Taking Matters into Our Own Hands - Nordre Frihavnsgade

Copenhagenize - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 6:29am
Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Even in Copenhagen.There is a street in a densely-populated neigbourhood in Copenhagen - Østerbro - without any cycle tracks. I know, I know... it's like a street in New York without honking taxis or a street in Paris without cafés populated by moody philosophy students. It's weird. Also because it's a long street in a thriving neighbourhood and it's one of the streets in the city with a far too high levels of incidents involving bicycles.It's weird because it's a perfect street for cycle tracks. It's also weird because only 29% of households in Copenhagen even own a car but politicians and the City say that taking out car parking on this street would be "difficult".A local politican, Jonas Bjørn Jensen, when campaigning for the last election decided to ask people in the neighbourhood if they wanted cycle tracks. Over 90% of the people he asked said, "yes". Together with Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers and Thomas Lygum Sidelmann from Urban Action we at Copenhagenize Design Company decided to just do our own proposed street design. Enough talk. Let's get some imagery onto the table.Above is the street as it looks now. Nordre Frihavnsgade (don't try to pronounce that please) is a central street in the Østerbro neighbourhood connecting Strandboulevarden, Trianglen and Østbanegade. It's an important shopping street and has a lively environment, with schools and shops and... life. There are 5800 bicycle users a day and 5300 cars. Ole Kassow, who lives nearby, has spoken with many locals and the general consensus is that the street doesn't feel safe. It's not nice to cycle on it. There are also many pedestrians crossing back and forth to the various shops and cafés and other destinations.Bizarrely, the street is a 50 km/h zone, except at the narrowest section where it is "only" 40 km/h. One thing that Copenhagen sucks at is the fact that they haven't embraced the 30 km/h movement like the rest of Europe. If this street was in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, etc etc. it would be 30 km/h. Years ago.Anyway, we decided to visualise what the street should look like. Our point of departure was that if cycle tracks are ooooh so difficult for the City of Copenhagen, then we will give them an easier, cheaper solution. The Dutch have their fietsstraat and while the Copenhagen Police have been vocal opponents of them - and most everything else that would improve cycling in the city - there is finally a pilot project on Vestergade in Copenhagen as we speak.So we made the street a "cykelgade" - a bicycle street - dictating that cars are welcome as guests on the street but they have to drive at the tempo that the bicycle users dictate.We designed a Danish version of the Dutch Fietsstraat signage, as well. Based on the Danish standards for pictograms and font.Here is the street in it's full length. Our proposal would improve the street greatly. It would benefit local businesses, make pedestrians feel safer and it would be a new benchmark for neighbourhood planning in Copenhagen.While there is nothing regarding bicycle infrastructure that we can learn from the Americans, the parklet concept is something that we can happily subscribe to. We included them in our designs to also plant this idea in the minds of Copenhageners. More of these would be fantastic.It is vitally important to create visualisations. Talk is fine but when you design a visualisation, suddenly you have a whole group of different people who understand what you're on about. They are really powerful tools for change. Cross your fingers for a positive development on this street.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Comfort Testing The Cycle Tracks

Copenhagenize - Sun, 08/31/2014 - 3:27am
A car blocking the bike lane/cycle track. The source of much irritation and many social media photos. This photo, however, is from Denmark and that is a car that we WANT driving down the cycle track.Cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus don't just build the necessary infrastructure to encourage cycling, keep people safe and help make people FEEL safe, they regularly measure the quality of the infrastructure.Citizens always say in polls that the quality of the cycle tracks and bike lanes is of utmost importance to them when they are considering to commute by bicycle.So, specially adapated cars like these are regularly sent down the cycle tracks to measure for bumps and smoothness, among other factors, using laser technology and recording the data.There is a veritable armada of vehicles designed to operate on cycle tracks. Street sweepers, municipal garbage collection and, not least, snow clearance vehicles like those in our classic article: The Ultimate Snow Clearance Blogpost.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Four more examples of how to preserve cycling routes during roadworks. Road Works vs. The Dutch Cyclist

Hembrow - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:52pm
Road-works can seriously disrupt cycling. If cyclists are forced to dismount, to make longer journeys or to ride on roads full of motor vehicles then these inconveniences and dangers could cause people to stop cycling. Cycling is fragile. It doesn't take many bad experiences to make people give up. If people break the habit of cycling they may not return very quickly. That is why it is importantDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Four more examples of how to preserve cycling routes during roadworks. Road Works vs. The Dutch Cyclistf

Hembrow - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:52pm
Road-works can seriously disrupt cycling. If cyclists are forced to dismount, to make longer journeys or to ride on roads full of motor vehicles then these inconveniences and dangers could cause people to stop cycling. Cycling is fragile. It doesn't take many bad experiences to make people give up. If people break the habit of cycling they may not return very quickly. That is why it is importantDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Four more examples of how to preserve cycling routes during roadworks. Road Works vs. The Dutch Cyclist - Three more examples of

Hembrow - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:52pm
Road-works can seriously disrupt cycling. If cyclists are forced to dismount, to make longer journeys or to ride on roads full of motor vehicles then these inconveniences and dangers could cause people to stop cycling. Cycling is fragile. It doesn't take many bad experiences to make people give up. If people break the habit of cycling they may not return very quickly. That is why it is importantDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: You, too, can build a sustainable city through crowdfunding

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 1:11pm

Do you want a say in infrastructure projects in your city? Crowdfunding can allow citizens to turn creative, sustainable projects into reality. Photo by David Berkowitz/Flickr.

Here at TheCityFix, we love exploring the latest, most breathtaking innovations in sustainable urban development. And for good reason! Measures like São Paulo’s citizen hackathons, Medellín’s aerial cable cars, glow-in-the-dark road markings, and Hamburg and Helsinki’s plans for car-free mobility all serve as inspirational reminders that urban sustainability is not so unreachable a goal as was once thought. Such examples and countless others are evidence that there is no shortage of great ideas for the sustainable cities of the future.

So, why aren’t we seeing a more widespread trend of sustainable mobility emerging in cities across the globe? Why are so many emerging cities inching closer and closer to car-centric development? While there are a number of obstacles to making sustainable urban mobility a reality, finance may be the greatest of these challenges. The World Bank has estimated that closing the infrastructure gap in developing cities alone requires US$ 1 trillion per year. As it stands, official development aid (ODA) – a key financial flow to emerging economies – only stands at US$ 135 billion.

While governments and development banks have lofty strategies of their own to fill this finance gap, everyday citizens are also taking action to help build the cities they want to live in.

Citizens unite to fund their vision for the urban future

Crowdfunding is a rapidly growing funding model that has recently expanded as a way to support urban improvement projects. A number of platforms promote citizen-designed civic projects to help them raise small amounts of money from many donors. Parks, gardens, and other urban beautification initiatives are some of the most common projects funded on these platforms, though several projects show the potential for crowdfunding as a means to fund much larger initiatives. In Rotterdam, Netherlands, citizens have used crowdfunding to fund a wooden footbridge that aims to be a catalyst for economic development in the region. In Glyncoch, Wales, citizens donated a total of £792,021 (US$ 1.31 million) for a multi-purpose community center.

How can city governments utilize the potential for civic crowdfunding? More than 170 cities have already signed up to use, a crowdfunding platform that raises money for public projects. Recently launched Citizinvestor Connect will allow cities to go further by creating their own platforms. This will allow cities to source project ideas from citizens, who can use the platform to raise money for an initiative that the government agrees to help implement.

What role should crowdfunding play in our cities?

By allowing citizens to donate small amounts of money to projects of their choosing, urban planning can become a more participatory and inclusive process. These platforms also open up a new source of capital for projects that may not otherwise be funded. However, civic crowdfunding also presents risks. While it can make planning more participatory, it may exclude citizens who lack the ability to make significant donations. Further, it is unclear whether governments will turn to civic crowdfunding instead of funding projects that should be paid for with public funds. Finally, most civic crowdfunding projects remain small, and it is unclear whether the model will effectively scale up.

Still crowdfunding is gaining momentum around the world. While is it most common in wealthier countries, it also has strong potential for opening up new capital in middle and lower income countries. It is already growing quickly in India, where a variety of crowdfunding platforms are emerging to fund arts and business ventures.

Crowdfunding is growing as a tool being used to fund a variety of projects, including investments in start-up companies, real estate ventures, and alternative energies. Still, these innovative funding models are early in their growth. In time, civic crowdfunding may help reshape our cities to be more sustainable and responsive to citizens’ needs and desires.

Categories: Europe

The Lulu and Neighbourhood Wayfinding

Copenhagenize - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 1:55pm
Quite out of the blue during dinner one evening, I asked my daughter, Lulu, aged 6 almost 7 (you may know her as the world's youngest urbanist...) if she thought she could find her way to the local swimming pool by herself. I was explaining directions to somewhere else to my son, Felix, aged 12, and I realised that all the references were visual. No street addresses or anything, just directions like "go down that street and when you see that shop, turn right...". To which he would reply, "is that the shop with the red door?" or "is that the shop across from that other shop with this or that recognizable feature?"It all originates with this earlier article here on the blog: Wayfinding in a Liveable City.So I wondered how much Lulu has registered in her daily, frequent journeys around our neighbourhood. So... I laid down the challenge to Lulu. Find your way to the swimming pool on foot. Felix and I would walk behind her but wouldn't offer any help.At six, she finds it difficult to describe how to get to places. There is no "go to the end of this street and then turn left...". It is more vague and hard for me, an adult to understand. Try it with your own kids, or other peoples' kids, to see what I mean. So we just set out on her journey, letting her show us the way. I didn't know if she could pull it off. I literally had no idea. When she was younger she was pushed through the neighbourhood in a stroller, we walk and we cycle everywhere... but always with me or her mum leading the way. It was a fascinating exercise. Felix and I watched her finding her way, looking around and using visual references to guide her. Walking up to the end of the street and scouting left and right, remembering visual clues to send her in the next direction.A couple of times I asked her, "why did you turn right here?" To which she replied, "Because that shop on the corner is where we turn right. Duh, Daddy..."So... indeed... she was remembering visual clues like shops and trees and bushes and what not. She was pleased as punch when we ended up in front of the swimming pool.Then I asked her to find our local ice cream shop. It would involved a totally different route than our normal A to B from home to ice cream. Again, she rocked it. Using the most logical way from where were standing, instead of taking us back home and then down to the ice cream. I was impressed.Lulu is already looking forward to when she is eight and gets to walk to school alone. It's only 800 metres from our flat. But Felix did it for the first time at eight so Lulu has it in her mind to do it at that age, too. Really, though, there is no reason that she couldn't do it earlier. Now that I've figured out that she knows her way around like a boss.Something that we often neglect to think about regarding our kids.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Recognizing the role of gender in the informal urban economy

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:34am

Governments can improve the livelihoods of female street vendors by creating safe public spaces and supporting member-based groups of informal workers. Photo by Jeff DeMaria/Flickr.

The informal economy is often referred to as the “shadow economy,” a glaring indicator of its absence from the eyes of policymakers. As discussed on TheCityFix, street vendors are frequently ignored in surveys of jobs and economic productivity, despite their extensive connections to the formal economy. Further, the specific challenges faced by female street vendors are mostly absent from public discourse.

Street trading is vital to livelihoods of the urban poor, especially women. According to the World Bank, the informal sector accounts for well over half of all urban employment in Africa and Asia and a quarter in Latin America and the Caribbean. In several African countries, informal sector income accounts for over 40 percent of total urban income. By supporting street vendors, cities can foster equitable development and improve the livelihood of society’s most vulnerable populations.

Cities can take a number of measures to improve the lives of street vendors, including using public spaces more efficiently and upgrading infrastructure for vendors. However, policymakers must also acknowledge challenges that are particularly acute for female vendors and prioritize solutions that specifically address these challenges.

Importance of recognizing gender issues in street vending

In general, women are overrepresented in the informal economy, though the gender balance of street vendor populations varies widely between continents, countries, and even between nearby cities. In some places, like Hanoi, Vietnam, 79% of street vendors are women, while in Buenos Aires, Argentina the total is 29%. In Ahmedad, India, women only account for 10% of street vendors.

Regardless of gender, street vendors face the challenges of low, precarious income, poor work conditions, and a lack of legal protection. However, these issues are especially prevalent for female vendors. Further, women are frequently less secure in public spaces due to safety concerns. It is crucial for policymakers to acknowledge and address these challenges. Two strategies that have successfully supported female vendors are prioritizing crime prevention in public spaces and supporting member-based vendor organizations.

Crime prevention through environmental design

Some cities are acknowledging the economic and social benefits of including female vendors in participatory city planning for urban design. A recent article on TheCityFix shared the results of a workshop conducted in India regarding women’s safety in public spaces. The results showed that, to an alarming extent, safety concerns govern the way women interact with public spaces. This is particularly problematic for street vendors, whose livelihoods require frequent use of potentially unsafe public spaces.

The Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading project in Cape Town, South Africa – executed by a partnership of organizations working to end gender violence in Khayelitsha – demonstrates one way cities can create safe public spaces for women. The program combines a participatory planning process with urban design solutions aimed at reducing crime. For example, it included the creation of well-lit routes through the Khayelitsha township and community-managed “safety boxes” that are always occupied. The plan also provides infrastructure and added space for street vendors. According to the OECD, after the project was completed, the murder rate in the area dropped by 33%.

ActionAid Ethiopia (AAE) is also heading a collaborative project that aims to make public spaces safer and more empowering for female street vendors in Addis Ababa. The project brings together urban design professionals to work with female vendors and build alternative designs for public spaces and to design portable, lockable vendor stalls for female vendors.

With explicit attention to their needs and the creation of a safer environment, female street vendors can conduct business and occupy the street safely.

Mobilizing vendor organizations

Organizing and supporting member-based groups of informal workers can also help create economic opportunity and improve street vendors’ livelihoods. These groups can be particularly helpful for women facing legal and economic challenges. The most prominent and compelling example of such a group is the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India (SEWA), a trade union of over 960,000 women in 14 Indian states. Approximately 11% of members in the group’s home state of Gujarat are street vendors. The association aims to benefit its members economically and socially by providing supportive services like savings and credit, health care, child care, insurance, legal aid, and skills training. Its size and history also allow it to be a powerful voice advocating for informal workers in public policy debates, and to train its members to advocate more effectively.

While SEWA is a promising example, most vendor organizations are local and fragile. Municipal governments should support vendors’ efforts to organize and provide a defined interface with such organizations so vendors can engage in dialogue with governments. Finally, governments should include such groups as prominent partners when making decisions about street trade and public space.

The right kind of visibility from policymakers

Not all visibility from policymakers benefits street vendors, who can be victims of a predatory state that demands bribes, harasses vendors, and evicts them without consultation. However, through participatory planning, support for safe spaces, and support for member-based groups, cities can acknowledge and address challenges female street vendors face, while building safer, more inclusive communities.

Categories: Europe

Sustainable development and integrated planning mark Europe’s new green capital

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:46pm

Ljubljana recently won the 2016 European Green Capital Award based on its comprehensive approach to sustainable development, which has transformed urban life in the past decade while minimizing the city’s environmental impact. Photo by Rhobinn/Flickr.

Ljubljana, Slovenia has won the 2016 European Green Capital Award, given annually by the European Commission to cities that set an example of sustainable urban development best practices.

With an ambitious sustainability plan and that has led to significant improvements in the past decade, the capital of Slovenia joins cities such as Bristol, elected as the 2015 winner and Copenhagen, elected as the 2014 winner. The award considers the city’s urban and environmental management strategies and commitment to sustainability. Specifically, the European Commission takes into account indicators such as climate resilience, urban mobility, air quality, waste management, and water quality among other factors.

A comprehensive approach to sustainable development and climate change

Ljubljana was chosen primarily because of its sustainability plan Vision 2025, which calls for an integrated approach to achieving ambitious sustainable development goals. The plan includes an Environmental Protection Program, a Sustainable Mobility Plan, a Sustainable Energy Action Plan, and an Electromobility Strategy. Implementation of these and other measures in recent years has transformed life in the Slovenian capital. The Mobility Plan, adopted in 2012, aims to create equal use of the city’s public transport, cars, and non-motorized modes of transport by 2020. It has already helped increase the mode share of public transport to 27.7%. The city also altered vehicular traffic flow to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, which, in combination with other measures such as transport fare card integration, has increased the speed and reliability of public transport.

Ljubljana has also emerged as a leader in addressing climate change. Its climate goals are ambitious, as the city has proposed plans to reduce emissions by anywhere from 50% to 80% by 2050 from 2008 levels. This goal follows the city’s commitment to transparency regarding environmental information. The World Summit Award, a United Nations initiative, selected Ljubljana’s Thermal Power Plant (TE-TOL) as one of the world’s five best practices in the area of environmental protection and health for its communication with residents about its emissions and effects on health and the environment.

In recent years, hundreds of projects have improved the environment and quality of life in Ljubljana. Below are just a few of the results already achieved:

  • Two million trips have been made on the public bike program BicikeLJ since 2011. About 10% of the population regularly uses the system.
  • About 75% of the area of the city is made up of green space. Between 2008 and 2012, the city created 40 hectares of new parks, and now has approximately 560 square meters of green space per inhabitant.
  • The use of private transport fell from 47% to 19% in the city center between 2003 and 2013. During the same period, the use of public transport rose from 20% to 27.7%, and the number of pedestrians increased from 33% to 53.3%.
  • 3,500 waste containers have been replaced by 51 underground waste collectors.
  • The city won the European Prize for Urban Public Space in 2012.

These are only a few of Ljubljana’s admirable efforts to improve urban mobility, the environment, and quality of life.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

Medellín Metrocable improves mobility for residents of informal settlements

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 10:17am

Medellín’s Metrocable is the centerpiece of an inclusive urban upgrading strategy that has improved mobility and economic opportunity, while reducing violence in disadvantaged areas. Photo by Gabinete/Flickr.

In 2004, Medellín – the second largest city in Colombia – introduced the Medellín Metrocable system to connect low-income residents to public transport. As the world’s first modern urban aerial cable car transport system, this innovative addition to Medellín’s existing metro system was built in response to significant spatial inequalities in metro access. Metrocable was designed to improve transport and quality of life in informal settlements located on the mountainside, home to some of the city’s most disadvantaged communities. The system currently consists of three lines, the first of which carries approximately 30,000 passengers per day. A recent study further speaks to the system’s success, finding that the Metrocable dramatically improves accessibility to metro stops and employment opportunities for some low-income residents. This attention to the city’s underserved communities reflects Medellín’s increased commitment to improving equity and quality of life while reducing emissions through sustainable mobility.

Equity at the core of Medellín’s development strategy

Before the Metrocable was built, the only options for residents to descend from the hilly informal settlements were infrequent, unreliable buses or journeying on foot, which could take multiple hours. The implementation of the Metrocable improved “access to activities” for the low-income population, and confirms the importance of improving mobility as a facet of expanding equity in cities. For example, the previously mentioned study found that by increasing access to high-employment areas, the Metrocable doubled the number of opportunities available to the low-income residents that participated in the study.

The Metrocable was the focal point of a broad neighborhood upgrading effort focused on the city’s poorest and most violent areas. This effort included support for social housing, schools, micro-enterprise, and implementation of additional lighting in public spaces, pedestrian bridges and street paths. Medellín used an inclusive approach to neighborhood upgrading. The urban interventions featured the use of local labor and included participatory budgeting, allowing local communities to collectively determine how to use 5% of the municipal budget designated for investment in these areas.

The Metrocable, in conjunction with these efforts, helped reduce violence in these neighborhoods. In 2002, Medellín’s homicide rate was 185 per 100,000 people. For comparison, the highest homicide rate in the United States in 2002 was New Orleans, Louisiana with 53 per 100,000 people. Violence has been even more pronounced in the hilly informal settlements where the interventions were focused. After the Metrocable and other neighborhood upgrading efforts were implemented, however, violence in these neighborhoods dropped 66% more than in neighborhoods that did not receive interventions. Medellín’s experience shows how increasing transport opportunities, improving social services, and fostering transit-oriented development (TOD) can improve quality of life in low-income neighborhoods.

Medellín’s Metrocable is one reason why it was selected as a winner of the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award. In selecting Medellín, Sustainable Transport Judge and Director of EMBARQ Holger Dalkmann said the following:

Medellin pioneered the use of cable cars as a transit alternative in low-income informal settlements in hilly areas, moving 3,000 passengers per hour per direction. The city transformed violence and despair into hope and opportunity, using sustainable transport as one of the key levers to drive change.”

A leader in equitable sustainable mobility

In addition to constructing the Metrocable, Medellín has taken a number of other actions to provide sustainable mobility for all residents. The city was selected as a winner of the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award based on a long list of initiatives. These include its bus rapid transit (BRT) system Metroplús, its metro system, its public bicycle program EnCicla, its focus on improving promenades and other public spaces, its ridesharing program Comparte tu carro, as well as vehicle exhaust emissions controls.

What can cities learn from Medellín? Among other lessons, the Metrocable shows the viability of aerial cable-car systems as a means of sustainable transport. Though their capcity is more limited than other transport modes, aerial cable-car systems are relatively cheap and quick to construct. They require little land and use proven technology, and can be an effective means of transport to areas that are difficult to access. The first Metrocable line only cost US $ 24 million. Other cities are already taking Medellín’s example. Caracas and Rio de Janeiro now use aerial cable cars to provide transport access to informal settlements. Through all its efforts, Medellín demonstrates that social equity and sustainable transport go hand in hand.

Categories: Europe

São Paulo wins 2014 City/State MobiPrize by empowering citizens and fostering innovation

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 11:29am

São Paulo has improved sustainable mobility through new bike and bus lanes, a revised master plan, and an innovative approach to support developers creating mobility solutions. Photo by Stanley Calderelli/Flickr.

The city of São Paulo has won the 2014 Enterprising City/State MobiPrize following its support of user information and public participation platforms to advance sustainable transport solutions. MobiPrize was launched in 2012 by the University of Michigan SMART (Sustainable Mobility and Accessibility Research and Transformation) initiative to honor entrepreneurs and governments that support innovative ventures to improve quality of life through sustainable mobility. Other winners include startup G-Auto for its work professionalizing India’s auto-rickshaw industry and Scottish Enterprise for setting a framework for innovation in transport.

Supporting innovation and public participation in city planning

São Paulo is empowering citizens to create transport solutions by fostering innovation and opening data. The São Paulo department of Transport (SMT) founded the Mobility Laboratory (MobiLab) on the principles of innovation, transparency, and public participation, with the goal of improving mobility management through data analysis and the creation of participatory solutions. To achieve these goals, MobiLab has hosted multiple “hackathons” focused on urban mobility and city planning. Hackathons are typically multi-day events where a large number of programmers gather to collaborate on software project ideas. Though they are becoming increasingly common in the United States, they more rare in the developing world. Further, governments in Latin America, along with other emerging economies, have traditionally been hesitant to releasing city data to the public. MobiLab, however, opened its data to developers and used strategic partnerships across academia and industry to garner support for its hackathons, the first of which occurred in March 2014. MobiLab’s efforts are already yielding concrete benefits. For example, newly released data has empowered multiple apps to provide users real-time transit information that had been previously lacking.

São Paulo also built an innovative crowdsourcing platform to increase public participation in revising the city’s master plan. This VGI (Volunteered Geographic Information) platform allowed residents to provide input to the plan, and will help citizens evaluate whether it meets public demands. Citizen engagement was a focus of the master plan revision. According to city leaders, the revision included the largest participatory planning process in the city’s history, consisting of 114 public hearings, 25,692 participants, and 10,147 contributions.

A comprehensive effort to improve sustainable mobility

While the MobiPrize award emphasized São Paulo’s effort to support innovation and entrepreneurship, the city has made numerous strides to improve sustainable mobility in other areas, as well. Public transport fare increases and perceived non-productive investments for the FIFA World Cup incited strong protests in São Paulo. In response, the government quickly and effectively implemented “Dá licença para o ônibus” (Make way for the bus) at the beginning of 2013. The program’s goal was to have 220 km (137 miles) of dedicated bus lanes by the end of the year. The city exceeded this target, and now has 344 km (214 miles) of dedicated bus lanes. Though the program was strongly contested by drivers before implementation, 88% of residents now approve of the exclusive bus lanes. These lanes create a more efficient use of urban space, as one bus lane can allow for transport of ten times as many people per hour than a lane dedicated to cars. In São Paulo, the implementation of exclusive bus lanes reduced passengers’ travel times by an average of 38 minutes per day.

São Paulo is also improving its bicycling infrastructure. Since June, the city has added 16 km (10 miles) of bike lanes, bringing its total to 79 km (49 miles). Mayor Fernando Haddad aims to increase this number to 400 km (248 miles) by the end of 2015. Finally, the city’s new master plan prioritizes sustainable development by enhancing public spaces and discouraging the use of cars. For example, the plan calls for transit-oriented development (TOD), increased density around transit corridors, and the elimination of parking minimums citywide.

Building a culture of open information, citizen engagement, and sustainable mobility

Even after these aggressive actions to support sustainable mobility, São Paulo still has room to improve. In 2013, traffic congestion cost the metropolitan region more than R $ 69 billion (USD $ 30 billion), equivalent to 7.8% of metropolitan GDP. São Paulo must continue to invest in projects that cultivate a culture of participatory planning and open data. Hackathons are one tool to foster a more creative and innovative economy that produces sustainable mobility solutions. They should be accompanied by continued efforts to improve the quality, completeness, and accessible of data. By creating a culture of sharing public information and engaging citizens, São Paulo can continue to become more responsive to citizens’ needs, and can empower entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to sustainable mobility challenges.

Maria Fernanda Cavalcanti also contributed to this post.

Categories: Europe

Assen's best bicycle "tunnel" is a bridge. How a crossing of a main road can be almost invisible to cyclists.

Hembrow - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 7:09am
The video has a short spoken introduction but I then shut up and let you hear for yourself how quiet and peaceful this area is for a place where we cross four lanes of motorized traffic. This is not peak bicycle traffic but an average level of traffic for mid morning. The video above shows the best "bicycle tunnel" in Assen. It's actually a bridge for cars. This deserves some explanation. David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Cycling with limited hearing or deafness

Hembrow - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 1:28pm
Floor has a hearing problem but that doesn't mean she can't cycle. A limited hearing sign warns people behind her not to rely upon being heard. A hearing problem or even a complete lack of hearing can cut people off from what is happening behind them. This is a potential problem when cycling because cyclists rely upon ringing a bell or their voice in order to communicate that they wish to passDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Cycling innovations make bikeable cities worldwide

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 10:33am

Do you enjoy your commute? Innovative bike infrastructure can make cycling a fast, fun transport option. Photo by Justin Swan/Flickr.

Instead of sitting in gridlock on a busy road at 8:30 am, imagine cycling safely in dedicated lanes for a quick, pleasant commute. Many cities around the world are making investments that will give residents a faster, safer cycling experience through innovative infrastructure and urban design. Though this list is not comprehensive, TheCityFix has compiled four of our favorite recent examples of cities innovating to prioritize cycling infrastructure and active transport.

Copenhagen’s non-stop bike commute

One cannot discuss cycling infrastructure without mentioning Copenhagen, Denmark, where more than one third of the workforce commutes by bike. The city is so bike-friendly that any bike commuter would find it hard to resist moving there. Recently, the government introduced an 11-mile bike superhighway designed to help cyclists avoid traffic lights and save time commuting. If cyclists ride 20 kmph along the superhighway, they will continue through green lights the entire way. Cycling’s modal share has risen from 36% to 41% in Copenhagen in the last year, while car usage is down.

The best may still be yet to come for the city’s bikers. Copenhagen is currently investing in six new bicycle and pedestrian bridges over its harbor. Riding bikes in Copenhagen is made even more enjoyable by amenities like trash cans angled for cyclists, and bike pumps and footrests along the bike highway.

Portland’s car-free bridge

Portland, Oregon, United States is working to avoid the car-centric mindset common amongst North American cities, and is currently building the largest multi-modal car-free bridge in the United States. Called Tilikum Crossing, the bridge will carry light rail trains, streetcars, and buses and will feature pedestrian and bike lanes on both sides. Expected to open in September, 2015, Tilikum Crossing will connect the area’s burgeoning Southeast region with downtown Portland, providing an alternative for residents’ daily commute. Instead of moving cars, Tilikum Crossing is advancing a transit-oriented development (TOD) scheme that prioritizes people’s mobility needs and improves quality of life. Tilikum Crossing adds to a number of Portland’s biking innovations, including “bike boxes” that improve road safety at intersections and “bike trains” that consist of groups biking together on pre-planned routes.

Portland’s openness to innovative bike infrastructure projects is one reason why it has been ranked as the most bike-friendly city in the United States. Photo by Roger/Flickr.

Melbourne’s elevated bike superhighway

The proposed Veloway in Melbourne, Australia would be creatively integrated with road infrastructure by traveling 10 meters (32 feet) above six busy intersections. The bike highway would be 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long, and would be built adjacent to an existing elevated rail corridor between two downtown train stations. Estimated to cost about US$ 20 million, the proposed bike superhighway would avoid the busy streets below and thus improve safety, which can be one of the most prevalent deterrents to urban cycling. The project, however, has run into funding challenges like some bike highway proposals before it. The state government declined to pay for a feasibility study to move the project forward, though proponents are still pushing to advance the proposal.

Hangzhou’s dedicated bike lanes

While demand for cars is on the rise in China, bikes remain a prominent part of the country’s transport mix. The government of Hangzhou invests heavily in cycling infrastructure, and has what has more than once been called the best bike-share program in the world.

One of the keys to the prevalence of cycling in Hangzhou is the innovative bike lane design. Hangzhou’s bike lanes are often as wide as vehicle lanes on main streets, and are separated from cars with barriers or landscaped islands, as shown in the picture below. Back in 2005, then Mayor Qiu Baoxing criticized other Chinese cities for eliminating their bike lanes to benefit cars, and instead supported cycling culture as a means to mitigate traffic congestion. Hangzhou’s approach shows how a relatively low-cost infrastructure change can create a safe, pleasant cycling experience.

Hangzhou’s bike lanes make cycling an attractive form of active transport, and have been found to reduce car usage and auto emissions. Photo by Bradley Schroeder/Flickr.

Instead of building more roads to accommodate cars, cycling infrastructure like bike highways, bridges, and dedicated lanes improve physical health, relieve traffic congestions and reduce air pollution among other benefits. Cities around the world can learn from these innovative cycling infrastructure plans to shift away from a car-centric culture towards one of active transport, and create a healthy, happy citizenry in the process.

Categories: Europe

Designing Bicycle Symbolism - Towards the Future

Copenhagenize - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 3:00am
The Bicycle as a symbol of progress, of renewal, of promising times ahead. This is not a new concept. Indeed it has been around since the invention of the bicycle. Many bicycle posters at end of the 19th century featured promising themes like liberation, progress, freedom. Here's an example:In this beautiful poster, there is a lot of metaphorical gameplay. The young woman is riding a bicycle to the future. Dressed in white and seemingly casting fresh flowers as though leaving a trail for us to follow. The old woman is looking backwards to the past as she sits in a bed of thorns, almost resigned to the fact that the future - the bicycle - is passing her by.When people in most cultures see art or photgraphy, our brain sees movement from left to right and interprets the piece based on that.The German historian and psychologist Rudolf Arnheim who wrote, among other books, "Art and visual perception – A psychology of the creative eye" noticed that the way many cultures read - from left to right - has an influence on the way we look at art or photography.‘Since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’.Bicycles often look better when heading off to the right. In the photo shoots we've done for bicycle brands, we are always careful to shoot the right side of the bicycle wherever possible, so that the chainguard is visible. It just looks better with the chainguard in the shot, but it also looks better heading to the right.Photo shoot for Velorbis catalogue. Here are a couple of examples of  'reading' a photo.At top left, the girl in the poncho looks like she is struggling into a snowblown headwind, which she was. At bottom left, by flipping the photo horizontally, she looks like she is sailing on a tailwind. The pedestrians, as well.At top right, the bicycle users appear to have an easy go of it with a tailwind. Which they weren't. At bottom right they appear to be muscling into the snow and wind.The flag at the top is the party flag for the Samajwadi political party in India. In 2012, their rising star, Akhilesh Yadav, won a landslide election in the Uttar Pradesh state elections. Yadav campaigned tirelessly and he rode hundreds of kilometres around the state on his bicycle and organised bicycle rides. Reuters has an article about his rise to power. He thrashed the heir-apparent in Indian politics, Rahul Ghandi by appealing to the working classes, sleeping in villagers huts and aligning himself with the demands of the regular citizens. And the man can even text and cycle at the same time. He's got our vote.So a bicycle is a fitting symbol for the party. For any progressive party who aspire to be agents of change. I have no idea if the designer thought about the positioning of the bicycle on the flag at the top. Based on this Left to Right perception, the bicycle isn't heading away from us, carrying us to a better future and all the other metaphors you can think of.. The positioning of it - in our perception - suggests that it is going in the opposite direction. Going against the flow, or against the grain, as it were. Which can be symbolic in a positive sense for a political party wishing to embrace change and deconstruct the status quo, but that's far too subliminal. Interestingly, on the political party's Facebook group and elsewhere, there are versions of the flag reversed so it points left to right.This started out as an article about Mr Yadav and his party's use of the bicycle as a symbol. A discussion started here at Copenhagenize Design Company, however, about how bicycles are positioned in signage and pictograms. If we suppose that a bicycle heading from left to right is 'positive' symbolism for our sub-conscious perception, then surely bicycle pictograms and signage should feature this directional placement.We all went over the window to look at the Danish standard on the cycle tracks outside and looked at other examples from around us in Copenhagen.(Clockwise from top left) The Danish standard as dictacted by the Road Directorate is a bicycle heading from right to left, although the logo of the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office - "I Bike CPH" - features a bicycle in the 'positive' direction. The logo for The Green Wave in Copenhagen has the bicycle user in "metaphorical direction neutrality" - could be heading towards us or away from us. I've always percieved this as the bicycle heading towards me, come to think of it. While the standard for Danish signage is right to left, there are variations. Wayfinding for indicating routes on the national cycling network. On the bicycle seat belts on the train to Malmö, the bike heads right.At bottom right is a vintage sign I cycle past each day, complete with chainguard, fenders and light. Nice. The Danish State Railways tend to use the standard symbol but they are happy to have the bicycle pointing to the right on variations of their signage.Above are all the traffic signs in Denmark relating to cycling. At bottom left is the signage for bi-directional cycle tracks, which you don't see often for obvious design reasons. But it's there like a retro memory, like the man at bottom right sitting upright with a splendid hat - old Danish signage that we miss so very much. All in all, the pictograms are standardised to feature bicycles heading left.The traffic engineer logic is that pointing a bicycle to the left indicates potential collision and serves, in their minds at least, to add a safety element to the road signage. Generally, there is a tendency to have the bicycle heading to the right if the signage indicates access or bicycle-friendly facilities, but this is not carved in stone, apparently."Bicycle Street - Cars are guests"We chose, however, to aim the bicycle left to right in our proposal for signage for Bicycle Streets in Denmark. And, even more importantly, we were tired of all the boy bikes in all the pictograms we see around the world, so we made it a proper sit up and beg design with a ladies frame. We like the idea of the Dutch version of their Fietsstraat signs, featuring a cyclist heading towards you, in front of a car. The design, however, is clumsy and it looks hand-drawn. We developed the above proposal based on existing Danish signage. Interestingly, the Dutch signage isn't even official signage, but the Dutch put them up anyway and now people think they are. That's cool.Farther afield, let's have a look through the Copenhagenize archives to see what's up in the bicycle pictogram world.Looking from left to right, above, the bicycle symbols are right to left in Zurich, Rome, Ljubljana and Mexico City and then it points to the right in Ferrara. In Vienna, at far right, it's right to left but the crossing signal - one of the funkiest in the world - features a bicycle with casual-leaning cyclist looking right at us. Which sends positive connotations.In Berlin we spotted what we assume is a vintage design, at left, featuring a chap wearing a suit and riding a normal bicycle. Citizen Cycling indeed. On street and on the parking sign, the bicycles are right to left.Stockholm can't seem to figure out which way to go.Nor can Trondheim. Even in Amsterdam they have some variations and varying directions.In Barcelona, the signage is usually right to left, but left to right on the trains. Suggesting access - supported by the word "access" in three languages, just to be sure you get it.The Finns work with the right to left concept, as does Antwerp - although they switch it around on the green sign. In Budapest, activists made their own pictogram and spraypainted it on streets all over the city. Great idea, although might have been symbolic to reverse the pictogram.In Melbourne and on official signage in Riga (is that the world's shortest stretch of bicycle infrastructure?) it is right to left. The bike share in Riga, however is left to right, as is the sign on the door to the train station. The biggest warning on that sign tells you to watch out for the grates if you're wearing high heels. In Tokyo, right to left.Brazil is a bit confused. At left is a somewhat standard pictogram in Sao Paulo showing the route for the Ciclofaixa each Sunday. The yellow symbol was made by activists - featuring an upright bike heading in the positive direction. On the second-last photo, the sign stating that Volkswagon sponsored the bike lane through a park has the bicycles heading left to right. And yes, we love that irony. The middle photo is from Rio de Janeiro with a rare example of a pictogram straight on. And the pictogram at the right is a newer version that I've seen in use in the city. Nice design, too.It's a signage free for all in Canada, with different variations across the land. In the US - the only country to put plastic hats on their pictogram people, there is a general standard and it sends cyclists back out into traffic. In New York, this pathway has reversed them in order to show wayfinding.The French are sending the bicycle backwards, then forwards to a progressive future and then back again. It's all very confusing, although their national standard is the white bike on green.While some countries still need a national standard and there is an ocean of variations, there are still some people who get it hopelessly wrong. We spotted this, at left, in London in June 2014. It's hilarious. It's a Jackson Pollack interpretation of the British pictogram. At right, even the Copenhagen Metro can screw up. Lovely that it is a step-through frame, but seriously... how many things can you find wrong with that pictogram?So, after all that, here's a crazy Copenhagenize idea.Let's get all subliminal. Let's flip our bicycle pictograms on the streets and signage to send a sub-conscious message to all those who 'read' them. It's an inexpensive solution to influence perception of cycling. Think about it when planning your logo.If, as we mentioned above, ‘since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’, THAT should be the general message on all bicycle pictograms. Send the bicycle from left to right - not only so we can see the damned chainguard - but to broadcast the symbolism of a progressive future.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Car-sharing grows in China as an alternative to vehicle ownership

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 9:11am

Car-sharing is beginning to take hold in Chinese cities, and can help reduce car ownership, congestion, and air pollution. Photo via

China’s increasing overall wealth makes it unlikely that the country’s growth in car ownership will stop any time soon. However, severe air pollution and traffic congestion have led several large Chinese cities to take action to stem the rising tide of private cars. For example, six Chinese cities – including Beijing – have implemented license plate control policies. Other transport demand management strategies such as congestion pricing are widely considered, as well. As part of a broad strategy for achieving sustainable urban mobility, car-sharing can help reduce the number of cars in Chinese cities while meeting the middle class’s increasing demand for personal mobility.

Car-sharing, one of the fastest growing urban mobility innovations worldwide, did not exist in China in 2009, but is quickly becoming more mainstream in Chinese cities. The global car-sharing market has an estimated value of US$ 1 billion, with 272% growth in the number of car-sharing vehicles between 2006 and 2012. In the United States, one car-sharing vehicle is estimated to replace between six and 23 cars. According to a recent market research report, car-sharing in China is expected to grow by about 80% annually for the next five years, with total vehicles reaching 16,000 by 2018 if the government offers strong support to the industry. Though this number is small compared to the more than 120 million cars owned in the country, it creates an important foundation for China’s car-sharing industry.

The rise of station-based car-sharing in China

Car-sharing is still emerging in China, and in 2012 there were only two car-sharing operators (CSOs), with a total of 39 vehicles in Chinese cities. Today, China’s car-sharing network has grown to a total of 1,000 vehicles with five active operators in Beijing, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Shenzhen and Changsha. The composition of CSOs in China has evolved from domestic start-ups that operate independently from government or established rental car companies to a mix of municipal governments and foreign and domestic vehicle manufactures.

Among these CSOs, Eduo Auto and Evnet are more established, while Weigongjiao and E-car receive government support and operate only electric vehicles. E-car plans to expand to at least 3,000 vehicles during 2014. Weigongjiao, which means “mini-bus,” creatively uses vending-machine-like parking garages with electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It plans to increase its fleet to 100,000 cars in the next four years. Finally, Car2Go is the first car-sharing program supported by a foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in China. Launched in Shenzhen in February 2014, it is operated by the international CSO Car2Share, and is currently piloting its first project.

The emergence of private peer-to-peer car-sharing

Peer-to-peer (P2P) car-sharing has existed in China for less than one year, though it has been operating in North Amercia for more than a decade. P2P companies provide a platform for members to rent vehicles owned by other members in the network. Car-sharing experts like ZipCar founder Robin Chase regard P2P car-sharing as the next revolution in the car rental industry, as it can cheaply mobilize unused resources to provide vehicle access across a wide area.

Two of the most notable P2P companies in China are PPZuche and ATzuche. PPZuche has been growing by 50% per month since its launch in Beijing last November. It now operates in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou with over 20,000 members. ATzuche began operations in Shanghai in June, and has already received attention due to its comprehensive service package, innovative vehicle tracking, and remote keyless entry device that can plug directly into cars without any vehicle modification. Still, these companies face questions regarding the liability of vehicle owners and the legitimacy of renting personal vehicles for commercial use.

What role will car-sharing play in the Chinese cities of the future?

There are multiple challenges facing the car-sharing industry in China. Cultural preference towards car ownership may make car-sharing less appealing in China than in other countries. It may take time for CSOs to develop an operational scheme that suits Chinese cities, and for city leaders to create supportive policies such as on-street parking for shared vehicles. Some local governments have supported electric vehicle car-sharing programs, though most governments are generally unaware of car-sharing as a potential sustainable transport solution.

Businesses in China are innovating to create locally viable vehicle sharing programs that may reshape private vehicle usage in the largest vehicle market in the world. As the industry evolves, support from city governments through policies such as dedicated parking for shared vehicles and exemption to vehicle license restrictions will be vital to the industry’s growth. It is also important for CSOs and researchers to demonstrate the benefits of car-sharing services. If more governments can provide an accommodating policy environment, the rise of car-sharing programs in China could be part of a strategy to make cities more sustainable and livable while minimizing car ownership.

Categories: Europe

Why tunnels are better than bridges for cycling

Hembrow - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 12:47pm
A couple of weeks ago a campaigner from Cambridge in the UK asked me a question about bridge parapet heights in the Netherlands especially with regard to clearing railway lines. He'd realised that he'd not had any problems due to climbing bridges in this country and assumed that the Dutch had standards which were more suitable for cyclists than the UK. However, the answer to this question turnedDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe

What does public and private sector investment in transport look like?

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 9:43am

Both public and private sector investments play an important role in supporting sustainable urban mobility and minimizing the costs of private automobile use. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

Congestion, high levels of air pollution, and traffic crashes are consequences of a culture of investment that has focused for decades on the automobile. These externalities can cost up to 10 percent of a country’s GDP, and the world’s vehicle fleet is projected to double by 2050. In 2010, the transport sector, which is responsible for the most significant growth in emissions worldwide, generated 22 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions.

Because transport systems have a direct impact on quality of life and urban development, shouldn’t investments in the transport sector promote a path to more sustainable development for our cities? To answer this, we must think beyond the question of how much, and pay additional attention to the questions of why and how these investments occurred in transport.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) publication The Trillion Dollar Question: Tracking Public and Private Investment in Transport shows that global annual investment in transport is between US$ 1.4 and US$ 2.1 trillion, similar to Mexico and Brazil’s respective GDPs of US$ 1.1 trillion and US$ 2.2 trillion, and 28 times the value invested in urban mobility in Brazil through the Growth Acceleration Program (Programa de Açeleração do Crescimento or PAC), the World Cup, and the Olympics investment programs combined.

While the public sector invests between US$ 569 and US$ 905 billion in urban mobility annually, the private sector invests between US$ 814 billion and US$ 1.2 trillion. High-income regions like the United States and the European Union account for 75% of global investments in transport. The developing world, which is most in need of quality public transport, only receives 25%.

In 2012, the largest multilateral development banks in the world committed to providing more than US$ 175 billion over the next 10 years to promote sustainable transport in developing countries. Here, the challenge remains to engage in a similar fashion the big national banks of emerging economies like China and Brazil to invest as well.

In Brazil, investments in mobility provided by the PAC, in addition to those announced by the federal government after the protests of June 2013, totaled 110 billion reais (US$ 48.7 billion). Many of these investments are expected to occur over the next few years, and will be used to implement public transport corridors to guide urban development. In addition, Brazil will invest in transport infrastructure including paving, expanding capacity at ports, as well as rail and road projects that will amount to another 200 billion reais (US$ 89 billion) by 2025. While these projected numbers appear large, investments in transport infrastructure in 2014 are expected to total only $27 billion reais (US$ 12 billion), equivalent to 1% of the European Union budget.

Brazil’s public investments need to be used more strategically. Investments should be directed primarily at leveraging private resources and providing more sustainable transport that generates fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as compared to roads for private automobiles. However, in Brazil, greater private funding depends on the ability to attract more investors. A more stable, secure and transparent environment minimizes risks and provides a fertile ground for increasing the contribution of private resources for sustainable transport.

This text was published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil. The article was originally published in the Journal Urban NTU, May/Jun 2014. Toni Lindau is the President and Director of EMBARQ Brasil

Categories: Europe

Building for BRT: A Q&A with 2014 Lee Schipper Scholar Erik Vergel-Tovar

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 12:34pm

Erik Vergel-Tovar is a recipient of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship. His research examines the relationship between transit-oriented development (TOD) and bud rapid transit (BRT) to challenge the conventional notion that density is all you need to create successful BRT systems. Photo via Erik Vergel-Tovar.

Erik Vergel-Tovar, no stranger to TheCityFix, is a PhD candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he researches the rich relationship between bus rapid transit (BRT) – a mass transport solution now employed in over 180 cities – and the built environment. His work as a recipient of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship will focus on the importance of the built environment for travel behavior in BRT systems worldwide. Drawing from data collected at BRT stops in seven Latin American cities, he will provide recommendations for which measures contribute to successful BRT systems.

TheCityFix sat down with Erik to learn more about his interest in urban mobility and get his take on why delving deeper into the relationship between transit-oriented development (TOD) features and ridership can promote and improve sustainable transport systems like BRT.


Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of transport did you use growing up?

I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia and I relied on public transport. When I was in high school, I would commute on city buses from the time I was 14 years old. Thanks to that, I learned a lot about Bogotá. In fact, some of my classmates and relatives would ask me about the best way to get to different destinations on public transport, and this was before the TransMilenio. Even nowadays I don’t own a car. Since my graduate studies in the Netherlands, I started to bike for commuting as well as for fun.

Bogotá is well recognized for its innovations in sustainable transport. What was it like to live in a city known for leadership in sustainable urban mobility?

During the 1990s, public transport in Bogotá was actually a huge challenge. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the city’s transformation. When I was studying architecture and urbanism in Bogotá in 1999, we saw a lot of interest in the introduction of the TransMilenio system, and with it the renovation of public spaces – like sidewalks becoming spaces for pedestrians and the construction of an extensive network of bike paths for the first time in the city. The transformation also included the construction of high-quality architectural facilities like public libraries.

First, there were big finance problems, which Mayor Jaime Castro was able to address during his administration, and then it was possible to get more international finance for Bogotá. After him, Mayor Antanas Mockus implemented what he called the “citizenship culture,” with the idea to change people’s behavior by understanding the idea of taking care of public spaces and having a sense of belonging for the city. These were the transformations we were seeing, and then Mayor Enrique Peñalosa introduced the infrastructure: the BRT and other things Bogotá is known for today. It was very interesting for me to watch that whole process, considering that, during the 1990s Bogotá was, I think, a city in crisis.

How did you first become interested in the relationship between sustainable transport and the built environment?

As I saw the urban transformation of Bogotá by the end of the 1990s, I always wondered how exactly the introduction of the TransMilenio contributed to this. And not only how the BRT affected the transformation of the urban space and land use, but also to what extent the city itself was shaping the way the BRT was built, designed, and implemented.

After obtaining a Fulbright scholarship, I applied to schools in the United States where I could conduct research on the relationship between the built environment and transport. I was fortunate to get in at UNC-CH and thus to have the opportunity to work with Professor Daniel Rodriguez, who has been working on this topic for several years.

My research now is really about how this relationship between transport and urban development works in practice, and the implications for people, for investment in transport, for cities, and for decision-makers.

Your research challenges some widely held beliefs about what makes bus rapid transit (BRT) systems successful. Tell us more about that.

My research looks at how the built environment around transit stops affects ridership. The conventional assumption is that high population densities and high-rise developments in close proximity to BRT imply higher levels of ridership. There are many cities in the world currently trying to attain this urban form, based on the remarkable example of Curitiba, Brazil.

When you visit Curitiba, and you take a look at the BRT, you see that there are high-rise developments along the corridors, there is high population density along the corridors, but there are some important aspects of transit-oriented development (TOD) that are missing. For instance, based on built environment data collected around BRT stops in Curitiba, my advisor and I found a surprising amount of parking space near BRT stops, with less pedestrian infrastructure than expected with the exception of downtown. Curitiba is one of the fastest motorizing cities in Brazil, so this makes you question if population density and high-rise developments in Curitiba really have something to do with BRT ridership.

In fact, we have already found some negative associations between population density and BRT ridership in a sample of BRT stops in Curitiba, and I am interested in testing this relationship in other cities in Latin America. The challenge now is to determine what role population density and other built environment factors really play in making BRT systems successful. This research focuses on the joint impact of built environment variables, in addition to population density, and TOD features on BRT ridership to determine mechanisms to make BRT successful.

What does a city built for people look like to you?

A city built for people is a city where people meet and interact through the enjoyment and use of public space. Public spaces are the places where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds can meet and interact, and public transport is the place where you can interact with different people who you would never meet or have any type of interaction with if you were driving a car on your own.

Another aspect is equity. We know urbanization expands access to education, healthcare, and even can more efficiently address poverty reduction; however, nowadays not everyone in urban areas has the same level of access to the benefits urbanization offers. In cities for people, everyone is truly a citizen and thus should have the same rights and equal access to the same opportunities as other citizens do.

The Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship honors the legacy of Dr. Lee Schipper, an internationally recognized physicist and researcher who co-founded EMBARQ, the producer of TheCityFix, in 2002. The scholarship supports up to two extraordinary young innovators advancing transformative research in sustainable transport. Learn more at

Categories: Europe

Who are our streets for?: A Q&A with 2014 Lee Schipper Scholar Madeline Brozen

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 12:34pm

2014 Lee Schipper Scholar Madeline Brozen will research how to better evaluate street performance, challenging the conventional Level of Service (LOS) method. Her conclusions will help cities develop better infrastructure for walking and bicycling. Photo via Madeline Brozen.

Madeline Brozen is a Program Manager within UCLA’s Complete Streets Initiative and a recipient of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship. Her research focuses on urban design policy, with an emphasis on how cities can shift from car-oriented streets to infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking.

TheCityFix caught up with Madeline to get her perspective on urban mobility and how we can reshape streets and cities for people.


Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of transport did you use growing up?

I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States originally, and I’ve been interested in transportation my whole life. Minneapolis – even more now than when I was growing up – is a very bikeable city. My parents lived on a great trail network, so I would ride my bike to friends’ houses. Before I had a drivers’ license, I would take the bus downtown just to be able to venture farther than my bike would take me.

I’ve always used transportation as my entry point into exploring the neighborhood around me and lens through which I see the cities in my life.

When did you marry your interest in bicycling with the notion that street design matters for cyclists?

I started college thinking I wanted to study architecture, and it was never really what I thought it would be. I found myself in an urban planning class, having never heard of planning before, and that really captured more of my experience in cities growing up. I remember thinking how great it was that there’s a whole field that does this.

I transferred to the University of New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina. I realized there that transport and urban planning are part of peoples’ lifelines. It shapes peoples’ views of how they understand the city. I started to understand that how people see space is very much a function of what choices they have available and what their personal preferences are.

What do you think it will take to get the public to begin thinking of streets as community spaces again?

People connect with the idea of neighborhoods, and they take ownership of the neighborhood. But we don’t see the same reaction when talking specifically about streets. We in the planning profession need to help make the connection between the design of streets and community fabric. For instance, a safe, walkable street network creates stronger neighborhood ties, and this will resonate with people.

Too often we hear, ‘you bike people just want everyone to get out of their cars.’ Getting away from that us versus them mentality, we can start to think about what a holistic transportation system looks like. That’s what we mean when we talk about complete streets. On a complete street, it’s pleasant, safe, and attractive to get to your destination however you want to do so. It’s not about forcing a particular mode on people.

Your research relies a lot on the idea of knowledge exchange between cities. Tell us more about that.

Really understanding the whole story is so powerful. You can look at pictures of Copenhagen, Denmark now and say ‘wow, that’s great.’ But it wasn’t always that great! Even cities that we now think of as leaders in biking and walking also had their automobile period. That narrative is important, and so is understanding the steps along the way that made these places the way they are today.

If you’re Los Angeles right now, you look at those cities and say ‘that’s not us.’ But the narratives help you understand that, at one time, things were different and that places evolve no matter where you are.

What does a people-oriented city look like to you?

A people-oriented city really starts with people, and how people feel. And we need to think – whether it be housing, transportation, or otherwise – about these societal aspects.

A people-oriented street, for example, is one where I can walk side by side with a friend, there’s space for both of us, and we can have a conversation and hear each other. If we want to have that conversation in a car, we can. If we want to take transit, it’s available. A people-oriented city allows residents to make connections to each other, whatever part of the city they’re traveling through or interacting with.

The Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship honors the legacy of Dr. Lee Schipper, an internationally recognized physicist and researcher who co-founded EMBARQ, the producer of TheCityFix, in 2002. The scholarship supports up to two extraordinary young innovators advancing transformative research in sustainable transport. Learn more at

Categories: Europe