Nobody saw it coming (Well almost nobody)

Two decades after the end of the Second World War,  an enormous pattern was taking over cities across Europe, as each day more cars were being put on the road and as their prime target began to unceasingly take over public space in city after city. And yet, few cities were prepared to face the challenge. The metastasis was so grindingly persistent and day by day that it simply seemed to be part of Europe’s  new and hard won prosperity. And who after all  can be against progress?  Certainly not most politicians.

But here and there, starting already in the late sixties, individual citizens and small civil society groups opened their eyes began to take on the challenge.  There are stories of how these actions played themselves out in many European cities. Here is one the comes from Amsterdam and that we share with you thanks to Pascal van den Noort and Velo Mondial, who passed this along from a story entitled “Amsterdam children fighting cars in 1972″ put  online by Bicycle Dutch – https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/ .

Here we are today and the challenges and the stakes from these same problems are even greater than ever.  I would say that we have a great deal to learn from the past. Let’s start by listening to the voices of several children on the streets of Amsterdam in 1972.

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Keynote: International Forum on Livable City and Eco-Mobility – Hsinchu, Taiwan. 29 January 2015

taiwan Hsinchu eb in traffic smaller long

Intersection in the central  OSK  demonstration site

The following PowerPoint slides were created to accompany a fifty minute keynote address by the editor of World Streets to the International Forum on Livable City and Eco-Mobility hosted by the Hsinchu city government in Taiwan on 29 January 2015. (A video of the address to be made shortly available.)

The presentation addresses and comments on the challenges being faced by this recently elected new administration, including in the context of his book in progress “Convergence: General Theory of Transport in Cities “, with discussion as well of sections of the recently published book of the Canadian urbanist and writer Charles Montgomery, “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design”.

In addition to looking at the mobility challenges facing the new government from an overall integrated state-of-the-art policy perspective, with special attention to the importance of integrating transportation and land use planning and urban design, the speaker spent some time commenting on the proposed One Square Kilometer (OSK) Walkable City demonstration project which the new administration is considering.

The other speakers and audience were all Taiwanese, and the main language of the forum was Chinese, with simultaneous translation to English.

The speaker has written up his final conclusions and recommendations for Peer Review and commentary in a second document now available at http://wp.me/p1fsqb-1ua

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Taiwan Mission Recommendations: 23–30 January 2014 (Draft for Peer Review and Commentary)

taiwan - taipei - scooters at stop light

 A morning like all others in Taipei traffic

Lyon, 3 February 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It had been a year and a half since I last worked in Taiwan, the longest separation since I started collaborating with colleagues there in 2009. During much of this interval, in addition to my teaching, editorial responsibilities, and advisory work, I have been working on a most challenging new book under the title “General Theory of Transport in Cities”. The book aims to set out what I believe to be a much needed, consistent base for planning, policy and investment decisions in this important and fast changing field where ad hoc decision-making by unprepared politicians and ambitious interest groups has all too often prevailed.

This last year has been a period of deep reflection on my accumulated experience in the transport and sustainable development fields in cities around the world over more than four decades. As a result of this ongoing process, I find myself this time looking at the issues in Taiwan from this broader international perspective. My keynote address to the International Forum on Livable City & Eco-Mobility in Hsinchu on 29 January was the first in a series of international “road tests”, which are giving me a precious opportunity to present some of the main arguments from the book before expert audiences to test them and seek their critical comments and views.  The lively discussions that took place in Hsinchu during the forum and my four days there proved to be most valuable.

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Happy City: When Participatory Democracy Works

In the late spring of 2012 the diligent editor of World Streets was visited by a young Canadian writer who announced that he was working on a book about “Happy Cities”, and in this context wanted to talk  about my experience in and thoughts on the happiness arena, with particular attention to issues concerning ordinary people, people like Thee and Me in our day-to-day lives: issues of mobility and public space, needs meet and unmet, time and distance, behavior and equity,  economy and democracy . . .  in Paris and around the world. Why not?  Maybe I will learn something from him.

velib-no-brainerWe agreed that I might be able to make some small contributions, subsequent to which Charles Montgomery’s grilling interrogation lasted a full day and was followed by extensive correspondence over the course of the next year.  Toward the end of 2013 “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design” was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York. One year later the 368 page book has just appeared in an affordable paperback edition, and is now widely available in bookshops, and of course the Internet. (PS. Support your local bookshop, it is a happier experience!) We thank the author and the publisher for permission to share the following extracts with our readers to celebrate the low-cost editions now available.

The following excerpt has been taken from his Chapter 9, entitled  “Freedom”. (We’ll come to that in a note at the end of this chapter.)

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At a Hard Time: The Metrics of Well-Being.

Paris, 7 January 2015

What is happiness? What is well-being?  What should we be targeting for our societies? It is important for active citizens in a participatory democracy (there is no other) that we come to a broadly shared vision of where we want to go, a straight-forward, consistent strategy for how to get there, and some kind of measure so that we can see how we are doing.  Sad to say all three are lacking on the political landscape today and  we all are paying a high price for it. And if anything especially today.

je suis charlieListening ot the radio a few hours after the murderous attack  at Charlie Hebdo, I turned on my computer to find a short essay just in Sandra Waddock, Professor of Management at Boston College, responding to an on-going discussion of “The Degrowth Alternative”, currently underway under the aegis of a program of the Tellus Institute, The Great Transition Initiative – http://goo.gl/guWVeD   (Prof. Waddock can be contacted at waddock(at)bc.edu).  She reminds us at a time in which there is considerable though not always well informed discussions about the concept of “growth”, and  just behind that the not-so-easy concept of “well-being”.

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Visit the World Streets Vidéothèque: 2009 – 2014

ws-movie-projectorThe Tellus Institute of Boston Massachusetts has recently initiated a collaborative program looking into alternative Urban Mobility Futures which will certainly be of interest to many readers of World Streets.  Initial background information on their program along with direct links to the appropriate sites will be found below. But today we thought to see if we might be useful in response to a request from them which has just come in, as follows:

With  the dawn of a new academic semester for some members of this group, we aim to identify resources (especially video materials) that are useful for classroom use on the general subject of “post-automobility futures.”

No problem: World Streets can be of some help since we have made it a habit over the years to identify, keep track of and share widely particularly interesting videos that will be of use to students, researchers, environmentalists, the media, activists and others wishing to follow new ideas and approaches on various aspects of the New Mobility Agenda.

* As of this date the World Streets Vidéothèque offers a collection of 63 films which are conveniently available at http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/videotheque/, coming from two dozen countries and showing us the good, bad and the ugly of transport in cities.

And while you are at it, it certainly would be a pity to miss the excellent collection of original videos which has been assembled over the last eight years by Clarence Eckerson and his team of talented videographers that you can find freely at http://www.streetfilms.org/.

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