Ken Livingstone’s Lessons for Congestion Charging and City Leadership

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 11:26am

Under the leadership of Ken Livingstone, London has become an global example for using congestion charging to improve urban mobility. Photo by mariordo59/Flickr.

Ken Livingstone, the first ever mayor of London, known for implementing one of the largest congestion charge zones in the world, will come to Brazil in September for the Mayors´ Summit and the Cities & Transport International Congress. Here is an exclusive interview for TheCityFix and WRI Brasil | EMBARQ Brasil.

Ken Livingstone served as the mayor of London from 2000 to 2008 and implemented a series of innovative measures in the city including the pedestrianization of public spaces, improved public transport, and priority bus corridors. Among his most recognized initiatives was a congestion charging policy, which has transformed mobility in London and inspired cities around the world.

Congestion charging means that car drivers must pay a specified fee to access certain parts of the city—usually the city center. The policy aims to balance the supply (space on city streets) and demand (people’s desire to get downtown by car). Thus, congestion charging uses a market-based mechanism to ensure there roads aren’t congested with an excessive number of cars.

The first congestion charging program was pioneered by Singapore in 1975. However, unlike Singapore, London consulted the public heavily to develop the policy, making the case for reducing traffic use in the city and shifting to more sustainable transport. The program has successfully reduced the number of cars in downtown areas by 30 percent and has encouraged residents to use the bus and subway systems, bike, and walk. Similar initiatives have since been adopted in cities like Stockholm and Milan.

Ken Livingstone will attend the Mayors’ Summit and the Cities & Transport International Congress from September 9 – 11 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The events are hosted by WRI Brasil | EMBARQ Brasil as part of EMBARQ Brasil’s 10th anniversary celebration. For more information and to register, visit

How can we fundamentally change how our cities operate? What are the biggest challenges that cities face in improving equity and livability?

The greatest challenge is that our cities are growing rapidly, while at the same time they need to cope with greater pollution and climate change. This requires a 20-30 year strategic plan that can bring together businesses, local communities, and the public sector.

How can cities can become leaders and successfully implement innovative solutions and new management strategies? What is the role of cities and city leaders in the international economic and development agenda?

Across the world, it is often cities that have initiated change ahead of national governments, particularly in countries with strong regional governments like Germany and the United States. Singapore’s congestion charging scheme (which laid the groundwork for London’s) is slowly spreading around the world as people are recognizing that it works. The breathtaking changes implemented by Governor Brown of California are setting the highest standards in the world for tackling climate change.

What can cities do to help tackle climate change?

Cities are the answer to tackling climate change. The concentration of millions of people allows for both efficient transport systems without car reliance and sustainable energy systems. In just the last 15 years, London has seen a 50 percent increase in public transport usage. It’s often in the richest areas of cities like London and New York where we are seeing the biggest growth in public transport usage.

You were able to reduce traffic congestion in London by limiting car access in downtown areas. How did you approach congestion charging? What have you learned from your experience as London’s mayor?

Because congestion charging had been working for decades in Singapore, we were able to learn from their experience, carefully working on the details of planning and implementation to ensure that nothing went wrong on the start date. What I learned as mayor is to keep a firm grip on bureaucracy, pay attention to detail, and ensure that key advisers monitor and evaluate development.

What supports the idea that mayors are much better placed than national governments to make progress in the 21st century?

National governments and parliaments debate laws that mayors and governors have to cope with in the day to day of running their cities. Often, debate may continue on for years at the national level, whereas a mayor who is unable to tackle the problem of pot holes or traffic congestion is unlikely to be re-elected.

Building on this, what are your expectations for the Mayors’ Summit and the Cities & Transport International Congress next September in Rio?

Cities from across the world will gather in Rio to exchange ideas, share experiences, and demonstrate to national governments their leadership on these issues. Over the decades to come, I expect an irreversible shift of power from national governments to the cities.

What is the phrase or idea you want to share with the world? 

Devolve power to your cities if you want to save the planet.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on

About the Cities & Transport International Congress: Hear from over 80 experts about successful strategies and best practices for making innovative and sustainable urban solutions work on the ground. Join as Jaime Lerner, Ken Livingstone, Enrique Peñalosa, Mary Jane Ortega, and other internationally recognized mayors speak about their experiences. See more and register at

Categories: Europe

How Cities Are Shaping International Relations

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 7:00am

With the help of collaborative networks for learning, cities like Shanghai are emerging as global leaders and innovators. Photo by H4g2/Flickr.

It can be easy to overlook foreign policy at a city level, given that high-profile agreements are typically made between national governments. However, while countries negotiate international security deals, trade partnerships, and climate agreements, the power of cities to develop their own foreign policy is growing.

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and the United Nations estimates that by 2050, two-thirds will live in cities. In the next 13 years, 600 cities will account for nearly 65 percent of global GDP growth. With this explosion in the economic power of cities, it is not surprising that cities are taking foreign policy matters into their own hands. In particular, cities such as Tokyo, New York and Paris—those with higher concentrations of global organizations, businesses, and educational and cultural institutions—are increasingly working together to tackle common challenges like poverty, aging infrastructure, and climate change.

With national governments stymied by political gridlock and leaders often disconnected from the local context and, international networks of cities provide a forum in which cities learn from each other. Cities are well-positioned to take the reins, given their economic and human capital and their smaller, more nimble governments. In the same way that global national leaders convene in summits like the G20, cities are positioned to form their own partnerships to work toward common goals at the local level beyond national borders.‎

Cities worldwide are engaging in global collaborative networks

Cities worldwide have been forming their own associations and networks to enable collaboration on issues such as the environment, transport, energy efficiency, and economic development.

For example, C40 is a network of approximately 70 major cities worldwide that have come together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond national-level agreements. The impact of these agreements can be significant globally: C40 estimates that its member cities have the potential to reduce their future emissions by 1.3 billion tons by 2030—more than the total emissions of Mexico and Canada combined. C40 is currently chaired by the mayor of Rio de Janeiro and includes major cities—like Jakarta, London, and Buenos Aires—on every continent.

Similarly, Cities for Mobility is a worldwide, city-led network that works to develop sustainable and efficient transport systems in more than 550 cities from 76 countries. Coordinated by the City of Stuttgart in Germany, it promotes global, city-level cooperation between local governments, transport operators, the private sector, the scientific community, and civil society. While the organization’s efforts are simultaneously taking place at the local and transnational levels, its mission is to link experts with insights on the social, economic, and ecological aspects of urban mobility. For example, MOVIMAN served as a “mobility manager” to provide planning agencies and transportation companies with information on the specific demand for mobility within a given area. The goal was to achieve a balance of supply and demand.

Metropolis, a network of more than 130 cities with over one million residents, serves as an international forum for exploring solutions to challenges common to big cities and metropolitan regions. One of their objectives is to “represent and give international political visibility to metropolitan interests,” underscoring cities’ unique interests and circumstances.

Although these organizations do not aim to change national foreign policy, their collaboration and innovative problem solving advances the issues that both national and city governments care about deeply.

Representing local interests overseas

While cross-regional organizations and interest groups offer one way to work across borders, national governments may be hearing from major cities more frequently and more directly. A potential next step for some cities might be to open embassy-like institutions. Countries have embassies in all corners of the world to help their citizens and promote their interests overseas. The focus of a “city embassy” might be a bit different – to promote trade for local businesses, to highlight prominent cultural institutions and draw tourists, or to form a more official relationship with the host city government. These offices would serve as hubs for cities to support local businesses that want to expand their markets, educational institutions that want to draw foreign students, or nonprofits that want to collaborate internationally.

The ultimate effects and implications of global cities developing and pursuing their own international agendas are unknown. However, it is realistic to imagine cities having a more pronounced influence within their respective countries and on the international level. According to former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “This trend will only accelerate as global cities grow, so we need to better understand the dynamics between global cities of the future and traditional nation-states in order to tackle twenty-first century challenges.” Albright, along with other leading voices in international relations, will discuss the implications of global cities’ foreign policies at the Chicago Forum on Global Cities in Chicago from May 27-29. Shedding light on the local-level nuances of international relations will help both cities and countries as they continue to look for ways to work together.

Categories: Europe

How Public Spaces Make Cities More People-Oriented

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 05/27/2015 - 11:09am

Picnickers in Mexico City reclaim a freeway median as public space. Photo by Ben Welle/Flickr.

Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Every month features a new theme. Leaning on the expertise of researchers and specialists in WRI’s sustainable urban mobility team in Brazil, the series will feature in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, gender, resilience, and other key themes for sparking more sustainable development in our cities.

In the late 19th century, the car emerged as a promise of freedom and independence. Could anyone have imagined at the time that after more than a century of development, that we would now be moving the opposite direction, returning streets to their main function—as public spaces for people?

Many public areas have been gradually forgotten—no longer safe living spaces that move people. In order for cities to be vibrant and safe places, we need to think of them as systems of interdependent parts and complex connections, as interactive and social spaces. Reclaiming urban spaces for people is part of how we can humanize our cities and make our streets more communal. Public spaces are often more than anonymous places that can be replaced with one another: the meetings and exchanges that occur here affect our relationships with each other, giving meaning to our communities and urban landscapes.

Previously in our series, we talked about the role that public spaces play in cities as vibrant centers of social interaction, economic activity, and urban greenery. Now, we’re taking a look at some examples of these spaces and how they’ve become vital to the communities they serve. These initiatives have changed their local communities, returning the streets to whom they rightfully belong: people.

The High Line, New York City

Green spaces in cities, such as New York’s High Line, promote an active, sustainable lifestyle for city residents. Photo by David Berkowitz/Flickr.

The High Line in New York is often considered one of the greatest examples in the world of how idle urban space was revitalized. Built on an unused railway, the elevated park has turned an area of New York once full of violence and crime into one of the liveliest public areas of the city. The initial proposal was to demolish the old railway. However, Friends of the High Line was founded to advocate for preserving the railway. With plenty of greenery and pedestrian infrastructure, the park stretches over 2.3 km in one of the busiest areas of New York—on the west side of Manhattan—and attracts millions of visitors every year. The High Line is an iconic example of how people can reuse neglected parts of the city to improve quality of life for local residents.

Banks of the Seine, Paris

Reinventing waterfronts, like the Seine River in Paris, is one way that cities are revitalizing urban spaces for public use. Photo courtesy of the Paris Mayor’s Office.

Revitalization of the Seine River waterfront in Paris, Berges de la Seine, began in 2010 with a series of public consultations and a goal of returning the river to residents. A stretch of land about 2.5 kilometers long between the Pont Royal and the Pont de l’Alma was closed to cars and re-oriented toward people. The project has radically changed the waterfront by implementing sports facilities, art installations, space of musical performances, restaurants, and open space for leisure. Furthermore, the Jardin Flottant floating garden of 1,800 square meters connects five islands to each other. Each of these man-made islands has a different identity and varying vegetation, representing the Seine’s natural species. Blogger and journalist Renata Rocha Inforzato maintains an online guided tour of the waterfront, documenting how this space contributes to the vibrant center of the French capital.

People St, Los Angeles 

PeopleSt in Los Angeles is one example of residents using tactical urbanism to reclaim public space and make their streets more human-centered. Photo by LA DOT/Flickr.

People St is a program created by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation that allows residents—through partnerships and community centers—to request parkletsplazas, and bicycle corrals in their communities. By providing pre-approved models, People St cuts out the bureaucracy that typically stalls these projects. Plaza projects account for the largest share of their programs, and two successful case studies have emerged since the launch of the initiative: the Sunset Triangle Plaza, created in 2012 in Silver Lake, and the NoHo Plaza in North Hollywood. These projects often involve closing the street to cars, completely transforming streets into people-oriented gathering spots with tables, chairs, umbrellas, greenery, and more.

Tactical Urbanism

Two men sit at a makeshift concrete table in Antofagasta, Chile, where tactical urbanism is a growing trend. Photo by Pablo Guerra/Flickr.

Tactical urbanism brings several possibilities under one umbrella term. The movement encourages residents to make small interventions to city spaces to improve public spaces. These often low-cost projects are designed to transform empty spaces, and initiatives may range from something relatively simple like revamping a space in disuse, to constructing a Parklet. However, the goal is the same: to return street space to people .

One example is the Better Block, which began in Dallas five years ago. Using cheap and recycled materials, the group turned one block in the Oak Cliff neighborhood into a pleasant and attractive environment. Musicians, artists and local merchants were invited to join the initiative, which installed bike paths, street furniture, vegetation and temporary kiosks, increasing space for people and decreasing space for cars. The initiative has changed the face of the neighborhood, from empty and seldom used to cheerful and vibrant.

Facilitating simple changes, tactical urbanism encourages people to take ownership of their communities and rethink how their meetings and exchanges enable vibrant public spaces. In Brazil, two examples are Passanela and Oficina de Mobilario, a furniture workshop organized by Cidade Ativa. Passanela produced a skywalk over Rebouças Avenue in São Paulo, in order to increase pedestrian accessibility. The Cidade Ativa workshop did the same with the Steps of Alves Guimarães, adding street furniture to areas around the stairs, creating a space where people can stop to rest and chat.

Photos by the Passanela Project and Cidade Ativa.

Streets as Public Spaces

Long-term planning as well as rapid and inexpensive transformation strategies can be powerful tools to encourage public participation and improve quality of life. When it comes to public spaces, we think of parks, squares and green areas, often forgetting streets, which collectively are usually the largest public space in cities. The way in which streets are used, for the movement of people or vehicles, will define the environment around them. The first step in making cities safer and more pleasant places to live is to get residents to view their streets as public spaces.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

The Desire Lines of Cyclists – The Global Study – is in the starting block

Copenhagenize - Wed, 05/27/2015 - 8:11am
Copenhagenize Design Co. has decided to take our unique Desire Lines Analysis Tool to the world. We are launching a new project that will span continents.The Desire Lines of Cyclists – The Global Study – is the natural evolution of our original Desire Lines analysis of cyclist behaviour and how cyclists react to urban design called The Choreography of an Urban Intersection. The results of which were unveiled by CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen at Velo-City 2013 in Vienna. This study from Copenhagen in 2012 was based on video-recorded observations of 16,631 cyclists during a 12 hour period. We explored the anthropological details of bicycle users and how they interact with other traffic users and the existing urban design. Three categories of cyclists were identified: Conformists, Momentumists, and Recklists. Choreography of an Urban Intersection and Copenhagenize fixesThanks to this study we created a new methodology to analyse urban life: the Desire Line Analysis Tool, which is designed mostly to decode the Desire Lines of cyclists. The main purposes of the analysis is to get a thorough understanding of bicycle users and to rethink intersections to fit modern mobility needs. Like William H. Whyte before us, we want first to observe people. We employ anthropology and sociology directly to urban planning - something we feel is sorely lacking.With increasing focus on re-establishing the bicycle as transport in cities around the world, understanding the behaviour and, indeed, the basic urban anthropology of bicycle users is of utmost importance. Rethinking the car-centric design of intersections and infrastructure is necessary if we are to redesign our cities for new century mobility patterns. Desire Lines of cyclists turned into a permanent lane in Copenhagen Until now there has not been any concrete way of mapping cyclist behaviour. Copenhagenize Design Company’s techniques utilise Direct Human Observation in order to map cyclist behaviour - and gather a motherlode of valuable data from it.These two last years at Copenhagenize, urban planners, anthropologists and urban designers have worked on testing, improving and realising new studies in Copenhagen. Using the city as an actual-size laboratory, we observed, analysed, mapped thousands of cyclists' behavior. You can watch our video here, and read our studies here, here, here, here, and here.Afterwards, we went to Amsterdam, a city considered as a model for many urban planners, and in  collaboration with The University of Amsterdam, Copenhagenize Design Co. worked on nine intersections and 19,500 bicycle users. Cyclists riding side by side in AmsterdamNow, we want to expand our proven methodology to other cities around the world and compare different approaches of bicycle urbanism focusing on the way cyclists react to urban design. This study will take us to Europe, South and North America, Asia and Africa. Cycling is booming everywhere in the world and municipalities are investing in infrastructure across many cities. Nevertheless, data are lacking and a deep understanding of cyclists' behavior and expectations is required. It’s the right moment to get a thorough understanding of the current situation and avoid well known hurdles in the design of infrastructure to match cyclists expectations.We will start this global study in the two world-wide bicycle friendly cities, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and use them as references of the study.Then, we will study intersections in Cape Town (South Africa), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Mexico City (Mexico). Finally, we will analyse bicycle users crossing an intersection in New York City (US), Paris (France) and Tokyo (Japan). 3 metropolis, 3 different ways to design urban infrastructure and to manage cycling policy. Cyclist on a Vélib in Paris sharing the lane with busesWe will compare all these cyclists and figure out the balance between the behaviour due to varying infrastructure - or lack thereof - and the bicycle culture/habits of the inhabitants. We’ll highlight both the cultural differences and the universality of human behaviour. We truly believe that well-designed infrastructure leads to better behaviour from cyclists - whereas the lack of consideration for cyclists when municipalities design bike infrastructure leads to negative behaviour.In each city we will team up with a local partner, and we are extremely glad to announce that we will work with the organisations Future Cape Town, ITDP Brazil and 3x3 in New York City. Copenhagenize is also keen on working in close cooperation with the local authorities and has already get the support of the municipalities of Paris and Amsterdam. Our local partners and us are searching for financial support to make the most of the project in each city.The more data and knowledge that will be gathered on cyclists, the higher the chances are that towns will be turned into bike-friendly cities with all the right infrastructure. The results will be presented using maps, statistics, qualitative analyses and appealing graphic representations. We will reveal how people respect or disrespect infrastructure, how they interact with pedestrians and motorists, what are their normal trajectories and Desire Lines. All bicycle-friendly cities should have a perfect knowledge of the evolution of the number of cyclists, but also a sociological big picture of them and a deep understanding of their behavior.  Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Live the City 2015 Shows How 5 Cities Are Prioritizing People Over Cars

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 1:30pm

Barcelona’s urban mobility plan prioritizes people over cars, outlining clear steps for improving pedestrian infrastructure between 2013 and 2018. Photo by Dylan Passmore/Flickr.

In cities around the world, urban residents want to live well, with access to jobs, education, healthcare and public space. However, because many of our current practices are inflicting burdensome social and economic costs on our cities, we need to increase our focus on efficient solutions and sustainable urban development.

Cities play the role of laboratories, experimenting with innovative solutions to mobility challenges that have arisen due to widespread car reliance. METROPOLIS—a global association of major metropolises—hosted its annual conference, Live the City, this year in Buenos Aires from May 18-21. In a session on sustainable urban mobility, public transit representatives from Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Johannesburg, and Barcelona presented stories of how their cities are experimenting with sustainable transport solutions.

Here are five stories of cities making steps toward a people-oriented future, committing to moving people more efficiently and equitably.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Preparing to host the Olympics in 2016, Rio has been developing low-carbon solutions to urban mobility challenges and is looking to become a globally recognized leader in the field. A multi-modal system of transport is constantly expanding to serve the city’s 6.3 million residents—including quality bike infrastructure, a cable car system, and a bus rapid transit (BRT) network. The BRT system alone serves nine million people and saves people 7.7 million hours in travel time every month, replacing an average of 126 cars and reducing carbon emissions by 38 percent in some corridors. This year, Rio also won the Sustainable Transport Award for its work in sustainable mobility.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Winner of the Sustainable Transport Award in 2014, Argentina’s capital has developed a sustainable urban mobility plan that prioritizes active transport and road safety. One of the measures, for example, targets 36 city intersections to reduce the risk of accidents. The city has also developed an urban design manual, the Street Design Guide for Buenos Aires, which outlines methodologies for planning pedestrian-friendly streets and implementing traffic calming interventions.

Seoul, South Korea

The Cheonggye River in Seoul, South Korea is a great example of how cities can use public spaces to revitalize the local economy and improve quality of life for residents. Photo by Kimmo Räisänen/Flickr.

An iconic park lies in the heart of South Korea’s capital. The Cheonggye Stream Park provides the city with valuable public space that was once the site of an urban highway. Returning the city back to citizens and revitalizing the local community, the park was developed because the highway was costing the city economically and socially.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s urban mobility plan—which includes a series of reforms between 2013 and 2018—prioritizes pedestrians. Some of the plan’s measures include expanding sidewalk access and comfort, improving pedestrian infrastructure near school areas, and targeting public perception of active transport with outreach initiatives and communications campaigns. In addition to the pedestrian, the city is focusing on cyclists and public transport. Barcelona’s plan also includes air pollution targets below those set by the European Union and 20-30 percent reduction targets for traffic fatalities and injuries.

Johannesburg, South Africa

The South African city will make history this year by hosting the second-ever EcoMobility World Festival. For an entire month, one of Johannesburg’s districts will go car-free. The first Festival took places in Suwon, South Kore in 2013, and now the South African city of 1.4 million residents is about to spur transformation at a local level. The initiative demonstrates courage and determination on behalf of the city to further the movement toward low-carbon mobility and better quality of life.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

Categories: Europe

WorkCycles Hoodies Again!

Henry WorkCycles - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 9:53am

Back when WorkCycles was about as much hobby as business I snapped a few photos of a cool bike I’d built for a customer, played around with some Photoshop filters and made a ghostlike image that looked like it’d be cool on a t-shirt or hoodie. My friend Stella (who also created the current WorkCycles logo and graphic style in 2007) cleaned up my amateurish Photochopping and passed it on More Color, our neighbors in the Veemarkt who do really fine, durable silkscreening. They were very popular; For several years we’d have More Color make a fresh batch each autumn. Here below is the original WorkCycles Kruisframe hoodie, modelled by my lovely wife Kyoko.

Eventually we got a little tired of always making hoodies, T-shirts and shop aprons with the same design. Along came Zeptonn, über hip illustrator and new papa. We wanted some new designs and Zeptonn really needed a WorkCycles bike to carry his freshly delivered, precious cargo around Groningen, bicycle capital of the world. Done deal. We like bartering here at WorkCycles!

We were super psyched about our funny new hoodies and T-shirts with our very own family of Amsterdammetjes characters. We had LOTS of them made in anticipation of great demand. We wore them proudly. Our kids wore them proudly. Our customers?… Meh. “Do you have any more of the other kind?” they asked, “You know, the ones with the pastoorsfiets, the bike that seems to hover on your chest?” We still dig the Zeptonn kit and we did eventually sell all of them, but man, it took years to do so.

Is that not just too cute or what?

OK, fine, we’re bike builders not fashion designers. We’re good at designing bikes you love, buy, ride and rave about. Less so when it comes to clothes. I guess I got lucky once.

So now after a couple years’ hiatus it’s high time for more WorkCycles hoodies and aprons. We’ve unfortunately learned that Zeptonn’s worms are just too darn hip for our customers, yet we cannot bear to make more of the originals that everybody keeps asking for. Did I mention yet today how badly we suck at marketing? Probably we could sell the old Kruisframe accessories until the cockroaches take over the earth yet we refuse to do so. Solution to our own self-inflicted problem? Months of fettling and internal strife to create WorkCycles Crossframe Hoodie 2.0!

Introducing our new design. It’s just like the original… only better. Look carefully and you’ll see that the old one was a WorkCycles classic Kruisframe. The new one is a WorkCycles Fr8 Crossframe. Even the graphic design has been refined to help this one to really pop like a sort of neo-retro hologram in your chest.

Above the apron, though of course the new ones will have the new design.

Here’s the thing though; WorkCycles is a little bike company, not a fashion house. We’re just not into maintaining an inventory of clothes in a range of styles, sizes and colors. Displaying them, keeping them clean, folded and organized, helping customers decide which color and size is best… I guess our eyes just glaze over while we stress about the all the bikes to build and ship.

We’re keeping it simple this time. We’ll do a run of hoodie sweatshirts and shop/kitchen aprons. As always the hoodies will be nice, heavy, long wearing cotton. Our previous tries with organic cotton have been disappointing; They just weren’t of the same quality as the evil cotton versions. We’re going to search further though for really good, organic cotton hoodies. The kids’ hoodies were a hit last time so we’ll do those again too, sizes TBD. The aprons will be, as always, long and heavy-duty, equally handy for protecting your clothes in the workshop, kitchen or behind the summer BBQ. Color options? Everything in black, black or black baby!

Most of the run will be sold on a pre-order basis. You get a better price but have to be a bit patient. We’ll print a handful more for stock but if you want one I really recommend the preorder. Once these are sold out I have absolutely no idea when we’ll have more made. Maybe never.

Prices (all Ex VAT): – Hoodies S-XXL €40 – Kids’ Hoodies €30 – Aprons €30

How to Order: Send a mail to peopleatworkcyclesdotcom. Please include… – Your name – Address, City, Postal code, Country – Phone number (we need it for shipping) – What you’d like to order in which sizes

Payment can be by PayPal, credit card or bank but please don’t mail any payment info. We’ll reply with the options and a secure link.

We’re happy to ship them anywhere in the world but unfortunately shipping small items outside Europe tends to be too expensive. Maybe you want to purchase a new WorkCycles bike have the hoodie shipped along with it?

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: 3 Ways Mobile Technology is Transforming Bus Travel

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 9:23am

Mobile-based technology is transforming bus travel in cities like Jinotega, Nicaragua and making public transit more responsive to the needs of local communities. Photo by Adam Cohn/Flickr.

In the last fifty years, bus systems have evolved significantly as a mode of public transit. From the onset of bus rapid transit (BRT) in the mid-1970s to the growing variety of alternative fuel options—including  cooking oil and human waste (known as the Bio-Bus)—there have been continuous improvements to bus mechanics, decreasing its environmental impact. Examples like the Bio-Bus, as the Sustainable Collective notes, demonstrate that there’s a lot of promise for innovating bus travel. Considering these progressive changes, the future of bus innovation is bright.

Technology has perhaps the most direct influence on public transit innovation. Some commentators have even said that smartphones alone are “the most important transportation innovation of this decade.” In the context of bus travel, this includes mobile ticket purchasing, mobile location tracking, and opportunities for Internet access and data collection.

Mobile Ticket Purchasing Is Convenient and Efficient

In terms of purchasing tickets, smartphones will likely play a critical role in future bus travel. Many public transit systems in cities worldwide have been transitioning to e-tickets in recent years. For example,  Redbus led the move throughout India toward online ticket sales about 10 years ago. Now, the company serves more than 80,000 destinations and 1,500 operators. While their service does not apply to public transit, it has helped reinforce the trend toward mobile ticket sales.

Around three years ago, an Israeli start-up called HopOn created a “high-frequency sound-wave technology” that allows riders to buy tickets on the bus, without adding time to the scheduled route. Although the buses needed to be outfitted with transmitters, David Mezuman, one of the founders, describes the new technology as the “simplest way to pay for the bus by smartphone.”

Even in the past three years, technology has evolved considerably, and now an e-ticket can be bought online and verified in-person by the bus driver. For instance, in early 2015, Los Angeles developed LA Mobile, an app for buying bus tickets. However, LA Mobile has not yet standardized ticketing for all modes and lines of public transit throughout the county. Once these become integrated, it is likely that traveling by public transit will be much easier and popular.

Additionally, mobile ticket purchasing has become even more popular as more and more buses no longer accept cash for onboard fares. For example, as of 2014, the Transport for London buses stopped accepting cash. Cash on Tap, which offers an app-based payment system, is now one of the preferred payment methods across London’s public transit system.

Mobile Apps Provide Users with Information about Bus Locations

In addition to mobile ticket sales, some cities have started to incorporate smartphone technology to track buses on their routes. In Washington D.C., 64 Circulator buses now feature onboard smartphone technology for location tracking. This location data is available through RideDC and can be visualized through mobile-based apps. Not only is it an effective way of determining the current location of a bus, it costs little

However, in some cities, it’s difficult to pinpoint the locations of bus stops. Since Costa Rica does not have a single bus operator, Costa Rica’s public transit system once lacked a comprehensive platform for bus route information. Therefore, the website (and now app) BusMaps Costa Rica was created to help integrate the process. The platform provides a map of around 2,000 bus stops and over 30 routes. Integrating the country’s public transportation options will improve country-wide travel and is a step forward for mobile-accessible transit information.

Better Data Make City Services More Responsive to Local Needs

Bus technologies are also being used as a way to inform city maintenance decisions. For example, Porto, Portugal utilizes data from sensor-equipped buses to highlight areas along bus routes in need of maintenance. Approximately 600 buses and taxis in Porto now carry sensors that collect data. Across the city, these buses are also creating a portable Wi-Fi network with built-in routers, bringing buses into the so-called “Internet of Moving Things.”

Public Wi-Fi coverage has even expanded beyond the bus itself to stations and stops. Since 2013, Barcelona has developed “smart bus stops” (or smartquesine). These digitized bus stops now include “interactive digital public information screens,” which present maps and other relevant information to riders.

These examples demonstrate that technology can help lay the groundwork for smarter bus systems, making public transportation responsive to residents’ mobility efficiently and sustainably.

Categories: Europe

TheCityFix Is Looking for a Writing and Editing Intern!

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 12:50am

TheCityFix, produced by the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, is now accepting applications for a full-time Writing and Editing in its Washington, DC headquarters. Are you up for the challenge? Photo by Carlos Felipe Pardo/Flickr.

Are you passionate about creating sustainable, thriving cities? Do you have the skills to translate complex, technical material into compelling content for an engaged online community? Do you want to work for a top-tier environment and global development research organization?

TheCityFix, an online network dedicated to advancing the conversation on sustainable cities and urban mobility, is now accepting applications for a Writing and Editing Intern in its Washington, D.C office. TheCityFix is produced by the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, a new global program working to improve quality of life for millions of people around the world.

Read on for more information, or apply today.

About the Job

The WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities is seeking a creative professional to assist its Marketing and Communications team in generating content for blog and news section, as well as monthly email newsletters. This internship is ideal for recent graduates or early-career professionals in communications, marketing, public relations, environmental studies, urban studies, English, liberal arts, or related studies. You will get real world experience in a fast-paced environment. Internships may vary in length depending on your schedule, interest, and abilities.

The WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities integrates WRI’s global analysis and builds on its on-the-ground experience in urban planning, sustainable transport, energy, climate change, water management, and governance. The Center galvanizes action that will help cities grow more sustainably and improve quality of life in developing countries around the world. It operates through a global network of offices in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey, and Washington, D.C. where this internship will be located.


The intern will gain experience in the following areas:

  • 70% Edit, write, and publish online as support to experts
  • 15% Research news stories, blogs, new initiatives and trends, interact with and assist WRI experts in promoting their work
  • 10% Email marketing
  • 5% Organize content on websites, databases, social media


Required qualifications

  • Recent graduate or early-career professional with a degree in communications, marketing, public relations, urban studies, environmental studies, English, liberal arts, or related studies
  • Interest in sustainability marketing and communications
  • Excellent written communication skills
  • Capable of meeting tight deadlines on a regular basis, and organizing an editorial calendar
  • Strong editing/interviewing/note-taking skills
  • Expert knowledge of MS Word
  • Extremely well organized
  • Strong research ability
  • Ability to learn new technologies and online platforms for publishing quickly
  • Taste for graphic design

Preferred qualifications

  • Experiencing writing and editing content for a daily online publisher
  • Knowledge of photo editing software
  • Experience with Drupal 7, WordPress, and Vertical Response
  • Experience in developing marketing materials, working with videos, podcasting, blogs, web content management, graphics and email systems
  • Basic knowledge of HTML
  • Proficiency in Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, and/or Mandarin Chinese a plus

Final candidates will be required to take a writing test.

Salary: This is a paid intern position with an hourly rate based on experience.

Duration: 6 months

Location: Washington, DC

Qualified applicants should apply online at All applications must be submitted online through this career portal in order to be formally considered. 


About WRI

The World Resources Institute is a global research organization that goes beyond research to put ideas into action. We work with governments, companies, and civil society to build solutions to urgent environmental challenges. WRI’s transformative ideas protect the earth and promote development because sustainability is essential to meeting human needs and fulfilling human aspirations in the future.

Established in 1982, WRI is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization respected globally by policymakers, NGOs, and corporate leaders because of the rigorous quality, balance, and independence of its work. With its think-tank roots, WRI values innovative ideas, working collaboratively, and thinking independently. WRI employees see the results of their hard work and have the satisfaction of making a significant difference in the world.

Currently a $50 million organization with an international staff of approximately 350, WRI has offices in the U.S., China, India, Brazil and more, and active projects in more than 50 countries. WRI provides objective information and practical proposals for policy and institutional change that foster environmentally sound, socially equitable development.

Categories: Europe

Three Keys to Sustainable Urban Governance

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 11:17am

Continuously engaging the public with strong capacity is key to urban governance and sustainable development. Photo by Dante Busquets/Flickr.

The official launch of the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) yesterday marked a major milestone for urban governance worldwide. Developed by the Access Initiative and World Resources Institute, EDI looks at environmental decision making at the national level and evaluates countries based on three factors: transparency, access to justice, and citizen engagement. These elements are important aspects of governance as a whole.

While significant in its depth of analysis and geographic scope, EDI currently focuses at a level that may seem distant from citizens living in cities and towns throughout these countries. The platform highlights essential actions for environmental democracy and governance at a nation level, but also suggests ways for improving governance processes in cities. Linking these national-level procedural rights to realities at the local level is essential for sustainable development. What does governance mean to these citizens? How does governance work at a local level and how can it improve quality of life and make cities more sustainable?

Urban governance is about building cities that are inclusive and accountable to their citizens. Recognizing and strengthening the relationships between various stakeholders—including citizens, civil society organizations, elected officials, and the public and private sectors—is critical to changing how cities are governed. These actors comprise the urban governance community and how they interact plays a vital role in making cities more sustainable. Moving forward, it will take engagement, continuity, and capacity to strengthen this community and ensure that cities are governed equitably and inclusively.

Citizen Engagement Keeps Decision Making Equitable

One key aspect of urban governance is engaging and involving the greater urban governance community in planning and development. Furthermore, ensuring sustainability requires engaging citizens and holding local officials accountable. This means that citizens have procedural rights, such as access to information, the ability to meaningfully participate in decision making processes, and the ability to demand enforcement of those rights.

Getting citizens engaged and participating in local decision making does not alone lead to sustainable urban practices. However, informal and formal structures for citizen engagement and participation—like petitions, “See Click Fix”, or public hearings—can help create an environment in which priorities and objectives for sustainable urban development can be set with input from the very people who will be impacted by the success or failure of local decisions.

Continuity Ensures that Leaders Deliver on Promises

Many cities and countries often experience a lack of continuity when it comes to decision making about urban development.  For example, elected officials often face term limits and, as a result, prefer easily-implementable projects.   However, sustainable urban development is a continuous process and is not confined to the four or five year terms common across many city governments.

Improving urban governance can help cities overcome these challenges. In particular, keeping citizens, civil society organizations, and the private sector active in decision making processes and supporting them with the appropriate procedural rights can provide this continuity across elections. Furthermore, doing so allows them to act as a “knowledge management” provider—a resource for local context and knowledge.

Sustainable Cities Require Strong Capacity

Engagement and continuity are key aspects of urban governance, but the success of a policy or project also hinges on the capacity of local governments to implement, develop, and maintain projects well. Typically, cities are responsible for providing a range of services, including public transportation, secure energy, waste management, and clean water. Hiring staff, making planning decisions, interacting with citizens, raising money, collecting taxes, and negotiating contracts require substantial capacity so that cities can function sustainably. Ensuring that cities have adequate institutional capacity is absolutely vital to improving quality of life for urban residents and reducing environmental impact.

Genuine sustainability at the local level can only come from inclusive and accountable governance processes. Engagement, continuity, and capacity are three key components of ensuring sustainable urban development that is responsive to the needs of local communities.

Categories: Europe

Three Ways Public Spaces Can Make Cities More Vibrant

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 05/20/2015 - 1:00pm

The Cheonggye River in Seoul, South Korea is a great example of how cities can use public spaces to revitalize the local economy and improve quality of life for residents. Photo by Kimmo Räisänen/Flickr.

Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Every month features a new theme. Leaning on the expertise of researchers and specialists in WRI’s sustainable urban mobility team in Brazil, the series will feature in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, gender, resilience, and other key themes for sparking more sustainable development in our cities.

“Life is the art of encounter even though there might be so much discord in life,” said the Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, commenting on what he took to be the essence of human relations. Building on this, we can say that public spaces are at the essence of urban life. It’s in public spaces that these encounters occur and produce what we can call “the art of city life”.

When talking about public spaces, we need to first understand the important role they play in our concept of the city. Public spaces are where movements, interactions and connections between individuals happen. It is there, in freely accessible spaces, free of barriers or prejudices of any kind, that everyday city activities should occur.

However, the perception of public spaces is often restricted to images of parks and squares. Although streets, for example, count as public spaces, and generally represent the largest share of public space in a city, they are often forgotten as communal places. In large urban centers, roads dedicated to cars occupy on average 70 percent of total public space, leaving people with less than 30 percent.

Historically, city life has often been closely connected to residents’ use of public spaces on a daily basis. For example, beginning with agoras in ancient Greece, the majority of urban activities—political, economic, cultural, and social—took place in public spaces. However, after worldwide growth in car use, many of these activities moved into private settings, causing cities to neglect their communal, public spaces.

Urban life is currently undergoing a transformation in cities worldwide. Through changing land use policies, high speed rail, and new technologies that foster online interaction, urban streets and public spaces are regaining their vitality. Here are three key reasons why we need to recognize the value of public spaces in creating cities for people:

Helping Build Vibrant Communities

Urban vitality depends fundamentally on quality public spaces throughout the city that facilitate or encourage common use. These public spaces enable coincidental meetings, informal exchanges, and general community development.

It’s important that streets, squares, parks, sidewalks, and bike lanes remain open to and equitably serve all city residents. The concept of “complete streets”, which has been employed in cities worldwide, refers to a set of urban design principles that aim for accessible, safe, and people-centered streets.

In addition to design, some cities are also exploring creative ways of revitalizing public spaces. For example, Montreal, Canada, created the 21 Balançoires (21 Swings) project—a play structures with swings that reproduce musical notes. Public spaces are for everyone and should be accepting of a variety of uses—from tactical urbanism projects to casual picnics in the park.

Reinforcing the Local Economy

Quality public spaces not only provide people with areas for leisure and physical exercise, but also have the potential to boost the local economy. In Seoul, South Korea, the Cheonggye Stream Park is a great example of how this can work. Built in 2005, where an urban highway had once displaced 40,000 residents and 80,000 jobs, the park has been steadily raising economic activity in the local community. Because of redevelopment, the real estate industry experienced a 25 percent increase in the average price per square meter of local properties—15 percent higher than values in other areas of the city.

The project has drawn international media attention is now a popular tourist spot in the city. But more importantly, the space has returned to Seoul’s residents, restoring vegetation, improving air quality, and creating a generally healthy and attractive environment for the local community.

This is just one example of how public space can positively impact a city’s economy. Activities such as streets fairs and cultural festivals are other features that enhance the local economy and contribute to the diversity of activities that can happen in public space.

Greening Public Spaces to Reduce Environmental Impacts

When public spaces include urban greenery, they can support an ecosystem of indigenous natural life within the built environment. Squares, parks, and other green corridors can be used strategically to mitigate environmental impacts, increase urban resilience, and give residents an opportunity to connect with natural life.

In the Grajaú neighborhood of São Paulo, for example, the city created a park called Parque Cantinho do Céu. It was designed to preserve one of the most important water sources for the metropolitan region and is part of a joint city-state initiative called the Water Source Program. The Water Source Program aims to maintain balanced networks of water and sewage, draining rainwater and extending sanitation services to marginalized communities. The park is not only a recreational public space for the residents of São Paulo. The Cantinho do Céu park also improved resilience and quality of life in a neighborhood that was once particularly vulnerable.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

How China Can Leverage High-Speed Rail for Compact Urban Development

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 11:06am

High speed rail connects Zhengzhou with other Chinese cities and has potential to spur compact urban development across the country. Photo by Andrew Stokols.

Many large Chinese cities have developed around transport corridors. Hangzhou and Suzhou, for example, grew wealthy from their position on the Grand Canal, which connected northern and southern China. Today, the country’s high-speed rail (HSR) system is proving to be an equally powerful catalyst for urban development.

China’s HSR system presents an opportunity for transit-oriented development (TOD) around new stations. However, due to a variety of factors, development around stations has often failed to occur in a controlled or compact manner. A more coordinated strategy for TOD around HSR stations could help Chinese cities develop in more compact and sustainable ways.

High-Speed Rail Expands Rapidly Across China

Since 2008, China has built the world’s largest high-speed rail system. Just a decade ago, China had virtually no high-speed rail lines. Today, it has over 12,000 km of passenger-dedicated high-speed rail lines connecting most major Chinese cities. By 2020, the network will connect all provincial capitals and cities with a population of over 500,000—around 90 percent of China’s population.

China’s rapid rollout of high-speed rail is the result of not only massive government investment, but also the low cost of building rail in China. Several factors contribute to these low costs of construction, including China’s low labor costs and the government’s ability to easily procure land. New HSR lines are often built as elevated viaducts across long distances. This method has several advantages: it provides the level surface that high-speed rail requires, and also reduces the amount of farmland that needs to be acquired between cities. The focus on saving costs and maximizing speed, however, has also meant that many new stations are built far outside the city center, where land-acquisition costs are lower.

New Towns Mushroom around HSR Stations

In attempt to capitalize on the high property values caused by transit development, many Chinese cities have proactively planned new districts next to HSR stations. Along the Beijing-Shanghai HSR line, for example, 16 out of 24 cities have planned new urban areas adjacent to HSR stations, as many local officials view HSR as an opportunity to spur local economic growth. Officials even compete with one another to convince national authorities to locate stations in their cities.

The outcome of such development remains unclear. Indeed, a few of these new districts—mostly those in large cities—are on their way to become bustling urban districts, such as the new developments around the East Station of Hangzhou, the provincial capital of Zhejiang province. Many others in smaller cities have languished, like the one in Dezhou, Shandong province (1hr and 20 min south of Beijing by high-speed train). There, a massive plaza dumps passengers into farms and villages far from the city center. Some of these vacant areas may experience development when housing demands catch up, but others will likely remain “ghost towns”.

A high-speed rail station in Dezhou, China was built far outside the city center, amid farmland. Photo from Google Maps.

High Speed Rail Produces Mixed Results for Transit-Oriented Development

Multiple factors influence whether development around high-speed railway stations is successful or not. While transit-oriented design is typically considered a strategy that cities can use to concentrate development around intra-urban transit nodes, like subway and bus stops, it can also be applied to development around inter-city nodes, like HSR stations. The following recommendations would help China leverage its HSR system to spur compact and sustainable urban development:

  • Station location matters: How vibrant new districts are depends largely on how well they can attract businesses, workers, and developers. Yet, in many situations, the decision of where to build new stations is influenced by political factors. For example, large Chinese cities with greater bargaining powers are able to negotiate with the China Railway Company (CR) to place HSR stations closer to city centers, whereas smaller cities might have stations located further out, sometimes over 20 km away. Stations far from the city center with poor public transport connections will be less successful. Additionally, new development could contribute to sprawl and the reduction of productive agricultural land on the periphery of cities.
  • Coordinating regional development: Coordinated planning among cities to avoid inter-city competition is important. Cities served by HSR often aspire to become regional growth hubs. But fierce competition for investments may actually hinder economic growth. Therefore, better coordination in national and regional planning is necessary to ensure that new towns develop compactly.
  • New financing models: In the most successful cases of TOD, the rail company develops and owns the land surrounding stations. Hong Kong’s MTR, considered one of the more successful examples of this model, owns property developments surrounding Hong Kong’s metro stations, like malls, which allow it to fund its rail operations. Japan’s private railroads have also been successful with this model.

Developing and maintaining public transit systems requires sizable investment. Funding transit development through property development around stations offers a way for the central government to reduce its costly subsidies. Furthermore, coordinated development around stations will ultimately increase ridership.

A new “directive” issued by the State Council last year may herald changes on the horizon. Calling for better integration between rail stations and adjacent urban development, the document promotes the ownership and development of land by (CR).

More clarification and substantive reforms will be needed before China can truly capitalize on its high-speed rail to foster more sustainable urban development.

Categories: Europe

How much do the Dutch really cycle ? How is it is measured ? Which are really the top ten cycling cities of the world ?

Hembrow - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 2:01pm
Lists are popular on the internet. As a result, there are often attempts to make lists which rank such things as cycling cities. Such lists are always false. There is no common methodology between different countries and so there is no reliable way to make a ranking. In reality it's quite difficult even to pin down the "correct" figure for one city in one country, let alone to find comparable David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

What Cities Can Learn From Porto Alegre about Inclusive Planning

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 11:42am

Redevelopment of Porto Alegre, Brazil’s port has been contentious, as planning has lacked public participation and respect for local culture. Photo by marcusrg/Flickr.

The sunset in front of Guaiba River, Usina do Gasômetro, and Mauá Port are iconic symbols of Rio Grande do Sul’s capital, Porto Alegre (“Porto” means port in Portuguese). Porto Alegre is a city full of life and history, and its famous port contributes to the local culture. However, this important piece of public space has been closed since redevelopment began in 2013.

The local government solicited bids and hired a developer to revitalize the area, leaving out a critical factor: citizen participation. Porto Alegre’s residents were excluded from the entire planning process, despite being the people most affected by development and changes to the port.

In response, the citizen-driven movement “Cais Mauá de Todos” is leading a campaign for social engagement, representing the voices of Porto Alegre’s residents. Cais Mauá de Todos understands that an equitable city must include the local population in decision making processes, as they are the ones who use—and depend on—public spaces on a daily basis. Everyone benefits from an inclusive planning process, because when citizens and local government cooperate, the process is perceived as legitimate, gaining social and legal support to move forward without major barriers.

There have been two proposals to revitalize the port. One came from the city and private developers without public consultation. The other, proposed by Cais Mauá de Todos, has widespread support from technical experts—like architects, sociologists, historians, lawyers—as well as the general public.

Rather than criticizing the city-led proposal, it’s important to take a look at how each proposal was developed and the consequences of their plans. By examining the debate around Porto Alegre’s port from a variety of different perspectives, we can better understand how various types of planning processes contribute to the revitalization and transformation of public spaces.

Cluttering the Port with Malls and Office Towers

The proposal selected by the city includes plans to developer high-rise office towers. Rendering from Office of Jaime Lerner.

Through a public bidding process, the city chose a proposal that integrates the dock area with the river. But there have been two controversies surround the selected proposal. The first is that the population was left out of the planning process. The second is that the proposal included plans to construct two 14-20 floor office towers near the road to city hall. At the other end of the space, the proposal included plans to build a hotel 20 floors tall, a 13,000 m² shopping center, and a convention center.

Community organizations and activists argue that the historic center around Porto Alegre’s capital building doesn’t need this kind of infrastructure, and that investment should be directed to other parts of the city. The proposal would keep the pier’s nine warehouses for bars, restaurants, and shops. The proposal even suggests establishing a university in the area to keep the pier active at all times of the day.

There are important questions surrounding this proposal: does Porto Alegre need another shopping center in a place that is famous for its sunset and views of the river? Discussion of this unsettled question continues, as development has been stalled due to issues with the project’s environmental permit.

In addition to a mall, the city’s proposal includes plans to develop restaurants and shops along the riverfront. Rendering from the Office of Jaime Lerner.

An Urban Port for All

Architect Maria Helena Cavalheiro designed a rival proposal, called “Manifesto Mauá”. Endorsed by Cais Mauá de Todos, Maria’s proposal was presented during a debate on April 17, 2015 at the Architecture Department at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. Her proposal prioritizes public spaces, and integrates the redeveloped port into the broader urban environment without sacrificing its historical and cultural characteristics. One example of this is the flood retaining wall that was installed between the docks and the city in the 1940s–leaving the port vulnerable to flooding. In Maria’s proposal, this retaining wall would be relocated to protect the docks from the Guaiba River as well.

Architect Maria Helena Cavalheiro’s design for the port area uses a park to connect the city and the Guaiba River. Rendering by Maria Helena Cavalheiro/personal archive.

The road along the port has already been taken over by cars and high-speed buses. Many of the buildings have parking lots on their ground floors. Maria’s proposal would expand walkable public space where there is currently a road. This pedestrian section would go all the way to Gasômetro and integrate with the city’s historical center, where the Public Market, Church of Sorrows, the Customs Square, and Casa de Cultura Mario Quintana are located. To ease traffic, a tunnel would be constructed as well as two secondary roads. Additionally, Maria would close down the last stretch of the train in the heart of the city, and replace the tracks with a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor that would connect the Port to Gasômetro.

Porto Alegre’s story offers critical lessons for cities looking to revitalize public spaces that are central to local identity. No matter the end result, it’s crucial that planners and city leaders ensure citizen participation in their decision making processes so that development is equitable and consistent with local needs.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: 2015’s Top Bike Stories So Far

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 12:15pm

Bike share programs offer people a way to commute to work efficiently and sustainably. Photo by Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious.

Today is our annual Bike to Work Day here in Washington, D.C. For many city residents, commuting is ingrained in their daily routine. By targeting how people regularly travel to and from work, there’s a lot of potential to transform current transport patterns—cleaning up our air, improving public health, and saving us all a lot of money. For example, as Yvonne Bambrick explains (below), employers can utilize a range of strategies to nudge employees toward alternative modes of transport. Currently, cities like Mexico City and São Paulo are demonstrating how engaging the private sector can help ensure more efficient, sustainable urban mobility.

To celebrate our home city’s Bike to Work Day this year, TheCityFix is looking back at some of our favorite urban cycling articles of 2015 so far.

Six Mayors Who Bike, and Why This Is a Good Thing

From São Paulo to Jakarta, mayors are leading their citizens into the streets and onto their bicycles. Pictured (from top left): Joko Widodo (Jakarta) and Boris Johnson (London), Fernando Haddad (São Paulo), Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City), and Ana Botella (Madrid).

Ryan Schleeter profiles six mayors in cities worldwide who not only are actively pushing for quality pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, but also regularly jump on their own bikes to get around. These mayors—like Fernando Haddad of São Paulo and Marcelo Ebrard of Mexico City—are credited with bringing bike share systems and networks of bike lanes to millions of people.

Want a Cycling City? Design for Traffic Safety

The 2015 World Bicycle Forum brought cycling activists and city leaders together from around the world to discuss how we can make our cities safer by design. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

It’s critical that cities are designed for safety. Fresh from the World Bicycle Forum in Medellín, Colombia, Ben Welle writes about various design tools that can be used to create a safe and accessible cycling environment. Copenhagen, Bogotá, and Mexico City all offer innovative ideas for developing cyclist-centered cities.

Your guide to urban cycling: A Q&A with author Yvonne Bambrick

Free community events, like this Ciclovía in Santiago, Chile, can be an effective option for encouraging more people to get on a bike. Photo by Municipalidad de Santiago/Flickr.

Yvonne Bambrick, author of The Urban Cycling Survival Guide and avid cyclist, talks about evolving perceptions of cycling, the role of community in building a cycling culture, as well as her own approach to biking in an urban context. Cities don’t just become “cycling cities” spontaneously—they require active support from both local leaders and the private sector.

Six ideas for building cycling culture from the World Bicycle Forum

The World Bicycle Forum gave city and transport leaders the opportunity to learn from one another and discuss effective ways to strengthen cycling culture worldwide. Photo by Claudio Olivares Medina/Flickr.

The World Bicycle Forum produced a wealth of lessons for building bike culture at an international level. Dario Hidalgo highlights some of the ideas that emerged from the Forum for elevating cycling in global conversations of sustainable development.

Categories: Europe

Inside the Fight to Save One of Brazil’s Largest Urban Parks

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:27am

With Cocó Ecological Park such a vital part of city life, Fortaleza’s residents have been at the center of the debate over highway expansion and environmental preservation. Photo by Alexandre Ruoso/Flickr.

Deep in northeastern Brazil, far from Rio’s famous beaches and São Paulo’s bustling business district, a battle is underway to protect one of the country’s most unique urban habitats. The Cocó Ecological Park occupies nearly 3,000 acres of land in the heart of Fortaleza, Brazil’s fifth largest city. Established in 1991 after a push from local conservation groups, the park now provides important space for recreation and connection with nature for the city’s 2.5 million inhabitants. It also serves as a critical protected area for one of the world’s few urban mangrove parks and the Cocó River, a key water source in the drought-ridden state of Ceará.

But recently the park has come under serious threat. In 2013, city officials announced plans to build a highway overpass that would cut through the heart of the park, prompting massive outcry among citizens in Fortaleza. In what’s been billed as a classic juxtaposition of nature versus progress, the city was faced with choosing between protecting its natural resources and providing infrastructure to meet growing mobility needs.

Two years later, what started as a demonstration against one specific project is still raging as Fortaleza’s citizenry fights for mobility solutions that don’t compromise environmental preservation. So, what lessons can we learn from the city’s struggle?

Urbanization Leaves Little Room to Grow

City officials originally cited efforts to reduce traffic congestion as its primary reason for highway expansion through the park. While environmental advocates sensed ulterior motives, there’s no denying the role Fortaleza’s rapid growth and mobility needs play in this debate.

The city grew its population by 38 percent between 1991 and 2010, at the same time that car ownership rates skyrocketed across Brazil. With growth set to continue, the World Cup around the corner, and no end in sight to the city’s traffic woes, city officials needed a solution fast.

But local advocates questioned whether this solution really needed to cut through the city’s most valuable ecological resource. They proposed multiple alternatives centered on building more comprehensive and sustainable urban mobility options, focusing on an expansion of the city’s bus system and building additional cycling infrastructure. Pointing to the environmental consequences of the planned overpass, opponents succeeded in getting a federal district court to block the project in August 2013. But just one week later, that ruling was overturned and construction was cleared to continue. At the same time, nearly 200 protesters that had been occupying the park were forcibly removed by police, leading to a violent confrontation that raised flags for Brazilian human rights advocates.

With the legal path cleared, the city proceeded building the overpasses as planned, and the project was completed in November 2014.

In 2015, A More Balanced Approach to Growth

Fast forward to today, and the city is faced with the exact same issue. Population growth and an increase in car ownership are once again clogging the roads near the park. But this time, city leaders are taking a different approach to addressing the challenge.

History has proven the opponents of the original overpass project correct in their claim that expanding road space for cars would only encourage more driving and would not solve the long-term problem of traffic congestion. With advocates of protecting the park quick to point out this logic and officials eager to avoid another series of high-profile protests, the city is now exploring more holistic solutions.

Rather than building additional highway space through the park, the city began construction on two new tunnels that will run under the park in late April 2015. The tunnels will be constructed in a way that minimizes impact on plants, animals, and water quality in the park. More importantly, the city is looking beyond infrastructure for cars in its quest to provide better mobility. Space on the existing overpasses and in the new tunnels is now dedicated to bus rapid transit (BRT), a wave of renovations to the overpasses in January 2015 expanded pedestrian infrastructure, and built new cycle lanes linking the park to the city’s beaches.

While the city could have saved millions of dollars and significant civil unrest by pursuing a more balanced mobility strategy from the beginning, Fortaleza’s experience holds valuable lessons for cities worldwide. For long-term growth and sustainability, it’s not an option to trade environmental preservation for development. In the end, people-oriented cities must achieve both.

Categories: Europe

How Rethinking Urban Design Can Create Healthier Communities

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 10:52am

Convenient, wide, and clearly marked, this crosswalk in São Paulo, Brazil encourages walking by design. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Every month features a new theme. Leaning on the expertise of researchers and specialists in WRI’s sustainable urban mobility team in Brazil, the series will feature in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, gender, resilience, and other key themes for sparking more sustainable development in our cities.

Flipping on the TV might seem like an innocent way to unwind after a hard day of work. But for the first time in history, a sedentary lifestyle is reducing the average life expectancy in Brazil by five years. Already, 48.7 percent of the adult population is sedentary. This number is projected to increase, causing physical, social, and economic damage to society.

While encouraging healthy habits is essential to combatting this trend, urban design also plays an important role in fostering healthy lifestyles. Ultimately, how we design our cities influences how people live in them.

The concept of active design is key to understanding how cities can improve public health. Championed by New York City’s Center for Active Design, active design prioritizes walking and cycling, and mass transport like buses, in the built environment. In Brazil, Cidade Ativa (active city) promotes changes to the urban environment that encourage a more active and healthy lifestyle.

So how are these ideas implemented on the ground? New York City recently produced “Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design” , which contains several recommendations that may be used by cities and planners for designing urban spaces that foster active transport.

Below, we explore some of these tactics that urban planners can use to get people off their car seats and onto the sidewalk:

Mixed Use Neighborhoods Are More Vibrant

A diverse mix of land uses—homes offices, schools, shops, and cultural sites—in one neighborhood encourages more people to walk. A diverse mix of land uses and buildings can make for an interesting walk, and can stimulate people to live near their offices. Devoting space for social and economic activities can fill a neighborhood with people and life.

  • Residential areas should be located near parks, squares, and recreational areas.  Connected streets are conducive to walking. Quality public spaces within 10 minutes of home also encourage neighborhood walking.
  • Neighborhoods with grocery stores and markets close to home and work are associated with healthier diets and lower rates of obesity, according to several studies. In contrast, areas with fast-food restaurants tend to have higher rates of obesity.
Street Design Influences Transit Behavior
  • The Center for Active Design found an inverse relationship between obesity and urban density along transit stops and bus lanes. Residents who use public transportation tend to walk more, which is correlated with lower rates of obesity.
  • Public transport should be located on connected streets. This expands access to pedestrians and makes public transport more convenient.
  • Quality transit stations:  protection from sun and rain, comfortable seating, and wide sidewalks all make public transport and public spaces more friendly and accessible.
  • Parking spots can have a major impact on walkability. Planners should consider the effect that parking spaces can have on an individual’s decision to walk, bike, or use public transit. Generally, when parking is available, drivers will use it. The greater the supply of parking, the less motivation that people have to be active.
Public Spaces for Active Communities
  • Plan public spaces on a large scale. When people have greater access to parks, physical activity levels tend to be higher.
  • When routes are visible and safe in parks and public spaces, pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to use them.
  • Squares and parks should haves drinking fountains, playgrounds for children, bike paths, sports fields, or other types of public facilities.
  • Planners should also consider the cultural preferences of the local population. Public space should be designed for all ages equitably. Placing facilities for physical activity of children and adults in the same place means that everyone can participate in public spaces equitably.
  • Cities should establish partnerships with organizations and volunteers to maintenance public spaces. When volunteers and organizations commit to taking care of public spaces, they become meaningful to those communities.

People who walk and bike regularly are better off physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually, and financially. The city can be a powerful facilitator of physical activity, encouraging people to walk, bike, and take public transit by design. Rethinking the role of urban design in transport decision making not only can help cities become more efficient and improve quality of life, but can also make communities healthier.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

How Istanbul Is Improving Public Health by Designing for Cycling

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 10:44am

Istanbul is looking to expand its network of bike lanes and promote cycling to improve public health and well-being. Photo by EMBARQ Turkey/Flickr.

Growing physical inactivity at a global scale is causing more people to suffer from chronic diseases every day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 31 percent of adults 15 years old and older were insufficiently active in 2008, leading to 3.2 million deaths worldwide. Furthermore, the top five leading chronic diseases linked to physical inactivity cost the global economy $6.2 trillion in 2010.

However, an active design approach to architecture and urban planning has the potential to make daily physical activity an ingrained feature of city life. By focusing on the role that parks, sidewalks, and walkable public spaces play in healthy communities, active design encourages physical activity. Cities that adopt active design have been shown to increase residents’ physical activity and improve public health.

Istanbul Embraces Cycling for an Active City

Many cities have recently focused on integrated transport planning, walking, and cycling as elements of active design. In Turkey, both the central government and local governments have been supporting cycling culture and infrastructure. For example, in recent years, cycling projects have become more important and popular in Istanbul. With 14 million people living in dense communities, the city has faced intense traffic congestion and low air quality. To improve livability and public health, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM)—the agency responsible for cycling projects— is turning to active design targets, pledging to build 1,050 km of cycle lanes in Istanbul by 2023.

A Comprehensive Manual for Decision Makers

One challenge of cycling in Istanbul is a lack of integration with other modes of transport. While there is bicycle parking at several ferry ports, subway, and bus rapid transit (BRT) stations, they are not adequate, given Istanbul’s size. Furthermore, overcrowding makes it prohibitively difficult to carry a bike on public transport. There are 20 buses currently equipped with bike racks, but bike space needs to be expanded across all modes of transportation.

The exact number of cyclists in Istanbul is not known, and collision data is unreliable. This can make planning difficult. To decide on the route of a bike lane, planners and designs need know about the estimated number of cyclists in a given area, their preferences and safety expectations, as well as the slope, width, and conditions of the street. Since the IMM rarely has this granular information, district agencies and NGOs need to come together to work on cycling projects, as they are more familiar with the experiences of local cyclists.

EMBARQ Turkey’s Safe Cycling Design Manual for Istanbul addresses the challenges of cycling planning in Istanbul and provides guidelines for improvements. The report gathers input from NGOs and cyclist associations, creates standardized tools for developing safe and accessible cycling infrastructure, and provides recommendations for how district agencies can improve cross-coordination.

According to surveys in the Manual, cyclists in Istanbul prefer to ride short distances (5-6 km). The majority of respondents stated that their bicycle trips were no longer than 60 minutes and that their trips generally end within the same district or an adjacent district. 90 percent of respondents believe that there are major problems with cycling infrastructure. 50 percent feel unsafe, as unconnected bike lanes can lead to dangerous contact between cyclists and cars. Lastly, 35 percent of cyclists think that there is a lack of signs on the road, making it difficult to navigate the city safely.

Bike lanes should be designed with this data in mind. They should both serve neighborhood life and integrate with public transit systems. Additionally, routes for cyclists should be coherent, direct, and continuous. Improvements to current roads and safe bike parking are necessary to ensure convenience and safety.

Making Istanbul a City Designed for Cycling

In order to combat a growing rate of physical inactivity, local decision makers need to raise awareness about cycling as a viable transport option and implement accessible infrastructure across Istanbul. This will require better coordination between the IMM, district authorities, NGOs, and cyclist associations. The manual, which was awarded an Excellence Honorable Mention from the Center for Active Design in New York, provides valuable guidance for local authorities, planners, and designers to create integrated, connected, and accessible bike infrastructure throughout the city. With strong management and active design, Istanbul can make cycling safer and more convenient for all residents.

Download the Safe Cycling Manual for Istanbul and share comments with us on Facebook.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Creatively Engaging Road Safety with a Graphic Narrative

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 05/08/2015 - 11:02am

“Wishful Thinking” shows that, although traffic collisions are often blamed on individual behavior, urban design can be a powerful tool for improving road safety. Graphic by Nikhil Chaudhary.

India has the highest number of accident fatalities in the world. But the pressing issue of road safety is rarely taken seriously. This is particularly apparent, given the high frequency and intensity of risks that motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists take on a daily basis.

Statistics of road fatalities and injuries are often publicized with the intention of encouraging responsible behavior on the road. At the same time, the conversation about road safety generally centers on individual behavior—like following traffic-rules, using of helmets and seat belts, and avoiding drinking and driving. However, the root of the problem—and solution—is elsewhere, as collisions are the result of a combination of individual behavior and physical infrastructure.

Addressing physical infrastructure and urban design is necessary to improving road safety in our cities. To close out the third UN Global Road Safety Week, let’s take a look at a comic strip that creatively engages with road safety in India:

“Wishful Thinking” by Nikhil Chaudhary.

Collisions often lead to a blame-game between pedestrians and motorists, rather than a discussion of how we can design our streets for safety. The comic strip—produced for Equal Streetsembodies this dilemma. It tells the story of an average pedestrian and driver in India who are involved in a collision. Both the pedestrian and the motorist are portrayed as equally responsible for the incident. But as we examine their individual perspectives, it becomes clear that their behavior is influenced by the roads they have to navigate.

The comic strip ends as a call for safe streets for all. The red line that divides the two perspectives emerges as a graph of the deaths resulting from traffic collisions. The narrative reminds us that these numbers are avoidable, if we design our cities and roads to be safe places.

Comics, because of their visually compelling form and long history of social critique, can be a powerful medium for promoting road safety. The story represented here makes us pause, and consider how our streets can be safer for all.

Categories: Europe

Designing Safer Cities for Children

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 05/08/2015 - 7:00am

With 32 percent fewer traffic accidents involving children, Seoul, South Korea is one example of how changing street design can improve road safety.

When you consider the global statistics, it’s no surprise that this year’s U.N. Global Road Safety Week focuses on children’s safety.  According to a 2008 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 21 percent of all road traffic-related fatalities worldwide were among children under the age of 18, and traffic injuries were one of the leading killers of children under 20 years old in both high- and low- to middle- income countries.

The typical discussion around children’s traffic safety is a behavioral one, focusing on issues like helmet- and seat-belt laws and drinking-and-driving laws. While these policies can definitely generate impact, they’re not enough to make streets truly safe. Countries and cities around the world should embrace a “safe system” approach that goes beyond behavior-targeted policies and actually makes cities safer by design.

Using Urban Design to Improve Road Safety

Urban design and street features can help make cities safer. “Traffic-calming” measures (such as speed bumps) and urban design features (such as shorter block lengths and narrower streets) can slow down vehicles—a benefit for pedestrians and cyclists of all age groups.

Children use streets in a variety of ways, for walking, biking, traveling in cars, or simply playing. Yet they’re even more vulnerable to traffic collisions than adults  given their lower eye level, narrower peripheral vision, lower capacity for decision-making, and tendency for sudden action. So it’s especially critical to reduce vehicle speeds in areas with lots of children.

This graph shows the relationship between impact speeds and the chance of pedestrian death. When collision speeds rise, pedestrians’ survival chance drops dramatically. Source: Rosen and Sander 2009.

Korea Reduces Childhood Traffic Deaths by 95 Percent

One success story of safe design comes from South Korea. Traffic-related fatalities among children fell by 95 percent in the country, from 1,766 in 1988 to 83 in 2012. This success was the direct result of a suite of projects that targeted regulations, education and the built environment.

This narrow street in a school zone in Seoul has a clearly marked roadway (here translated as “school zone – slow down – 30kmh”) and sidewalk protection fences, creating a safe walking environment for children. Photo by Seoul’s Seocho District Office.

One such project was the School Zone Improvement Project, implemented throughout several Korean cities. The Project aimed to create safe routes from children’s homes to kindergartens, elementary schools and childcare facilities.

Officials started by reducing speed limits through infrastructure design tools, such as speed bumps. They established dedicated right-of-ways for pedestrians, and created clear distinctions between sidewalks and roads. New fences further protected children from road hazards.

City officials also installed traffic signals and speed limit signs within 300 meters of a school’s main gate, and painted roads within school zones with messages such as “school zone” and “protect children” so that drivers would proceed with caution. And finally, they banned street parking on roads leading to schools’ main entrances, reducing the potential that vehicles and children could come into contact.

Korea’s children traffic fatality has been declining dramatically since the late 1980s, thanks to a suite of measures targeting both design and law. Source: KOTI

The School Zone Improvement Project produced very positive results. The measures led to roughly 32 percent fewer traffic accidents involving children each year. Combined with comprehensive measures such as traffic safety regulation, school bus operation and civil activities, Korea has successfully reduced its child traffic fatalities by 95 percent in a little more than two decades.

Designing Safer Streets for All

A city designed for children must have streets that are safety-oriented, particularly in buffer zones around playgrounds, parks, schools, community centers and other kid-centric places. The successes of programs like those in South Korea teach us how strong leadership can establish ambitious targets, acquire investment, implement programs and generate impressive results.

South Korea is not alone in designing safer streets. Cities like Stockholm, New York and Amsterdam are also taking actions to improve road safety. Leaders in other cities should take note: If planned and designed with society’s most vulnerable members in mind, our cities and roads can be safer places for everyone.

Categories: Europe

Lego and Bicycles - Together Forever

Copenhagenize - Thu, 05/07/2015 - 10:46am
When you live in a home with over 20 kg of Lego, using it comes naturally. I noticed five years ago that I didn't have a lot of Lego bicycles. I soon discovered that they are rather hard to come by, despite the fact that Lego is, of course, Danish. In America, for example, the quickest way to get a Lego bicycle is buy the ambulance set. Seriously. Selling fear of cycling in a Lego box.But back in 2011 I wanted to do a rendition of the Copenhagen rush hour in Lego bicycles. I stripmined eBay in four countries buying bikes and mini-figures that resembled normal people. Finally, shot a series of photos like the one up top.My inspiration also had a root at the Legoland theme park. I spotted this cyclist, above, from the age before the mini figure, which makes them awesome. From the age before rubber tires and asphalt, too, it would seem - so even more respect.Looking around the internet I discovered that there are/were sets that featured Lego bicycles, as you can see above. Then, of coursre, I discovered a nerdy website listing all Lego sets with bicycles in them. Ever.Here are some photos from the original Lego rush hour shoot back in May 2011: I tried to get all sorts of different people represented. Workers, doctors, parents, you name it.Late last year I did another shoot, featuring more bicycles and style of citizens. Finally managed to get a cargo bike built.At Copenhagenize Design Co. we make holiday cards with mini-figures featuring ourselves in Lego. That's me in the middle. What else can I pull out of the archives? Cycling home with Lego containers for storing... Lego? Check. And a photo from Sandra at Classic Copenhagen featuring Godzilla-sized cyclists at the Lego flagship store in Copenhagen. Lego and urbanism? You bet. A few years ago the Danish Architecture Center (DAC) had Lego on tables on the City Hall Square and Felix and I hung around for ages constructing buildings. We always show up at DAC when they do Lego events.Felix and I also addressed a bit of urban decay with a Lego-based urban infill solution across the street from our house.When speaking in San Francisco back in 2009 I rode in the Halloween Critical Mass and met this fabulous local with her home-made Lego accessories. Wasn't a fan of the critical mass thing, though.No bikes here, but Felix and I made this chess set years ago and it is still used. The most Danish thing I know.Lego can be used in many ways. The Danish version of the morons on the left are right here. You have your version, I'm sure.But hey. Lego ain't going anywhere. Bicycles ain't going anywhere. I'm going to keep on combining the two.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe