Transport and urban planners spend much of their time thinking about distance to stations, fare pricing, and the key components that make sustainable transport systems work at a basic level, but they sometimes forget the smaller details that make transport work well. However, it’s precisely these “small” details that contribute to people’s experience and perception of sustainable transport, which in turn contributes to how likely they are to use it. In a recent video created by popular Singapore-based network SPH Razor, host Low Yi Qian went to Hong Kong to showcase how surprisingly enjoyable Hong Kong’s notoriously crowded mass transit railway (MTR) subway system is – which is truly a feat considering 90% of trips are taken using mass transport, contributing to an average of 5 million trips that are taken on the MTR every weekday.
The key to the MTR’s success begins with its Octopus card, which is a contactless stored value card that works on buses and tramways as well as at convenience stores and vending machines. This integrates each of Hong Kong’s transport modes, easing the user’s experience instead of forcing him or her to remember the quirks of myriad different entities. Since people can use their Octopus card for grocery shopping and at many restaurants, having one card contributes to the ease-of-use of the system and in turn how engrained sustainable transport can easily become in residents’ daily routines.
Additionally, there are very basic aspects of Hong Kong’s MTR, like the fact that it runs from 5:30 am to 1 am every day, 99% of trips run on time, and trains arrive every other minute, that all contribute to the mental calculation what mode users will choose for each trip. Think of why many people still hold onto their cars – the flexibility and mobility with one’s schedule and the lack of a closing time are likely to be high on the list. By having the MTR run constantly 19 hours a day, transport times fade as the central concern when considering how to get to a destination.
There are also seemingly tiny design details in Hong Kong’s MTR stations that impact how users experience the subway. Free Internet, large hallways, and clear signage allow users to feel comfortable in the station, yet move quickly and effectively through the system when they need to. Ushers wait at platforms to help people queue up for the train, and can use gates to control the flow of traffic. If not designed correctly, the stations could easily have become overcrowded, with people constantly lost and frustrated. The MTR ably manages to balance the demands of a vibrant city with individuals’ desire for a clean, safe, and efficient mode of transport.
Hong Kong’s system would not be appropriate for every city – it was created in a city that had the financial capability to invest in a costly system and the high-density development that made this particular transport mode effective. However, as many countries are rapidly urbanizing, city leaders and planners that understand both the large-scale patterns of development around transport modes as well as the small details that contribute to the experience of using a subway can help emerging cities understand vital components of what makes both a successful and enjoyable mode of transport.
For a piece of what it’s like riding on Hong Kong’s MTR, watch the video here:
Population growth and rapid urbanization are combining to create huge challenges for Indian cities. According to McKinsey, Indian cities are expected to grow from 340 million people in 2008 to a whopping 590 million in 2030. Meeting demand for urban services in these cities will require US$ 1.1 trillion in capital investment over the next 20 years. Without the right design and planning, this massive urban growth could exacerbate existing problems of congestion, pollution, and traffic safety.
Overcoming these hurdles and creating sustainable future cities in India is the main topic of discussion at the upcoming CONNECTKaro, a conference co-organized by EMBARQ India and the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), Government of Karnataka, India that will take place from March 10-11, 2014. The second annual conference—named for the idea of “Karo,” which means “make it happen”—explores sustainable transport opportunities as ways of addressing the challenges associated with India’s urban growth.
But before we can identify ways that India can sustainably urbanize, it’s important to first understand some of the underlying obstacles.Three key challenges to India’s urban development
Rapid and unprecedented population growth have contributed to common, pressing issues for India’s cities. Many of these are inherently linked to transportation, including reducing urban sprawl, ensuring safe access to city services, and addressing the real estate industries’ roles in determining cities’ designs.
1) Urban sprawl
In the past two decades, Indian cities have grown tremendously—not only in population, but in geographic size. For instance, Delhi’s urban area has almost doubled in the last 20 years. This has led to an increase in average trip length from 8.5 kilometers to 10.4 kilometers, and this commuting distance is projected to increase further. Sprawling cities and reliance on automobiles have contributed to traffic congestion, air pollution, rising greenhouse gas emissions, and poor public health. Ensuring that the cities of the future are both livable and sustainable requires that decision-makers find ways to shorten commuting distances and decrease urbanites’ reliance on automobiles.
2) Traffic safety and accessibility
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 10 percent of the world’s road fatalities (130,000) occur in India alone. Traffic crashes occur every minute, and a life is lost every 3.7 minutes. Crashes have a significant negative impact on the nation’s economy, costing the country the equivalent of 3 percent of its GDP between 1999 and 2000. These startling numbers mean that city leaders and other decision-makers must consider issues of safety not only on the road, but also in the surrounding environment. Safety and accessibility are key components of ensuring that cities become secure, sustainable places to live.
3) Future real estate development
As more and more people move into India’s cities, these people will need safe places to live, work, and commute. There’s already projected to be a shortage of 18.78 million households in India between 2012 and 2017. Real estate developers will inevitably aim to meet this shortage, which means that they’ll have a massive influence in shaping what India’s cities look like in the future. Will the private sector invest in developments that provide access to sustainable transport, or will they follow a business-as-usual path and perpetuate problems of urban sprawl, pollution, and unsafe roads?CONNECTKaro to explore solutions for urban India
By bringing together stakeholders from all sectors—government, academia, and business—CONNECTKaro aims to foster meaningful dialogue on how to overcome these challenges through sustainable transport solutions. A few key topics of discussion will be:
- How transit-oriented development (TOD) concepts, integrated transport and land use planning, and environmentally friendly transport options can be integrated into cities and states in order to cut back on urban sprawl and pollution.
- How last mile connectivity can be a critical factor in determining public transportation usage. Plus, we’ll examine how implementing low-cost, accessible sustainable transport options—like bike paths, pedestrian walkways, and public transport—can help citizens commute more safely.
- How housing projects can incorporate sustainable mobility options in order to reduce emissions and create safer urban spaces. We’ll also examine how the private sector can create platforms that support sustainable transport innovations.
Overcoming India’s urbanization and sustainability challenges won’t be easy. But by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders for a solutions-oriented conversation, we hope to begin identifying some ways to “make it happen.”
GET INVOLVED: Stay tuned for our future blog posts on Insights and TheCityFix, where we’ll explore some of the potential solutions coming out of ConnectKaro. You can also watch the event live, and participate on social media by following @EMBARQIndia and using #CONNECTKaro.
As severe air pollution grips Beijing, China and the surrounding region, the sharp rise in harmful particulate matter has forced authorities to consider both immediate responses and long-term strategies to combat air pollution.The current situation
The height of the smog epidemic hit in late February and lasted for seven days, covering 1.4 million square kilometers (540,000 square miles), just over 14% of China’s total land area. Southeastern China was the area hit the hardest. During this time, the average particulate matter (PM) reading was 473 micrograms per cubic meter (288 micrograms per cubic inch), or 19 times the level deemed healthy by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The recent lack of wind was cited as a contributing factor towards the concentration of particulate matter, but the source of the problem is ultimately human. Emissions levels are largely the result of the intensive and sustained use of motor vehicles, accounting for 22.2% of the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the city. By comparison, other leading emissions sources included coal combustion (17%), dusts (16%), and industrial sources (16%).Searching for solutions: Action plans and emergency responses
The smog outbreak and related health impacts have prompted many Chinese cities – including some of the largest like Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou – to plan for both immediate needs and long-term strategies to combat air pollution and protect public health.
In the short-term, these cities have crafted emergency response plans to prevent additional pollutants being released into the air. Most have suspended construction, and some cities are banning half of registered vehicles from running (based on odd-even plate numbers), restricting the use of government vehicles, and even shutting down schools.
In the long-term, many cities have also released five year Clean Air Action Plans in the hope of curbing the rise in air pollution within the next five years. These plans outline the path towards significantly reducing air pollution levels, and are less aggressive than emergency responses, relying instead on economic approaches and systemic changes. Beijing’s Clean Air Action Plan, for example, will promote public transport through capital investments, lower emissions standards for motor vehicles, and pursue congestion pricing policies.Implementation is imperative for success
The barrier to the success of the long-term and short-term measures lies in cities’ abilities to implement their ambitious plans. For example, although the air pollution reached an unprecedented level this week, Beijing only set its four-tiered air pollution alert system to “orange” instead of “red,” which indicates the greatest severity and threat to public health. Cars were still permitted on the streets and children were not discouraged from being outside. Only barbecues, outdoor sports, and some factory activities were banned. This raises the question of how severe air pollution is perceived in the political arena compared to economic growth, and is a potential indicator of where government priorities currently lie.
However, such heavy-handed short-term emergency measures may require more political determination than long-term, progressive measures. Indeed, the encouraging establishment of a low emission zone in Beijing speaks to the commitment to a far-reaching strategy for improving air quality. Still, in light of the shortcomings of emergency response in many cities, China’s long-term approach requires certain key elements: political incentive that recognizes economic growth and efforts to improve the environment as interrelated, not opposing, forces; public communication and education on the adverse effects of air pollution; and improved data collection and research to make well-informed choices when crafting policy to curb air pollution and emissions.
This article was originally published by EMBARQ, the producer of TheCityFix.
As some cities tout the benefits of sustainable transport and transit-oriented development (TOD), it is hard to imagine how others could have moved so far in the opposite direction. Understanding the combination of shifting responsibilities, lax regulations, and flawed policies that play a role in Mexico’s sprawling cities, for example, holds important lessons not only for Mexico’s future urban development, but also for city leaders across the globe as they seek to build compact and sustainable cities. In the case of Mexico, one lesson shines above the rest: good intentions mean nothing without clear policies and an administrative infrastructure to support them.INFONAVIT makes waves
This story starts with the National Workers Housing Fund Institute (INFONAVIT), Mexico’s largest builder of social housing. INFONAVIT was originally responsible for purchasing land, developing urban projects, building houses, assigning houses to workers, granting credit, and collecting payments. However, during Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s administration (1988 – 1994), housing policies changed. The ejido (an agricultural land grant introduced as a result of the Mexican Revolution) could suddenly become privately owned. This meant that a parcel owner of the ejido property, who previously held only certain cultivation rights, would now have the right to sell his or her parcel to an urban developer. Furthermore, in 1992, INFONAVIT ceased to be a developer and homebuilder and became a financial institution. This created a an environment that encouraged abuse of the system, providing urban developers with an almost unlimited availability of land, lack of federal oversight, and one indicator of success: the number of houses built.A solution gone wrong
Between 1994 and 2000, Mexico faced a horrible economic crisis that pushed annual interest rates on mortgages over 100% in some cases. The middle class was profoundly weakened and social housing programs came to a halt. To stimulate economic growth, then-President Vicente Fox found what seemed like an easy solution – build more houses. This was intended to counteract the several years where no housing was built, generate jobs, and grow Mexico’s economy. Instead, it intensified a lopsided power structure and sent Mexico’s cities into an unsustainable spiral of urban sprawl.
The owners of the ejidos signed away their land to developers, providing them with an unexpected source of income. Developers, meanwhile, purchased as much land as possible – regardless of location and accessibility – because municipalities authorized all of the urban complexes that were requested by developers. This prompted a huge influx of housing developments that quickly met demand and then swiftly surpassed it.The storm strikes
At the beginning of Felipe Calderon’s administration (2006 – 2012), there were already clear signs of the monumental repercussions of these housing policies. Academic research brought awareness to the enormous amount of money and time spent by people living out on the periphery to access their place of employment. Governments at the local and national level, however, refused to establish minimum standards of location, connectivity, density and mix-used zoning, allowing the trend of dispersion to continue. Between 1980 and 2010, urban population increased by 100%, while urban area increased by 600%. But this trend would not continue for long.
Three key factors converged to send people migrating swiftly back into the urban core of Mexico’s cities:
- First, for many who purchased homes on the periphery, far from jobs and urban services, it became unreasonable to spend 30% of their household income on transportation and lose two to five hours each day commuting. Some returned to live with their parents, or crowded into a small but better located apartment.
- Additionally, policies governing the Retirement Savings System changed. Now, at the age of retirement, workers who had not already exercised their right to INFONAVIT housing funds can transfer their housing account to their retirement account. This eliminates the incentive for many to buy a second, unnecessary home.
- Finally, the receding tax base along the periphery (due to population decline and migration to the urban core) caused local governments to stop providing many amenities like paved streets, lighting, water and sewer networks, and parks, for large housing developments. Suddenly, people living in such developments needed to finance those services themselves, which increased the costs of living along the periphery and further encouraged a return to the urban center.
These factors caused a swift change and a return of residents to the city, however, it will take decades and millions of dollars in investment to rectify the damage already caused by urban sprawl. Five million homes now stand empty. Virtually all homebuilders are in bankruptcy. With low sales, developers had to bear the cost of operation of the urban complexes that have not been received by local governments, and incurred debt for excessive purchase of land reserves. Millions of people still live along the periphery without access to public transport and dwindling access to employment or education and health services.A turning tide?
Despite these challenges, there are clear signs that Mexico’s current leaders understand the failings of the past and are making important policy shifts for the future. President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a new strategy for urban development and housing in order to build denser, more compact and accessible cities. Some of these efforts have materialized to make Mexico’s cities more sustainable and accessible, however, it is still unclear whether these new policies stand as a legislative bandage, or are the first signs of a larger shift in government mentality towards the shape and size of Mexican cities.
Things are changing, no doubt about it. All over the world. Like in every paradigm shift there are cities that move fast, cities that try to play catch up and cities that are still tying their shoelaces in the starting blocks.One of the primary challenges that remains is the perception of who infrastructure is for. I meet many politicians and planners around the world who clearly think that they are expected to provide safe infrastructure for the few people riding bicycles in their city right now. They fail to understand that they should be building infrastructure for all the citizens who COULD be riding a bicycle if they felt safe on a complete network of infrastructure.The Zeros to Heroes cities that are way ahead of the curve - for example Barcelona, Seville, Dublin, Bordeaux, Paris, Buenos Aires - have just rolled up their sleeves and built infrastructure. Infrastructure that actually reflects where the citizens want to go in a city. Which is basically the same as where everyone else wants to go.In many other cities, bits and pieces of infrastructure are put in where it won't bother the motorised traffic too much. Often such bits and pieces are launched with much fanfare. "See! We are thinking about bicycles!" Even though the bits and pieces are symbolic gestures that do little to reestablish the bicycle as transport on the urban landscape. Here in 2014, after seven or eight years since the bicycle returned to the public consciousness, there are only 370 km of protected bicycle infrastructure in all of the United States, compared to 1000 km in Greater Copenhagen alone. What I often see around the world is attempts by cities to put cyclists where they want them to ride, based on false assumptions that this is want cyclists also want. "Ooh, those cyclists must really want to ride on quiet roads, away from traffic.... yeah... that's what they want." Then follows symbolic routes following all the vague principles of detours.Citizen Cyclists are sent out of the way of basically everywhere that city-dwellers want to go. Shops, businesses, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, workplaces. The existing, historical Desire Lines of a city - aka roads - remain the domain of automobiles.While Copenhagen may be "all that" these days, mistakes have been made. Lessons have been learned. Back in the 1980s when citizens were returning to the bicycle thanks to the reestablishment of cycle tracks, the City learned a valuable lesson. Cyclists were following the busy streets to get to and from the city centre. Normal behaviour for homo sapiens.The City decided that this couldn't possibly be what they wanted. They assume cycling citizens wanted quiet routes, even if it meant they would have to go a bit out of they way. They constructed a pilot project route roughly parallel to Nørrebrogade - along Guldbergsgade - that they were sure would please the cycling citizens. It was a flop. A2Bism will dictate that people want to travel along the most direct Desire Line, regardless of transport form. To the City of Copenhagen's credit, they respected this simple anthropological desire and started building cycle tracks along the pre-existing Desire Routes - the main arteries leading the city centre. The rest is history.If you live in a car-dominated city you might be pleased with symbolic municipal gestures like "bicycle boulevards" or whatever they call them, or bits of narrow "bike lanes". You are, however, being handed the short end of the stick. Bicycle urbanism may be a phrase I coined but the principles have existed since cities first were formed. Best Practice is right there, for the taking. With a bit of balance you might be able to rest your weary bones on a two-legged chair. Definately better than no chair. But four-legged chairs are on the market. Demand them.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
The transport sector currently accounts for 22% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and emissions from energy consumption and is the fastest growing sector in terms of overall emissions. It is also responsible for 35% of per capita CO2 emissions in Latin America and is the leading sector in terms of emissions, much of which is driven by the growth in private car ownership. If governments in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) do not initiate policies to curb private motorization rates, fossil fuel needs could triple by 2050.
Peru is leading the way by developing a national climate change plan, the Planificación ante el Cambio Climático (Planning for Climate Change or PlanCC) that includes a robust and comprehensive approach to reduce emissions from the transport sector. PlanCC comes at a precipitous time, as Peru is set to host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in December 2014. COP 20 is a crucial forum for countries to take meaningful action on climate change and set the tone for developing a new international climate agenda at COP 21 in Paris in 2015. Peru is taking the lead in building a coalition of LAC countries, including the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean states (AILAC) group, to advance climate change mitigation in the region.PlanCC: A pivotal piece in a larger effort
Peru’s PlanCC is part of the Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) program, a collaborative project between South Africa, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. MAPS combines research and stakeholder interest with climate policy and planning to help developing countries in their path towards climate resiliency.A call for collaboration
Implementing PlanCC will require collaboration among many stakeholders both within and outside of government. Within government, Peru’s Ministries of Environment, Transport, Energy, Urban Development, and Finance are working together to create a cross-sector plan for transport that will position Peru for a long-term, low-carbon economic growth strategy. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s Minister of Environment, stated that PlanCC will be the basis for determining Peru’s contribution to UNFCCC negotiations.
The creation of a national level climate change strategy will also require collaboration with the regional and local entities responsible for enacting PlanCC. Multiple national level institutions, including the aforementioned Ministries, are collaborating with regional and local government decision-makers to ensure that the PlanCC takes a comprehensive approach towards tackling climate change through the transport sector at all scales.
Additionally, leaders in the private sector are being consulted in order to add depth to the perspective already provided by government institutions.
As PlanCC takes a cross-sector approach, it is vital that the transport sector is included in this plan, and that solutions presented address the full range of climate-related challenges. Included within the transport sector are two key agenda items: reducing GHG emissions and recognizing the social and economic benefits of sustainable development.Transport mitigation reduces GHG emissions
Reducing CO2emissions and energy consumption protects the environment and combats climate change. A vital component in reducing GHG emissions is the ability to track progress of emissions reduction in a measurable, reportable, and verifiable manner. PlanCC includes the development of a standardized, official data management system that collects, manages, and shares GHG emissions reductions data and will in turn bolster the relevance of transport in larger climate change discussions.Transport mitigation increases quality of life
Sustainable transport also benefits quality of life. For example, Mexico City’s Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT) has reduced travel time by 50%, reduced traffic crashes by 30%, and has resulted in the reduction of 80,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Sustainable transport measures like BRT create jobs and opportunities, help cities save on healthcare costs, and encourage increased infrastructure investment.Building on the success of other countries
Peru is following the lead of fellow Latin American countries that successfully developed national climate change plans. Sixteen of Latin America’s 20 countries are developing national adaptation strategies, agencies, or plans to combat climate change. Mexico passed a national climate change law (Ley General de Cambio Climático) in 2012 and released its National Climate Change Strategy in 2013. Colombia announced its Low Carbon Development Strategy in 2011 and itsNational Adaptation Plan for Climate Change in 2012. A climate change plan at the national level is key to providing the technical basis to design and promote a legal framework that mainstreams climate change and sustainable transport in national policies and budget assessments.A time for action
Peru and other MAPS countries are setting the precedent for other developing nations to strive for deep collaboration across sectors in developing national climate change plans. As the 2015 climate change agreements at COP 21 draw closer, transport lies at the nexus of several of these sectors, and in this role can pull together disparate dialogues into one unified course for combating climate change. If climate change is to be holistically addressed, mobilizing transport mitigation actions must be central to any and all climate change mitigation plans.
For more information on integrating low-carbon, sustainable transport into global policy discussions on sustainable development and climate change, learn more about the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport’s (SLoCaT) “Transport Delivers” campaign. Read more about EMBARQ’s effort with Peru’s PlanCC and transport’s role at COP 19.
Another year without progress in London. Andrew Gilligan: Do you remember the 4th of March 2013 ? 41 years behind ? Campaigners: ever get the feeling you've been cheated ?
howfarahead("right"); On the 4th of March 2013, Andrew Gilligan wrote of his and Boris Johnson's "ambitions for the bike". He set the scene for what was to follow by claiming that "it took 40 years to turn even Amsterdam into Amsterdam". Today is the 4th of March 2014. London has not made any discernible progress towards becoming a proper cycling city in the last 365 days, so as of today, the David Hembrowhttp://email@example.com://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/03/another-year-without-progress-in-london.html
America’s vehicles are on the road to becoming cleaner.
Last week, President Obama directed his administration to set new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including large pick-up trucks, school buses, and tractors. Improving fuel efficiency standards from these vehicles—which make up 20 percent of U.S. transport emissions—can not only rein in emissions, it can help consumers save money at the gas pump.New standards can further reduce carbon pollution
The transportation sector is responsible for about 28 percent of U.S. emissions, making it the country’s second-largest emissions source (power plants are the first). Tackling emissions from transportation is therefore a key part of the administration’s plan to reduce emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.Heavy-duty vehicles are major players in the U.S. transport sector. Although they only account for about 4 percent of registered vehicles on the road, they contribute one-fifth of transport sector emissions.
WRI analysis shows that the administration has the opportunity to make significant emissions-reductions cuts across the transport sector—cuts that could bring the country closer to its short-term and long-term emissions-reduction goals. For example, our analysis shows that applying ambitious standards throughout U.S. transportation systems—including highway vehicles, off-highway vehicles, and aircraft—could reduce transportation sector emissions by 2 percent in 2020 and 15 percent in 2030 compared to business-as-usual. Ambitious standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles could contribute significantly to these reductions, so they’re an important piece of steering the United States onto a lower-carbon pathway.Building on existing transport emissions-reduction plans
This latest directive from President Obama builds on the administration’s previous actions on fuel efficiency. The administration already set GHG emissions and fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks through model year 2025. As a result of these rules, new light-duty vehicles sold in 2025 will emit half the GHG emissions of vehicles sold in 2010 and go nearly twice as far on one gallon of fuel. And in 2011, after coordinating with truck and engine manufacturers and other stakeholders, the administration finalized the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles for model years 2014 through 2018. The new standards—which will be issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March 2016—will tighten these heavy-duty vehicle standards beyond 2018.
Existing and forthcoming efficiency standards can significantly reduce fuel consumption and GHG emissions. Already, current light-duty vehicle regulations are expected to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by nearly 3 billion metric tons over the lifetime of cars built between 2012 and 2025. EPA and DOT estimate that existing heavy-duty standards will save around 530 million barrels of oil over the lifetime of truck model years 2014 to 2018, reducing CO2 emissions by about 270 million metric tons—equivalent to the annual emissions of 76 coal-fired power plants. Tighter post-2018 standards for heavy-duty trucks could deliver even greater reductions.Carbon losses, economic gains
Fuel efficiency standards don’t just reduce GHG emissions, they also allow families and businesses to spend less money at the pump. EPA and DOT estimate that light-duty vehicle standards will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over the lifetime of vehicles sold from model years 2012 through 2025. Existing medium- and heavy-duty standards will save an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs, a total net benefit of $42 billion after factoring in the costs of new technology.
These savings can create ripple effects across the economy. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that fuel and cost savings from widespread deployment of more efficient trucks could lead to a $4 billion increase in annual gross domestic product by 2020 and a $10 billion increase by 2030. Plus, greater fuel efficiency means that businesses spend less money transporting their products by truck, potentially leading to lower prices of consumer goods. A recent report by the Consumer Federation of America found that doubling the 2010 average fuel economy of medium- and heavy-duty trucks could result in net savings of more than $250 per year per household. As President Obama said in his speech last Tuesday, “It’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win.”New fuel standards should be ambitious
Post-2018 fuel efficiency standards can help drive the United States toward a low-carbon economy, but only if those standards are ambitious. For example, the country’s current heavy-duty vehicle standards cover tractors but not trailers, which impact the overall fuel efficiency of tractor-trailer combinations. Integrating trailers into the next phase of standards could reduce each tractor-trailer’s fuel use by 7-10 percent. WRI analysis shows that more rigorous standards that include trailers could reduce GHG emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by as much as 26 percent below business-as-usual levels in 2030.
But most importantly, new fuel efficiency standards must be complemented by other ambitious climate action strategies. While reducing emissions from transport—and across all sectors of the economy—is necessary to meet the 17 percent goal, preventing the worsening impacts of climate change requires much greater emissions reductions over the long-term.
Last week, Copenhagenize Design Company moved from our old office in Frederiksberg, down to the harbour area of Copenhagen. Our new home is Papirøen, or 'Paper Island,' an artificial island just across the water from The Royal Danish Playhouse and Nyhavn. It was first used by the army as somewhere to put their weaponry, and then from 1958 the island was for many decades used for the storage of huge rolls of paper imported from Sweden, ready for use by Danish newspapers. Hence the name. (Interestingly almost the whole of Christianshavn was for a long time entirely used by the military, until the 'Copenhagenization' of the Danish military by the British in 1807 meant that suddenly the navy didn't need so much space. So you could say we are re-Copenhagenizing Christianshavn)Until the long awaited completion of the Inderhavnsbroen cycle and pedestrian bridge, this side of the harbour is a little isolated from the rest of the city, despite its central location. This has meant that in recent years, the site has become what the Copenhagen Post called 'an industrial no-man’s-land,'home to the city's harbour cruise company, but not much else. However, things are starting to change. Last year, the old industrial warehouses were converted into a set of offices housing our new neighbours, including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, COBE Architects and Purpose Makers (the company of Ole, of 'Cycling Without Age' fame) . It is also temporarily home to the Experimentarium, a science and technology centre and one of Copenhagen's biggest attractions, which will be on the island for 2 years whilst its permanent home in Hellerup is modernised. This gives the space around our new offices a healthy mix of creative workers and exuberant school kids.We were all very excited about moving. But we had to get there first. How to do so was a no-brainer. As our work on the Cycle Logistics project has shown, the cargo bike is a versatile tool for goods transportation: 51% of deliveries currently made by motorized transport could be made by bike. Aside from anything else, cargo bike was the most logical and convenient way for us to move. Copenhagenize Moves Office from Copenhagenize on Vimeo. We put together this short film of the trip - what was interesting to note along the way was that although we were in a convoy of three heavily-laden cargo bikes, nobody en route batted an eyelid. Cargo Bikes are normal on Copenhagen's streets: 25% of families with two or more children have one.Apart from having to balance holding a camera with keeping my eyes on the road, it was otherwise a sedate, unremarkable glide through Copenhagen, just like every day. Loading up the cargo bikes took just a few minutes, and the trip itself was an easy ride of just a little over 6km. It was a lovely sunny day too, which helped, but even aside from that little stroke of luck, there's no way hiring a van, negotiating it through the city-centre traffic, and having to return it at the end of the day would have been as simple, easy and enjoyable as moving office via cargo bike.Below are some photos of our new place and the island itself – we're looking forward to the summer and spending some quality time out in the sun overlooking the water.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
How can we tell if we have true mass cycling ? If sports clubs used by children after school look like this: If extra temporary bicycle parking has been constructed but it's still difficult to find anywhere to park your bike when there is a large (non-cycling) event in town: If thousands of others have already ridden their bicycle to the beach before you get there: If bicycle ferries David Hembrowhttp://firstname.lastname@example.org://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/03/identifying-true-mass-cycling-and.html
Many developing world cities are experiencing population explosions at the same time as they face funding gaps and citizen apathy towards government’s ability to make meaningful change. In light of these challenges, BD Promotores Colombia, Prodigy Network, PSFK Labs, world renowned architects Gary Hack and Winka Dubbledam, and the citizens of Bogotá, Colombia have decided to make a radical and inspiring change to the process of urban redevelopment. The downtown Bogotá project is focused on citizen participation at every stage of the process. The project’s website “Bogotá: My Ideal City” gives people the ability to collaborate on the redevelopment of their downtown, the expert knowledge to understand complex urban issues, and the platform to crowd-fund this development. This project is an important step in recognizing that sustainability goes beyond individual projects and interventions, and must include opportunities for citizens to access information and decision-makers to influence their future and the future of cities.Starting a conversation
“Bogotá: My Ideal City” serves as a forum where citizens can converse on topics ranging from “What information would you like to have from your local government?” to “What would be the perfect place to hold concerts in Bogotá?”. With the conversation, “How would you like to be transported around Bogotá?” the overwhelming majority of participants take the online forum seriously and together they foster meaningful discussion. For example, some exchanges touch on expanding bike infrastructure and implementing congestion pricing, typically the fodder of planners and technical experts. These conversations have real impact, as architects pull out common trends to incorporate people’s preferences – like an easy commute, expanded public spaces, and human-oriented streets, all elements of transit-oriented development (TOD) – into the design plans for downtown redevelopment.From onlooker to active citizen
One of the most important aspects of “Bogotá: My Ideal City” is that it allows people to engage in civic dialogue and simultaneously learn about how their comments fit into a larger conversation. Experts in the field, such as Andre Haddad, CEO of Relayrides, and Sam Zaid, CEO of Getaround, each write about the different models of their respective car-sharing programs. Their participation not only teaches people about car-sharing in general, but allows them to understand what program model might best be adapted to their city. Everyday citizens may not understand zoning ordinances or complex urban theories, but they can point to an example of a project and say “I want this in my neighborhood.” This kind of learning allows citizens to move from being interested onlookers to active participants.Taking ownership: The citizen’s path to shaping future cities
Perhaps the most important component of “Bogotá: My Ideal City” is that the comments citizens make are actually read and will be incorporated into the redevelopment of the downtown neighborhood. Without treating citizens like clients, where their desires need to be carefully assessed and fully met, the online platform for citizens to vocalize their problems is simply a pretense.
The combination of prioritizing citizens’ needs and a crowd-funding model that holds architects and planners to meeting those needs creates tremendous impact. For the citizens of Bogotá, they will get a downtown project that fits their lifestyles and improves quality of life for all. They have learned lessons in civic engagement and seen an online platform that they can leverage to confront problems facing their city. They have learned lessons in civic engagement and seen an online platform that they can leverage to confront problems facing their city. Most importantly, they have shown the global community that it is still possible take back ownership of their city and its future.
If you've been following our Car Industry Strikes Back series over the past few years, you'll have seen car companies ridiculing other transport forms or lathering themselves up in a greenwashing frenzy.It's usually a roll-your-eyes, comical experience. Nissan Denmark, however, have outdone themselves. They're banging the drums for their new Qashqai model here in Denmark. It started last year on September 4, 2013 when Nissan hosted a "café" in the centre of Copenhagen, letting people take the Qashqai for a test drive. In the middle of the day. In the City of Cyclists and near our many pedestrian streets and a main metro station.Kieran Toms, who is interning with Copenhagenize Design Co. at the moment, reported from the front lines. He popped into the "café" with a friend. Kieran, being a modern young man from the UK, doesn't have a driving licence, but his friend took Nissan up on the offer of a test drive. The Nissanite who accompained him extoled the virtues of the car and especially the acceleration. Unfortuntely, they were paralysed in traffic - while hundreds and hundreds of bicycle users rolled part, oblivious to the wonders of last century mobility. Acceleration consisted of crawling ten metres at a time down the streets. Involuntary humour from Nissan.Now Nissan are ramping up their campaign for their car. The film, above, starts with the classic car industry shot of a car alone on a road - like THAT ever happens in a city. The text fades in declaring the Qashqui to be The Ultimate Urban Experience. Which, in reality in Copenhagen, is staring out the window at the rear end of some other car whilst citizens ride bicycles or walk past you.Then they declare they're "Unlocking Copenhagen" for a weekend in March and they've enlisted a minor Danish celebrity Mads Christensen (self-proclaimed biggest braggart in Denmark). He tells us that he'll be the keymaster for unlocking the city, driving around in a Qashqai and challenging the city. Something about all your questions will be answered as they "zig-zag" around the city in March. Totally vague. The film features clips of Copenhagen, including loads of people riding their bicycles, unaffected by Nissan's marketing prowess.Yeah. Whatever.Remember to wave or ring your bell at Nissan and the Braggart when you see them stuck in traffic on the weekend of March 6-8, 2014. Compared to the other examples of Car Industry Strikes Back, this one is hilarious and rather lame.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
In developed cities, new mobility options typically only penetrate the transport ecosystem after governing bodies have developed an institutional framework around the new technology. Emerging economies, however, do not always have the regulatory capacity to standardize regulations and create policy protocols for new transport technologies. Such is the case with China’s e-bikes (short for electric bicycles), which are proving to be a disruptive, bottom-up approach to commuting that is becoming the sustainable alternative to the car for millions. Now is the time for China to embrace this ground-up innovation and move e-bikes further into the mainstream to promote sustainable and accessible transport urban mobility.The emergence of e-bikes in China
The first e-bikes were created in the late 19th century, but their batteries were often too heavy for people to use or too expensive for consumers to buy, preventing e-bikes from reaching economies of scale. E-bikes remained unsafe to ride and are still considered a niche market in the west. In China, however, e-bikes emerged in the 1990s and within six years of their initial introduction, battery life was extended by 160% while price was reduced by 30%. E-bikes today reach speeds of up to 25kmh (15.5 mph), which is greater than the average 16-24 km (10-15 mph) of normal bicycles.
Since e-bikes can go further, faster than traditional bicycles and are still cheaper than automobiles, they serve as the accessible option for China’s emerging middle class. Some 22 million e-bikes are added to China’s roadways each year. In comparison, car ownership has increased by only 12 million per year. Although e-bikes are not technically a public transport option and are still motorized, they are a large step in the right direction.Sustainability and e-bikes
Up to this point, Chinese policy-makers have either banned e-bikes or written them off as a temporary means of transport on a user’s path to owning a car. However, the reverse might be occurring as cities are growing and new urban residents want to spend less on transport. Even for those that own a car, an estimated 30% choose to use their e-bikes for most trips because they are well equipped to weave through China’s crowded streets. This translates into 5.5 million cars that have stayed parked, 18 million barrels of oil that were left unused, and $1.8 billion dollars that have been saved per year.
E-bikes pollute the air of China’s cities less than traditional automobiles, without forcing China’s citizens to desert the desire for private transport. Rather than ignoring e-bikes, now is the time for the Chinese government to accept e-bikes as a viable option for providing urban mobility for its citizens. The time is now to turn instead towards building the institutional capacity to support the growth of e-bikes, make them safer for users, and integrate them into China’s evolving transport network.
The current mayor of Paris – Bertrand Delanoë – is a living liveable city legend. While at the reins of the city for two terms, he has transformed the French capital in so many positive ways.You have to love a mayor quoted as saying, "The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time".30 km/h zones, traffic calming and... the Vélib' bike sharing system are all part of his modern legacy. The number of bicycle users in Paris has increased since the launch of Vélib'. Delanoë, however, is stepping down after the next election. Today we're going to have a critical look at what the frontrunner for the mayoral post in the city, Anne Hildago, is proposing if elected.She is already in charge of urban planning since Delanoë was elected to his second term. She knows the ropes, so to speak.In her agenda, Anne Hidalgo has proposed the following:
- to extend the Vélib' network to the whole metropolitan area.
- to reduce the car speed limit to 30 km/h, excepted on the main boulevard.
- to double the number of bicycle users in 10 years.
- to double the number of bike lanes by creating a north-south lane, a lane on the Champs Elysées, a lane to reach the woods (Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes) and the cities located around Paris, a lane the circumnavigates the city, a lane along the railways, and one along the river.
- to set up more Vélib' stations and bike parking at museum, train stations and schools.
- to set up more signs and wayfinding for bicycle users.
- to redesign the main squares for pedestrians and bicycle users.
- to launch an e-Vélib' (public electric bike).
Less than ten years ago Lyon, France launched the first successful, modern bike-share system. Less than seven years ago Paris, France put bike-sharing in the global spotlight. Bike-sharing is no longer a novel experiment but a proven mobility solution. From the many different models now in existence, it is possible to harness this data to optimize the various bike-share networks. Understanding the metrics behind a successful bike-sharing program allows cities to understand their systems’ weaknesses and address them. The right research can also provide insight into how cities without bike-sharing systems can expand their transport options with lower risk – a vital step towards promoting sustainable mobility solutions in developing cities.Asking the difficult questions
One key challenge in determining how to optimize a bike-sharing system is that systems are created for a variety of different reasons, and “success” can be determined along many different metrics. San Antonio, Texas, for example, sought to reduce high rates of obesity in the area. Hangzhou, China hoped to improve local economic production and employment. San Francisco, California wanted to provide last mile transit access and improve air quality, while Washington, D.C.’s system is designed to promote equity of access amongst neighborhoods. With over 600 unique systems in as many unique cities, researchers are confronted with the challenge of examining myriad systems and honing in on the specific facets of bike-sharing systems that contribute to overall success.Optimizing insights
Even though there are many reasons to improve a bike-sharing system, at the center of every different reason is one goal: transporting many people efficiently. If a bike-share system is not generating high usage or attracting members of the community, it is not meeting this goal.
This idea of many is measured by trips per capita, which is an indicator of market penetration and the intensity of use within the community. Trips per capita are found by dividing the number of trips by the estimation of the population of the coverage zone. If a bike share system’s trips per-capita is low, the system is not having a significant impact on the community.
The idea of efficiency is measured by daily trips per bike, which is an indicator of turnover and intensity of use, which is important for both system efficiency and cost efficiency. If bike turnover is too low, the investment in the system will have a low return in terms of revenue and mobility improvement. Consider it equivalent to a public bus that drives around empty all day. Likewise, too many trips per bike could mean that there are not sufficient bikes to meet demand as bikes are continually in circulation.And the winner is …
A basic scatterplot of the performance of twenty different systems according to these indicators shows that the mobility performance of different bike share systems varies widely. The graph below identifies cities like Barcelona, Montreal, Lyon, and Mexico City, all of which have managed to achieve both high infrastructure usage and high penetration. With paragons of successful bike-sharing systems identified, it is possible to move forward to exactly what business models, policies, and design strategies these successful cities are using to engrain sustainable transport into their municipalities. With this knowledge, cities around the globe can better learn what actions to take to make a highly used, highly impactful bike-sharing network.
Cycling infrastructure is cheaper to build than not to build, part two. Features "old, inferior" infrastructure
I read a story today about how the route between Eindhoven and Valkenswaard in the Netherlands was to be improved. Interestingly, the author of the story put the case that while the new cycle-path would cost €2-3 M, the benefits greatly outweighed the costs. He put the benefits at a value of €8 M due to saving of time for existing commuters and the likelihood that the new route would attract moreDavid Hembrowhttp://email@example.com://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/02/cycling-infrastructure-is-cheaper-to.html
In early 2013, Copenhagenize Design Company developed a design for on-street cargo bike parking that creates space and accessibility for citizens that use cargo bikes on a daily basis. Who else would we team up with for the further development of the product but the brilliant British firm Cyclehoop?After this otherwise great prototype for on-street cargo bike parking was removed due to political decisions in Copenhagen, I started thinking about how to design a solution that would improve parking conditions.After almost three years of working with the EU project Cyclelogistics, cargo bikes have become a main focus of the company. I have two cargo bikes myself and parking is a primary challenge.When you use a cargo bike everyday, you want to have it handy. In many cities, like Copenhagen or Frederiksberg, you find yourself pushing it into the back courtyard because of a lack of secure parking on the street. Cargo bikes are objets de désir for thieves and, unlike regular bicycles, the theft of them is often organised. Most Danish brands are good quality and keep a fair chunk of their market price when sold used. People who do park their cargo bikes out in front of the buildings are forced to lock them to signs, drainpipes and other bits and pieces of urbanness. They often take up a lot of space - easily the space of two regular bikes. So our idea was to design an elegant, functional parking solution for cargo bikes. Prioritising cargo bike parking and giving people extra security.In situ visualisationSurprisingly, cargo bike parking solutions have not been a priority, despite the fact that in Greater Copenhagen there are 40,000 of them. The aforementioned pink car was a step in the right direction and at a shopping centre, Fields, south of the city, dedicated cargo bike parking is in place. But that ain't much. Certainly not with the growth of cargo bikes in cities all over Europe and beyond.The challenge I gave myself included these keywords:Functional. Elegant. Unique. Secure. Sense of security. Flexible. Modular.The rack should look good on the street or outside shops/buildings. It should be a deterrent for thieves and offer the user both security and sense of security when parking on street. I wanted a unique design - most cargo bike solutions involve merely placing a metal railing next to them to which you can lock your bike. Making it flexible meant that it a majority of cargo bike brands should be able to use it. There are over 15 brands in Denmark alone, let alone some foreign ones on the market like Bakfiets and Johnny Loco, so it was important to make sure that as many of them as possible could use it. The primary user was thought to be residents in densely-populated neighbourhoods who could use the Copenhagenize Bar on the street outside where they live, instead of having to muscle the bike into the backyard. Modular was important because the urban landscape is never uniform.After doing the intial drawings and design myself I proposed the idea to Anthony at Cyclehoop and we entered into this partnership. The visualisations and the details that evolved are a great collaborative effort.You simply roll the cargo bike into the space and lower the bar between the seat and the cargo bay.You lock the bar into place with a lock (at left) and you can supplement it with a lock through the bar itself. Many people who park their bikes on street carry two heavy-duty locks. As all bikes in Copenhagen have a wheel lock, this is also invariably locked, as well.Copenhagenize Design Company hit the streets last year and measured every single cargo bike brand on the market. The height of the bar was the most important detail. It had to be placed so that a thief couldn't just take off the back wheel and push it forward under the bar. The majority of cargo bikes have a step-through frame but a couple of them have a crossbar. The Sorte Jernhest (Black Iron Horse) and Bellabike. The design fits all models up to the height of the crossbars on these two brands. Another in situ visualisation. Providing parking for five citizens in the space of two car parking spots. Note: The Copenhagenize Bar will be lower than shown here.The design can be fastened into the asphalt or, if need be, a base plate can be fixed to the ground.In situ visualisation by night, placed on existing car parking area.The Next GenerationCyclehooop and Copenhagenize Design Company are currently developing the next generation. This will feature a subscription service from the municipality or, perhaps, a supermarket chain. A user can order a chip card - like most bike share systems around the world - and when locking the bike, simply lock the internal mechanism by waving the card in front of the panel. This will eliminate the need for having your own lock.See more photos on the Copenhagenize Design Co. website. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Just a couple weeks ago I wrote about our mighty, new Vrachtfiets. But wait, there’s more news at WorkCycles! The WorkCycles Kr8 bike is finally here and (patting self on shoulder) it’s just fantastic! There will actually be two Kr8′s: The two wheeled version of the Cargobike/Long John type seen here, and a linkage steered three-wheeler (wheels turn, box doesn’t). The Kr8 two-wheeler is now available and the trike will be ready later this year. After ten years of selling our Cargobike (Bakfiets.nl sister bike) the Kr8 represents a considerable evolutionary step on every front; It’s much lighter, steers better, has better ergonomics, a better parking stand, more customizable and it can be packed and shipped more easily. Hundreds of important details like the bench seat and its belts have been improved as well.
As with other WorkCycles bikes, the frames and parts are modular. Both Kr8 bike and trike share the same rear end. It’s borrowed from the Fr8 & Gr8, complete with Adaptive Seat Tube which offers great ergonomics to fit practically everybody. Like its siblings the Kr8 will fit riders from somewhat under 160cm to well over 200cm. A huge improvement over our previous Cargobike is the Kr8′s more biomechanically efficient seat tube angle.
Having the Fr8/Gr8 rear end also means that the same rear carriers and accessories fit the Kr8 as well. Two kids on the rear carrier with another four in the box, and one behind the handlebar? Sure, with the Fr8 long rear carrier that’s possible. Can you actually pedal over the bridge like that? No, probably not.
Like the Fr8 and Gr8 the Kr8 also gets WorkCycles’ handy Escape Hatch so the rear tire or inner tube can be easily changed without opening the chaincase or having to adjust drivetrain parts. Separable frames and a box that flat-packs mean that Kr8′s can be packed and shipped more cheaply, with less chance of damage. The Kr8 bike fits in two boxes, each somewhat smaller than those we use for city bikes. WorkCycles exports some 75% of its bikes so the shipping factor is critical.
The Kr8 might very well be the worst kept secret in the history of bikes. We’ve actually been working on them for three years. Why the long development period? The challenge is that Workcycles is ambitious yet small, and we had all that other stuff to do the past few years too. WorkCycles begins production of a new model not on the basis of model years or other marketing based criteria, but when it’s really ready to make customers happy. We vowed that each Kr8 version had to be both unique and better than the competitors on practically every level. So we divided the project up into several components and rolled up our sleeves.
The modular chassis elements described above were the most straightforward part of the project. The rear end is actually a refinement of the unit we’ve been using to build our classic bakfietsen with 8sp gearing and hydraulic brakes. Powerful Magura hydraulic brakes are thus an option on Kr8′s too. These cost more than the standard rollerbrakes but they add braking power for hilly terrain, reduce friction and weight, and make it much easier to fit electric assist. Otherwise Kr8′s will be equipped with maintenance-free Shimano IM80 rollerbrakes.
The front frames are entirely new. The two-wheeled Kr8 has a box of the same length as our previous Cargobike Long, the sister of the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike. The steering geometry, though, has been refined to sharpen its handling and reduce the turning radius. We’ve sold so few short Cargobikes in the last years that we don’t see a need to build one, but we’ll add an Extra Long Delivery version if the demand is there. The new Kr8 trike front end is particularly nice. It’s linkage (ackerman) steered so the box remains fixed while the front wheels turn, car style. That endows it with really easy, stable handling and a remarkably low center of gravity. When the parking brake is engaged with a big handle a foot folds down under the front of the box to prevent tipping. The kids can climb all over this bike with impunity.
Developing a bike chassis might actually be easier than a good passenger compartment, especially one that’s safe, light and flat-packs for shipping. After experimenting with several box concepts we settled on a unique tubular frame with thin wooden panels. It’s several kilos lighter than our current wooden box and more damage resistant too. The current WorkCycles/Clarijs cover and canopy fit the two wheeler’s box and new ones will be designed for the trike. It’s even easy to replace or customize the panels. Want a box with clear, Lexan panels? Aluminium, colored plastic, perforated metal…?
The two-wheeler’s parking stand is also a critical feature yet strangely ignored by most manufacturers. After almost fifteen years on the market Maarten van Andel’s Bakfiets.nl Stabilo stand remained the standard (pun intended) by which others are judged, and all have fallen pathetically short. In it’s current form with magnetic latch the Stabilo is quite good. The Kr8 stand had to be at least as good. It also had to be different, both because Workcycles doesn’t imitate and because the old Stabilo wouldn’t fit the Kr8 anyway. After several tries we’ve succeeded here too. The new Kr8 stand is also a super stable four legger but its simpler, welded construction is more robust. It’s no longer necessary to flip the stand up with your foot; Just roll the bike forward and a spring linkage pushes and holds it up.
As we all know the devil is in the details and there were hundreds of details to work out: routing the cables cleanly, tough and handy benches, trimming weight, engineering the center coupling, making it pretty and actually manufacturable… Just the boxes alone were a big project. The Kr8 two-wheeler is all done and the three-wheeler will follow in a few months. They retain all the goodness of our previous Cargobike yet with improvements throughout:
- The Kr8′s are remarkably light. The two-wheeler is more than 15% lighter than our current Cargobike… and some of the competitors are unspeakably heavy. - The sitting ergonomics, steering geometry and very low center of gravity make them easy and sporty to ride. The Kr8 is a nice bike - Kr8 two-wheeler can be boxed for transport throughout the world. With some more development the trike will be as well. - They look great and can be readily customized with special colors and features.
Needless to say we’re really proud of our new babies. They’re a couple solid evolutionary steps beyond anything else on the market and suitable for a broader range of situations than our previous bikes. The only remaining challenge is to think of better names. Kr8 will stick but how to differentiate the two- and three-wheeled versions? Your suggestions are welcome!
Vibrant parks and public spaces are invaluable in creating sustainable, people-oriented cities. Recently, 8-80 Cities and Fundacion+Espacios organized an opportunity for members of the City Parks Alliance Board of Directors – a group of city park practitioners and advocates – to travel to Mexico City to share best practices in engaging public-private partnerships that support parks. These partnerships, which expand the resource bases for cash-strapped but sustainability-focused cities, are increasingly important for realizing the value of urban parks and public spaces in attracting and keeping city residents and tourists.Parks and public space
Throughout downtown Mexico City, city officials are fostering new connections between urban buildings and streets with parks and open spaces that bring a sense of safety and beauty for pedestrians. The city has narrowed its streets, widened its sidewalks, restored its downtown Alameda and revitalized the historic Chapultepec Park.
In the Alameda, concrete sidewalks have been replaced with marble, while more reliable and aesthetic structures have succeeded tarp-covered vendor stands thanks to an infusion of US$18 million in public funding. The newly opened park, anchored by the Palacio de Bellas Artes, is a respite in the midst of this bustling city – the second largest in the world – and the small businesses surrounding the park have even seen an enormous spike in visitors.
Chapultepec Park is to Mexico City what Central Park is to New York. 18 million visitors come to the park annually, 60% of which are families. To help with implementation of its 2006 master plan the city partnered with the nonprofit conservancy, Probosque Chapultepec, whose goal was to match city efforts in ensuring the preservation, rehabilitation and remodeling of Chapultepec Park.
With the help of Probosque Chapultepec, the city has made progress in the three phases of remodeling Chapultepec Park. In 2008, the first phase of the park restoration won an ASLA design award, and the park now sees as many as 250,000 visitors on Sunday afternoons alone.Parks and partnerships
Like many cities, Mexico City is learning how to structure and use partnerships to create, renovate, and operate parks. Chapultepec Park is a successful example of an outreach effort that stretched citywide in recognition of the park’s history and connection to urban residents. In 2001, conversations with then-Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador led to the organization of a Citizen’s Regent Group (Consejo Rector Ciudadano) and a Board of Donors (Fideicomiso Revive Chapultepec). Together with city officials and park administrators, these groups set themselves to the job of creating a master plan to restore the park. In an effort unprecedented for any Mexican city, half of the money for restoration was collected from individual donations, including one million donors at metro stations and supermarkets.
Meeting the operating needs of the park, however, is a work in progress, and the city hopes to build on the success of its capital fundraising. Mexico City, like cities across the developed and developing worlds, has learned that maintaining signature parks – those visible and well-used central parks like Chapultepec – is challenging without long-term investment from private partners. While there is a history of welcoming partners in Mexico’s parks, particularly informal commerce, park managers are now engaging these businesses and service providers in new ways to better shape the overall park experience. This includes policies that regulate the hours of vendors so they are open when people come and improving coordination of where vendors are stationed to match demand. The collective impact of these efforts shape people’s experiences within the park.Looking ahead to vibrant parks and urban public spaces
Parks play an important role in cities, serving as places of recreation and beauty, respites from concrete streets, and subtly increasing people’s appreciation of the environment and influencing the individual decision to walk or drive. Good design is important, but underlying design decisions are management choices, whether they be developing vendor relationships or creating ‘friends of the park’ groups. As urban residents and visitors come to expect more from their parks and public spaces, the role of partnerships is likely to grow with the ability of the private sector to bring value, funding, and insight into managing and sustaining parks for the benefit of diverse users while enhancing quality of life in cities.
When a new urban redevelopment scheme is proposed, developers and city officials typically take three primary concerns into account. One: how the development will be financed, and in turn, what economic benefits it can bring. Two: urban infrastructure’s environmental impact and sometimes its own sustainability. Three: how to gain the support of local stakeholders to implement the project. With the environmental, economic and governance dimensions of sustainable development considered, the social dimension is often a lower priority. Developers sometimes assess the social and health impacts of established plans but don’t integrate social factors into planning and design. Cities are dynamic places. Public areas, housing, and transport hubs all offer unique opportunities for developers to create potential positive social impacts and benefits that include strengthening community bonds, enabling access to jobs, and making streets safer for all.
Cathy Baldwin, Research Fellow, and Robin King, Director, Urban Development and Accessibility at EMBARQ, are investigating how planners, designers and builders can integrate social objectives into key stages of development plans, from scheme conception, design choices, to ongoing monitoring and evaluation to bring lasting social benefits to communities. This idea of “social sustainability” – the successful functioning and long term existence of communities – is evolving. There are few clear examples of how this emerging paradigm can work to improve urban development practices in the developing world. This article is an introduction to how social sustainability can positively impact urban communities; simultaneously, it is a request for your contribution to finding clear, powerful examples of this thinking in the real world.Social thinking from the start
In 2000, Bogotá, Colombia opened its Transmilenio bus rapid transit (BRT) system to the public. From the early planning stages, the Transmilenio network was designed to provide access to jobs for the primarily low-income communities that live on the periphery of the city. Transmilenio’s success in improving social equity by providing free feeder buses connecting low-income areas to main routes supports a larger idea: beginning every urban development decision by stressing the good of its social impacts and benefits lays the groundwork for innovative solutions to integrate equitable practices into cities’ transport policies, benefiting residents across socioeconomic statuses.Designs that support social and cultural outcomes
Large-scale policy decisions have far-reaching social impacts, while small-scale urban design choices can influence individuals’ interactions with one another. For example, neighborhoods in the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, with its history of sectarian division, contain areas that are the marked territory of either Protestant and Catholic communities. Even the smallest details – like which side of the sidewalk one walks on, the colors of flagstones, the direction from which one enters a building – can be powerful delineators of territory and ethnic identity. In one case, a developer who wanted to build a housing complex for younger tenants with less exposure to sectarianism hired anthropologists to ensure the development met this goal. The developer tasked these social scientists with exploring the ways that street features and individuals’ movements in particular signified their ethnic identities. These social scientists recommended locating entrances to the complex in neutral areas so that residents could enter without revealing their ethnic identity. All developers can learn from this example about the social and cultural ramifications of design decisions for specific communities and contexts. Then, they should make an effort in their designs to support similarly positive outcomes.Ongoing monitoring of social input
The way that social input is incorporated into urban design and building requires ongoing monitoring and evaluation. This ensures that social objectives are met, plans followed, and future projects are better informed. Thailand’s Ministry of Health found a way to assess the health and social impacts of The Garden City Project – a scheme to build parks, gardens and green spaces in Yala, Thailand – for public benefit. After the project’s completion, street vendors and residents were observed and interviewed in the new green areas. Researchers found increased socialization with friends and newcomers and greater opportunities for income generation, informing a set of recommendations for local authorities to further improve the project and the lives of the residents of Yala.A new measure of success
While not yet given the focus it deserves, urban developers are becoming mindful of the business benefits of incorporating social thinking that improves the wellbeing and quality of life for urban communities. In doing so, they grow their awareness of the need to consider social sustainability in order to fulfill sustainable development incentives. There are linkages between people’s wellbeing and quality of life and a range of factors, including a) their economic productivity; b) government spending on public services; c) political stability; and d) safety and security in a nation. These can all affect conditions for developers and stakeholders’ willingness to support a project. Finding more examples of the difference social thinking makes in a development’s ability to increase quality of life is imperative towards creating a new conception of a development’s success.Get in touch!
Cathy Baldwin is on the lookout for more examples of projects, particularly but not exclusively from developing world, that show how integration of social thinking into urban development scheme conception, design choices, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation has had positive impacts on the affected communities. Get in touch or leave a comment below to start a conversation.