Monday, March 31, 2014

State of World Streets: 2009-2014

Today marks the fifth anniversary edition of World Streets. Our first number ws-newsstandappeared on 31 March 2009 with an opening message by the editor -- click here -- announcing the targets, intent and proposed method of this new collaborative media venture. On the same day we published our Mission Statement -- Say Goodbye to Old Mobility --  which you can read here. Today we would like to spend a few minutes with you to review  the accomplishments and, yes!,  the shortcomings and disappointments  of these first five years.  And then go on to look out to our hopes and intentions for the rest of this decade.

- - - > We asked 100 experts for their views on World Streets - - and 101 responded.

1. In the first 1827 days
2. Who read World Streets this morning?
3. And what did they read?
4. The International Advisory Council
6. New Mobility Media
6. The Battle of Ideas
7. Next Steps: Meeting the Challenge
8. The Lighting of a Fire

In the first 1827 days

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire

During the 1827 calendar days that have passed since  World Streets  opened for business  we have, together with our many collaborators, managed to publish and share a total of 1,196 original articles, along with 1,365 photographs, maps, drawings and illustrations of many different sorts.

The range of topics and places covered has been enormous, as is only appropriate for a journal with international pretensions. A quick visit to the drop-down menu in the upper right column labeled "Search by topic"  will give an idea of the considerable breadth of coverage.

As of today we can count a total of 5436  registered readers, coming at last inspection from some 149 different countries on all continents.  On an average day we have anywhere from 150 to 200 visitors, with occasional peaks  that reach above a thousand. (But this is the rare exception.)

For various reasons which we do not quite understand, the Journal is only lightly commented. Since opening day we have received  only a bit more than 800 letters from our readers,  though many excellent ones that have led not only to some lively discussions but to further coverage and articles in an attempt to respond to suggestions and challenges.  (It may also have something to do with the fact that most of our readers are busy enough with their own schedules but nonetheless take the time to drop in occasionally and follow the action.)

Readers have the option of receiving daily updates as new articles appear, or a weekly summary.  More than half of our readers appear to prefer the latter.


Who read  World Street where this morning?

Let us take a look at this map which shows  the country of origin of readers clicking into the site over the last 24 hours:

map WS - 31mar 14

There is of course a good reason for this geographic disposition . For readers who are familiar with  the cities and countries around the planet that are  giving most attention to  the New Mobility Agenda and the push to sustainable transportation more generally, there will be few surprises in the map. Because it is in these places, for better or for worse and with some notable exceptions, is where the action lies. There are the places that are showing the way,

We also have an interesting cross check when we examine the  order of frequency with which people from specific countries check in.   Which at last count looked like this in order of readers:

  • United States

  • United Kingdom

  • Canada

  • Australia

  • France

  • India

  • Italy

  • Germany

  • Malaysia

  • Netherlands

  • Spain

  • Brazil

  • Denmark

  • Korea, Republic Of

  • Taiwan

  • New Zealand

  • Sweden

  • Estonia

  • Croatia

  • South Africa

  • Hong Kong

  • Austria

  • Finland

  • Switzerland

  • Norway

  • Czech Republic

  • Russian Federation

  • Costa Rica

  • Hungary

  • Belgium

  • Philippines

  • Poland

  • Japan

  • Vietnam


And what did they read?

There is always an element of the imponderable in this sort of thing.  Who would have guessed for example that  a tongue-in-cheek  bagatelle like "Have a stupid weekend" would be more widely consulted than  the magnificent essay of Ivan Illich on  "Energy and Equity".    I guess that if it proves anything it is  that we all have a need to smile.  And perhaps all the more so when  the issues and discussions are so  difficult and challenging. So  for better or worse here you have the listing of most read titles in order:

  1. Why Free Public Transport is perhaps a bad idea

  2. Going down? Newman and Kenworthy on Peak Car Use

  3. Honk! City of the Future? (Have a stupid weekend)

  4. European City Modal Split Database: An invitation

  5. UK High Speed Rail: Going very fast in the wrong direction

  6. Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich.

  7. What can we learn from the murderous attack on cyclists in Porto Alegre on Friday?

  8. The New Mobility Agenda gets a hearing in Barcelona with a “Come argue with me” session

  9. PRT proposal for Delhi convinces the Chief Minister (But does it convince you? See poll results)

  10. WhipCar closes down P2P carsharing operation in Britain. What does it mean?

  11. 2013 Work Program Highlights

  12. Sempé: A Short History of Social Mobility

  13. Tragedy of the Commons: The car as enclosure

  14. Locked in Suburbia: Is there life after Autopia?

  15. International Advisory Council on Sustainable Transportation

  16. Cycling as the catalyst for more human and sustainable transport

  17. Weekend musing: The bicycle helmet rears its ugly head

  18. Best transport research database we have ever seen.

  19. The P2P carsharing saga continues: The WhipCar story

  20. International Advisory Council

  21. Autolib’ – Paris bets big on new carshare technology

  22. How the Dutch failed to destroy their cities (Act 1)

  23. Delhi Metro – A Transport Planner’s Perspective

  24. A “Better than Car” Mobility System

  25. Weekend reading: How do the Dutch get out of a car?

  26. Sustainable transport in Delhi and Stockholm

  27. Bike-Sharing: 2011 State of the European Union report

  28. Hangzhou – View from the saddle of one of China’s most liveable cities.

  29. Op-Ed: Toward More Prosperous Cities

  30. Car Free Days 2013: Part 1. Origins, Timeline, Progress


International Advisory Council

The role of the International Advisory Council is above all keep us honest and focused on our mission statement.

In setting up the first edition of the Council in 2009 , we made it clear  to our invited colleagues that  the only obligation  was that we ask them to look into the pages of the journal from time and  give us their views on topics and treatments that might make it better.  In this task they have succeeded beyond all expectations.

This group is above all distinguished by its quality, its relevance and commitment to the challenges we face in and around our cities, and their great diversity. Spanning all continents, disciplines and ages, from distinguished elder statesmen to energetic young people just a few years out of school but already actively involved with these challenges in the field. The present and the future. And a good (but not good enough) number of highly qualified women leading the way with their work and vision.

One last defining point that needs to be made about almost all of the members of this group — most of whom I have known for a number of years — and that is that they are not narrow specialists. Their competence spans many fields and types of activities, and beyond that they share the characteristic of continuing commitment and great stamina.  They have not taken the easy road, so it takes not just brains, energy and a nice idea, but also the capacity to rise to the challenge again and again, without losing the freshness of their thinking and commitment. We all owe them a great deal.

It is our hope that this easy, collegial framework of collaboration and eventual exchange will not only profit from their energy, experience and counsel, but that it will also possibly stimulate us all to think more about sharing — the only path to achieve a sustainable planet. And oh yes, we understand full well that it will not be easy.

- - > Click here to go to latest Advisory Council pages

new mobility media

World Streets 2014 is accompanied and supported by a certain number of media sites and tools, including the following.

Each of these links is clickable to the source.



The Battle of Ideas

To help us better focus our ideas  given the enormous breadth of  issues  and places  involved, we have for  the purposes of orienting our  efforts and coverage over the year ahead  to eight target issue areas as follows.

1. The Equity Agenda:
Today in a practicing 21st century democracy the central pillar of public policy in all sectors is or at least should be that of equity. Not because of any especial human pity for others, though that would not hurt, but because equity leads to efficiency, economy and environmental quality. Equity-based transport is a central theme and concern of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda. You may wish to begin with a quick read of Late Night Thoughts on Equity.

2. The Gender Initiative
World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda have since 1988 been strong proponents of full gender parity in planning and decision counsel in all matters of transport, mobility and public spaces. In this section you will find a selection of articles we have published arguing in favor of gender parity in recent years. Note also the supporting Facebook site at
* A good place to start: “To fix Sustainable Transport: Ensure Full Gender Parity in all Decision and Investment Fora” .

3. Civil Society: The Uncomfort Zone:
Civil society is the true test of democracy: the strong voice and active presence of participatory citizenry. Society’s necessary check, balance, and vital complement to political parties, elections and fixed terms in office. The underlying and defining reality is that civil society is, by its very nature in more or less permanent conflict, or at least dissonance, with elected governments and administration: Different attention span. Different values. Different rewards.

Activist groups, NGOs, environmentalists, concerned parents, educationists, independent researchers, labor unions, religious congregations, investigative reporters, bloggers, social media, and sentinels of democracy . . . provide a lively check on narrow interest and bad government. An invaluable, visible, vocal partner of the public interest and good governance. Difficult . . . deep democracy.

4. New Ways to Own and Use Cars
The race is on. Carsharing by its various names and different forms is one of the fastest-growing new ways of getting around in cities and outlying areas for day-to-day travel. Over the last decade it has increasingly proven itself to be an effective mobility option, serving thousands of cities on all continents. The 2014 work program focuses on carsharing, but is not limited to this one new form of car use. Coverage of different carshare forms: Traditional, One-way, P2P and private, while keeping a weather eye on new taxi, DRT and ridesharing developments.

5. Going Dutch/Carshare Strategies for Local and National Government
Going Dutch is a collaborative policy project under the leadership of Kennisplatform Verkeer en Vervoer (KpVV) in cooperation with EcoPlan International. Aimed to work with and inform local and national government on latest developments in the fast-growing field of carsharing, in an attempt to put this relatively recent mobility concept into a broader strategic planning and action frame. The articles that follow are presented in reverse chronological order. If you look to your left you will find hotlinks to key elements of the program. (For more see 2014 World Carshare Work Program here.)

6. World Car Free Days
"Every day is a great day to take a few cars off the road, and think about it".  This was the theme of the first announcement of a World Car Free Days collaborative project that took place in Toledo Spain in October 1994 and was within months on-street reality in the first three cities launching Car Free Days of their own. World Streets continues to participate actively in planning, celebrating and analyzing the results of these Days in cities around the world. You may wish to have a look at Thursday: A breakthrough strategy for reducing car dependence in cities

7. Free Public Transport Rodeo
Free Public Transport ( FPT ) is an intriguing concept  and one that it is well worth examining closely. We examine it here not because we wish to unconditionally boost FTP but because it is important to understand both the concept and the realities of user behavior and public finance. (This is, incidentally, one of the most widely consulted topics in World Streets. Apparently our readers are trying to get a message across.)

8. Behavior & Choice: An Enquiry
Why do we do what we do when it comes to getting around? Why do we choose to drive. Or not? Why do we not take public transport? Or share a car or ride? Or not get on a bike? Why do we avoid walking? What are the factors that influence our choices and our behavior? And how can we explain the behavior and choices of policymakers? And how eventually to modify it? We have decided to consecrate a section under World Streets over the course of the year ahead to articles and postings on these important matters, in the hope of better organizing our own thoughts and eventual positions and recommendations.

This is not a formerly fixed or exclusive agenda , but we do  have every intention to advance the discussions in each of these  extremely important areas of public policy and private practice.  You will find the latest listing of the focus areas in the upper left menu under the  heading The Battle of Ideas. As you click these links they will take you to an introductory section concerning  the issue area, and immediately after  provide short introductions to  all of the reports and articles appearing under that heading , presented  with the latest postings  at the top.


Next Steps: Meeting the Challenge

For the year ahead and beyond  we have  quite clear ideas about  the contributions that can be made by and through World Streets and the associated  programs and events, very much with the help of our international collaborators, associates and advisory panel. Hopefully you will get a good flavor of that through this  annual review and in the previous  section on  The Battle of Ideas.

But how does World Streets pay for itself and keep going?

Here we have a real problem which in these five full years we have somehow failed to solve -- and that is how to pay for the whole thing. From the beginning we may two choices which I felt were central to the nature of our independent operation and desire to reach out as far as possible to colleagues and readers around the world, often themselves working in situations of financial limitation. (This especially the case of three of our main target groups, namely students, unfunded local transport or environment action groups, and people working on these issues in the developing world.)

So the first leg of our financial strategy was to keep the journal free, for better or worse and with all of the difficulties that this has entailed. We wanted it to be free and easy to access to remove all barriers between our topics, contributors and eventual readers. Important information that is the that relates to the challenges of sustainability needs to be free. Period.

The second financially constraining decision was not to accept advertising, and that for two reasons. First because it could compromise our independence. And no less, because the world of endless distractions there need to be times and places in which we can concentrate. We felt that World Streets should be one of those places.

The initial plan was to seek foundation funding and possibly public agencies and perhaps some NGOs, but as founding editor I was unable to establish the contacts to make that happen. The reality is that getting money this situation such as this costs money and time. And since day after day my interest in and commitment to the journal involved research, reaching out and gathering and writing articles that look like they may be useful to our growing readership. This was a failure on my part and one that I would now hope to rectify. That is high on the priorities of the first half of 2014.

As a result of this Catch-22 situation the bulk of the financial load over these five years has been borne by the founding editor, a load which runs on average approximately €4000 a month. Fortunately however at periodic intervals friends and others find ways to channel some money to allow us to keep on, sometimes in the form of grants from a public agency (rarely), and more often in the form of gifts or loans which altogether accounts for about 15% of the total financial load.

This should be untenable, but somehow through it all we are five years later and are looking at an exciting workload for the year ahead.

So, to put an end to this painful issue for now, if you or your agency or organization would be interested in supporting our work, let me propose that you click here  which will take you to information on how to do this quickly. Your help would be greatly appreciated but it is not possible for you please do what that that keep you from reading and contributing to World Streets because I am confident that one way or another we are going to meet that challenge.   


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the lighting of a fire

And there you have it on this fifth anniversary day.  Some accomplishments. More than one area in which we could have done a lot better.  And  despite it all a full and ambitious workload for the year ahead.

We have chosen as the theme for  all this work and ambition the short sentence of the  English/Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner William Butler Yeats, when he wrote  that: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire".  This quite exactly is the goal of World Streets.

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eb-about the editor - 9mar14

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