation of an active citizenry, sustainable transport and sustainable cities will remain a distant and unattainable dream. In this article David Engwicht gives us his view on why the usual bottled consultation techniques that often do little to achieve better and safer streets do not make the grade. Then he goes on to share his thoughts as to how we can do better.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Streetsblog: Doing its job in New York City. In memoriam 2010

Each year our friends over at Streetsblog in New York City publish a heart-rending testimonial to the mayhem that automobiles have wrought over the year on their city's streets and the cost in terms of lives lost by innocent pedestrians and cyclists. Putting names, faces and human tragedy to what otherwise takes the form of dry numbers, faceless hence quickly forgettable statistics is an important task. We can only encourage responsible citizens and activists in every city on the planet to do the same thing, holding those public officials (and let's not forget, we call them "public servants" and for excellent reason) responsible for what goes on under their direct control.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Autolib' – Paris bets big on new carshare technology

A sustainable transport system is a system of choices – quite the opposite in many ways of the old all-car no-choice model that all too often spends most of its time in taking up scarce space but not moving. With this very much in view, the City of Paris has just stepped up to the plate and is now in the process of bringing into service what they propose will be a new link in the chain of sustainable transport options: a carsharing system not quite like any other. No less than three thousand cars to come on line in shared service in just nine months – and electric cars at that – working out of 1000 to 1200 stations spotted over not only the central city but a number of surrounding communities as well. The biggest and most daring carshare bet of all time.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grading Sustainable Transport: Scholarship A. Leadership C-

One of the often voiced claims of World Streets is that those who best understand the issues and priorities behind sustainable transport and sustainable cities are failing to command the high ground in the debate and the politics of decision simply because we are just not good enough at communicating our ideas, first to each other and then to the world. All too often when confronted with a decision issue, with our strong academic orientation and backgrounds, we prefer to turn to the familiar world of more research, fatter reports and that next great conference, while at the end of the day what we really need is a concise, credible, understandable presentation of our best ideas and the choices that need to be made.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Transport, environment and public policy in hard times

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

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

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The Social Space Format

The power of images. The power of perspective. It's pretty clear by now that we are going to need a lot more than walls of words, thick reports and endless expert conferences to turn the world toward sustainability. So to help our cause we invite our readers to jump in and share with us striking their "social space" graphics which illustrate in telling ways the world's streets and all that takes place thereon in many places and in many ways. To get a feel for how this works out using our challenging 990 x 180 pixels format, read on -- or if you are in a hurry click here to go direct to the photo gallery.

Working with a Social Space format

There is more than a bit of the "medium is the message" of Marshall McLuhan in this somewhat unusual elongated rectangular format with, as with poetry, its strict dimension of 990 × 180 pixels. It is, we would say, a basically "social space format". In our mind's eye most of us tend to envisage, to think of many things out there in front of our noses in terms of squares or rectangles, which naturally enough is how most of us end up taking our pictures.

But this elongated frame takes us beyond a single individual subject and the eye travels quite further than usual and in the process brings us to think, yes, of more social spaces. Have a look at some of the following examples and see for yourself if this makes any sense at all.

Portugal's Streets:

Just this morning for instance we had the luck to receive and to be able to share with you the splendid street scene you see above, showing an intersection of bus services right in the middle of the beautiful city of Lisbon. And all this thanks to our colleague Miguel Barroso from Lisbon.

The shot is taken from the city's historic Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), and just behind those columns you enter into the city's pedestrian network. Makes you want to go to Lisbon, eh?

India's streets:

A few weeks ago, this next great shot was shared with us by Karthik Rao-Cavale, whose fine new blog "India lives in her cities too!" with its sub-title "A closer look at Indian cities, streets and neighbourhoods" at -- is a thoughtful source for anyone who shares WOrld Streets interests and concern.

Karthik wrote when he sent it along to us: "I took the photo in 2008 on one of my solitary travels, in the large city of Calcutta. Here's the link to the larger version. The background is the famous Howrah Bridge on the river Hooghly."

Homage to a Fallen City:

For this thought-provoking image we sent warm thanks to Beatrice Jarvis, a young British choreographer, photographer and urban researcher. You can visit her website and see her photographs in Urban Re-Passages at :

A striking example from Cambodia

What you see here  is a 990 x 180 section of a photograph taken by Jeroen Swolfs ( who has launched a Dutch project entitled Streets of the world ( in which he is reporting on his world-wide pictorial vagabondage which thus far has had him photographing life on more than forty countries on four continents thus far.  We have invited him to share some of his photos with us occasionally and hope you will be seeing him often on World Streets.

A Paris homage:

Here to close out this introduction is an example of using our strange format as a frame for a part of an image and, we would say, to some good effect. The orignal graphic appeared in a story from the New York Times to what our earnest editor contributed: "Watery future for the City of Light". It looked like this:

Well, very nice indeed but we could not use it as our feature graphic for the story and the week, so we needed to find what would work out with our demanding format, to which challenge we came up with this.

You may like it or not, but there is no denying that this is a social format. And that is exactly what we are looking for.

Now it's your turn:

And if you have striking social space candidates for this unusual slot -- 990 × 180 pixels -- let us hear from you. We believe in getting all the media behind these important social and environmental goals. (Please be sure to let us know the where and when of the image, along with the  source so that we can correctly credit it.)

Thanks for sharing, and again click here for the latest collection of social space photos from World Streets.

Eric Britton, Editor.   Skype: newmobility.   Tel. +336 5088 0787

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

America's Amsterdam? – Work in progress on the bike front in the Home of the Brave

When anyone talks or writes about city biking in America, Portland is invariably the first place one hears about. But how do they stack up to, say, the five hundred best cycling cities in Europe? Is there anything really there other than a bit of self-boostering in the otherwise hostile cycling environment that characterizes city after city across the Home of the Brave (which we understand is how cyclists are called in America). Let's see what Jay Walljasper has to sayafter talking a close look.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

The World - the Climate – the Strategy. Come argue with me.

Part I: Ten steps to get the job done:
Let me sketch out an easy to understand (or reject) climate/transport foundation strategy that presents some stark contrasts with the ideas and approaches that are getting the bulk of attention when it comes to targeting, policy and investment in the sector -- and which in a first instance is quite likely to earn me more enemies than friends (that goes with the territory). At least until such time that these basic underlying ideas are expressed in a manner which is sufficiently clear and convincing that we can with confidence put them to work to turn the tide. So here you have my first brief statement of the issues, the basic strategic frame and the key pressure points to which I invite your critical reactions and comments. In a second piece in this series, to follow shortly, I intend to have a look at the package(s) of measures, policies, tools, modes, etc. which can be sorted out, combined and refined to do something about it. Or maybe not.

- Eric Britton, Editor

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dutch cycle infrastructure quality drives one cyclist crazy

[caption id="attachment_4628" align="alignright" width="250"] Not Holland[/caption]

It will drive you crazy, at least it does this cyclist. The quiet Dutch voice of reason while they so patiently try to help us understand that a cycling nation or city is not built overnight. But put aside your prejudices (and your prides), and spend five minutes with the Dutch cycling guru Mark Wagenbuur while he rides us through the history of cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands. (There had to be a reason for it.)

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