Friday Fun: Two genius bike-parking ideas give cyclists a care-free commute

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:39am

One of the best ways for cities to promote cycling might have nothing to do with biking itself. These innovations make bike parking easier, improving transport access, giving bikers peace of mind, and saving urban space. Photo by Joe Newman/Flickr.

For urban commuters, a safe, convenient place to store their bike can be the difference between choosing to cycle and needing to drive. Even in bicycle-friendly cities, cyclists can still face the challenge of having to lug their bike on public transport, or having to take their bike inside their office to prevent it from being stolen. In dense urban areas where space is at a premium, bike parking spaces can be hard to come by. How can cities make bike parking worry free?

Saving urban space through futuristic, underground bike parking

Tokyo might have the answer. With 13 million residents and even more in the surrounding metro area, the city found a creative way to conserve space and make urban cycling more convenient. Engineering firm Giken Seisakusho Co. installed a robotic underground bike parking system – called Eco-cycle – that can store 144 bikes while hardly using any city space. In a matter of seconds, Eco-cycle will drop your bike into an 11-meter deep underground bike storage. You simply mount your bike onto a platform and wait for the system to work like magic. Since the storage is underground, your bike will be free from scratches, rain, and other extreme weather. Eco-cycle is also designed to be anti-seismic, which is important for a city frequently hit by earthquakes. Check out how it works:

The Eco-cycle system only requires space for the bicycle entrance booth above ground, leaving room for parks and other public spaces. This design concept can be applied in cities worldwide, and could be particularly useful in mega-cities such as Beijing or São Paulo. Tokyo’s Eco-cycle is located next to Shinagawa Station – a major railway station in south-central Tokyo – solving the last-mile connectivity problem for many commuters and improving access to public transport.

Making multi-modal transport simple with bike valet

Portland, United States has its own solution to bicycle parking: a bike valet system that helps makes the city’s South Waterfront a multi-modal transport paradise. The system is the largest bike valet parking facility in the country, storing about 260 bikes each day. Parking is free, and users can pay for tune-ups and bike repair services during the day. The facility connects to Portland’s Aerial Tram and light rail system, and to bike paths. It will also soon connect to the largest car-free bridge in the United States. This bike valet service saves commuters’ time and provides peace of mind – as cyclists can drop off their bike to onsite staff and leave for work or school without worrying about parking or theft. See how the bike valet makes commuters’ lives easier:

Transport systems are responsible for 22% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and transport emissions are increasing at a faster rate than any other sector. To curb this trend, cities should offer low-carbon transport options to provide alternatives to private car use. Making active transport options seamless with daily life is central to shifting away from car culture and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport. Cities can learn from Portland and Tokyo to make biking simple and convenient. By increasing capacity for biking, walking and other forms of low-carbon transport, cities can improve public health, deliver better environmental outcomes, and become more livable for people.

Categories: Europe

China’s clean air challenge: The health impacts of transport emissions

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 9:48am

Sustainable transport plays an important role in helping Chinese cities address their debilitating air pollution. Photo by Da Yang/Flickr.

This is the first post of the “China’s Clean Air Challenge” series, exclusive to TheCityFix. This series examines the increasing social, environmental, and economic impacts of the serious air quality issues in Chinese cities, and investigates the source of emissions and sustainable solutions.

Air quality is one of many tragic social and environmental issues China has faced during its rapid urbanization and motorization. In the 2013 State of the Environment Report, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection revealed that only 4.1% of the 74 surveyed cities met the new standards for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions. According to its latest air quality report for the first half of 2014, only 6.8% of the cities met the PM2.5 standard. Using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard – which specifies that PM2.5 concentrations must average below 25μg/m3 over 24 hours to be considered safe for human health – there are more than one billion Chinese people exposed to air quality considered unsafe for more than half of the year. January had the highest monthly PM2.5 emissions in the first half of 2014, with a concentration 26 times above the WHO standard for safe exposure at 671μg/m3.

Left: A thick layer of haze blanketed the North China Plain on October 9, 2014. On that day, PM2.5 levels were 13 times higher than the level the WHO considers safe for 24-hour exposure. The graphic on the right shows PM2.5 exposure intensity, calculated using days of heavy pollution and population density. Graphics via NASA and Beijing City Lab.

Hazardous-levels of PM2.5 exposure in China trigger tremendous public health problems. The WHO finds that there is a strong link between air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases – such as stroke and heart disease – and cancer. Children, women, the elderly, and the poor are the most vulnerable groups. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) recent report, outdoor air pollution kills more than 3 million people across the world every year, and contributes to health problems like asthma and heart disease for many more. Based on the value of death and illness, the total cost of China’s outdoor air pollution was an estimated US$ 1.4 trillion in 2010, and this number is rising.

Outdoor air pollution is a silent killer of millions of people worldwide each year. Graphic by Su Song/EMBARQ China. Data from WHO.

Transport plays a key role in urban emissions

So what are the main sources of the China’s air pollutants, especially PM2.5?  People from different areas of China might have different answers. In most rural areas – especially in inland China – the energy and industry sectors, as well as wood cook stoves, dominate emissions. But in urban areas and especially in megacities, transport is the major source of emissions and its share is growing due to urbanization and motorization.

The evidence is still building, but it is already clear that road transport is a significant contributor to urban air pollution. Motor vehicles are estimated to emit about 15-35% of local PM2.5 in Chinese cities. In Beijing, this number is estimated to be 31%; 25% in Shanghai; 23% in Guangzhou; 31% in Shenzhen; 20% in Chengdu; 33% in Hangzhou; and 14% in Qingdao.* Vehicle emissions also account for 58% of the nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 40% of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in Beijing – both of which can have serious negative health effects.

Rapid motorization in China – the driving force behind growing urban transport emissions – is causing the “growing pain” that many other developed economies have experienced before: congestion and air pollution, which costs citizens time and damages public health. Graphic by Su Song/EMBARQ China.

Congestion makes pollution worse

In a congested area where vehicles frequently stop and go, tailpipe emissions can be three times higher than when driving is smooth. For example, on Beijing’s west second ring road, PM2.5 levels are 25-30μg/m3 when traffic is moving freely compared to 90-100μg/m3 during peak congestion. Unfortunately, congestion in big Chinese cities is sprawling to even larger areas as they grow, while small- and medium-sized cities face increasing congestion as they urbanize. These trends mean more people will be exposed to heavier air pollution.

Towards sustainable urban transport solutions

Various policy instruments can address these challenges:

  • Emissions monitoring and evaluation. A sophisticated emissions monitoring and inventory system can help cities have a clear idea of their transport emissions and the associated social impacts, providing them a foundation on which to take action.
  • Transport demand management (TDM). Various economic instruments like parking management and congestion pricing, together with regulatory instruments such as traffic and vehicle ownership restriction, can help cities create more efficient transport systems and encourage people to shift to public transit. In addition to improving air quality, an efficient transport system will create co-benefits such as reduced congestion and increased social equity.
  • Technologies and standards. National and city governments should introduce stricter emission standards for all kinds of vehicles, especially for vehicles with diesel engines. Efficient ‘green’ technologies such as ‘green’ tires, diesel particulate filters, and hybrids and electric vehicles can also mitigate vehicle emissions.
  • Transit-oriented development (TOD) and public transport. City governments should also introduce TOD by integrating urban and transport planning to more efficiently use land resources. Cities must also support efficient public transport services to increase mode share. Evidence shows that eliminating one car when a household shifts to public transport reduces the household’s emissions by up to 30%. Furthermore, the indirect “leverage effect” of higher density around transit hubs can amplify the direct emissions reductions from public transit by 200 to 300%.

China’s government should make air quality its top priority in the upcoming 13th Five-Year Plan. This five-year period from 2016 to 2020 is critical for air quality management, since 2016 is the first year of nationwide air quality standard enforcement, and 2017 is the deadline to achieve targets from the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, which calls for PM2.5 reduction of 25%, 20%, and 15% for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta, and Pearl River Delta regions, respectively. Setting targets is the easy part, however. There is still a long way ahead.


* Author’s note: These statistics were calculated using different methodologies, and therefore are not direct comparisons. 

Categories: Europe

Enhancing livability in Turkey and in cities worldwide

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 8:58am

EMBARQ Turkey’s Livable Cities Symposium will highlight the importance of bikeability and walkability in creating livable cities for all. Join the discussion online using #LivableCities. Photo by Marko Anastasov/Flickr.

Over the past half-century, the world has urbanized at an unprecedented pace. In 1970, about 37% of the world’s population lived in urban areas. This number rose to 45% in 1990, 54% in 2014, and is expected to reach 66% by 2050. Much of this urban growth is occurring in less wealthy cities, and has created distinct challenges. Many cities are struggling with insufficient infrastructure, traffic congestion, sprawling urban form, air pollution, and degraded public spaces.

These challenges have become so apparent that they’ve given rise to a new paradigm in organizing and defining our cities: livability. Multiple indices from organizations including the Economist Intelligence UnitMercerMonocle, and the OECD attempt to define this concept and rank cities according to their level of livability. Indices include crime rates, health statistics, sanitation standards, expenditures on city services, infrastructure, ease and availability of local transport, and residents’ social and economic standing.

With these criteria in mind, EMBARQ Turkey and the İzmir Development Agency (İZKA) are co-hosting the second annual Livable Cities Symposium to examine how cities can improve urban transport to become more livable.

Creating more bikeable and walkable cities worldwide

What can cities across Turkey and around the world do to become more livable? On November 20, 2014, the Livable Cities Symposium will bring together more than 30 experts from ten countries to help answer this question. The Symposium will have a special focus on bikeability and walkability, which are core components of livability and create a number of benefits for cities. As a part of compact, connected cities, bikeability and walkability help improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion, and limit greenhouse gas emissions. For example, as a compact, bikeable, and walkable city, Barcelona emits about one-tenth as much carbon from transport as car-oriented Atlanta, despite their similar sizes.

To help cities become more bikeable and walkable, the Symposium will feature sessions on pedestrianization, public spaces, urban cycling, innovative urban transport solutions, and Symbiocity – an integrated sustainable city concept from Sweden. Strategies to enhance bikeability and walkability have been gaining traction in Turkish cities. In Istanbul, pedestrianization of the Historic Peninsula increased walkability by creating a perception of safer streets and making a variety of transport modes more accessible by foot. The Metropolitan Municipality of İstanbul is also considering pedestrianizing Üsküdar – another historic area in Istanbul’s Asian side. In İzmir, Turkey, Karşıyaka – an important district home to more than 300,000 people – will be pedestrianizing its main artery to provide a safer and more accessible connection for various transport systems like ferry, rail, and public buses. The Municipality of Karşıyaka also aims to preserve the area’s historic heritage through pedestrianization.

Improvements in urban livability in Turkey have not been limited to pedestrianization. Many Turkish cities like İstanbul, İzmir, Eskişehir, Sakarya, Antalya, Kocaeli, and Konya have either increased the length of their bike lanes or established bike-sharing systems. The recent bike-sharing system established in Kocaeli, for example, is one of the best systems in Turkey, and includes 15 stations with 120 bikes in a 30 km (19 mile) area. Istanbul, meanwhile, has committed to expand its bike lane network to 1,000 km (620 miles) by 2023.

Bikeability and walkability also have a significant impact on public health. These forms of transport reduce local air pollution and help improve respiratory health. They also help residents incorporate physical activity into their daily commute. Turkey is one of many countries worldwide that experiences widespread obesity. According to a study conducted by the Turkish Ministry of Health in 2010, 64.9% of Turkey’s population is overweight, and 71.9% are physically inactive. By providing the necessary infrastructure to support biking and walking – two modes of active transport – cities can fight obesity and inactivity while benefiting the environment.

Host city İzmir working to lead by example

As the host city of the Symposium, İzmir claims the ambitious goal of becoming the most livable city in Turkey. The city has already promoted sustainable transport through pedestrianization projects, improving cycling with safe bike lanes and bike-sharing systems, and integrating public transport systems. İzmir established its bike-sharing system, called BİSİM, in January 2014, and has since attracted more than 80,000 users. The system consists of 311 bicycles in 29 bike stations serving the city’s 40 km (25 miles) of bike lanes. According to the 2014 to 2023 İzmir Regional Plan, sustainable urban development and sustainable transport are among the fundamental priorities to improve livability in the city.

The Symposium will support İzmir, and cities throughout Turkey and worldwide to become more walkable, bikeable and livable. As cities around the world urbanize, spreading strategies for urban livability has never been more important.

A version of this article originally appeared on You can register for the Livable Cities Symposium 2014 here. Don’t forget to follow online at #LivableCities.

Categories: Europe

Growing motorcycle use creates a global safety challenge

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 2:20pm

As motorcycle fleets grow in cities worldwide, governments must prioritize improving street design and alternative mobility options to slow the rise in motorcycle fatalities. Photo by Frank/Flickr.

Cities worldwide face the pressing challenge of growing motorcycle fleets and remarkable increases in related traffic fatalities. With streets ill-prepared and motor-bikes whizzing in every direction, the scene might best be described as urban transport anarchy. The problem is especially grim in low- and middle-income countries, and poses a major challenge to meeting the goals of the United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety.

Latin America’s motorcycle deaths tripled in the 2000s – most evident in places like Brazil and Colombia. In Malaysia – where motorcycles make up roughly half of the country’s vehicle fleet – two- and three-wheelers make up 59% of its nearly 7,000 annually reported traffic deaths. Similar trends are occurring in India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other countries worldwide.

Motorcyclist behavior is one problem that, when changed, can reduce traffic deaths – especially through laws and campaigns for helmet wearing, driver education and licensing. More responsible motorcycle users will undoubtedly lead to fewer deaths. But there are also broader issues to consider when addressing this challenge, such as street design, the role (or lack thereof) of quality mass transport in cities, and the impact of motorcycles on bicyclists and pedestrians.

The impact of motorcycle crashes

Motorcycle crashes have significant social and economic costs. A study in São Paulo showed that 12% of all the city’s hospital internments were due to traffic crashes involving motorcycles. After six months of reevaluation, the study found that 73.5% of these patients couldn’t return to their professional routine and 80.9% needed extra money. The productivity loss and the increase in treatment expenses create serious financial difficulties for families. The economic and social costs of motorcycle use require urgent attention in public health, transport and economic policies.

Improving street design

Some infrastructure has been shown to be effective at reducing motorcycle accidents, such as exclusive motorcycle lanes on trunk roads in cities in Malaysia – a practice that has been replicated in Indonesia and the Philippines. It isn’t known if these exclusive lanes are appropriate in other locations, or on urban streets other than the primary roads. In São Paulo, for example, the impact of exclusive lanes has been described as mediocre, though the city did see a reduction in crashes when it banned motorcycles on the central lanes of a main expressway.

Other measures exist that improve safety for all road users – including motorcyclists – such as reducing speeds through traffic calming measures and limiting vehicular traffic. A study from Malaysia found that an increase in the speed at which vehicles approach signalized intersections is associated with more motorcycle crashes, and that more motorcycle crashes occur at signalized intersections located within commercial areas. Slowing all vehicles to safer speeds before signalized intersections – particularly in retail areas – may do a great deal to improve motorcycle safety.

Improving mobility options

Still, the longer-term solution to reducing motorcycle deaths requires thinking more broadly about improving mobility options. Motorcycles are a preferred option for many to get from one point to another where public transport is very poor quality, inaccessible, or nonexistent. In Hanoi, for example, a study showed that employment opportunities are much less accessible by public transport than by motorcycle or car, which explains why Hanoians “like” to use motorcycles instead of public transport. In addition, in Brazil, many travelers use motorcycles instead of public transport due to lower costs or the poor quality of public transport in their city. One study found that overall motorcycle operating costs were 25% lower than bus fares, and 66% lower when considering only fuel costs. And in Pune, India an EMBARQ India study showed that two-thirds of two-wheeler riders surveyed said they used public transport prior to using two-wheelers.

Motorcycles, however, have mobility limitations, especially in larger cities where trips are usually longer and more uncomfortable on two-wheels. Cities may be able to wean residents off motorcycles by building high-quality, integrated transport systems that can move people safety and in a comparable amount of time. Responses to the same EMBARQ study from Pune, India indicated that motorcycle riders would shift to public transport if it were made more reliable, comfortable, frequent, and clean.

Two cities with rising or dominating motorcycle use are taking such steps. Rio de Janeiro has constructed two new bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors and is planning to build two more by 2016. Even in Vietnam – where two and three-wheelers represent almost 100% of the country’s vehicle fleet – Ho Chi Minh City has a new BRT to provide a quality alternative.

Moreover, because many urban trips are short, providing bicycling and walking facilities – like Mexico City is doing, for example – or connecting these modes to mass transport can give residents alternative mobility options. Instead, some cities prioritize motor vehicles and motorcycles over cyclists, such as Kolkata, which banned cyclists on 200 streets outright.

There are many ways that cities can reduce motorcycle accidents, including improving street design and promoting safe, active transport for all. Still, there is a great need for more research, and more attention to motorcycles in cities.

Categories: Europe

Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity: Announcing Transforming Transportation 2015

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 9:00am

Transforming Transportation 2015, co-organized by EMBARQ and the World Bank, will explore how smart cities can boost inclusive economic growth and quality of life as part of the global development agenda. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

The Transforming Transportation 2015 (#TTDC15) conference is fast approaching, and TheCityFix is inviting you to join the discussion! This year’s conference will focus on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and will examine how smart, connected urban mobility can improve quality of life in cities. Sessions will address how the upcoming United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will impact urban transport, with an emphasis on data and technology, governance, and international financial flows. Registration is free and open to all.

Now in its twelfth year, Transforming Transportation is co-organized by EMBARQ – the producer of TheCityFix – and the World Bank. The event convenes high-level decision makers and technical experts to advance environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable urban mobility solutions. More information and a full agenda for this year’s conference are available at

Highlighted speakers include:

  • Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico (TBC)
  • Mark Watts, Executive Director of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
  • Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (TBC)
  • Janette Sadik-Khan, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation
  • Marcio Lacerda, Mayor of Belo Horizonte, Brazil
2015 is a year of opportunity for cities and transport 

Transforming Transportation 2015 comes at a pivotal time, kicking off a year of utmost importance for the global sustainable development agenda. Landmark global decisions in the next year provide significant opportunities to advance sustainable urban mobility and improve quality of life for billions of urban residents worldwide. Two of the biggest opportunities to create smart, inclusive, and prosperous cities will frame the discussions at TTDC15.

First, following the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set the global development agenda for the last 15 years, 2015 will see the induction of a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the first time, this agenda includes an explicit focus on reducing global poverty and inequality through cities, with the latest SDG draft including a goal to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable.” While the SDGs will be ratified at the national level, in many ways they will be felt at the local level. City leaders have an important role to play in advancing these global targets for development and sustainability and creating on-the-ground change.

Another major opportunity for sustainable cities in 2015 relates to the global fight against climate change. The COP21 climate negotiations in Paris in December 2015 are expected to produce the first binding, international agreement on combating climate change. As home to 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, cities will be major players in making climate pledges a reality. On top of that, transport is the fastest growing sector for emissions and a major contributor to city-level emissions. Dialogues surrounding cities and climate change throughout 2015 will shape the future of our cities and provide a platform for advancing sustainable urban transport.

TTDC15 will complement these discussions with sessions focused on boosting inclusive economic development in cities, creating safer streets for all, promoting connected urban development, and more.

Join the discussion: TTDC15 wants YOU to become a presenter!

TTDC15 is inviting you to put your big ideas for the future of sustainable urban development and mobility in the spotlight. This year, the program will feature two PechaKucha style sessions showcasing innovations for mobility and urban development in smart cities. If you think you know ‘what’s next’ in sustainable urban mobility, now is the time to share your ideas. Pitch your PechaKucha today!

Registration for TTDC15 is free but mandatory, and don’t forget to participate on social media at #TTDC15. For more information, please visit We look forward to seeing you in January!

Categories: Europe

Five reasons to be optimistic about sustainable urban mobility

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 9:41am

Rapid urbanization creates a number challenges for city leaders, but the growing use of sustainable urban mobility solutions provides reasons for optimism in cities worldwide. Photo by Benoit Colin/Flickr.

According to the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects, cities will add over 2.5 billion people in the next 40 years, with 90% of this growth coming from cities in emerging economies. China and India alone are expected to add 276 million and 218 million urban residents by 2030. While there is no question that future generations will live primarily in cities, whether they will do so in a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable way remains to be seen.

With rapid urban growth come a number of challenges for city leaders, many of them related to increasing motorization and urban sprawl. Too often, cities are trending in the wrong direction. Urban air pollution, for example, contributes to over one million premature deaths each year and costs 5% of GDP in developing countries. Roughly 3,400 people die in traffic crashes every day, the majority of these pedestrians and cyclists in less developed countries. In the United States, commuters spend 4.8 billion hours in traffic each year, translating to USD 101 billion in lost economic productivity. At a global level, cities continue to be major contributors to climate change, and account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

While these numbers paint a bleak picture of the urban future, they don’t tell the whole story. Around the world, cities are taking ambitious action to improve quality of life through connected, sustainable urban mobility. While the challenge is great, shifts in behavior, technology, and politics show that there is hope that future generations will inherit more sustainable cities.

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the future of our cities.

Private vehicle travel peaks in the developed world

Despite years of growth in car ownership and vehicle travel, it appears as though some have begun to choose another path. A study of eight industrialized countries found that vehicle travel rose steadily from the 1970s to 2003, but has since leveled out. Another study found that vehicle miles traveled among younger generations in the United States decreased by 23% between 2001 and 2009.

On top of rising fuel prices, increasing traffic congestion, and an increase in the relative affordability and convenience of public transport, a major cultural shift stands behind this trend. Across Europe and the United States in particular, younger generations have opted into the sharing economy and moved to more walkable urban communities. It even appears that most of the millennial generation would sooner say goodbye to their car than their smartphone, and many in the United States no longer pursue drivers’ licenses. In fact, just 69.5% of American 19 year-olds has drivers’ licenses in 2010, down from 87% in 1983. This shift has also contributed to increased use of sustainable transport, most notably cycling and walking, which could catalyze reinvestment in public transport and a reduction in automobile subsidies.

The economic case for sustainable cities is strong

It has become increasingly clear that pursuing connected, compact urban development makes both financial and environmental sense. The Better Growth, Better Climate report found that cities could save USD 3 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next 15 years by pursuing low-carbon growth. This path yields both local and global benefits.

For example, research from EMBARQ – the producer of TheCityFix – on the socioeconomic impacts of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems found that air quality improvements resulting from Mexico City’s Metrobús Line 3 are poised to reduce respiratory illnesses and save the city an estimated USD 4.5 million in health costs. At the global level, 11 BRT projects in Mexico, Colombia, China, India, and South Africa are forecast to reduce emissions by 31.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent over 20 years. That amount equals the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 6.5 million cars.

Cities take the lead

While global ambition to tackle climate change is picking up, local actions have had the most impact in recent years. At September’s U.N. Climate Summit, city leaders were at the forefront of efforts to catalyze action on climate change, unlock finance for low-carbon development, and scale up sustainable transport solutions. Furthermore, the new Compact of Mayors initiative builds on cities’ existing climate commitments, providing a platform for transparent measurement and reporting on emissions reductions. Analysis shows that 228 cities, home to 436 million people, have already voluntarily committed to saving 13 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Sustainable mobility solutions are scaling up

The magnitude of the challenges today’s cities face demands solutions at scale. In 2002, just 45 cities had BRT systems. Compare that to 186 cities (and counting) today. BRT is just one example of the recent growth in sustainable transport solutions worldwide. Car-sharingbike-sharingpedestrianization, and congestion pricing are all on the rise as cities look to combat traffic congestion and improve quality of life.

Sustainable mobility solutions continue to grow as cities move away from auto-dependency. Graphic by EMBARQ (2013).

New technology unlocks new possibilities

While many of these solutions have been around for decades, advances in technology have accelerated their integration and implementation. Many transport-specific technologies have helped to improve quality of service while reducing costs. Technology transfer between the developed and developing worlds has also played an important role. For example, GPS and mobile applications have improved passenger experiences on India’s auto-rickshaws. Technology has also revolutionized the way citizens engage city leaders, leading to a new era of political participation and inclusion.

These technology advances can help cities in emerging economies leapfrog past car-dependent development and opt for a more sustainable path early on.

Enabling a sustainable mobility future

While these five trends are already taking hold of many of our cities, there is work to be done to mainstream sustainable urban mobility solutions. City leaders can tap into the three key enablers of political will, finance, and data and technology to build momentum towards cities that are built for people, not cars.

Scaling up sustainable urban mobility solutions worldwide, coupled with the necessary steps to make them locally suitable, can deliver more inclusive and prosperous cities. Developing attractive, localized solutions is perhaps the most challenging piece of the puzzle, but also the greatest opportunity for collaboration among local policy-makers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and action-oriented organizations to create lasting change. With the future of the world’s population in cities, now is the time to make that change happen.

This post originally appeared on

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: The bus that goes where you go

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 9:17am

Do you ever wish bus routes better fit where you actually want to go? New startups are changing the way routes are designed, and they could be launching a revolution in ‘smart’ bus transport. Photo by Ken Power/Flickr.

Startups like Uber are revolutionizing personal transport in cities worldwide, providing on-demand services at a relatively low price. Can the same thing be done for bus transport? Imagine requesting a bus from your phone, and having it drop you off exactly where you chose. This reality may be closer than you think. Multiple companies are taking advantage of new technologies and big data to optimize pick up and drop off locations, making urban transport more responsive to users’ needs and potentially revolutionizing the way we think about bus transport.

Flexible bus routes to go where people want

Bridj – a Boston-based startup – uses a fleet of shuttles that adapts in real-time to users’ locations. Its bus routes target specific neighborhoods, but change based on the locations of riders who sign up and a wide range of data streams that help Bridj determine where people move. Data comes from municipalities and censuses, but also from sources like Twitter. All this analysis allows Bridj to provide short waiting times and faster commutes for about US$ 5 per ride. Bridj is still in early stages, but the company has already raised US$ 4 million in investments to help it expand.

In San Francisco, a startup called Chariot is taking a different approach to optimize its bus routes. After launching its first line earlier this year, the company is choosing its next route using crowdfunding. A proposed line will only be built if 120 riders commit to buying monthly passes for discounted rates of US$ 96 to US$ 116.

How can smarter bus systems be integrated with other transport modes?

Leap Transit – another private bus company in San Francisco – started by providing an alternative to public buses along the city’s crowded 30X line. For US$ 6, the service allows users to book and pay through their iPhones and enjoy leather seats and on-board Wi-Fi. To decide which route they should expand to, Leap Transit then called for people to vote. Critics, however, see this private bus service as a threat to cheaper public transport services. In San Francisco, Leap Transit – along with private buses belonging to tech companies Google, Zynga, and Yahoo – are using public bus stops to pick up customers, causing delays for the public bus system. Writer and academic Rebecca Solnit wrote that the Leap Transit bus “contains the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves.” As private bus services become more sophisticated and responsive to users’ desires, will this lead to reduced public investment and an unequal transport system?

Helsinki offers one example of how on-demand shuttle services can be integrated with public transport and accessible to passengers of different income levels. The city has an ambitious plan to be car-free by 2025, and is using on-demand flexible-route shuttle services to help get there. The city manages the van system called Kutsuplus, which was developed by local startup Ajelo. Kutsuplus allows users to request shuttle service on their phones through SMS messages or smartphones, and vans change their routes to accommodate passengers. Kutsuplus is heavily subsidized, and is one component of the city’s plans to create a “mobility on demand” system. When users request a Kutsuplus, the system assesses how long it will take for Kutsuplus to accommodate the order, while also informing the traveler how long it would take to complete their trip using other public transport modes. While Kutsuplus is still small, the city plans to have 100 vans operating in 2017 and 2,000 by 2020.

Big data and new technologies are revolutionizing transport in a multitude of ways worldwide. In Nairobi, for example, the increasing use of smartphones is helping improve informal transport planning and user experience. Cities can empower private sector companies to improve mass transport by opening their data. São Paulo, for example, released public data and is supporting events for developers to innovate around urban mobility. Data released by Mexico City’s transit agency powered dozens of apps within the first month. Bus transport, in particular, is ripe for innovation, and new companies rethinking bus routes could be on the brink of transforming systems worldwide.

Categories: Europe

Brasília, Brazil now lets women choose where to get off the bus at night

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 2:40pm

In Brasília, a new safety law lets women get off buses in places other than traditional bus stops after 10pm. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

When deciding between modes of transport, travelers consider several variables, typically including convenience, cost, time, reliability, and comfort. Another consideration – which is particularly important for women – is perceived safety. No one prefers public transport if it requires walking far from home on a dark, deserted road, even if there is a low crime rate in the area. Instinctually, this still feels unsafe.

Brasília, Brazil has adopted an important measure to improve women’s safety on public transport. As of June this year, women can request to get off buses anywhere along a route after 10pm – including areas that are not traditional bus stops. Buses are required to meet this request and display information to make users aware of this right.

A study on urban mobility in Brasília sought to understand which characteristics can best predict a user’s transport behavior. The study found that user preferences result from a combination of how transit services themselves are designed – including route locations, cost, and convenience – and the user’s profile – his or her gender, age, income, and reason for traveling. Brasília’s new law helps its transport system better serve users without requiring significant investments in new infrastructure.

“The bus stop is usually far away when I’m coming home from classes, and when I get off the bus there is almost nobody on the streets. I have to be careful when I walk alone,” said 19-year-old university student Amanda Stheffany Ferreira, as reported by the Brasília State Department of Transportation (DFTRANS). Amanda is now one of many who can get off her bus closer to home.

This new measure reminds us of an issue that, while pressing, is often left unconsidered in designing and managing transport systems: gender. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has even created a working group focused on urban mobility. The commission found a male bias in the planning and implementation of transport systems, either because women do not have equal representation in all areas, or because the men in charge are not considering the issue of gender in system configuration.

Every 12 seconds, a woman suffers sexual assault in Brazil, and sexual assault has grown 165% over the past five years. All options to reverse this alarming trend must be considered. The city government’s role is to provide mechanisms for preventing violence and defending citizens. Providing the option to get off buses closer to home will not solve the problem in its entirety. For example, harassment can even occur inside public transport vehicles – which cities must also work to prevent. But giving women flexibility to arrive closer to their destination, or in a better lit, less empty area, is a step in the right direction.

Though only a small part of the solution, Brasília’s new law is a step in the right direction to prevent sexual assault and make urban transport safer for women. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

This post originally appeared in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

Categories: Europe

Cycling Without Age in YOUR City

Copenhagenize - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 3:58am
Watch this TED x talk. It is inspiring. It is moving. It is important. Watch it and share it.Not just because it's about bikes but because it is about caring for our elderly, rebuilding a volunteer-minded society and it is about how individuals with passion and vision can change things. Change things quickly, effectively and massively.I know this individual. I work three metres from him every day. Ole Kassow is his name.I met Ole in 2010 at TED x Copenhagen when I was presenting this TED talk. He introduced himself and told me that reading and Cycle Chic was the direct inspiration for selling the family car and banking on bicycles, as I wrote about previously. Ole is the single most inspiring individual I know in my life. Full stop. The story, outlined in the above TED talk could have happened to many people, but of course it happened to Ole. And of course Ole took it to the next level, even though the development of the project Cycling Without Age / Cykling uden alder has taken him by surprise.There are countless good points in the book The Culture of Fear by British sociologist Frank Furedi about the societal development since the 1950s - from a sense of community to a more egoistic, individual state of mind. This loss of community is regrettable. Fewer people volunteer for things, fewer people participate in organisations, etc.. It's easier to LIKE something on Facebook.I don't need to write too much about Ole's Cycling Without Age project - he spells it out brilliantly in the TED talk, above. But I am amazed how the project has captured the imagination of so many people and how the volunteer-based participation bucks the societal trend in style. People of all ages are signing up to take the elderly for bike rides. Giving the elderly The Right to Wind in Their Hair with bicycles is something that has hit a nerve.As I write this, there are about 37 municipalities in Denmark who are now rolling around with their elderly citizens. 150 rickshaws are on the cycle tracks of the nation, with many, many more on the way. Because of the demand, Ole is having a new rickshaw developed. The international interest is just as massive. Eight municipalities in Norway are rolling. There is interest from twelve countries in starting up Cycling Without Age. Even as far away as Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada.You can never plan for anything to go viral. It just does. When it's a passionate project about caring for our elderly, it's fantastic. You simply can't not be involved. Wherever you are in the world. This is too important. Check this out:Cycling Without Age in Your City?I have been completely fascinated by the European Space Agency landing a probe on a comet 500 million km away from earth this week. I've been staring at the photos, absorbing all the articles. It's amazing. If I think about it, however, Cycling Without Age led by Ole and his team is just as impressive. The same "how is it POSSIBLE?" and "how do they DO it?" questions arise. I am amazed, inspired, impressed. Let's not rest until rickshaws are rolling around the world and our elderly have been given the right to wind in their hair.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Open data benefits cities and citizens: A Q&A with Jyot Chadha

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 12:59pm

EMBARQ India’s Data Visualization Challenge opens important data sets to the public, empowering citizens to change Indian cities’ understanding of urban transport. Photo by mydearboy/Flickr.

EMBARQ India spoke with Jyot Chadha, head of EMBARQ India’s Initiative to Catalyze Urban Innovations, about the launch of a new Data Visualization Challenge, which encourages citizens to use publicly released data to create data visualizations that shed light on mobility in Indian cities. The visualizations will serve to highlight potential uses of public data, encouraging city agencies across India to make data public and foster innovation.

What is the Data Visualization Challenge?

Jyot Chadha: In partnership with the Institute of Urban Transport, EMBARQ India has launched the Data Visualization Challenge by making public key data sets around urban mobility in India. To participate in this challenge, anyone can download these data sets and develop creative and interesting visualizations that depict mobility trends in urban areas. We’re looking forward to seeing new ways of tackling the basic question, ‘how do we move about in Indian cities?’

In addition to using data sets released for the challenge, participants are encouraged to do their own research along the theme of urban mobility, using other data from verifiable sources and clarifying their research methodologies. Visualizations will be considered for six awards: most beautiful, most creative, most comprehensive, most insightful, most innovative, and best overall.

Submissions are due by November 19, 2014, and the finalists’ work will be showcased at the Urban Mobility India (UMI) 2014 Conference, organized by the Ministry of Urban Development in New Delhi from November 25 to 28. The Honorable Minister for Urban Development, Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu, will present the award.

What is the larger idea behind this challenge?

JC: At EMBARQ India, we’re keen on facilitating and catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of transport and urban development. In the last decade, we’ve seen the emergence of technology being used to improve the quality of service in public transport. This digitization has resulted in huge amounts of data being captured, ranging from passenger ticketing information to real-time vehicle tracking. When analyzed, this data can tell us a lot about how people live and move about in cities. In addition, this data can also play an important role in sparking innovation in these areas. For example, app-based programs that help commuters navigate cities better, or dynamic pricing mechanisms based on travel patterns.

We have seen from global examples that cities and transit agencies benefit from making their data public. Take Mexico City, for example, within a month of the city’s transit agency opening their data, data sets were downloaded 683 times, and the data was subsequently used to power 28 apps that saw a total of 5.5 million downloads! This evidence suggests that opening data leads to innovation, which results in substantial benefits to passengers and potential users of transit services.

How will you use the results of this challenge to influence agencies to open up their data to the public?

JC: Selected entries from the Challenge will be displayed at UMI 2014, and viewed by hundreds of attendees from various transit and development agencies, civil society, academia, and others. We hope that by using this platform to showcase what can be done with data, it will serve as an initial demonstration to agencies that opening up their data to the public will benefit both agencies and commuters. The Data Visualization Challenge is a cost-effective and robust way to engage with the community of technologists, urban designers, data scientists, and businesses in Indian cities.

The Institute of Urban Transport is revolutionizing this space by opening up its data sets to the public. Through this challenge, EMBARQ India hopes to encourage more agencies to make their data publicly accessible, and encourage public participation that can improve the quality of life in cities.

Graphic by EMBARQ India.

Categories: Europe

Urbanism Hall of Fame: Pasqual Maragall uses the Olympics to transform Barcelona into a global city

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 9:48am

Barcelona’s transformation under Pasqual Maragall provides one of the best examples of using major events as a catalyst for long term urban improvement. Photo by pleymo_05/Flickr.

This is the sixth entry in the Urbanism Hall of Fame series, exclusive to TheCityFix. This series is intended to inform people about the leading paradigms surrounding sustainable transport and urban planning and the thinkers behind them. By presenting their many stories, TheCityFix seeks to challenge our readers to think carefully about what defines leadership and innovation in sustainable transport and urban development.

Barcelona has become one of the world’s premiere destinations: it is full of life during the day and night, with incredible food, amazing buildings by Antoni Gaudí and Jean Nouvel, great museums with masterpieces by Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, the famous La Rambla street and Boquería Market, and one of the best football (soccer) teams in the world, FC Barcelona. It has undergone several stages in its development to become a favorite global destination, starting with the development of the Gothic Quarter – which is now a historic, mixed-use, and mostly pedestrianized district – followed by the city’s planned expansion under Ildefons Cerdà in the 19th century, and more recently, the city’s impressive renewal in preparation for the 1992 Summer Olympics under Mayor Pasqual Maragall.

Maragall succeeded Narcís Serra in 1982 and was re-elected twice, serving as mayor until his resignation in 1997. His efforts were continued by the next Mayor Joan Clos – now the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat). The three mayors – in addition to a series of planners and architects – jointly received the 1999 Royal Institute of British Architects RIBA’s Gold Medal.

The award remarks: “Both the process and results of Barcelona’s rebirth are exemplary. Though always with city-wide goals in mind, initial interventions were local and low budget, yet big in impact – not least because their design flair drew international plaudits … Hosting the Olympics was only part of this larger, still continuing strategy of up-grading the whole city.”

As a leading force behind Barcelona’s transformation, Maragall earns his place in TheCityFix’s Urbanism Hall of Fame.

Securing the Olympics in Barcelona

In 1979, Maragall successfully campaigned for city council as part of the Socialist Party of Catalunya during the city’s first democratic elections, in which his friend Narcís Serrá was elected mayor. Maragall became his deputy, and along with Serrá and his friends, he began dreaming about hosting the summer Olympic Games in 1980. They publicly announced their intentions in 1981, receiving support from Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez’s democratic administration. Barcelona was selected over Amsterdam, Belgrade, Birmingham, Brisbane, and Paris by the International Olympic Committee in 1986.

The Olympic bid was based on recent improvements to road infrastructure under Maragall’s administration, including the completion of the city’s second ring road and multiple tunnels, in addition to proposals to profoundly transform the La Barceloneta neighborhood, which had very degraded beaches, buildings, and warehouses at the time.

Barcelona’s urban transformation

Urban renewal efforts began in 1986, immediately after the announcement that Barcelona would host the Olympics. Efforts concentrated on the central beachfront area, and were focused on long-term improvements that would shape the city well after the Olympic Games. Barcelona’s old port became a recreational and sports area, and its old industrial neighborhood of Poblenou was remade for residential use. In addition to upgrading its beaches, the neighborhood of Barceloneta received significant investments to build the Olympic Village, which would later be repurposed for housing. These transformations along the city’s southeast edge helped balance the more developed areas in the northwest along the prominent Avinguda Diagonal.

The Olympic Complex was built on top of Montjuïc Hill, and included a tower by Santiago Calatrava, along with multiple Olympic venues – highlighted by the Olympic stadium. The area is now one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations, combining sports venues with museums and recreational areas.

Maragall insisted that cultural venues be renovated as part of the Olympic investments. These included the National Museum of Art of Catalonia, the Municipal Auditorium, the National Theatre of Catalonia, the Centre of Contemporary Culture, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the new Botanical Garden in the Parc del Migdia on Montjuïc.

The legacy of urban upgrading

Maragall’s dream was not just to host the Olympics; it was to make Barcelona a metropolis. Barcelona had been Madrid’s ‘poor sister,’ but Maragall led a team that made it a unique global city. His work was continued by Joan Clos, and the city keeps improving every day.

In his memoirs, Maragall indicates that, without a doubt, the Olympics were the catalyst that situated Barcelona on the world stage. Barcelona is now a global tourist destination and an international capital for culture and cosmopolitan life.

A striking video shows the city’s transformation in just 180 seconds:

Many cities that have hosted major events are stuck with white elephants – venues inappropriate for future use after the games. As a result, more and more cities are taking themselves out of the running for hosting the Olympics. Barcelona, however, provides a perfect example of how to use major events to spark urban revitalization as part of a larger, long term strategy. As RIBA’s president described, “Probably nowhere else in the world are there so many recent examples of a benign and appropriate attitude towards creating a civic setting for the next century.”

After stepping down from the Mayor’s office in 1997, Maragall continued his academic activities, and served as President of Generalitat de Catalunya – the province of Catalonia’s government – from 2003 to 2006. In 2007, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and he created the Pasqual Maragall Foundation to fight against the illness. His legacy continues to serve as an example for cities to use major events for redevelopment efforts, and as a model for long term urban renewal planning.

Categories: Europe

100 smart cities in India: Governing for human impact

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:48am

India’s new ‘smart’ cities should not be evaluated by their use of technology, rather by their ability to solve the country’s persistent urban challenges. Photo by Sandeep Shande/Flickr.

This summer, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to build ‘100 smart cities’ across India in an effort to take advantage of the country’s recent urban boom and catalyze investment in Indian cities. His initiative will cost the government 1.15 billion USD for the first year, and will emphasize building new smart cities rather than implementing smart infrastructure in existing cities. While there has been much discussion – positive and negative – in the media and political circles surrounding the initiative, Modi himself is ready to accelerate the project, and has taken steps to reduce delays in decision-making and necessary approval processes.

One consistent piece of the mainstream rhetoric around smart cities in India has been the transformative power of technology. New technologies are already making waves in India’s auto-rickshaw sector in cities like Chennai, but are not yet widespread across different sectors or in cities throughout the country. The ability to monitor traffic behavior, improve energy provision, electronically unify health care information, and more accurately predict transit ridership, for example, is expected to create profound changes in how cities operate.

Despite this overwhelming emphasis on the technological and financial inputs for smart cities, these undertakings – like any urban development project – should also be evaluated based on their outcomes. In economic terms, the difference between outputs and outcomes is subtle but important, creating a dividing line between the end result of a project and the real change it creates in people’s lives. Evaluating for outcomes holds city leaders accountable to ensuring that the scale of investment matches the real benefits for citizens.

While shifting investment toward technology-savvy infrastructure in cities can be seen as a positive step, regulating how this technology is leveraged will be key in creating on-the-ground change. New technologies offer the potential for safer, more efficient cities with higher quality of life. This potential can only be realized, however, through effective governance that leverages technology to respond to the needs of citizens.

Defining success for India’s smart city boom

At the end of the day, smart city development is an opportunity to learn from and improve upon failures in urban governance to enhance quality of life for all Indian citizens. The birth of smart cities creates a chance to catalyze progress in three key areas:

  • Improved governance structures and practices
  • Equitable economic growth and access to basic services
  • Human connectivity through mobile and Internet connection

Improved governance creates the foundation for smarter cities, and is essential for cities’ use of technology to improve service provision. Many Indian cities lack adequate cooperation among different sectors of government, and instead focus too often on public-private partnerships without first focusing on coordination across government departments. This can result in ineffective spending that fails to create sustained impact. Prime Minister Modi has emphasized that a key component of smart cities is improving the way city governments function. He has stressed the need to promote coordination across departments and reduce delays in decision-making. For example, the use of data is a key component of technology-enabled smart cities. However, when this data is siloed across a range of government arms, its potential is lost. A more efficient and connected government provides the basis for an investment-friendly environment that generates and sustains economic growth, in addition to better service provision.

Smart cities should also be evaluated based on their ability to provide equitable economic opportunity and access to basic infrastructure for all residents. Like effective governance, widespread access to basic infrastructure is a prerequisite for effective technology-driven urban improvements. When pursuing increased competitiveness and economic growth, smart cities cannot lose sight of the challenges faced by India’s urban poor. For example, increasing school graduation rates, or improving public health issues like child mortality and water-borne diseases should be core focuses of smart cities.

With the right priorities and effective governance structures, smart cities can use new technologies to improve service provision and quality of life.

Balancing governance and technology for smart, livable cities

The challenge for smart cities in India will be to evolve from the notion of ‘smart’ as one rooted in technology to one rooted in governance. Technology is only as useful as those who wield it. Strong governance structures and a focus on equitable quality of life improvements can help smart cities provide the framework for India’s future cities, and for future cities worldwide.

The author would like to acknowledge Dr. Vinay Lall of the New Delhi-based Society for Development Studies for the inspiration for this article.

Divya Kottadiel and Wanli Fang also contributed to this article. 

Categories: Europe

City centre streets. Perfect for children on their own bicycles, if the city is truly planned for cycling. Cargo bikes shouldn't be required.

Hembrow - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:21am
Something which people who visit Assen often notice is the lack of cargo-bikes. Somehow an expectation has grown up that cargo bikes are the way of transporting children by bicycle. Actually, children have their own legs and really should be able to use them to transport themselves as soon as they have the ability to ride a bicycle. This of course is only possible if the infrastructure is very David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Urban gardening builds strong, cohesive communities

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 4:53pm

Urban gardens, like the one pictured above in Kibera, Nairobi, allow residents to come together for healthier, happier communities. Photo by Colin Crowley/Flickr.

CNN recently described Cape Town, South Africa as being in the midst of a “vegoultion,” with hundreds of new community gardens and urban farms popping up throughout the city in recent years. The city’s “Green Clusters” are helping to improve the local environment while providing important social benefits and helping local residents eat healthy. Cities worldwide are challenged to create welcoming environments that connect residents to their city and create a strong social fabric. Community gardens are one way to help residents take a creative approach to making their cities more appealing, healthy, and sustainable.

Strengthening urban neighborhoods with community gardening

Community gardens are a powerful tool to turn decaying, unappealing urban spaces into community assets. In the United States, community gardens have been found to increase neighboring property values. New York City’s history of urban gardening demonstrated the ability to revitalize neighborhoods at a low cost. According to the EcoTipping Points Project, more than 800 gardens have helped engage the community, decrease crime, improve diets, and create cleaner environments in the city since the 1970s. Many cities are turning to community gardens to address unused spaces. As of 2013, Detroit had about 80,000 vacant buildings. Residents, non-profits, and corporations are joining together to repurpose vacant lots for community gardens, creating more livable areas while reducing blight.

In 2007, the government of Taipei, Taiwan encouraged citizens to transform unused public spaces into community farms as a way to relieve stress and grow food. In the city’s hillside suburbs, Songshan First Citizen’s Farm helps provide urbanites access to nature by allowing them to rent small farming plots. When speaking with Taiwan Today, the farm’s operator said he is often approached to sell the land for luxury apartments, but keeps the farm to preserve “an opportunity for families to bond and enjoy each other’s company.”

Through engaging marginalized residents, urban agriculture can create more inclusive communities. A study of five informal settlements in South Africa found that while urban farms only modestly contributed to food security and increased income, they had a wide range of other benefits for women that included reducing social alienation and family disintegration. The koyaproject is a global platform that helps build community gardens worldwide to increase social inclusion, educate children in self-sufficiency, nutrition and sustainability, and beautify neighborhoods, among other benefits. They focus on building gardens in community spaces like orphanages, schools, churches and temples, and are using crowdfunding to raise money for projects.

The vast potential for urban agriculture

In addition to helping create social cohesion and an attachment to one’s city, urban agriculture is helping improve access to healthy food while providing valuable employment opportunities worldwide. Urban farms can help increase access to fruit and vegetables in developing countries, where their consumption is between 20 and 50% below FHO/World Health Organization recommendations. In Ethiopia, the Urban Gardens Program for HIV-Affected Women and Children has benefited over 110,000 women, orphans, and vulnerable children by providing access to healthy food, new economic opportunities, and stronger support networks.

More and more city residents and NGOs are taking matters into their own hands to shape the cities they want to live in. With community gardens increasingly intertwined in urban environments, residents are creating cities to thrive.

Categories: Europe

Mumbai is ready For “Equal Streets – A Citizens’ Movement”

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 5:25pm

Car ownership is on the rise in Indian cities, but Mumbai’s new Equal Streets movement will help people take back the streets every Sunday while encouraging community interaction and active lifestyles. Photo by

Every day, Mumbai residents are being squeezed out of spaces to walk or cycle by the sheer pressure of cars, whose numbers are growing rapidly each year. A recent report by the Munich-based global consultancy Roland Berger Strategy Consultants stated that the Indian passenger vehicle market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12%, and will reach annual growth of five million cars by 2020. According to consultancy Strategy&, India will be third largest market for annual vehicle sales in the world by 2030.

Despite having a lower rate of car ownership than other developed and developing countries at present, India is rapidly catching up. Graphic via Skolkovo Institute for Emerging Market Studies.

In an attempt to help reclaim streets for people, EMBARQ India has initiated “Equal Streets – A Citizens’ Movement” with the help of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and Mumbai Traffic Police, and with support from the Times of India Group. Equal Streets will be held every Sunday, starting this weekend on November 9.

In addition to the omnipresent danger posed by motorized transport on the roads – which are in fact public spaces – Indian cities face a rising toll of air and noise pollution, traffic crashes, completely eradicated footpaths, increasing investment in roads and flyovers (also known as overpasses), increasing traffic speeds, high stress levels from driving, and the loss of tree cover from increasing automobile infrastructure that has left Mumbai gasping for breath.

How do we deal with this complex web of problems to create more humane and environmentally sustainable streets instead of highly unequal roads that favor cars? How do we make cities and their streetscapes more livable? How should we reclaim some street space for pedestrians and cyclists?

EMBARQ India is launching “Equal Streets – A Citizens’ Movement” with the intention of correcting this fundamental imbalance. The movement strives to put the people at the center of road use for major roads, including Linking Road, SV Road, and a section of Juhu road in the suburbs of Mumbai. Through this bold movement, communities will regain some control of major roads and declare them closed to motorized traffic for a few hours every Sunday morning, and perhaps eventually more.

The equal streets loop is a stretch of 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) including: Linking road, SV Road, and a part of Juhu road in the suburbs of Mumbai. Graphic by Naresh Kuruba/EMBARQ India.

The mission: Establishing the right to equal space in the city

Everyone, regardless of their class or wealth, will have equal access to the open spaces of the Equal Streets loop. One side of the road will be closed to vehicular traffic to create a 6 kilometer (3.7 mile) open space for people. The other side will remain open for general traffic. People of all age groups are welcome to interact with their community and participate in activities like yoga, aerobics, cross fit, Zumba and street dancing.

Through cycling and open streets, Equal Streets aims to create active communities and connect citizens and happy neighborhoods. Photo via Cycle Day, Bangalore.

Equal Streets, as the name suggests, gives Mumbai residents an opportunity to access the roads as public rather than private spaces. It seeks to rid select roads of an oppressive hierarchy whereby motorists believe that they have a right to occupy the majority of space while pedestrians and cyclists are pushed to the periphery, always in danger of being injured, and suffering from toxic vehicle emissions.

In every corner of Mumbai, there are conventional and non-conventional spaces that should be opened for public use. Equal Streets can network such spaces by connecting them with walking and cycling tracks. This promotes healthy activity and seeks to correct the sedentary lifestyle in which even children now partake.

This comic from the official Times of India contrasts the vibrancy of the Equal Streets portion of roads with the damaging, stress-inducing portion for motorized vehicles. Graphic via official Times of India.

While Equal Streets certainly aims to be a fun, community-building event, at its core it is an important statement about public space and democracy in urban India. According to Binoy Mascarenhas, Manager of Urban Transport for EMBARQ India:

This movement does not end at declaring a car-free day but aims at raising greater public awareness regarding the significance of public spaces in Indian cities. Thus Equal Streets is not a one-off initiative but a sustained movement by the people. The objective is to provide walking and cycling tracks throughout all neighborhoods in the city. This is the assertion of a democratic principle, based on the rights of citizens to equal space in the city, which should be a part of Mumbai’s Development Plan. The closure of certain streets to motorized transport will result in achieving the larger mission.”

Can’t join in Mumbai this weekend? Follow the Equal Streets movement on Facebook and Twitter, and stay tuned for more coverage on TheCityFix.

Categories: Europe

Call for submissions: Pitch your ideas for smarter mobility and urban development

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 11/05/2014 - 2:22pm

Transforming Transportation 2015 is inviting YOU to become a presenter. Share your big ideas for sustainable mobility and urban development in smart cities. Photo by Onny Carr/Flickr.

Do you have big ideas for “what’s next” in sustainable mobility and urban development? It’s time to put them to the test.

As part of Transforming Transportation 2015, EMBARQ and the World Bank are inviting innovative minds to join the conference agenda and present on new ideas advancing smart, sustainable cities. These will take the form of PechaKucha style presentations – consisting of 20 slides changing every 20 seconds – and are an ideal opportunity for young researchers, urban planners, transport engineers, and innovative urban thinkers to share their unique visions. In total, sixteen presentations will be accepted, eight focused on urban development and eight focused on urban mobility. These will be spread out over two sessions, titled “Innovations in Urban Development for Smart Cities” and “Innovations in Mobility for Smart Cities.”

Transforming Transportation (#TTDC15) is the annual conference co-organized by EMBARQ – the producer of TheCityFix – and the World Bank. The event convenes leading transport and urban development experts from national and local government, finance institutions, foundations, civil society, and business to discuss the latest global trends, experiences, and best practices in sustainable transport. This year’s conference will focus on Smart Cities for Shared Prosperity, and will examine how smart, connected urban mobility can improve quality of life in cities. More information on conference proceedings and registration is available at, and you can read about the takeaways from Transforming Transportation 2014 right here on TheCityFix.

Now is the moment for innovative approaches and fresh thinking

One result of rapid urbanization is the great challenge city leaders face in creating connected, inclusive and livable cities. From bus rapid transit (BRT) to transit-oriented development (TOD), innovations in urban mobility and urban development have revolutionized cities worldwide. But further advancements are needed. Cities are expected to gain 1.4 billion people in the next 20 years, and cities already emit 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is expected that transport-related global climate change contributions will double between 2010 and 2050. Ideas presented at the conference will help set the agenda for the transport community to more fully engage in 2015’s pivotal climate negotiations and the establishment of the United Nations’ new set of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

So join the conversation! Anyone is eligible to submit a presentation. To submit your idea, browse the application guidelines and submit your presentation here by 11:59pm EST on December 2, 2014.

Categories: Europe

Three maps help explain São Paulo, Brazil’s water crisis

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 11/04/2014 - 3:20pm

São Paulo is experiencing a drought so extreme that the city could run out of water, and it is only one of many populous Brazilian cities that face significant risk for drought in future years. Photo by Martha Slivak/Flickr.

The worst drought to grip São Paulo, Brazil and neighboring states in 80 years is wreaking havoc on the local population. As of late October, key reservoirs hold less than two weeks’ worth of drinking water. Schools and health centers are closing early, dishes sit unwashed in sinks, and restaurants are steering customers away from restrooms. Significant crop production declines are of deep concern, and because 50% of Brazil’s electrical energy comes from hydropower, possible power cuts loom. The president of Brazil’s Water Regulatory Agency warned that if the drought continues, the state faces “a collapse like we’ve never seen before.”

Brazil has more freshwater than any country in the world – 12% of the entire planet’s total volume. So how is São Paulo – the richest, largest city in South America – running out of water? Three maps help tell the complicated story.

1) It’s a distribution and management problem

Brazil’s water resources and population are very unevenly distributed. The Amazon River basin contains roughly 50% of the country’s water, but only 4% of its population. About 80% of Brazilians are concentrated in megacities along the east coast, like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which rely on their own local river basins. Many of these cities are water stressed, due to their rapid growth and development.

WRI’s Aqueduct project recently analyzed water stress in Brazilian cities with more than 1 million people. About 40% of the population in these largest cities faces medium to extremely high water stress. This means that, depending on the particular location, as much as 80% of the water naturally available to agricultural, domestic, and industrial users is withdrawn annually, leaving businesses, farms, and communities vulnerable to scarcity.

Based on this relationship of demand and supply in a typical year, São Paulo, in fact, faces low to medium water stress. But this is far from a typical year. On top of São Paulo’s epic drought right now, a series of interconnected water management failures across the metropolitan area have hindered its ability to adapt to those conditions, according to Brazilian researchers. São Paulo demonstrates how destabilizing a drought can be – even in less-stressed areas – without adequate management. Other more-stressed cities in the region could therefore be at even higher risk.

2) It’s a variability problem

Water supplies can vary significantly from season to season and from year to year in Brazil. Most of Brazil experiences pronounced wet and dry seasons, otherwise known as high seasonal variability. Northeastern Brazil has also experienced considerable fluctuations in total average water supply from year to year – called high inter-annual variability.

The ongoing drought in Southeastern Brazil offers a prime example of how damaging a major supply drop can be over the course of a year. It began last summer, between December 2013 and February 2014, historically the wettest time of year. The region received only half its usual amount of rain, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. In the eight months since, rainfall has hovered at 60% below normal levels. There is concern among Brazilian experts that inter-annual variability may be increasing in southern and southeastern Brazil due to heavy deforestation of the Amazon (see section below).

Where variability is high, it’s important to store freshwater underground and in reservoirs during wet periods to sustain companies, farms, and people through dry periods. The city of São Paulo depends, among other reservoirs, on the Cantareira System. Its six reservoirs, linked by 48 km (30 miles) of tunnels and canals, provide water to half the people in its metropolitan area. Sabesp, São Paulo’s water utility, reported on Oct. 23 that Cantareira system was reduced to 3 to 5% of its maximum capacity. The utility is currently pumping water from the reserves below the intake pipes of the reservoirs.

3) It’s a deforestation problem

Expert consensus is building around deforestation as a major driver of this year’s drought and other serious dry periods in Brazil. In 2009, Antonio Nobre, a scientist at Brazil’s Center for Earth Systems Science – CCST/INPE, warned that Amazonian deforestation could interfere with the forest’s function as a giant water pump; it lifts vast amounts of moisture up into the air, which then circulate west and south, falling as rain to irrigate Brazil’s central and southern regions. Without these “flying rivers,” Nobre said, the area accounting for 70% of South America’s GNP could effectively become desert.

In recent years, Brazil has been hailed for its efforts to reduce deforestation – the average rate of clearance decreased 70% between 2005 and 2014. However, deforestation in Brazil jumped during the last officially recorded period, between August 2012 and July 2013, marking the first increase since 2008. Satellite analysis from Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, also indicates a 190% surge in forest clearing this August and September when compared with last year. See the animation above, showing tree-cover loss equivalent to an area almost five times the size of New York City.

In January and February of this year, when rain is usually abundant in central and southern Brazil, the flying rivers failed to flow south, according to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The animation of tree cover loss alerts from Global Forest Watch is meant to be illustrative only. The exact science of how forest clearing affects the performance of the Amazon’s “hydrological pump” is still emerging, and further analysis is needed to determine how the timing and location of forest loss affects precipitation elsewhere. The “Flying Rivers Project,” an effort by Dr. Nobre and other Brazilian scientists to quantify the dynamics of atmospheric water vapor and forests in Brazil, provides some of the most robust data on the subject, including real-time and historic maps of air flows and water vapor in the region.

A need for action

This drought’s effects on Brazil will be complex. And the effectiveness of the country’s water management will deeply impact its energy, agricultural and industrial sectors, as well as its growing population. São Paulo’s ongoing emergency offers an extreme example of how dangerous a supply change can be, even in an environment with low to medium water stress in normal years.

In response, experts from NGOs – including WRI – formed an “Alliance for Water,” which proposed hundreds of short – and long-term measures to adapt to the current crisis and prevent future emergencies. WRI is also working with IUCN, the Atlantic Rainforest Restoration Pact (PACTO), government representatives, and civil society leaders on building landscape restoration strategies to help re-establish environmental services where they are needed most, like the São Paulo watersheds.

But as the drought’s impacts continue to ripple throughout the country, it’s clear that more work is needed. Decision-makers across the country must learn from the lessons of this drought and increase water-use efficiency, enhance water-storage capacity, and halt deforestation in the Amazon.

This article also appears on WRI InsightsRachel Biderman, director of WRI Brasil, also contributed to this blog post.

Categories: Europe

The Race for the Life-Sized City

Copenhagenize - Tue, 11/04/2014 - 9:55am
It's simply not fair that there are so many board games featuring a car-centric, last-century theme, like this one:Or even this online version.So, together with Doug Gordon, who runs the Brooklyn Spoke blog and who should be immediately followed on Twitter, Erik and Mikael from Copenhagenize Design Company decided to rectify the matter by whipping up a board game for the Life-Sized City. Like so many things regarding cities, the idea is old but still good - snakes (or chutes) and ladders has been around for many centuries - known as Moksha Patam in India.Find a die and start rolling. It ain't easy, sunshine, but it's possible to win.You can also download the .pdf if you want.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

A “new normal” for sustainable transport in Chinese cities

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:51am

With the right government leadership, the new normal for sustainable transport in Chinese cities will include more transit-oriented development, shared mobility services, and transport innovations from the private sector. Photo by Taro Taylor/Flickr.

As cities worldwide innovate to improve mobility, Chinese cities lag behind in adopting emerging sustainable transport solutions. Still, a number of concepts are set to become crucial to the future of urban transport in China. Transit-oriented development (TOD), innovative transit and shared mobility solutions to complement traditional mass transport, and private market innovation through information technologies are all primed to reshape Chinese cities and could create a more sustainable mobility future.

Chinese cities are late adopters of sustainable transport innovations

Globally, cities are avid innovators and adopters of transport breakthroughs. A recent study from EMBARQ – producer of TheCityFix – showed that many sustainable transport concepts like bike-share and bus rapid transit (BRT) are reaching tipping points and becoming more common. Nonetheless, the same study revealed that Chinese cities are not at the forefront of this trend: many sustainable transport solutions, such as congestion pricing, complete streets, and low emission zones have yet to be included in Chinese cities’ policy arsenals.

For transport innovation to become a widespread norm, it takes more than replication. Institutional barriers, contextual differences, capacity constraints, and path dependency are common roadblocks that prevent new ideas from being adopted in Chinese cities. Given these roadblocks, what are the sustainable transport pathways that fit the context of Chinese cities, and what emerging trends in sustainable transport can we expect for these cities?

The “new sustainable transport normal” in China

The recent Transit Metropolis Forum – administered by China’s Ministry of Transport – shed light on developments in urban transport in China. The Ministry’s Transit Metropolis program aims to promote transit-oriented development and high quality transit services in Chinese cities. With over 400 attendees, the Transit Metropolis Forum served as a peer-learning platform to explore state-of-the-art sustainable transport solutions, share emerging opportunities, and shape new trends. Solutions emerging from the forum discussion have the potential to be mainstreamed in Chinese cities in the years to come. In particular, three topics featured prominently in the forum discussions:

Transit-oriented development

Fueled by booming rail transit construction in China, transit-oriented Development – a strategy that promotes dense, mixed-use, and walkable development near transit stations – is gaining momentum. Shenzhen and Shanghai, among others, are spearheading TOD around transit stops.

Despite a small number of ad-hoc projects, multiple barriers exist to translate TOD from rhetoric to reality in China. Forum speakers admitted that many critical elements for successful TOD planning and implementation are missing. For example, rail transit plans are often developed without adjustments to city master/regulatory plans, and regulatory zoning codes around station areas are too rigid to allow for up-zoning or mixed land uses. Moreover, stakeholder engagement that matches projects to dynamic market demand is unfortunately absent in the current planning process.

Forum speakers suggested that future efforts should be geared towards reforming planning systems and working across silos to coordinate among different government departments and work with developers. Recent national policies have signaled positive changes to enable TOD. For instance, the recent issuing of the State Directive 64 opens the door for dense, commercial developments directly above and underneath regional railway stations, and allows for land value capture to support the otherwise costly railway construction.

Innovative transit services and shared mobility

Transit ridership in Chinese cities is expected to grow rapidly. Forum participants noticed that to accommodate this sharp rise in travel demand, the sole emphasis on subway expansion is insufficient; the future of urban mobility should be multimodal, integrated, and cater to varying travel needs.

A few mobility trends are gaining momentum in Chinese cities to complement subway systems. For example, BRT is now operating in 21 Chinese cities. The diversity of BRT system designs – which include systems on elevated highways, boulevards, and minor streets – show that technology and design innovations for BRT are endless. Another complementary transport option to subway systems is high-end commuting shuttle services. These services target high-income families and are also building momentum in China. Invented in Beijing, this flexible-route, subscription-based transit service provides both reliability and comfort that high-income households love, and has great potential to attract existing car drivers. Moreover, shared mobility options such as car-sharing and carpooling that were once restricted in Chinese cities have also recently grown.

Information technologies and the private market

Forum attendees highlighted great opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship by the private sector to provide “smart” sustainable transport solutions. Indeed, leveraging private sector innovation and investment can not only unlock business opportunities, but can also complement public policies.

Smartphone technology plays an increasingly prominent role in transport in Chinese cities, through smartphone apps to hail a taxi, track arriving buses, or vote for a proposed change in bus routes, and through providing “big data” that informs policy-making. For example, the popular taxi app Didi – developed by a grass-roots start-up in China – has achieved a large market share in only two years, receiving over 5.5 million daily orders, reducing CO2 emissions by 40 metric meters per day, and unlocking millions in private investments. Forum attendees also suggested that for these innovative services to be mainstreamed, governments must create proper incentives, ensure fair competition, and make data publicly available.

The impact of urban transport systems on economic opportunity, human wellbeing, and climate change are determined by the choices city leaders make today. Although the forum outlined possible trends in sustainable transport for Chinese cities, these transport solutions will require cities to have visionary leadership, creative thinking, and a vibrant market.

EMBARQ China is supporting this process by working in many Chinese cities to catalyze the adoption of innovative sustainable transport solutions like transit-oriented development and land value capture, low emission zones, BRT, and car-sharing. Read more about EMBARQ China’s work here.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Dancing zebras for safer streets

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 10/31/2014 - 12:11pm

This zebra directing traffic is not a joke. It is one of hundreds of city employees saving lives while making streets in La Paz, Bolivia friendlier for pedestrians. Photo via

The streets of La Paz, Bolivia present severe risks for pedestrians. The country’s capital faces rising demand for cars, and has inadequate traffic signs and universally accessible pedestrian infrastructure. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the traffic fatality rate in La Paz is 12 deaths per 100,000 people, with 36% of these deaths involving pedestrians. However, the city also created one of the most innovative pedestrian-safety strategies, which saves lives while adding to the city’s character: dancing traffic safety zebras. As part of a broader program to hire at-risk youth for city improvement jobs, the city employs hundreds of 15 to 22 year olds who dress in full costume and are trained in street performance. These zebras jump and dance to direct cars to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Watch them in action:

The city’s dancing zebras help promote a culture of pedestrian safety, and have become a point of pride for many city residents. Their impact goes beyond helping pedestrians cross the street. According to the Guardian, the zebras now lead educational programs in schools and public spaces on issues such as recycling, water conservation, and bullying. Their work is spreading. The zebras are aiming to expand with last year’s launch of the “Zebra’s Without Borders” project, which works to export the initiative to two additional cities in Bolivia and to countries throughout Latin America.

Promoting a people-oriented city

Of course, the dancing zebras alone cannot solve La Paz’s pedestrian safety challenges, and they are no substitute for people-oriented urban design. Cities have a wide range of tools that have been shown to save lives, including improving intersection design, using traffic calming measures, pedestrianizing streets, and prioritizing sustainable transport. La Paz and neighboring El Atlo have recently improved sustainable transport options by building the world’s longest aerial cable car system. Cities across Bolivia also recently celebrated “The Day of the Pedestrian and Cyclist,” during which roads were closed to cars and pedestrians were given space for a wide range of activities.

In addition to using more traditional strategies, La Paz’s zebras remind us that there is also room to think outside the box to improve traffic safety. In Lisbon, Portugal, a dancing traffic signal made pedestrians less likely to jaywalk. In cities like St. Paul, United States and São Paulo, Brazil, public art exhibits are used to help slow cars and improve safety. On World Cities Day 2014, it is important to remember that urban transformation comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it is the most unorthodox ideas that are the most effective.

Categories: Europe