This question is at once lofty and ordinary, addressing one of the most pressing sustainability challenges of our times and one of the most routine. How to get to and from home to work, school or market is simple enough, but to do it reliably, affordably, and sustainably for billions of people is a challenge society has not yet solved.
Much has been done already to place urban development on a more sustainable path. But, urbanization is picking up steam, with cities expected to add 1.4 billion people in the next 20 years. Global ambition to take action is also on the rise. The need and the demand for solutions are outpacing what’s currently on offer. It is time to try something different.
Human-centered design thinking is one promising approach. It integrates the needs of people, the creative application of resources, and the requirements for business success. EMBARQ – the producer of TheCityFix – is taking a look at how this approach can be applied to transform urban mobility. Over the next few months, TheCityFix will take you along for the journey.Sustainable mobility has come a long way
Sustainable transport practitioners, advocates, and policymakers together have made amazing progress. A few notable examples include:
- Bus rapid transit (BRT) has spread to 186 cities, serving nearly 32 million people each day. Much of that growth has occurred in the last decade.
- Car-sharing has proliferated, with membership rates increasing five-fold between 2006 and 2012 to 1.8 million members;
- More than 600 cities have bike-sharing programs;
- Car-free streets are the latest rage, from India’s car-free Raahgiri Days, to 295 pedestrian streets in Istanbul, to Helsinki’s car-free city movement;
- Campaigns to inspire action are more approachable, like the European Commission’s “Do the Right Mix” (see the video) or the Designed to Move initiative.
The impact of these solutions is undeniable. While there is no single measure that sums up the global benefits of these advances, EMBARQ’s own impact helping cities realize the benefits of sustainable mobility tells part of the story.The stakes are growing
Today, over half of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, however, the world’s population is estimated to grow to 9.6 billion, with 66% living in cities. This rapid growth means we need to do more, faster.
Fortunately, world leaders are aligning to help. For the first time, cities are a focus area in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). City leaders played a key role at the recent U.N. Climate Summit in New York City. Networks and alliances abound to address cities’ needs for financing infrastructure, knowledge sharing, common action agendas, and transformative technology.Design with people’s needs in mind
We can either wait for change to happen, or we can create change by design. But how do we find the “next BRT” or the “next car-share?” The key is asking the right question to the right group of people.
That is the essence of human-centered design.
For years, businesses have used design to create new products, markets and services – from the computer mouse to mobile banking in rural Africa. It starts with a deep and empathic understanding of user needs and experience, synthesizing the discovery to ideate, prototyping and field-testing early, and then implementing.
Take the example of U.S. passenger train service Amtrak. Amtrak wanted to improve the passenger experience on its busy Acela route between Washington, D.C. and New York City. It began looking at the train itself, but its breakthrough was realizing the passenger experience actually began much earlier. Out of the ten steps of a passenger’s journey, eight happened before they even got on the train. Human-centered design was the key to identifying opportunities to improve the overall experience.
Another important aspect of the design approach is failing early. That means moving ideas from paper to the real world as quickly as possible so that learning can occur as quickly. For instance, it was not in a research and development lab but with a plastic toy shell, guitar wire, wheels from a toy train set, a jam jar lid, and some wax that gave birth to the computer mouse.
This approach has also been applied successfully to social innovation. When the Japanese government wanted to get citizens to help reach the greenhouse gas emissions targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, instead of mandating change or flashy advertisement, they hired Hakuhodo, a design firm. They spotted an area for improvement – the temperature in office buildings. The question became how might they convince offices to change thermostat settings when, typically, the temperature was set cool enough to be comfortable for men to wear suits. Their answer was the “Cool Biz” campaign, which made it culturally acceptable for office workers to wear casual attire to stay cool in the summer. The result: 25,000 businesses signed on voluntarily, lowered energy use, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.What can human-centered design thinking do for sustainable transport?
EMBARQ is looking to put human-centered design into action for sustainable transport, and began working with design firm IDEO earlier this month.
Over eight weeks, a team of experts from both IDEO and EMBARQ will conduct field research in Helsinki and Mexico City, then move to San Francisco for a design workshop with “first movers” – people with experience and passion for pioneering ideas, including philanthropists, venture capitalists, bankers, technology experts, telecomm providers, marketers and, yes, even automakers. IDEO will then go solo to ideate in peace. This journey will not end, but lead to a new beginning with a set of designs and prototypes to bring to the world.
More than just following this process with us at TheCityFix, we hope you’ll participate! Leave a comment below to fill us in on cool ideas you’ve seen, heard of, or done yourself that applied human-centered design to solve an interesting question.
Acknowledgements: The EMBARQ project with IDEO is underwritten by Mr. Carlos Rodriguez Pastor and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, with additional support from General Motors and TransitCenter. The San Francisco design workshop is co-organized in partnership with the Global Philanthropy Forum and Northern California Grantmakers Association.
Rapid urbanization in countries such as India is raising people’s incomes, creating huge demand for housing, and increasing vehicle ownership rates in the upper-middle and middle classes. By 2030, 50% of India’s population is expected to live in cities, and this will in turn create a huge demand for housing. To cater to the housing demand, private real estate developers in several large Indian cities are building large gated residential communities. These are primarily located in peripheral areas of the city where land is cheaper, but supporting public infrastructure is often severely limited. There is strong evidence that the interaction of transport patterns and urban form can be cyclical, such that more car-oriented urban development in locations farther from the city fosters increased vehicle ownership. This in turn requires more land to accommodate the increased infrastructure requirements for private vehicles. To address this need, developers construct more residential communities in peripheral locations. The design of the new developments, therefore, risks creating and perpetuating residential communities’ dependence on private vehicles. Household surveys conducted by EMBARQ India in these developments in Bangalore show that in comparison to the rest of the city – where 6% of people drive cars – roughly 63% of those living in these gated communities drive.
Transport thus has a strong spatial structuring effect on cities. This is evident by the over five-fold increase (466%) in the built up area of Bangalore from 1973 to 2007, with growth primarily occurring at the city’s periphery.Focus on private developers
A session at EMBARQ India’s CONNECTKaro conference earlier this year focused on the role of private developers in building a sustainable built environment. The session also created awareness for the need to develop indicators and benchmarks to measure how the built form impacts travel patterns in Indian cities. These indicators and benchmarks will encourage private developers to incorporate design practices that promote sustainable transport patterns and create neighborhoods and communities that are energy-efficient, inclusive, safe, walkable, lively, healthy, and climate resilient.
The authors of this blog were part of the discussion panel at the conference, with Ashwin Mahesh representing the Residents Welfare Association (RWA) at L&T South City, a gated community in South Bangalore, as well as multiple citizen action and civil society groups in Bangalore, and Anjali Mahendra representing EMBARQ India. Along with the authors, other panelists at the session included an architect from eminent architecture firm Prem Chandavarkar, Rangesh A.V. of the Bangalore development Authority (BDA), and Chandrashekar Hariharan, a leader in the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) and a private developer of sustainable residential communities himself. The session was designed to gather perspectives from multiple key stakeholders on these issues.
EMBARQ India’s current work with private developers focuses on influencing the design of upcoming developments through design audits and data collected from household surveys done in existing communities. EMBARQ’s vision is to work with 250 developments, impacting over 1 million homes or 5 million people in the next 5 years – considered a small first step in the right direction. Through the design audits, EMBARQ is engaging with private developers to ensure greater use of sustainable mobility strategies, such as:
- Design solutions promoting safe and energy-efficient travel by walking, cycling, and public transit
- Adopting mixed land uses
- Creating safe public spaces
- Increasing accessibility to jobs, schools, amenities, and community functions
- Improving connectivity to public transport options
A household survey of residential communities conducted by EMBARQ from November 2013 to April 2014 showed that about 49% of respondents chose to buy or rent a home based on the open space and safe environment within that community. Almost 38% selected their home based on the community’s commitment to green practices and environmental issues. Presence of safe physical infrastructure was considered by the majority of respondents as the most important factor that would promote walking and cycling.Takeaways from CONNECTKaro
- Developers should focus on mixed use development and urban design aimed at ensuring better connectivity and access for residents. This includes landscape design, which is typically viewed as a visual discipline, not a spatial one; however, done properly, it can help create continuity of space and develop a sense of community. Developers must consider their investment as a means to improve the neighborhood and the civic realm and this can translate to increased market demand.
- Small projects constitute the majority of sites being developed in the city today. Policy makers should address the wide diversity in demand across dwelling sizes, types and affordability. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) should consider a town planning scheme to promote integrated and inclusive living.
- Policy makers and development authorities such as Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) and BDA should adopt and enforce initial plan approval conditions based on how well a proposed development would perform against quality of life indicators. Having such conditions will incentivize more developers to focus on sustainable developments and can aid in scaling up such efforts.
- Many differences exist between the government and the real estate industry as typically builders are more concerned about maximizing gains rather than improving quality of life for citizens. Also, platforms like IGBC are voluntary and there is no mandate for developers to follow green practices. With appropriate mandates and incentives from local development authorities, private developers can lead sustainable building efforts in Indian cities. For instance, developers are usually asked to fit in more parking than what is required by the statutory parking regulations. If alternate mobility options are present, developers should have the flexibility to cater to only the required amount of parking.
- The role of customers is important – if they demand “green and connected communities,” developers will provide it. This market demand can be translated into a checklist of quality of life indicators, which can then be mandated by authorities like the BDA. Residents’ associations can help with retrofitting measures in existing communities and while there could be some initial resistance, experience shows that such efforts eventually lead to a sense of pride and ownership among residents. These individual communities then become evangelists for responsible and sustainable practices, sharing lessons with other similar communities, and helping to scale up such efforts.
With the next few decades expected to witness to Asia’s swift rise in economic and political influence, the eyes of the world have focused on Asian cities as the engines of this growth. Last month’s Asian Development Bank Transport Forum 2014 – which brought together policymakers, transport officials, and industry leaders from across Asia – highlighted the need for safe, sustainable transport in the Asian Century. Participants discussed the challenges, opportunities, and success stories from Asia and beyond in meeting the transport and mobility needs of this fast-growing region. Providing adequate urban mobility services while minimizing residents’ safety risks is a key challenge for cities worldwide. In particular, many Asian cities face high traffic fatality rates, a rapidly growing urban population, increasing demand for cars, and inadequate infrastructure. Still, Asian cities can use a variety of strategies – ranging from relatively small, simple changes to large policy shifts – to improve the health and safety of urban residents.Challenges for urbanizing Asian cities
The rate of traffic fatalities in wealthier cities – such as Stockholm or the Asian cities of Hong Kong and Tokyo – is between one and three inhabitants per 100,000 residents. Other Asian cities have much higher rates. While city-level data is weak, reports show that rates in Indian, Chinese and Indonesian cities may be closer to 20 fatalities per 100,000 residents. These cities face challenges that make it particularly difficult to provide safe transport. Their often unplanned roads have a very dense mix of pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles of all types – such as rickshaws, jeepneys, informal public transport vehicles, and motorcycles. This can make it difficult to ensure an organized, safe mix of traffic. In addition, these cities often face institutional challenges that result in a reduced capacity to implement better designs or improved public transport.
Providing safe urban mobility will become even more challenging in many Asian cities as they urbanize and car demand grows. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world’s urban population is expected to nearly double by 2050. Meanwhile, the world car population is expected to triple from 1 billion motor vehicles today to around 3 billion in 2050. Asian cities will add another 1.1 billion people in the next 20 years, and in China, for example, per capita vehicle ownership is expected to grow from 4 vehicles per 1,000 people in 2000 to 310 vehicles per 1,000 people in 2035. Many of these vehicles are being driven in cities, where growing incomes and populations are concentrated, leading to more traffic crashes. With daunting challenges facing many Asian cities, it is hard to consider where to start to improve road safety. It is politically unrealistic to think a city will entirely re-orient its streets overnight. Still, cities have great opportunities to integrate a variety of safety improvements.Practical changes for safer cities
In Asian cities – just like anywhere else – focusing on the needs of people instead of cars can save more lives. Vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists are the most at risk. Decreasing vehicle speeds – an undisputable cause of traffic deaths – can save many lives. As speeds increase, the chance of death from a collision rises exponentially.
The implementation of new infrastructure projects, such as bus rapid transit (BRT) or metro is an opportunity to make basic road design changes that influence safety. For example, cities can:
- Introduce lane balance – where lanes are evenly lined up on both sides at intersections – which creates consistency and predictability for road users.
- Align pedestrian crossings properly with intersections and move them closer to where pedestrians actually move.
- Introduce basic median refuge islands.
- Integrate road safety audits into infrastructure projects to improve safety at the genesis of a project, preventing unsafe designs.
In more major cases – such as Mexico City’s BRT – cities can also remove contraflow lanes for a more predictable traffic pattern that minimizes confusion for pedestrians.
Cities can also alter pedestrian spaces to improve safety. Shanghai’s famous Nanjing Road is now a pedestrian shopping street, while Tokyo’s narrow streets are shared between vehicles and pedestrians, with vehicles traveling at very low speeds. With large numbers of pedestrians, Asian cities can introduce “all reds” that allow pedestrians to cross all directions – seen in Tokyo’s famous crossing in the Shibuya area. Korea has reduced child fatalities by a staggering 95 percent in part by introducing traffic calming measures and segregated sidewalks in school zones.
Cities can also consider strategies to reduce vehicle use, such as congestion charging zones like the one in Singapore, or supporting sustainable transport. While cities in China may have once had the largest bicycle mode shares in the world, they now are struggling to preserve it. Some progress is being made, as new cycling infrastructure in Beijing, for example, is beginning to more formally segregate bicycles from vehicle traffic, especially at intersections using fences and medians. In Ahmedabad, India the city’s new BRT has helped reduce fatalities on the corridor by nearly 55 percent while also providing a safer form of transport compared to private vehicles.Nationwide policy shifts to improve road safety
In addition to introducing these more incremental changes, countries can create safer streets through broad policy shifts. India provides a good example. Its new road safety bill – currently open for public comment – could save many, many lives through new governing bodies for road safety and transport, new standards for vehicle regulation and drivers licenses, new enforcement mechanisms, and more.
Improving road safety not only saves lives, it also makes cities more enjoyable places to live. For example, Seoul, South Korea, removed a freeway, re-oriented transport in the city center, and replaced the viaduct with a linear park, creating a safer and more livable city. Cities worldwide – and particularly growing cities in Asia – must take advantage of strategies with successful track records to improve quality of life and save lives.
Why do cyclists fear being banned from busy roads ? Is it faster to cycle on roads than cycle-paths ? What really makes cycling safe and convenient for everyone ?
Assen's cycle-racing circuit a few daysago. All types of cycle racing are extra- ordinarily popular in the Netherlands, hence even many smaller cities have specially built cycling circuits on which people ride extremely quickly. A fear which is often expressed, especially in the UK but also in other countries with little cycling, is that adoption of Dutch style cycling infrastructure will David Hembrowhttp://firstname.lastname@example.org://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/10/why-do-cyclists-fear-being-banned-from.html
TheCityFix recently interviewed Tom Rickert – Founder and Executive Director of Access Exchange International – to learn more about how cities can improve mobility for disabled persons. Access Exchange International was founded in 1990 to promote accessible public transport for persons with disabilities and seniors in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Eastern Europe. An estimated 650 million people live with a disability, and 80% of these people live in developing countries. Cities around the world can use relatively cheap, effective strategies to help improve the accessibility of new and existing transport modes for disabled persons.Tell us about some of the broad global trends in transport accessibility for disabled and senior persons.
Tom Rickert: I think the broad trends are favorable. When I started Access Exchange International in 1990, there was scarcely any country with an effective policy framework to promote universal access to public transportation. Currently, improvements are being made in countries around the world, and not only in policy, but in implementation.
But disability correlates with poverty, so the disabled poor are especially going to need affordable and reliable public transportation. And disability also correlates with aging. The percentage of the world’s population that is elderly is sharply increasing and the majority of older people are in so called “less wealthy countries.” In Guangzhou, China for example, the city has built a remarkably successful bus rapid transit (BRT) system, but some of its main stations are not accessible except through stairs. So even the best systems still have a way to go and the demographics are not going to make it any easier as the years go by!What are some of the best things that cities can do to improve mobility for disabled persons?
TR: There are many strategies that municipalities can use. Mostly, these strategies help all passengers by implementing universal design features. On the whole, accessibility improvements for disabled people are not expensive and they help everyone else. One big strategy is to train bus and paratransit drivers to be sensitive and courteous to disabled persons. Usually passengers with disabilities are best served by fleets that serve everyone. Other times you are going to need a dedicated fleet. Many years ago, I coordinated paratransit for disabled persons in San Francisco, where we now have a dedicated fleet of vans and an integrated fleet of taxis that provides 800,000 trips every year.
I think it is vital that municipalities in less-wealthy countries should task an employee to provide an inventory of what services are available for disabled, senior, or frail persons. They should see what paratransit is available in the public, private, and NGO sectors. Perhaps cities can offer some services to these stakeholders, such as working on pooled driver training, insurance, fueling, maintenance, or even pooled leasing or purchase of vehicle fleets. The economies of scale could help lower paratransit fares for disabled passengers even in cities that cannot directly subsidize these fares.Can you talk more about the role that small vehicles play in transport for disabled people in many cities worldwide?
TR: I think auto-rickshaws, moto-taxis, and other small vehicles have an important role. On the whole, they are easy to get in to, have a low floor, and generally lend themselves to accessible transport for many disabled persons, with the important exception that wheelchair users would have to fold their wheelchairs and many cannot ride that way. But the cost for disabled persons to use three-wheelers is 40-50% less than alternative vehicles. You get up to double the number of trips for a disabled person from a three-wheeler than you do from a taxi or a van. We’ve looked at this in India, Peru, Mexico, and Tanzania, and it appears to be true across regions. This is not a case of “one mode fits all,” but smaller vehicles can make a big difference for the disabled poor. They can assist people with different abilities to move around and get to jobs, schools, and health care like everyone else.What role does new technology play in advancing paratransit options?
TR: Cell phones are ubiquitous, and smartphones are becoming less expensive and more common around the world. That brings new possibilities for door-to-door service. If you are disabled or frail, you may not be able to hail a cab. But you could use a smartphone to get an auto-rickshaw in India or a moto-taxi with a passenger cabin in Latin America.
The apps used by Uber or Lyft haven’t been incorporated into a successful business model for disabled persons yet. In San Francisco, wheelchair users have found that there are fewer ramped taxis, and the unregulated Uber drivers can’t serve them. It is a big problem. But you could simplify this concept and hopefully provide genuine ridesharing to serve disabled people. A neighborhood app could work in low-income areas to help provide ridesharing of a very different nature, including getting rider feedback to build trust and trust worthiness into the system. People need to look into neighborhood-level services where people help one another.Has the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities been influential?
TR: It has definitely had a positive impact. To some extent the Convention was a child of advocates in Latin America. People are surprised that 150 countries have ratified it, not just signed it. It is an expression of intent, though the sad reality is in much of the world it doesn’t have much grip on anything. Nearly every country in the Americas has ratified the UN Convention. So it is pretty universal. And that has an impact on local policy frameworks. Yet right now you find countries that ratified it but don’t have a single employee who deals with universal access to public transportation. But I think as the years go by, it is going to take its place as a very key document.
A team from Copenhagenize Design Company recently returned from Bangkok where we had the pleasure of working on an exciting project. It is fantastic to be surprised. Thailand's second largest bank, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), have constructed a 23.5 km long cycle track around Bangkok International Airport - Suvarnabhumi. The beginning of one of the most impressive CSR projects we've ever seen and we are excited to be a part of it. It's not every day projects on this scale see the light of day and we had a fantastic site visit with our partners from SCB, King Power and Superjeew Event.Copenhagenize Design Company have been hired to take the basic idea and simply make it World-Class. It's a brilliant combination of placemaking, infrastructure, planning and communication for a destination for cyclists and Citizen Cyclists alike. Basically developing what could be one of the most interesting bicycle destinations in the world. copenhagenize@suvarnabhumi bike track from Viwat Wongphattarathiti on Vimeo.Copenhagenize Rides the Suvarnabhumi TrackBascially, SCB, together with Airports of Thailand (AOT) who own the land, took an access road along the perimeter of the airport and resurfaced it in a bright, green colour - 4 m wide - to create a one-way cycle track for recreational/sport cycling. The road is inside the airport's moat designed for flood protection and outside of the fence leading to the runways and airport's operational area. For obvious security reasons, there is only one access point and the cycle track is one-way along the entire 23.5 km length.Mie, Anina and Mikael from Copenhagenize Design Company on the site-visit. At the moment, the airport cycle track is in a basic form. The cycle track loops around the airport but there are no facilities. It is open from 06:00-18:00 each day. On the Sunday morning that we visited for our site visit, we arrived at 07:30. The security team at the entrance informed us that 6000 people had already entered the track. Six thousand! An astonishing number. On average, there are 3000 people a day on a weekday using it - primarily in the morning and afternoon before and after work but also because the temperature is cooler.Riding along the 23.5 km length, we never really felt that it was crowded with 6000 cyclists. They all spread out nicely along the track, what with differing speeds. There was a great variety of cyclists on the track. The vast majority were kitted out in cyclist clothes and riding racing bikes in a wide spectrum of skill levels. There were groups of riders muscling past at speed and there were couples, friends and individuals enjoying some exercise. There were a few kids out on the track, too. Copenhagenize rocked the track on three Bromptons provided by our hosts. At the start area, a short 1 km track has been added so that kids - or less-experienced cyclists - can go for a spin as well.At this stage, Copenhagenize Design Company is in the midst of the consultation process so we'll have to wait with writing about our catalogue of ideas for how to take this fantastic facility and make it truly world-class. Until then we are amazed that it even exists.Bangkok is not exactly known for being a bicycle-friendly city. While Copenhagenize Design Company primarily works with cities on transport infrastructure, this project is too amazing to resist for us. We are convinced that making it into a world-class destination will have a powerful knock-on effect for improving conditions for cyclists in the city itself, where bicycle advocates are fighting an inspired fight. Like getting this separated bicycle facility put into place on one street in Bangkok.The airport cycle track may be a roundabout way of doing it, but the local advocates are doing great work so it will all go hand in hand. The Prime Minister of Thailand helped us all out by announcing, on the day before we arrived in Thailand, that he wants Thai cities to focus on bicycles as transport in Thai cities. So thanks, Mr Prayuth Chan-ocha, for that.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Cities in the United States can now participate in the Public Art Challenge, a new program to support innovative temporary public art projects by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The program invites U.S. cities with 30,000 or more residents to submit proposals for creative and transformative projects. The challenge aims to improve quality of life in cities and to reposition art at the core of society. At least three cities will be granted up to USD 1 million each over two years for art projects that engage their communities, establish public-private partnerships, and drive economic development. The challenge is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ goal to strengthen the arts in cities worldwide. Bloomberg Philanthropies also recently supported São Paulo Bienal – the world’s second largest art show – through funding an app for the event, Bienal’s teacher education program, and exhibitions that will be accessible to the public in 10 to 15 Brazilian cities. These efforts help bring attention to the role of art in shaping public spaces for healthy, vibrant cities.The need for public art funding
From improving traffic safety to drawing attention to social justice issues, public art plays an important role in advancing social missions in cities. In 2011, TheCityFix covered a favela beautification project in Rio de Janeiro by Dutch artistic duo Haas&Hahn, which counteracted the negative imagery of informal settlements. But artists like Haas&Hahn face great difficulty in securing funding. And in the United States, funding for the arts is on the decline. According to a 2013 report, United States government funding of the arts dropped by more than 30% from 1992 to 2013, adjusted for inflation. Bloomberg’s Public Art Challenge comes at an important time to remind us of the importance of public art funding.A key feature of city landscapes and urban identity
Public arts are the core of civic life in cities worldwide. Art brings community members together and makes it easy for people to share, connect and experiment. Candy Chang, an artist trained in urban planning, engaged her community by initiating the Before I Die walls in her neighborhood. Anyone walking by these walls can pick up a piece of chalk and share their personal aspirations in public space by finishing the sentence: “Before I die I want to _______.” According to the artist’s website, the Before I Die walls have been created in over 30 languages and over 60 countries, including Kazakhstan, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Iraq, Argentina, and South Africa.
Art can shape a city’s identity, give residents ownership over their community, and even spur economic growth. Last year, tourists flooded Hong Kong to see a giant Rubber Duck installation floating on the West Kowloon waterfront, with over 38,000 visiting the exhibition in the five days after it was unveiled. A local travel agency even sold package tours to see them. The inflatable sculpture was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman in 2007, and has appeared in dozens of cities worldwide attracting millions of visitors.
The measure of a great city lies in its cultural life. Public art can unite a community and be a magnet for tourism. More importantly, it helps educate and inspire our citizens to take ownership over their cities by creatively re-imaging public spaces. The Public Art Challenge hopes to reclaim the cultural element that is essential to our daily life and makes our cities more livable.
Hello TheCityFixers, friends, partners and allies in the cause for sustainable transport! Our friends at TheCityFix Brasil – produced by EMBARQ Brasil – are up for the Mobilidade Minuto (“Mobility Minute”) Award. The award is promoted by the Cidade em Movimento Institute (City on the Move Institute), and aims to spread mobility solutions throughout Brazil.
In addition to awards selected by judges across six categories, a special mobility innovation award will be decided by popular vote. We are counting on you to vote for TheCityFix Brasil and help advance the conversation around sustainable urban mobility to create more inclusive, livable and healthy cities for all!
The Mobilidade Minuto Award was created to identify and spread initiatives to transform urban mobility through improved transportation, quality of public spaces, use of technology, sustainable consumption patterns, and more.
The Cidade em Movimento Institute promotes the Mobilidade Minuto Award to raise awareness of the most innovative, replicable initiatives so they can be adopted and scaled up across Brazil. The prize is a call to action for public, private and civil society actors to improve our cities.
The global rise of smartphone usage has a number of implications for mass transit. It enables ridesharing – a service quickly emerging in cities worldwide. It can improve predictability of transport services through real-time tracking and crowdsourcing apps. It can even improve user experience and transport planning for informal transport systems. Now, as more cities explore using Wi-Fi-enabled transport services, can Internet access encourage more people to switch from cars to mass transit?Internet enabled transport growing in cities worldwide
Though Wi-Fi has been offered on some transport systems for many years, it has not yet become widespread. That may be changing, as cities worldwide are experimenting with offering Wi-Fi on buses and metro systems. As of 2012, there were about one billion smartphone users worldwide, and this number is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2017. Metro systems in cities such as Tokyo, Japan; Moscow, Russia; Paris, France; and Bangalore, Mumbai, and Gurgaon in India now offer free Wi-Fi. Bus systems in cities such as Porto Alegre and São Paulo in Brazil; Beijing, China; London, United Kingdom; and Mumbai, India are also experimenting with offering Wi-Fi. Most of these services for buses and metros have been launched in the past year.
Wi-Fi can make transport systems more appealing to potential users, and preliminary evidence suggests that this may translate into higher ridership. Multiple studies from the United States suggest that there is strong demand for Wi-Fi on transport services. Research on whether this demand translates to increased ridership is still in early stages. The United States train service Amtrak launched free Wi-Fi on its California Capital Corridor Route in November 2011. A recent study indicates that 2012 ridership on this route was expected to be 2.7% higher than it would have been without free Wi-Fi. The cost of providing Wi-Fi service on this route – which carries about 1.7 million people per year – is $405,000 annually.
Even in less wealthy cities where smartphones are not as prevalent, Wi-Fi may be an important part of the future of mass transit. In Nairobi, Kenya, some matatus – the ubiquitous minibuses that serve as a vital part of the city’s informal transport system – are installing Wi-Fi to attract riders. Telecommunications company Safarico also offers free Wi-Fi on about 3,000 matatus and buses across Kenya to attract more potential customers. Though only 15% of Kenya’s population has smartphones, this number is expected to rise to more than one-third of the population by 2017. Across Africa, mobile broadband penetration rose from 2% in 2010 to 11% in 2013, making it the fastest growing region for phone Internet access.
The use of Wi-Fi on transport systems is still young, and it remains to be seen whether the benefits from improved user experience will justify the costs for providers. The cost-benefit analysis will also vary among transport modes, as Wi-Fi may be more likely to increase ridership and improve user experience on inter-city rail transport than intra-city buses, for example. For cities, the benefits of increasing public transport ridership extend far beyond increased ticket revenue. Shifting residents from private vehicles to public transport can improve air quality and public health, decrease congestion, and save residents’ time among many other benefits.
Does your city offer Wi-Fi on mass transit services? Would you like it to? Let us know in the comments!
This just in... hot off the presses. As always, Copenhagenize has its finger on the pulse of breaking news.A roving New York reporter covers cycling in Scandinavia."If for nothing else the bicycle is blessed in Scandinavia because it saves time.""No other country has done more for the pleasure and comfort of its wheelmen than Denmark...""The construction of pavements takes in consideration what best can serve the interests of cyclists, and cycle paths are provided near all cities, in some instances leading miles away from town into the country.""...ride to market on their bicycles with baskets strapped to their backs, and other baskets dangling from the handle-bars of the wheel. ... they seldom come to grief, and manage to keep their equilibrium to their journey's end."From the New York Sun. 19 February 1897. 42,979 days ago (based on today's date)(The Sun was a New York newspaper that was published from 1833 until 1950. It was considered a serious paper, like the city's two more successful broadsheets The New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. The Sun was the most politically conservative of the three.)Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Though rapid urbanization can impair mobility and quality of life, Latin American cities have responded to this challenge with creative, low cost, and high impact solutions. Some of these initiatives have set an example for the rest of the world.
In the last installment of this series, we examined the development of bus rapid transit (BRT) in Curitiba, Brazil, and its expansion to the rest of the region and the world. In this blog, we discuss another idea born from the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Latin America that has had a global impact: recreational ciclovía events. These events provide an alternative means of healthy recreation and physical activity for millions of people in the region using a method available in all cities: closing city streets and avenues to vehicular traffic and opening them to cyclists, skaters, walkers, runners, and more.The origin of ciclovías
While many Latin American households have bicycles – mainly for recreational use – most cities do not have adequate spaces to enjoy them safely. Given this limitation, activists in 1974 convinced the Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia to close some roads to cars and buses on Sundays so that people could use the space for a walk. The idea became “Sunday Ciclovías,” and has lasted the last forty years in Colombia’s capital.
Bogotá’s ciclovías, which began with a small section of the city’s streets, now cover 121 km (75 miles). The event has a team of dedicated staff, volunteers, and police providing assistance and security, especially at intersections. Ciclovías include many forms of recreation, including aerobics instruction in parks and plazas, cycling, and even biking lessons for those who want to learn.
In 1995, Bogotá’s authorities were unsure of whether they would continue the 50 km (31 mile) ciclovía event. Guillermo Peñalosa, the city’s Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation at the time, worked with Mayor Antanas Mockus to revive and expand the event. They created a permanent group within the city administration to organize and manage the event every Sunday and holiday (a total of 72 times per year). They have also gained backing from the private sector, mainly to provide signage and logistical support. Ciclovía was reborn, and now it is difficult to imagine it ever being eliminated or reduced.
Ciclovía helped spark interest in cycling as a daily means of transport. Today, more than 1.5 million people cycle in the city, and it is an integral part of residents’ recreational and physical activity. The event’s success has also proved the concept for the construction of a network of permanent cycle routes – now 376 km (234 miles) – which has helped increase cycling from less than 1% of trips in 1998 to 6% of trips in 2012.
Bogotá’s ciclovía has inspired similar events in more than 100 cities worldwide: Cycle-Recrovía in Santiago, Chile; Ciclopaseo in Quito, Ecuador; Paseo Dominical in Mexico City, Mexico; CicoloRuta in Caguas, Puerto Rico; Pasos y Pedales in Guatemala, Sunday Streets in San Francisco and New York City, among many others. One prominent example is the recent introduction of “Raaghiri Day” in India – a similar initiative that began in a suburb of the capital Gurgaon, and has spread throughout the country including to the heart of New Delhi.Part of the formula for healthy urban life
Cities are faced with the difficulty of creating natural open spaces in dense urban areas. Closing streets and avenues to vehicular traffic is a great way to provide opportunities for recreation for millions of people, and also leads to significant health benefits:
- The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) promotes recreational bike paths as a means for physical activity necessary for a healthy life. This map of the Recreational Ciclovías in the Americas – edited by PAHO – includes 80 cities in Latin America.
- The Journal of Urban Health suggests that car-free events have the following cost-benefit ratios in their cities:
The estimated benefit of events in this study correspond to direct savings in medical costs, which is the main reason why the benefits outweigh the costs of closing existing infrastructure to cars. The cost to users is low, as they need not pay a gym fee or pay for specialized equipment to have space for physical activity. In addition, research indicates that these benefits are underestimated, because they don’t account for factors such as increased quality of life from recreational activities, the development of social capital, and the promotion of sustainable mobility. Read more about the study here.
This does not mean that cities shouldn’t plan adequate parks and public spaces – these are fundamental to quality of life – but it does mean cities also have the opportunity to repurpose existing infrastructure. Most importantly, by taking advantage of this opportunity to create car-free streets, cities can promote healthy lifestyles and active transport.
I made the above graphic back in 2008 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the return of Copenhagen's separated cycle tracks.Now it's 31 years on, but the anniversary is timeless.It was in June 1983 that the Copenhagen cycle track returned to Copenhagen. Meaning cycle tracks separated from cars on one side and pedestrians on the other by curbs.For the record, there were cycle tracks prior to this. Historically, separated cycle tracks criss-crossed Copenhagen but many were removed during the brain fart that was the 50s and 60s where planners decided the car was a good horse to back.Here are the first bike lanes being marked out back in... 1915.Here is a cycle track being constructed back in ... 1930.But the return of the physically-separated cycle track in the modern era is a landmark. The City of Copenhagen made a visonary choice in implementing them. Cycling levels plummeted through the 50s and 60s from a peak in the late 1940s. By the late 60s, the modal share hit 9% after a high of 55%. Due... you guessed it... to infrastructure being removed to make space for cars.Through the 1970s, the focus returned to the bicycle as a solution to transport problems. In 1983, the foundation was laid - in stone - for a return to rationality. Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, head of the traffic department (and later Lord Mayor) was responsible for the paradigm shift. A shift which continued unabated until today, where 41% of people arriving in the City of Copenhagen at work or education do so on bicycles. Of the citizens of Copenhagen municipality, the number is 55% who cycle every day. Only 12% drive cars.On June 4, 1983 the Danish Cyclists' Union, at a large bicycle demonstration, gave a "Cyclist Award" to Mikkelsen in the form of a two metre long curb to symbolise the physical separation from traffic.The cycle track was placed on the bike lane on Amagerbrogade at the corner of Hollænderdybet - just after Amagerboulevard - a sacred shrine for bike culture if anyone wants to start a'pilgrimage-ing.The photo features the Cyclist Award and the two chaps who made it - stone mason Uffe Mohr [right] and his apprentice Egon Albertsen [left].Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Transit and residential neighborhoods: Questioning the affordability of residential neighborhoods around Metro Rail stations, a Delhi case study
Large-scale mass transit projects such as the Delhi Metro Rail often lead to transit-oriented development (TOD) that can enhance quality of life, but also compromise housing affordability. Planning authorities in urban areas around the world have acknowledged the need for the integration of land use and transportation (LUT) planning for many decades. Only since the 1980s though – when the concept of TOD was coined by Peter Calthorpe – have cities revisited this concept and acknowledged its benefits for urban development. While the application of TOD can have positive features, the inherent spike in real estate prices associated with transit expansion can displace lower- and middle-income households to transit-poor neighborhoods. Delhi faces the challenge of pairing land use and transport policies to ensure affordability and access to mass transport.The affordability challenge in Delhi
Affordability is a function of both housing and transport costs. For example, housing in the urban periphery is cheaper, but requires residents to pay high commuting costs to travel into the city for employment. On the other hand, living in established areas of the city with good access to subsidized public transport is unaffordable for many, given the high price of property in these neighborhoods.
To reduce overall cost of living, cities may work to improve transit in affordable neighborhoods. However, this can lead to considerable speculation in real estate prices, which may undercut affordability and reduce equity. Besides increasing prices, other indicators that neighborhood affordability is changing include:
- The change in the pace of development in a neighborhood before and after transit provisions.
- The change in household incomes, which can indicate whether the intended resident income mix has been preserved or eroded.
- Modifications to the housing stock: the division of single household plots into multi-family divisions can indicate the acceptance of smaller dwelling units and increasing demand for housing.
- Commercialization of residential units, thereby reducing housing stock.
Delhi faces a severe housing shortage and is unable to accommodate the continuous influx of new residents with varying income levels. This makes affordability considerations related to TOD particularly important. The 2011 national census estimated Delhi’s population at 16.7 million. According to the 2007 – 2008 Economic Survey of Delhi, only 23.7% of the city’s population lives in planned communities, while 39.2% of the population lives in unplanned and illegal communities. This shows the absence of affordable housing for various income groups.A closer look into affordability in Delhi’s Dakshini Pitampura neighborhood
The Dakshini Pitampura neighborhood in northwest Delhi has had a metro rail stop since 2004. We explored this area and found a number of visible clues that indicated how the urban form has transformed and adapted to the presence of metro. We listened to narratives of residents and local real estate agents in order to understand the change they have observed over the last decade.
The tour helped us to understand how building use and the housing stock has changed, while speaking with residents and real estate agents gave us an overview of the changes in the real estate prices due to speculation, appreciation, rate corrections, and overall demand. The people we spoke with described that over the past decade, the rate of development and commercialization has increased. They estimated that residential property prices have grown by about 30%-35% a year, and commercial property rates have increased 100%. Commercialization has also led to parking problems, and the construction rate of multi-family housing in the plotted communities has increased. The housing stock did not appear to be distributed based on the social and economic structure originally intended for the neighborhood.
Delhi’s 2021 Master Plan explicitly indicates that the provision of housing for residents of varying incomes is an important aspect of planned development. The issue of housing affordability in these decade old rapid transit corridors is also highlighted in the Delhi Development Authority’s TOD draft policy, released in 2012. The effectiveness of TOD depends heavily on the connection between land use and transport planning. Strengthening their symbiotic link through equitable policies regarding affordability of living and commuting is necessary for a modal shift to occur, especially in a city like Delhi, which covers 1483 square km (573 square miles).
Delhi’s larger concern is to envision tools and processes through which mass transit and residential areas will be able to exist symbiotically, whereby areas can be accessible to transport and affordable for various income groups.
The authors would like to acknowledge Himadri Das, who contributed to this blog as a reviewer.
Rio de Janeiro is breathtaking. It just takes a walk along the boardwalk of the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, for example, to be completely absorbed by the city’s natural beauty and the thousands of people enjoying these sites. There you will see generations of families and happy dogs; street vendors selling their goods; and runners, cyclists, and skaters dodging meandering tourists. Before arriving, however, beachgoers must take their life into their own hands crossing the busy Avenida Vieira Souto before they can settle in on their beach towel and snap that perfect photo of the Morro Dois Irmãos (“Hill of Two Brothers”) looming above.
At any point between the waterfront buildings and the boardwalk, there are streets at least six lanes wide with 70 kmph (43 mph) speed limits. This high speed limit in an area with significant activity shocked international experts during last week’s road safety training organized by EMBARQ Brasil, PTV Group, and the University of Newcastle in Rio. “This number does not make any sense,” said a surprised Paulo Humanes, a Portuguese adviser to PTV Group.
The speed at which vehicles regularly pass feet or even inches by pedestrians and cyclists is frightening and sometimes deadly. Rio’s traffic mortality rate – at 15 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants per year – is the highest among 23 surveyed metropolises according to 2012 data from the Brazilian Ministry of Health. By comparison, São Paulo’s mortality rate was 13 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012.
This problem extends nationally. In 2012 alone, Brazil experienced 44,812 traffic deaths. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the country currently has the fourth most annual traffic deaths in the world. “If we consider the rate of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Brazil is second only to Nigeria, which is fifth in absolute numbers,” warns Luis Antonio Lindau, President and Director of EMBARQ Brasil.
The country’s high fatality rate is directly related to street speed limits. Some of Rio’s peer metropolises – like New York, Tokyo and London – have managed to reduce the number of fatal crashes to around 2 per 100,000 inhabitants. These cities share a 50 kmph (31 mph) speed limit.
“What usually kills is not the speed, but the difference in speeds between travelers. If a car hits a bike at 80 kmph (50 mph), the probability of the cyclist surviving is practically zero. Unfortunately, this is the reality that we find here in Brazil,” explains Humanes.
Common in most countries, a 50 kmph (31 mph) speed limit saves lives. This speed greatly reduces the probability that a collision will be fatal. As a car’s speed rises, the risk of death increases exponentially. According to WHO data, a pedestrian has a 36% chance of being killed when struck by a car traveling 40 kmph (25 mph). But if the vehicle is traveling 60 kmph (37 mph), the probability jumps to 98% – almost a zero percent chance of survival.
In addition to high vehicle speeds, Rio’s beachfront offers another major risk to pedestrians and cyclists: reversible lanes. Based on the time of day, lanes change direction as a way to relieve congestion during peak hours. This move was widely criticized by experts during last week’s road safety training, because reversible lanes confuse pedestrians – even those accustomed to the area – and drivers. “The prioritization of vehicular traffic in a site with great movement of people is inconsistent, since it generates many conflicts, putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk,” says Marta Obelheiro, Coordinator of Health Projects and Road Safety for EMBARQ Brasil.Designing roads to save lives
More people die in Brazil in traffic accidents than in many wars, motivating experts around the world to seek effective solutions. Expert recommendations at the road safety training represent a departure from the traditional education and enforcement efforts that treat the behavior of drivers and pedestrians as the sole cause of crashes. Rather, solutions should revolve around designing roads that protect pedestrians and cyclists. Streets and avenues should be people-oriented, giving priority to more sustainable modes of mobility like active, non-motorized, and mass forms of transport.
Repainting pavement to make roadways seem narrower for cars, creating pedestrian refuge islands and medians, and creating more pleasant pedestrian spaces are all ways to reduce speeds and ensure the safety and comfort of people who choose sustainable means of transport. These actions are part of the concept of “complete streets,” which focuses on improving comfort and safety for people through modifications to street design.
Complete streets are designed to ensure secure access for all road users – be they pedestrians, cyclists, motorists or transit users of different ages and abilities. Experts suggest that a complete street should include the following attributes, with flexibility for local requirements:
- Speeds limited to 50 kmph (31 mph) in areas of general circulation
- Traffic calming measures
- Universal accessibility
- Clear, pedestrian-oriented signage
- Useful urban infrastructure (bins, benches, lighting, sidewalks, etc.)
- Security monitoring in specific places
- Short cross walks and refuge islands for pedestrians
- A limited supply of free parking
- Bike paths and/or lanes
- A range of preferred/exclusive bus services
- Easy access to public transport and public transport stops
Complete streets principles also discourage reverse lanes and counterflow designs, such as those on Rio’s Avenida Vieira Souto.
These recommendations are being implemented in some Brazilian cities. Rio should follow suit to make its world famous beachfront – and other streets throughout the city – safer and even more enjoyable. Who knows, in the not-too-distant future, the “Marvelous City” could surprise the world not only for its beauty, but also by eliminating all preventable deaths.
I've lost count of how often people have tried to convince me that their city's streets are too narrow to have cycling infrastructure. The three words "not enough space" are repeated as if they are a mantra. It is often genuinely believed that Dutch towns were built with wider streets and that there is therefore more space here than in other countries. Of course, that's not true at all. If you David Hembrowhttp://email@example.com://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/10/our-streets-are-too-narrow-for-cycle.html
Do steep hills prevent you from biking? They don’t have to. The city of Trondheim, Norway, has demonstrated an original way to promote cycling: make uphill biking easy. Called the “Trampe CycloCable,” this 130-meter bike lift pushes cyclists using a foot pedal attached to an underground motorized cable. Take a look at how it works:
The lift was originally built in 1993, and has since carried over 200,000 cyclists without a single accident. Before being upgraded in 2013, the lift charged a fee and could only carry one biker at a time. It is now free, travels 4 to 5 miles per hour, and can carry up to six cyclists per minute. This bike escalator helps make Trondheim one of the premier cycling cities in the world. According to City Clock Magazine, 18% of all trips in the city are made by bike. It ranked Trondheim as the 7th best cycling city in the world.
The CycloCable technology is being commercialized for implementation in other cities around the world. It will cost between $2,300 and $3,000 per meter, though a pay-for-use model can be installed to make back this cost.
The CycloCable is one of multiple ways to improve cycling in hilly cities. The Copenhagen Wheel – a motorized back wheel that attaches to any bike – is another innovation that can help cyclists power up hills. In Japan, a different type of bike escalator helps integrate biking and public transport infrastructure. Municipal authorities have created the “Bike-A-Lator” to help cyclists ascend or descend stairs leading to subway stations. See how it works below:
On Monday, we posed the central question driving discussion at this week’s tenth annual International Congress on Sustainable Transport (“X Congreso”) to our TheCityFix readers: how can we make cities better places to live?
At the end of the three-day conference organized by EMBARQ Mexico, we’ve heard numerous answers to this question from transport and urban planning professionals, government officials, civil society actors, and business leaders. Some of these address how to best govern our cities, while others look to harness the transformative power of engaged, innovative citizens to catalyze grassroots change.
No matter the approach, X Congreso reinforced that there is indeed optimism for the urban future, even amidst challenges to sustainably accommodating rapid urbanization. To carry forward this spirit of optimism, the following are six quotes from the past week that we at TheCityFix hope will stick with you and inspire you to go out and make your city a better place to live.Six perspectives on reinventing our cities
Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar, Buzzcar, and GoLoco
“I truly believe that transport lies at the center of the universe. It can make you happy or make you incredibly angry every day.”
Shared-mobility entrepreneur Robin Chase opened the conference with a keynote address on transforming urban mobility through innovative leadership. Her remarks remind us just how much mobility shapes our everyday lives and determines quality of life in cities. There are very few things that the world’s billions of urban residents all have in common, but the desire to move freely and safely throughout our cities is one of them.
Guillermo Peñalosa, Executive Director, 8-80 Cities
“Walking and bicycling are not frivolous pursuits. They’re a fundamental part of urban mobility, equitable cities, and democracy.”
Many of the discussions at X Congreso revolved around building cities that move people – not cars – through fostering active transport. Addressing attendees on Tuesday, Guillermo Peñalosa reminded us that this goal brings benefits beyond mobility, and is actually a fundamental piece of inclusive urban development. Car-centric urban design limits mobility for all, and has a disproportionate affect on disadvantaged members of society. For instance, elderly city dwellers can account for up to 45% of pedestrian fatalities and up to 70% of cyclist fatalities globally. Reversing this trend and better protecting the most vulnerable road users is a way to both expand urban mobility and address inequality in cities.
Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute
“We can either turn cities into the solutions for our problems, or continue business-as-usual and face the consequences down the road.”
Andrew Steer closed proceedings at X Congreso by emphasizing a turning point for the world’s cities. Urban growth in the developing world means cities – especially those in Asia and Africa – are poised to make enormous investments in urban infrastructure in the coming years. In China, for instance, 60% of all buildings will be new buildings by 2050. Because urban infrastructure typically lasts for decades, the decisions these city leaders make today will determine the course that our cities follow for generations. Will we create sprawling, fragmented cities reliant on cars, or connected, coordinated cities that improve quality of life?
Robin King, Director of Urban Development and Accessibility, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities
“What does it take to build a city that you would actually want to live in? To create this city, you have to work with both your friends and your enemies.”
To move beyond discussions and debates, Robin King put the rhetoric around sustainable, livable urban development to the test. Her workshop had participants create a fictional city from scratch, exposing the conflicting interests and visions behind the processes that guide urban development. The exercise revealed the considerable challenges facing mayors and city leaders as they attempt to cross political divides and achieve real impact in their cities. As one participant put it, “if we can’t even create our ideal livable city on paper, how can city planners do this in real life?”
Francisco Barnés Regueiro, Executive Coordinator of the Metropolitan Environmental Commission
“The environment knows no borders, no political divides, and no social classes. It impacts all of us.”
If there was ever doubt about the urgent need to coalesce around environmental action, Francisco Barnés eliminated it here. On top of that, he underscored the importance of coordinated governance to address issues like climate change, ensuring sustainable mobility in metropolitan regions, and fostering cooperation between connected regional economies. Most of all, Barnés reminded us of the high cost of inaction on environmental issues: human well-being.
“Have I told you lately that I love you?”
In the long and difficult journey to create more sustainable societies, it’s easy to focus on all of the problems in our cities today. Robin Chase reminds us that we can’t forget to celebrate our progress and appreciate innovations that makes cities more sustainable. To close out her opening remarks, she recounted a story from her days as CEO of car-sharing pioneer Zipcar, in which the company received an anonymous email simply stating, “Have I told you lately that I love you?” This one moment reinforced in her the reason urban activists and city leaders fight the uphill battle every day to build more sustainable communities: it makes people’s lives better!
Here’s to continuing to reinvent our cities despite the challenges, and celebrating the part that each of us plays in creating sustainable cities with a high quality of life for all.
Many cities in sub-Saharan Africa are choking on their traffic, both literally in terms of air pollution and figuratively in terms of congestion. Nairobi, Kenya is no exception. However, new technologies, in particular new uses of smartphones, are helping to improve mass transport services. Manual data collection on the city’s transport routes mean information on transport systems has historically been sparse. Earlier this year, TheCityFix examined the openMatatus project, in which a team from MIT, Columbia University, and the University of Nairobi worked to change that by giving tracking-equipped smartphones to passengers on matatus – mini-buses that operate mostly under the radar within the city’s informal transport network. The study revealed that matatus do indeed follow routes, even though they are not properly marked, advertised, or known by non-users. Smartphone data was also able to determine average speeds along route segments. This kind of information is an essential starting point for transport planning.
This is only one example of why GPS in smartphones has the potential to quickly improve mass transport at minimal cost, particularly as smartphones become more common. Congestion causes a number of urgent problems in Nairobi including pollution, strangulation of economic development, and poor traffic safety. The time is now to explore and adapt technologies that can improve the informal transport sector for the benefit of transport operators, passengers, and the city at large.Nairobi faces challenges improving transport technologies
There is a plan to install bus rapid transit (BRT) in Nairobi, but its implementation schedule is uncertain. It will require the creation of new governance structures to coordinate BRT with a formal feeder system, and even under the most optimistic scenarios, it will take many years before it can cover the entire city. In the meantime, informal transport services are vital for residents.
Nairobi has already taken a number of steps to use existing technologies to improve the informal transport system, with mixed success. Nairobi recently passed a law that requires matatu crews to accept cashless fare collection methods (for example, the BebaPay smartcard). As entertainingly made clear in a recent New York Times video, the uptake of this law has been slow. Google provides cards for free, but requires users to open a Gmail account. The main reason for the slow uptake, though, is that drivers’ incomes come from a percentage of cash fare exchanges and they do not have the incentive to use cashless fare collection.
To address rampant speeding and a poor safety record, speed governors – which are devices that measure and limit the speed a vehicle travels – were also made mandatory for matatus. However, there have been many disputes between the police and drivers as to actual speeds travelled. This highlights the need for reliable and accurate equipment if advanced technology is to gain acceptance, especially when law enforcement is involved.Smartphones can improve mass transport users’ experience and transport planning
Creating a real-time map of all buses along a route used to involve a Computer Aided Dispatching/Automatic Vehicle Location system based upon an expensive dedicated digital radio system and mobile data terminals (MDTs). Now, however, much of this capability can be achieved by assigning standard smartphones to all mass transport vehicles. Phone apps also take advantage of crowdsourcing to provide real-time data of bus locations to improve users’ experience. Twende Twende is an application that also works on older phones and can send SMS messages to motorists about current traffic conditions near Nairobi’s 36 intersections that currently have CCTV. There are, of course, established international smartphone apps like Waze, and Kenya’s ma3route that use crowdsourcing. Only about 15% of Kenya’s population has access to smartphones, but this is expected to rise to one third of all Kenyans by 2017. Steadily improving crowdsourced traffic information can be combined with real-time matatu location data to estimate when the next matatu will arrive at a particular waiting location, (formal “stops” don’t always exist). Some matatus are also improving customers’ experience using on-board wifi, which could become increasingly common.Improving safety, predictability, and traffic flow
Acquiring data about matatus through smartphones can also improve the city’s transport planning. Having real-time data can allow planners to detect bunching of vehicles and excessive gaps in the newly launched traffic control center. It can also help planners identify vehicles that are short turning – turning around before reaching the end of a transit route – or otherwise deviating from official plans.
Planners can also couple GPS data with other technologies to improve safety. If covert alarm buttons are installed in matatus, the control center can direct law enforcement directly to where it is needed based on GPS data. This can be especially important at night, given that the city has almost no streetlights.
Smartphones also open up possibilities for requesting signal priority for matatus by communicating with traffic signals using Bluetooth. This could serve as a powerful way to speed up mass transport even when bus-only lanes are not available.
The smartphone revolution promises to bring near-term improvements to informal transport services in Nairobi. It can reduce rider anxiety. It can dramatically improve the productivity of limited enforcement staff. It can provide both government and individual firms with archived data usable for statistical analysis. Perhaps most importantly, when the positive impacts on the city become clear, it will make requests for further enhancements to the public transport system more persuasive.
Ridesharing has been gaining popularity in the United States and Europe, with companies like Uber, Lyft, BlaBlaCar, and Wundercar facilitating hundreds of thousands of rides a month. This has presented a new, convenient, and affordable alternative means of transport in some of the world’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and Berlin, to name a few. After achieving huge success in these metropolises, the biggest ridesharing companies are expanding their operations into several emerging economies, such as India, which offers huge growth potential for this type of transport-on-demand.Competition in India’s ridesharing market gets fierce
Uber – one of the largest ridesharing services in the world – began operating in India when it expanded to Bangalore in October 2013. In August, the company announced that it would launch its service in four new Indian cities – Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, and Kolkata, and now serves a total of ten Indian cities. With Uber working towards a deeper market penetration in the second-most populous country in the world, India’s ridesharing industry is set to grow and become quite competitive. In addition to the ubiquitous auto-rickshaws, Mumbai-based Ola Cabs is already a well-established player in the market – operating in nine cities with over 11,000 drivers. Both Uber and Ola Cabs offer competitive prices, with UberX charging a base fare of Rs 50 (US 82¢) plus Rs 1 per minute (US 1.6¢), and Ola Cabs charging a minimum bill of Rs 100 (US$ 1.6) for the first 2.5 miles, and an extra Rs 15.00 (US 25¢) for each additional half mile. Meru Cabs is another technology-enabled taxi service that operates in 11 Indian cities, and the owner claimed it books 700,000 trips per month.
As is common in less-wealthy countries, many Indian cities have poor transport infrastructure, and have significant room to improve public transport options. The addition of ridesharing as a transport alternative could lead to a small revolution in the country’s transport industry. As these companies grow in India, however, it remains to be seen how they will become integrated with other transport modes.Can ridesharing complement public transport in India?
Ridesharing can be more a convenient, fast, and cost-effective form of transport than its alternatives. For many, ridesharing may already be cheaper than owning a car. It can also be an important part of multi-modal journeys by addressing first-and-last mile connectivity to bus, train, or other public transit services, fueling the demand for these already established transport modes. There are some signs that the implementation of bus rapid transit (BRT) may have reached a tipping point in Indian cities, with new or expanding systems in Bhopal, Ahmedabad, and Surat that can dramatically improve mobility and quality of life. However, many cities in India still face heavy traffic congestion. Ridesharing may help connect users to these mass transport systems, making them more accessible. It may also shed light on the deficiencies of existing public transport systems in many lower-income cities in India and worldwide, prompting increased investment to improve these services.
Ridesharing has the potential to revolutionize transport in places like India and other lower- and middle-income countries that are in dire need of more organized and efficient transport systems. It can provide a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly alternative to car ownership, and an ideal extension to existing public transit systems.
Jordan Perch is a transport analyst and expert in consumer affairs for the automotive industry.
A French translation of this article follows the English text.The city of Nantes in France will host the global bicycle conference Velo-City in June 2015. Before showing up, Copenhagenize Design Company decided to do a scouting tour.Nantes and its 600,000 inhabitants - including the immediate suburbs - is one of the French cities that decided to implement an ambitious cycling policy. They dared to innovate and to make strong political decisions. We find that inspiring.To begin with, watch the Velo-City 2015 promotional clip. In this video, Nantes demonstrates that they understand that creating a bicycle-friendly city is not just about building infrastructure but it's most of all about developing a life-sized city where bicycles are merely one of the tools to create an active, creative and liveable city - albeit one of the most important tools. Nantes presents in the video its inhabitants, its urban spaces and its activities.We have to admit that we have been impressed by the diversity of features included in the bicycle policy. Far from being only focused on building infrastructure, Nantes expands the initiatives to include everything that can support rebuilding a bike-friendly city; services for cyclists; parking; a bike share programme; long and short term rental bikes; collaboration with the local associations, etc. The implementation of their policy has been a success if you consider the fact that the number of cyclists has increased and the modal share rose from 2% to 4.5% between 2008 and 2012 (5.3% in the city-centre). Most importantly, the bicycle users in the city are largely Citizen Cyclists and not hard-core "avid cyclists" dressed in racing gear.First step - Reducing the Number of ParasitesDuring rush hour, many streets are still highly congested but when it comes to traffic regulation within the city-centre, Nantes has made a crucial decision: the through traffic has been completely removed from the heart of the city thanks to the creation of a Limited Traffic Area.The main boulevard running through the city is now only accessible to bicycles, public transport and authorised vehicles (taxis, delivery trucks, shopkeepers), meaning that most cars and motorcycles are no longer welcome. On this boulevard, just like on a pedestal, cyclists ride a 4 meter wide cycle track, slightly elevated. Even if we can criticise the fact that the cycle track is very different from the others (bi-directional, in the middle of the street, elevated), we notice that the Municipality has decided to showcase to the inhabitants that the cyclists are very welcome in Nantes - and prioritized. In addition, the city continues transforming symbolic car-centric places into pedestrian areas (such as the Royale square and the Graslin square). Nantes is Copenhagenizing and modernising itself.Building Several Kilometres of Bicycle InfrastructureIn addition to their wider focus, Nantes has, bien sur, built numerous kilometres of separated bike lanes. The colour chosen for the bike lanes is a very light orange. At the intersections, this colour communicates clearly that the space is dedicated to cyclists and orange stripes along the lanes strenghten this communication in some areas.But let's look at the infrasturcture in detail because it is the backbone of any cycling city. The lanes are wide enough to host the current number of cyclists (3 meters wide for the bi-directional lanes). But when the modal share will really increase, will it be sufficient to cope with the user's flow and capacity? Is the infrastructure capable of evolving and expanding? We're not sure. A Clear Strategy Can Still Suffer from Drawbacks We must mention that one clear drawback and that is a lack of homogeneity in the bicycle network. The diversity the design of the infrastruture is such that without a strong knowledge of the city, you can easily lose track of the network. For instance, bicycle lanes are randomly designed. They are in the middle of the street, on the right of car traffic, on the right or left of the tram, shared with buses or pedestrians suddenly for a few metres, first monodirectional then bidirectional. It's a guessing game at times.Despite the consistency of the orange colour and the creation of two main routes - north-south and east-west- the network remains very complex and not at all intuitive. It makes it quite difficult to get a clear mind map of the bike route you’ll be riding. Moreover, the bi-directional bike lanes already show some limits as this infrastructure is too narrow to host the cyclists at the intersections during rush hour. The physical complexity of the bike infrastructure has two main impacts. First, the speed of the cyclists is reduced, which turns cycling into a less competitive solution compared to other means of transport (12 km/h in Nantes vs. 15,5 in Copenhagen and 20 km/h on the “Green Wave Routes”). We know for a fact that a bicycle user wants to ride from A to B as quick as possible.Secondly, the difficulty to visualise a clear cycling itinerary can become a serious deterrent to getting new cyclists onto the infrastructure. This might challenge the ambition of the city to increase the modal share. Can Nantes really reach their declared target of 15% model share for cyclists without making cycling the most practical and easiest choice? Not likely, as it is now.This challenge is common in many French cities that, on the one hand, develop ambitious cycling networks but, on the other hand, make them too inconsistent when it comes to the type of infrastructure.Increase the Diversity of ServicesLike so many French cities, Nantes implemented a bike share scheme – the Bicloo – relying on user-friendly stations (880 bikes and 102 stations). But the city also offers the commuters the opportunity to combine bicycle and train through the development of a bike-train-bike concept (similar to the BiTiBi project). Indeed, let's imagine that an inhabitant of Nantes Métropole cycles from home to a nearby suburban train station, he/she can park the bike under a shelter (or, even better, in a secure bike parking facility at the main train station in Nantes). Then, he/she gets on the train and upon arriving in the city-centre, he/she can rent a bike for a day and return it to the same place before taking the train home. The City of Nantes has also developed secure bike parking, long term rentals and air pumps and they allow folding bike on the trams – the Cyclotan - as well as offering citizens €300 euros subsidy for buying a cargo bike. allowance when buying a cargo-bike.Important information for our followers attending Vélo-City 2015 - we have already found the Copenhagenize HQ - near the conference venue. A lovely place on the Erdre river. See you there in June 2015.VERSION EN FRANÇAISNantes – Une ville qui a compris !La Ville de Nantes (France) accueillera en Juin 2105 la conférence mondiale Vélo-City. Avant de venir y participer, Copenhagenize a décidé d'aller y faire un petit repérage.Nantes, 600.000 habitants à l'échelle de l'agglomération, est l'une des villes françaises qui a mis en place une ambitieuse politique cyclable et qui n'a pas hésité à innover en la matière et prendre des décisions politiques fortes. De quoi inspirer.Pour commencer, visionnage de son clip de présentation de Vélo-City 2015, où Nantes montre qu'elle a compris que créer une ville cyclable c'était avant tout créer une ville humaine où les vélos ne sont finalement qu'un des éléments d'une ville active et agréable à vivre. Nantes y présente majoritairement ses habitants, ses espaces publics, ses activités urbaines. Ensuite, il faut bien avouer que nous avons été impressionné sur la diversité des éléments de sa politique cyclable. Loin de s'être uniquement focalisée sur la construction de pistes cyclables, Nantes a élargi ses initiatives concernant le vélo sur tous les fronts : services aux cyclistes, parkings, vélos publics, travail avec les associations locales... Résultat, la part modale du vélo est passée de 2 % à 4,5 % entre 2008 et 2012 (5,3% dans le centre-ville), mais surtout les cyclistes sont des usagers de la rue comme les autres et non des hard-core du vélo, de vrais « Citizen Cyclists » (cf. le blogpost sur Copenhagen Cycle Chic).Deuxièmement, des kilomètres d'infrastructures cyclablesNantes a construit des kilomètres de pistes cyclables complètement séparées de la circulation automobile. Orange pâle, c'est la couleur choisie pour marquer les pistes cyclables. Aux carrefours, cette couleur affirme la place des cyclistes et des bandes peintes le long des pistes vient parfois judicieusement renforcer la lisibilité du réseau.Les pistes sont actuellement assez larges pour accueillir les cyclistes (3 mètres de large mais en bi-directionnelle), mais qu'en sera-t-il quand le nombre de cyclistes augmentera véritablement. Toutes ces infrastructures seront-elles adaptables?Une ombre au tableauToutefois, il faut tout de même signaler un bémol : le manque d'homogénéité du réseau cyclable. La diversité du type de pistes cyclables est telle que sans être un fin connaisseur de la ville, on en perd très vite la lisibilité. La piste cyclable se situe parfois au centre de la rue, parfois à droite des voitures, à droite ou à gauche du tram, partagée sur quels mètres avec les piétons ou les bus, elle peut-être mono- ou bi-directionnelle...Le réseau est trop complexe et malgré la signalisation des axes majeurs nord/sud et est/ouest, difficile d'avoir une carte mentale claire de son itinéraire. Par ailleurs, les pistes cyclables bi-directionnelles montrent déjà leur limite aux heures de pointes, les endroits d'attente aux intersections autant rapidement saturés.La complexité physique du parcours alternant entre différents types de pistes cyclables à deux impacts majeurs. Il réduit la vitesse des cyclistes et rend ainsi ce mode de déplacement moins compétitif face aux autres modes de transport (12km/h à Nantes contre 15,5 à Copenhague et 20km/h sur les « Green Waves »). On le sait, un cycliste utilise son vélo principalement parce que c'est rapide et pratique. Par ailleurs, la complexité de lecture du réseau peut dissuader certains usagers à se déplacer à vélo et limite l'augmentation de la part modale. Est-ce ainsi possible d'atteindre 15% de cyclistes ?Cette remarque est en fait la principale critique que l'on puisse faire aux villes françaises de manière générale. Elles innovent mais complexifient leur réseau. Une diversité de services Comme des dizaines d'autres villes en France, Nantes dispose d'un service de vélos partagés – le Bicloo – et de bornes facilement accessibles (800 vélos et 102 stations). Mais elle permet également la combinaison de transport – vélo-train-vélo (cf. le projet européen BiTiBi). En effet, imaginons qu'un habitant de la région nantaise se rende de son domicile à sa gare locale à vélo, il trouve – à défaut d'un parking sécurisé – un abris à vélo. Il prend ensuite le train et une fois arrivé à la gare de Nantes, il empreinte pour la journée un vélo public et le retourne à la gare lorsqu'il vient reprendre son train. La Ville de Nantes a développé également des parkings sécurisés disponibles sur la voie public, des pompes à vélo, un vélo pliant autorisé dans le tram – le Cyclotan -, une aide àde 300 euros à l'achat d'un vélo-cargo, un vélo à disposition des étudiants...Information à tous nos lecteurs participants à Vélo-City 2015, nous avons déjà trouvé notre QG à deux pas de la salle de congrès, un lieu unique au bord de l'Erdre où nous aurons plaisir à vous retrouver. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.