Five Cities Show the Future of Walkability

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 4:26pm

Pedestrian-only zones, well-maintained sidewalks, and good traffic signage are important for strengthening a city’s walkability, as shown here in Juiz de Fora, Brazil. 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 at EMBARQ Brasil, 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.

To walk in our cities is more than just a simple act of transport. Walking represents an appropriation of urban space for daily life. It means being an active part of the urban environment by learning, understanding and shaping the city on a personal level. Walking is one of the most democratic and equitable ways of getting around, but it’s also one of the ways most linked to factors outside an individual’s control, like social or physical abilities and the presence of infrastructure to walk comfortably and safely.

These are the factors that define walkability, which refers to how safe, convenient, and efficient it is to walk in an urban environment. Walkability has a direct impact on urban residents’ mobility, as the term is often used to communicate how likely the average person is to choose walking over other modes of transport in a given area.

The first thing to consider when measuring walkability is people’s foot access to recreation, commerce, and entertainment—areas like parks, shops, restaurants, museums, and more. Then, we can consider the conditions of the routes walkers must take to reach these destinations. One’s perception of walking—his or her willingness to choose walking over other modes of transport—is influenced by the quality and safety of sidewalks. Public spaces that incorporate best practices for designing sidewalks encourage more walking and improve quality of life in cities.

Urban planners in major cities around the world have been rethinking how we travel and many believe walkability should play a fundamental role. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, HelsinkiZurich, and Hamburg are all walking towards a future in which their streets have more people and fewer cars. Here’s how these five cities have been working to encourage travel by foot and improve the daily lives of urban residents.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki’s development plan sets a goal for residents to make all daily trips on foot or by bike by 2050. Photo by City Clock Magazine/Flickr.

The more people there are in a city, the fewer cars there should be allowed on the streets. This is the logic of the Finnish capital as detailed in a new plan that hopes to make car ownership “obsolete” by 2025. The city plans to develop a network of dense, walkable and interconnected neighborhoods and prioritize active transport. The idea is to make work, home, leisure, commerce and school close enough to one another to make daily travel on foot or by bicycle viable, and travel by car unnecessary.

Copenhagen, Denmark

One of Copenhagen’s exclusively pedestrian zones. Photo by City Clock Magazine/Flickr.

Anticipating the future of sustainable mobility, Copenhagen first created areas exclusive to pedestrians in the 1960s. Today, the city is famous for its bicycle network, and the many pedestrian areas scattered throughout the city are connected by a variety of different modes of transport. Guided by the work of Jan Gehl, Copenhagen’s transformation represents a shift in understanding—a recognition that enhancing pedestrian paths for walking and active transport can be one of the first steps to improving mobility and building a better city for people.

Zurich, Switzerland

Because walkability has been a priority of Zurich since the mid-1990s, 34 percent of trips in the city are currently made on foot or by bike. Photo by Raymond Teodo/Flickr.

In Zurich, 34 percent of trips are made on foot or by bike. Delivering efficient, integrated, multimodal mobility that allows people to get almost anywhere without a car has been one of the hallmark achievements of the city. Plans to strengthen active transport began in 1996 with the so-called History Commitment. The document established that no new parking spaces could be built in the city unless they replaced old ones—limiting the use of cars in urban areas. Since then, building parking lots has taken place mostly underground, as ground-level space has been designated for creating parks, public spaces, and pedestrian-exclusive areas.

Hamburg, Germany

In Hamburg, the Green Network will connect green public spaces in the city and encourage active transport. Photo by flierfy/Flickr.

Hamburg was named European Green Capital in 2011 for its integrated planning strategies and ambitious goals. The city’s primary goal is to make urban space fully accessible by foot or bike, with 40 percent of the city’s land dedicated to green public spaces. This Green Network aims to reduce not only the movement of cars in the central region, but also the need to use them, showing that large cities can be walkable and designed for people.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam has achieved strong active transport by setting speed limits on most city roads and designating certain areas as car-free. Photo by Mariano Mantel/Flickr.

Amsterdam moves at the pace of a bike. In most areas of the city, speed limits barely reach 30 km/h, giving priority to people and active transport. While walking is somewhat on the decline in the city due to more and more people cycling, the city is working to balance this with new investments in walkability. Amsterdam is currently developing new public spaces that will have two features: 1) a low speed limit creates equitable conditions for all modes of transport; and 2) segregated tracks between modes, ensuring that pedestrians are not restructured to isolated sidewalks.

This article was originally published in Portuguese at TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: From Stadiums to Public Parks, the Impacts of Space for Sports in Cities

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 11:33am

With around 300 million people playing basketball in China, the Chinese Basketball Association is looking to build nearly 800,000 new courts in Beijing (pictured) and other cities across the country. Photo by Filipe Fortes/Flickr.

There are countless ways to analyze—and visualize—sports. For instance, there’s a wide spectrum of where and how sports are played in cities around the world. Professional sports typically take place in expensive stadiums, which are expected to draw crowds of fans and consumers. On the other hand, amateur sports happen at a much more local level. Sports often play a large role in cities and frequently receive a lot of attention from both elected officials and the public.

So how are amateur and professional sports venues producing different economic and social impacts in cities across the globe?

Making Space for Soccer in India

Space for recreational soccer fields has become an increasingly pertinent issue in India, especially in Mumbai. Many companies have formed to develop unused land in response to the demand for soccer space, and they construct fields “in the unlikeliest of places.” These fields are usually small and hastily built on any land that’s available, but they’re providing ample opportunities for soccer aficionados to play and diverting public attention away from field hockey.

Developing these informal fields in Mumbai offers the city numerous benefits. From an economic perspective, small business owners in this new industry have been able to capitalize on otherwise unusable properties and city residents are participating inexpensively. From a social perspective, this development is providing city residents with space for physical activity and has been a source of inspiration for aspiring professional athletes.

In the Dominican Republic, Baseball Takes All

In the Dominican Republic, baseball is the official national sport. Baseball requires little equipment, and is a “ubiquitous” part of Dominican life, providing many young players with the chance to become professional athletes. A couple unique aspects of Dominican baseball are the training programs for aspiring professionals and huge athletic facilities that exist for the country’s almost 30 major league teams. The city of San Pedro is well known for fostering successful baseball players, and houses the majority of major league-sponsored facilities.

Although baseball infrastructure has produced many economic benefits, it’s also had some social drawbacks. “Baseball factories” stimulate the economy with foreign money. In San Pedro specifically, baseball funds help finance public works projects, like plazas. However, the social ramifications of these baseball facilities in the Dominican Republic are typically negative. In contrast to the American system, in which many children play sports through school, Dominican children turn to buscones—people who often take advantage of rising athletes, acting as both coaches and agents. In fact, it’s commonly said that “parents risk a son’s childhood with baseball instead of going to school.”

In China, Basketball is Both a Recreational Activity and an Emerging Profession

China currently is home to around 300 million professional and amateur basketball players. In Beijing, common playing areas include public courts or schools, and recreational basketball is in high demand. At the professional level, there is a need for professional basketball facilities across the country. However, it’s uncertain whether the planned facilities—if and when they are constructed—could generate enough fan interest to be profitable.

In China, whereas the economic benefits of investing in basketball infrastructure are mixed, the social benefits are generally positive. Economically, amateur sports offer facilities the chance to profit from people who are eager to play. However, for professional basketball to grow in popularity, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) will have to invest in infrastructure for the league. Even though the CBA has played in the stadiums remaining from the 2008 Olympics, 800,000 new courts have been planned for development. Socially, recreational basketball can create a sense of community for China’s many only children, and the CBA promotes cultural diversity within the teams. Instead of players leaving to play for international teams, like those from the Dominican Republic, Chinese teams have been actively recruiting American players, like Stephon Marbury.

Sports for Sustainable, Healthy, Vibrant Cities

Around the world, sports serve many purposes. They can be an athlete’s profession, an avid player’s recreational outlet, or a team-building activity for anyone. Sports infrastructure varies widely, making it well-suited to sports’ many purposes. Across India, the Dominican Republic, and China, it’s clear that sports and sports infrastructure play an influential role in city and national development. From an economic perspective, they provide opportunities for new industries and encourage international funding. From a social perspective, they provide recreational outlets and cultural diversity, and, occasionally, professional opportunities.

Looking forward, it’s likely sports infrastructure will receive increasing attention from cities, especially as the process of greening sports facilities and implementing sustainable architecture becomes a bigger part of the discussion.

Categories: Europe

Urbanizing India: A Closer Look

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 4:00am

This year’s CONNECTKaro conference focused on how Indian cities like Bangalore (pictured) can use technology for smarter development given the country’s rapid urbanization. Photo by Benoit Colin/WRI.

From April 15 to 16, 2015 in New Delhi, city and transport leaders from around the world came together for the third annual edition of WRI India’s CONNECTKaro conference. This year’s theme of Smart Cities for Sustainable Development and focused on the role of technology, sustainable mobility, and vibrant public spaces for Indian cities.

India will be one of the last major countries in the world to experience the urbanization of its population. In 2010, 31 percent of India’s people lived in its cities. By 2030, this is expected to rise to 40 percent. This means that an additional 220 million people will move to cities across the country.

Which cities will these people go to? Is it possible to create jobs for these people? Will they have a good quality of life?

An Enormous Challenge

Approximately 100 million people will go to or be born in the top 10 cities; and the next 100 million people will go to or be born in next 80 cities with populations of over one million. A McKinsey study quotes, “If India optimizes the productivity of its cities and maximizes their GDP, the economy could add more than 170 million urban workers to its labor force by 2025.”

Urbanization will bring wealth and also challenge equity. The number of urban households with true discretionary spending power is estimated to increase sevenfold—to 89 million households—in 2025. Will this additional wealth mean a better quality of life? This wealth will surely increase the competition for constrained resources—such as public finance, water, road space, and more.

The newly elected BJP government is committed to addressing these urban challenges. It announced the 100 Smart Cities program when it came to power, thereby setting the stage for one of the biggest urban renewal programs. Just recently, a top government panel approved Rs. 2.73 Lakh Crores (US$ 2,730 billion) to develop 100 smart cities and upgrade basic civic infrastructure in another 500 cities over the next ten years.

Cities and urbanization clearly have the potential to be an environmentally sustainable way to work and live. Life in compact settlements requires less transport, less energy for cooling and heating, and directly occupies (and therefore, alters) less terrain than more spatially dispersed settlements.

What Are Smart Cities?

There is no single, correct definition of Smart Cities. The idea behind creating them is to enhance human economic and social well-being, and to reduce costs and resource consumption. Collectively, the city has to work for all its citizens. A city has to be a place where its citizens can live, work, and thrive.

The discourse on Smart Cities includes a wide variety of topics—including governance, technology, citizen participation, transport, energy, health and pollution, water, and waste.


Today India’s top 10 cities occupy 0.1 percent of the total land area, and its top 100 cities occupy 0.26 percent of the land. This land area will need to expand as more people come to live in cities, and it will be important to ensure expansion happens efficiently. Land management will be a critical element of the smart cities program.


Indian cities in the last two decades have made large investments in building wider roads, flyovers, and elevated roads. This has only led to an increase in cars and associated negative results—like air pollution and road traffic fatalities.

Global evidence shows new trends are emerging that are transforming the mobility paradigm from “moving cars” to “moving people”. Emerging global trends include bus rapid transit (BRT), unified cashless transactions across modes, taxi aggregators, bicycle sharing, car-license auction policies, and others. Cities need to understand how to adopt the new paradigm, implement new trends, and ensure that all initiatives are complimentary and not competing.

Finance (and Measurement)

Governments, businesses, and investment funds are all beginning to understand the costs and implications of climate change impacts—such as water scarcity, extreme weather events, temperature rise—and want to invest in sustainable infrastructure.

Measuring environmental and social impacts is critical to ensuring that additional capital costs (in most cases) actually produces real results. Measurement methodologies will be key for cities to raise capital from the private sector, launch fiscal instruments like bonds, and access funds from the green climate fund.

Public Spaces

Public spaces are where everybody in the city can meet as equals. Cities need safe, clean public spaces. Streets are the largest public space in a city and fostering vibrant streets can prioritize human interaction and create great public places where people can rest, relax, and play.

Streets where one can walk or bicycle freely create sustainable and healthy lifestyles for everyone, regardless of age, gender, ability, ethnicity or economic background. The Raahgiri Day open streets movement is a great start in this direction.

Technology for Disruptive Change

Efficiency through technology is clearly useful. Many truly transformative services can be “disruptive”, and create entirely new value propositions that may turn our ideas of ownership, participation, measures, and experience on their head. So why not go back to a problem that is pressing and needs new technologies and disruptive ideas for solutions?

A Smart City may not have single definition but it will require a willingness to sacrifice old ways and single-minded pursuits. Decisions will need to be built on strategic and evidence-based foundations, transforming cites to become places we would all like to come home to.

Categories: Europe

How Food Waste Costs Our Cities Millions

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 1:14pm

Seoul, South Korea is one of several cities experimenting with new waste management policies that will encourage people not to buy food they don’t need. Photo by Seoul Korea/Flickr.

It would take farm land the size of Mexico just to grow the amount of food that humans produce, but do not eat, every year.

More food goes uneaten at the consumption phase of the supply chain—in places like homes, restaurants and cafeterias—than at any other stage. Almost all urban areas experience high levels of food waste—food that is fit for consumption when it reaches consumers but is discarded before or after spoiling. While food waste presents significant challenges, addressing waste also provides an opportunity for growing cities to reduce their carbon emissions, curb deforestation, and mitigate water withdrawals caused by agriculture.

The Environmental Costs of Food Production

If current trends continue, the world will need to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050. Growing that amount of food will put a significant strain on the planet. Food production is emissions-intensive because it converts lands—such as forests and savannas that store carbon and preserve ecosystems—into pasture or crop land. For example, farmers are chopping down Indonesia’s rainforests to grow crops like palm oil, making Indonesia the world’s largest carbon emitter per unit of GDP. In addition, 13 percent of the world’s 2010 carbon emissions came from agricultural activities like raising cattle, using tractors, and producing and using nitrogen fertilizers. Including land conversion, agriculture contributes 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, uses 37 percent of Earth’s land, and accounts for 70 percent of water withdrawals worldwide.

In 2010, agriculture accounted for 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 37 percent of the Earth’s landmass, and 70 percent of water withdrawals. Graphic by World Resources Institute.

Given the staggering effect that food production has on the environment, reducing food waste and easing the growing need for food production can move us toward a more sustainable world.

Urbanization Amplifies Food Waste

According to The Royal Society, consumers in developed economies waste more food due to the low cost of food relative to disposable income, high standards for the appearance of food, and a lack of understanding of the realities of food production. Urbanization introduces these three factors into consumer behavior because urbanites earn more money than rural workers, buy more food from supermarkets that have high food appearance standards, and live further from where their food grows. To make the food waste challenge even more difficult, the UN projects that by 2050, 2.5 billion more people will live in urban areas and that urbanites will make up about two-thirds the world’s population. As a result, food waste is expected to rise significantly by 2050 in most cities.

Food waste is already growing worldwide. For example, food waste already comprises 50 to 70 percent of municipal solid waste in several Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Furthermore, consumers in underdeveloped areas sometimes lack refrigerated storage in homes or other methods for preserving food.

Cities Are Home to Innovative Food Solutions

Fortunately, some local governments, NGOs, and private companies are already exploring innovative methods of managing and reducing their food waste.

For example, some organizations are redistributing food to people in need. FoodBank South Africa rescues more than 4 metric tons of food annually and distributes more than 14 million meals with the help of local non-profits in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban.

Seoul, South Korea is implementing a policy to charge people, organizations, and restaurants for their food waste. This will nudge restaurants to reduce their portion sizes and encourage people not to buy food they don’t need.

In February 2014, Hong Kong set a goal to reduce waste from food and its inedible parts (bones, rinds, peelings, etc.) by 40 percent by 2022 from 2011 levels. The report focuses on raising awareness to limit food waste and recycling food waste by composting it or burning it to produce energy. For example, 75 percent of inmates at the Lo Wu Correctional Institute now volunteer to receive smaller portions of food, saving 500 bowls of rice per day.

Momentum is building for cities to urgently address growing global food waste. For example, the Waste Resources and Action Programme (WRAP) has calculated that uneaten food costs the world up to $400 billion annually, providing a huge financial motive for business to act. The World Resources Institute is leading the development of a Food Loss and Waste Protocol, which will enable cities and other entities to report how much food waste they create in a credible, practical, and internationally consistent manner. Finally, the current draft of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contains a target to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level” by 2030.

Cities play an indispensable role in combating food waste and helping feed 9.5 billion people with fewer carbon emissions and minimal impact on natural resources.

Categories: Europe

Upcoming Habitat III Conference Offers Opportunity for Leaders to Set a New Urban Agenda

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 8:49am

UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos addresses a joint press conference during PrepCom2–a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya for international leaders to prepare for next year’s Habitat III. Photo by UN-Habitat/Flickr.

In 1950, fewer than 800 million people lived in urban areas. Today that number is almost 5 billion, and is expected to surpass 6 billion by 2045, according to the UN World Urbanization Prospects. Urban growth—and its related challenges of poverty, climate change, resilience, and consumption—is the defining issue of our time.

Global processes are underway to address these challenges. From the forthcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to this summer’s International Conference on Financing for Development, to the COP21 climate negotiations in December, global and local leaders will be busy this year making commitments to build a more sustainable, equitable future.

For cities, this all culminates in 2016’s Habitat III conference on cities and human settlements, to be held in Quito, Ecuador next October. To prepare for this pivotal gathering, local, national and international leaders have come together this week in Nairobi, Kenya at Habitat III’s second Preparatory Committee. They’ll set priorities for urban development that will shape city actions for decades to come.

While national and global leaders can make commitments, cities have to deliver results. Here are five big opportunities city and national leaders should consider as they prepare for Quito:

1. Take Stock of Local Progress

Following Habitat II—hosted by Istanbul in 1996—the UN-HABITAT recommended that each country form National Habitat Committees by June 2014. These committees were to assess progress since 1996 and create recommendations for a new urban agenda to be established at Habitat III. National Habitat Committees have taken stock of countrywide progress and opportunities, but have yet to identify how these lessons can help cities become more connected, compact and coordinated. National governments can take this moment to better understand their own unique challenges and work with city leaders to develop a common agenda.

Additionally, more than 50 cities have already committed to the Compact of Mayors—with more to come—and will take action to measure, report, and reduce their carbon emissions. Habitat III could be an ideal platform for these cities to commit to specific reduction actions.

2. Push for Ambitious National Policies

Between the SDGs, COP, and Habitat processes, there are many ways cities can advocate for progressive and sustainable national urban development policies. City governments have an essential role in this process as leading drivers of climate action, but national bodies need to help cities succeed and develop good practices.

City actors should seek out opportunities to work with their national governments and with development banks to localize national initiatives. For example, India’s 100 smart cities initiative is a plan from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take advantage of the country’s recent urban boom and catalyze investment in Indian cities. Cities can also look to leverage international funding commitments, like the $175 billion committed to sustainable transport projects by the eight largest development banks in 2012.

3. Include Voices Beyond National Governments

Global and national commitments must be linked to the real solutions cities need. Municipal governments, city networks, business leaders, local NGOs and other stakeholders can help national and global leaders take into account the challenges cities face in developing sustainably. This helps to ensure that investments and commitments come back to individual citizens and improve quality of life.

4. Seek Out Innovative Financing and Implementation Mechanisms

Between the Green Climate Fund, the aforementioned Financing for Development conference and other international financing processes, the framework for investment in sustainable development is complex. Rather than layering on top of this complexity, this year’s conversations should inspire a transformational and collaborative investment framework that increases the size of the pie, incorporates the different financing mechanisms that exist, and enables cities to move towards a low-carbon development pathway.

Pushing for a better framework also means creating an enabling environment that builds capacity for cities to access these funds and leverage private sector investment.

5. Advocate for a Global Agenda

Cities can use this historic moment to advocate for and exemplify the fundamental changes needed. By putting into practice the principles of tomorrow’s sustainable and resilient cities, urban leaders can steer the agenda by leading through example.

The opportunity for innovation is ripe. As national decision-makers craft climate action commitments and sustainability goals, they should remember that 75 percent of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 has not yet been built. Local leaders have the chance now to build cities that lower environmental impacts and serve urban populations more equitably. Habitat III represents a chance to make national and international commitments—like those from the Lima and Paris climate talks—real. By linking these global movements with local actions, cities can reclaim the power they need to create the change we want.

Categories: Europe

Greening bus fleets requires a range of strategies

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 5:56pm

By using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GPC) to determine the sources of the city’s emissions, Rio de Janeiro was able to set realistic targets to reducing transport emissions. Photo by EMBARQ Brasil/Flickr.

In 2012 alone, Latin America saw 131,000 preventable air pollution-related deaths. To reduce emissions and improve air quality, it’s essential that public transit fleets—like buses—become more fuel-efficient. Adopting cleaner fuels—like natural gas or low-sulfur diesel—and upgrading to technologies that produce fewer toxic emissions are two strategies for better fuel efficiency that cities should consider pursuing in the fight for clean air.

On March 27, 2015, the C40 Latin American Mayors Forum brought clean bus fleets to the focus of its agenda. Buenos Aires hosted the Forum, and more than 15 Latin American city leaders attended. The Forum brought significant advances for climate change mitigation efforts in Latin America, producing the Clean Bus Declaration of Intent, which urges cities to opt for “low and ultimately zero emissions buses.” The Declaration sets overall clean bus targets in participating cities and a common foundation for prioritizing more sustainable methods of clean fleet financing.

In order to ensure the Declaration’s success and maximize emissions reductions, city leaders should consider this agreement a starting step and continue to explore other low-cost strategies—like route optimization—for reducing emissions.

Targets and financing are just the first step

The Declaration sets targets for implementing cleaner buses: signatory cities have agreed to have clean buses comprise 28 percent of their overall fleet by 2020. In order to determine targets for each participating city, decision-makers will need to carefully analyze local context, because some technology and fuels combinations are more efficient in certain settings—like hybrid buses in dense cities, where frequent acceleration and braking is necessary. In terms of setting targets, Rio offers a good example. The city categorized its emissions using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol for Cities (GPC) and streamlined efforts across the waste and transportation sectors to achieve its target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent.

In order to achieve the targets outlined in the Declaration, it’s critical that cities have access to good sources of funding. While the Declaration primarily acts as a target-setting pledge for more eco-friendly buses, it also encourages cities to explore new sources of clean fleet funding, such as global manufacturers and multilateral development banks.

Financing is an important issue for ensuring the financial sustainability of clean fleets, because if adopting clean technologies and fuels is costly, operators might pass these costs on to riders in the form of high ticket prices. This detracts from the ultimate goal of creating affordable public transit. Two promising ways of financing clean fleets are subsidies and climate finance funds. Subsidies can help finance additional capital costs and can be implemented as pilot programs to help operators understand the costs and savings of clean fuels and technologies. Climate finance funds offer another approach. For instance, Climate Funds Update outlines the numerous funds available to cities, and Climate Investment Fund financially supports emissions reductions in emerging economies.

Moving forward with low-cost strategies for reducing emissions

Beyond the targets and financing options for clean fleets outlined in the Declaration, there are many other affordable strategies available to city leaders for reducing emissions that utilize existing resources. For instance, route optimization—redesigning bus routes to be more efficient—has the potential to cut emissions in half in Brasília, Brazil. These impacts build on reductions from city’s clean bus rapid transit (BRT) system without requiring additional costly investment.

Similarly, there’s significant potential for Querétaro, México to cut its emissions by bus reorganization—maximizing the value of each individual bus through efficient route design and phasing out older, less environmentally friendly buses. Along with a move to BRT, bus reorganization was shown to eliminate at least 85 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the city.

Finally, driver training can be an effective method for reducing emissions, as certain driving techniques are more fuel-efficient than others. One example comes from a driver training course offered by EMBARQ India and with the support of FedEx. Not only did this program provide drivers with a better understanding of how fuel efficiency and driving behavior are interconnected, it also helped create fuel efficiency targets for everyday operations.

Paving the way to the Paris climate talks

Air quality in metropolitan areas ebbs and flows as mobility habits change. The Clean Bus Declaration takes a critical—and commendable—stance encouraging greener transit options in Latin American cities. This puts participating cities in a promising position for the COP21 climate talks in Paris this December, demonstrating initiative to address both public transit emissions and local air quality for healthier, cleaner communities.

We look forward to witnessing the tangible change that the Clean Bus Declaration will create, as well as the many possible next steps that bus agencies can take to reduce emissions and support low-carbon cities.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: The daily life of informal settlements in a series of striking new videos

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 3:04pm

Although living in a region full of rivers, residents of Korail—an informal settlement in Dhaka, Bangladesh—often struggle to access clean water and other basic urban services. Photo by William Veerbeek/Flickr.

As a filmmaker, writer, and editor, Cassim Shepard is particularly attentive to the many complex ways that rapid global urbanization is affecting people at a very fundamental level—what they see, feel, and do in daily city life. Commissioned by Design with the Other 90%: Cities—the second installment of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s series on informal urban settlements around the world—Shepard recently released several video excerpts from his contribution to the exhibition. His video pastiche incorporates footage from local artists in Mexico City, São Paulo, Durban, Nairobi, Dhaka and Manila, weaving together scenes from three cities at a time into a single, cohesive narrative:

Describing his work, Shepard writes:

“This audio-video installation sketches a day in the life of six informal settlements around the world in order to evoke the ways these complex sites are much more than places of dwelling: they accommodate livelihoods, commerce, education, cultural production, inter-ethnic interaction, worship, politics and play. And they are indelibly connected to surrounding or adjacent urban systems. Expressing these linkages — transactions in markets, itineraries of commutes, innovations in building technology, relationships to infrastructural circuits — through moving images illuminates how residents live, work, play, move and exchange.”

In addition to the brief excerpt from his “triptych”, Shepard has uploaded six features of an informal settlement in each city. Here are two of TheCityFix’s favorites:

Korail, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Twenty million people live in Dhaka, Bangladesh—one of the fast growing cities in the world. But with the equivalent of $5.4 billion in GDP susceptible to damage from river flooding alone, the country is also one of the most vulnerable to climate change. This video of the Korail settlement in Dhaka explores the informal community’s vital relationship to water—the traders who cross the city’s myriad rivers daily, the women who rely on rainwater for cooking, and the children who wash themselves in muddy pools of water collecting on the streets.

Heliopolis, São Paulo, Brazil

When talking about the challenges and opportunities of urbanization, it can be hard to move beyond the prodigious scale of global growth and investment to imagine what it all looks like at a more human level. This video of the Heliopolis neighborhood of São Paulo depicts development from a different perspective, focusing on the incremental changes that happen to the urban landscape every day, every hour, every minute. Watch a few local construction workers mix concrete in the street and apply it, brick by brick, to a new building slowly encroaching on the street. Visualize expansion in real time, as it’s experienced.

Watch the rest on vimeo.  

Categories: Europe

Four lessons from Beijing and Shanghai show how China’s cities can curb car congestion

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 8:26am

Although Beijing, China has struggled in previous years to adopt strong transport demand management (TDM) strategies, the city is now looking to expand its TDM policies to combat growing car ownership. Photo by Alan Sheffield/Flickr.

A century of car-centric urban development has left our cities polluted, congested and searching for sustainable solutions. Transport Demand Management (TDM) strategies can provide these solutions by combining public policy and private sector innovation to reverse over-reliance on private cars. The Moving Beyond Cars series—exclusive to TheCityFix and WRI Insights—offers a global tour of TDM solutions in Brazil, China, India and Mexico, providing lessons in how cities can curb car culture to make sustainable transport a reality.

As China’s GDP has grown, so has the number of cars on its roads. From 2008 to 2010, the country’s vehicle ownership almost doubled, from 38 vehicles to 58 per 1,000 people, and is set to hit 269 vehicles by 2030. This growth in car ownership not only means that the auto industry and infrastructure investments will continue booming, it also means more air pollution, energy consumption and traffic crashes.

Yet at the same time, some Chinese cities are starting to see the error of a car-centric world. They’re pursuing transport demand management (TDM) strategies designed to reduce private vehicle travel and create safer, more livable cities.

Beijing and Shanghai are some of the earliest adopters of TDM in China. Their different results and approaches shed light on how other cities can be successful with TDM.

Beijing and Shanghai: four lessons for curbing car travel

In 2004, Beijing and Shanghai both had about 2 million vehicles. By 2010, Beijing’s car ownership had skyrocketed to 5 million, whereas Shanghai’s grew to only 3.5 million. So what happened?

While Beijing is home to about the same number of cars as New York City, Shanghai has a smaller mode share of personal vehicles and a lower rate of ownership. Graphic by WRI China.

While Beijing was early to require proof of parking, this single measure has not been sufficient at curbing traffic congestion. Other policies—like Shanghai’s license plate auction—have proven more effective over time. Graphic by WRI China.

Lesson 1: proactive policies matter

Shanghai was an early adopter of license auctioning, an approach pioneered in Singapore in which residents bid to receive one of a limited number of license plates. Shanghai put the policy in place in 1994, before motorization had really picked up. Beijing, on the other hand, did not implement its own vehicle quota system until 2011 as a reactive response to the 5 million vehicles already choking its streets. Shanghai shows that it’s important to act quickly and calculate the right timing to implementing vehicle ownership restrictions.

Lesson 2: pricing is both equitable and profitable.

Shanghai’s vehicle quota is allocated through auctions, which not only slows down vehicle growth, but also raises revenues for transit expansion. In contrast, Beijing adopted what it deemed a more equitable lottery system, randomly awarding licenses to applicants. This has backfired, though, as the system not only misses the opportunity to raise funds for public transit, but also spawned black markets for winning bidders to capitalize on their free licenses.

Lesson 3: quick fixes are not enough.

Before switching to a vehicle quota policy in 2011, Beijing adopted “proof-of-parking,” a policy that requires residents to obtain parking certificates before purchasing a car. Although this policy has been successful in Tokyo, the high costs of verification and the lack of enforcement meant fake certificates were easy to come by in China. The policy was eventually abandoned. Other Chinese cities have similar stories. These regulatory policies often seem easy to implement and likely to produce quick wins, but have limited effect considering the scale of China’s motorization challenge.

Lesson 4: holistic measures are key

TDM cannot work in isolation. In both Beijing and Shanghai, the introduction of TDM policies came at the same time as expanded and improved transit services so that new alternatives are provided when driving is not an attractive option. Further, complementary measures, like investing in public transit, dense and mixed use development around transit stations, and walking and cycling improvements, can complement TDM and maximize its effectiveness.

Momentum for TDM is building

Despite pushback from the auto industry, political will is building to get driving under control. Beyond Beijing and Shanghai, Shenzhen adopted a vehicle quota system in 2014 that limits new cars sold in the city. Even more cities now restrict which vehicles can travel on certain days of the week based on license plate numbers. And given China’s top-down institutional structure, implementing innovative and experimental TDM strategies can be easier and more flexible than doing so in other countries.

Shanghai was one of the first cities in China to regulate road use based on license plates. Later, Beijing and other cities adopted vehicle quote systems. Graphic by WRI China.

And there’s hope that even those cities still seeing an unflinching increase in car ownership will eventually get their car habit under control.

Beijing, for example, learned quickly, and is now embarking on a new path. The city is currently looking to expand its TDM options to include congestion pricing  and has proactively engaged the public in policymaking and implementation. The city is also showing leadership by limiting vehicles purchased by government institutions in an effort to combat the cultural preference for car ownership.

Most importantly, the city has come to understand that a sustainable city is a place for people, not cars. Such lessons can pave the way for a sustainable urban future in China.

Categories: Europe

7550 New Bike Parking Spots at Copenhagen Central Station

Copenhagenize - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 7:13am
For all of Copenhagen's badass mainstream bicycle culture, there remains one thing that the City still completely sucks at. Bicycle parking at train stations. At Copenhagen Central Station there are only about 1000 bike parking spots. Danish State Railways can't even tell us how many spots they have. They're not sure.Even in Basel they have 800+. In Antwerp they have this. Don't even get me started on the Dutch. 12,500 bike parking spots are on the way in some place called Utrecht. Amsterdam has a multi-story bike parking facility, floating bicycle barges round the back and are planning 7000 more spots underwater.Even at the nation's busiest train station, Nørreport, the recent and fancy redesign failed miserably in providing parking that is adequate for the demand. Architects once again failing to respond to actual urban needs.It is time to remedy that. Here is Copenhagenize Design Company's design for 7550 bike parking spots behind Copenhagen Central Station. Steve C. Montebello is the architect that I worked closely with.By exploting the area over the train tracks and using Tietgens Bridge as the transport spine, we have created an iconic bicycle parking facility with ample parking spots at this important transport hub where trains, buses and - in 2019 - the Metro converge in an intermodal transport orgy.In our work on the EU project - Bike Train Bike - we have been focused on parking solutions at train stations. It was a natural evolution to use that experience in developing this project.The structure is supported by columns and utilises the existing platforms below, which dictated the shape that we decided upon.There are:- 6880 bike parking spots in double decker racks. This can be expanded with 1360 more if necessary.- 30 dedicated cargo bike parking spots featuring The Copenhagenize Bar by Cyclehoop.- 640 secure, indoor bike parking spots in the green roofed building at left (above).- A bike shop for repairs and maintenence.- Ticket machines and displays for departures and arrivals of trains and buses.- At the end of the long point, the belvedere will be the world's premiere, dedicated lookout spot design for trainspotters.Here is the view of the area as it is today.There are four on/off ramps from Tietgens Bridge for ease-of-access.A secure bicycle parking facility will house 640 bikes.We used 3D models of bike racks courtesy of our colleagues at the Dutch company Falco. They know a thing or two about bike racks.There will be a space for a bike shop for repairs and maintenence located at the entrance, next to ticket machines and displays featuring departures and arrivals for trains and buses.The parking with have signs with areas divided up alphabetically, so you can find your bike again.There is access to the three platforms below by stairs that will, of course, have bike ramps. Duh.This facility will right so many wrongs and will thrust Copenhagen into the 21st century regarding bicycle parking at train stations. If we are  to maintain the momentum of a blossoming bicycle-friendly city, we need to up our game regarding parking.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Why we need solutions at scale to solve today’s urban challenges

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 04/09/2015 - 2:44pm

The ICLEI World Congress takes place in Seoul, South Korea this year, and serves to connect city leaders, enable collaborative partnerships, and facilitate knowledge-sharing for more sustainable development around the world. Photo by Seoul Korea/Flickr.

Editor’s note April 14, 2015: This article was updated to include a reference to the Bus Rapid Transit Centre of Excellence. 

The world has never been more urban than it is now, and this trend isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. By 2050, the world will have grown by 2.5 billion additional urban dwellers, with almost all of this growth occurring in cities in the developing world. According to 2014’s Better Growth, Better Climate report, the world will need to invest about $50 trillion in infrastructure every year for 15 years to keep up with demand. India, for example, is estimated to need 350 to 400 kilometers of new metro and subway lines every year—20 times what it’s achieved in the past decade. While this is a tall order, it also presents great opportunities to improve our cities. To ensure that these investments result in communities that are productive, livable and sustainable, we have to change how we build, manage, and use our cities.

This means changing current patterns of land use, transportation, and lifestyles. Cities across the globe have already implemented many innovative solutions to become more sustainable and improve quality of life. But how do we go from individual, isolated successes to real change at a global scale?

Proven solutions exist, but too often in isolation

Cities worldwide are already experimenting with a range of sustainable solutions that have delivered measurable results. For example, bus rapid transit (BRT) systems are helping places like Mexico City avoid roughly 122,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and reduce traffic crashes by 20 percent. Not only has Mexico City’s Metrobús reduced citywide emissions, it has also created local benefits for citizens by boosting economic productivity and reducing traffic congestion. BRT systems like Metrobús can have a ripple effect of benefits, from greater access to jobs and education to long-term improvements in public health and road safety.

Mexico City’s success with BRT did not happen overnight. It was achieved through sustained effort and much trial and error. But Mexico City’s success in creating sustainable urban transport solutions demonstrates that the tools for change exist. Cities around the world are developing their own localized, innovative answers to residents’ needs, and customizing both international best practices and emerging solutions to their own local contexts.

Bring local ideas to the global stage, then customize

Good ideas can’t produce positive global impact if they remain at the individual city level. While every city is different and not every tool will succeed globally, city leaders need to know about the range of solutions available to them, and how to customize these solutions to their own particular context. This can be a challenge for creating widespread change across diverse cities, and shows why the right ecosystems for change are crucial to making urban sustainability a reality.

This has been the case for some cities interested in adopting BRT. The mid-sized city of Curitiba, Brazil was the first city to implement BRT with demonstrated success, but the spread of BRT (now in more than 190 cities) is the result of years of collaboration between city governments, international organizations, and private companies. A few key projects helped pave the way for the expansion of BRT from Latin America to India, China, and even North America and Europe, and a whole ecosystem of conferences, organizations, and knowledge-sharing platforms has since developed to foster the spread of BRT. As national governments began to benefit from BRT, they created their own funding mechanisms to help additional cities build their own systems and expand BRT at a global scale.

Creating the right ecosystems for transforming our cities

The right ecosystem for change is an environment that supports innovation, sparks leadership, and builds partnerships. An ecosystem needs a global network of partners that can seamlessly distribute local innovations in real time so that cities worldwide have access to knowledge. It also needs local networks of partners who can bring ideas down to the individual city level and craft customized solutions. Both of these components must work in conjunction for cities to create lasting change.

In the case of BRT’s global growth, active mayors like Curitiba’s Jaime Lerner played important roles by sharing their experiences globally and championing BRT as a solution for cities. Specific organizations and platforms, like the Bus Rapid Transit Centre of Excellence and, standardized information and disseminated knowledge about BRT systems worldwide. Conferences, like EMBARQ’s Transforming Transportation conference, have provided forums for transport professionals, political leaders, and other experts to network, share insights, and learn about BRT’s many benefits to cities and people.

There are similarly powerful opportunities outside of urban transport, as well. Addressing the challenges of rapid urbanization is a chance to make our cities more sustainable, healthy, and prosperous. However, this transformation won’t happen unless we share experiences and insights across borders, like city leaders are doing at the 2015 ICLEI World Congress this week. Doing this in a collaborative, supportive ecosystem can make other sustainable solutions a reality—not just in a few cities, but worldwide.

Categories: Europe

China’s clean air challenge: Public unrest forges the path ahead

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 3:48pm

Transitioning from emissions-intensive vehicles to bicycling and other forms of sustainable transport is a priority of China’s new Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Air Pollution. Photo by Maciej Hrynczyszyn/Flickr.

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

Toward the end of 2011, episodes of severe pollution levels in China started attracting worldwide attention. Global media employed terms like “airmageddon” and “airpocalypse,” sparking considerable discussion and debate on social media.

Nearly four years later, air pollution remains a pressing issue in Chinese cities. Last month, journalist Chain Jing released Under the Dome, an independently produced documentary investigating both the causes and effects of China’s toxic levels of air pollution. Within 48 hours, the video had gone viral, reaching over 100 million views. Although viewers have now been restricted from  accessing the 103-minute documentary within China, the impact of the film’s message among Chinese citizens has already been forceful.

Public pressure mounts

Air quality has long been a problem in Chinese cities, but it wasn’t until late 2011 when the public started to express significant frustration. Chinese social media platform Weibo has since become a major venue for public discussion. This type of grassroots communication has brought air pollution and its consequences to the center of public consciousness. PM2.5—the air pollutant most associated with respiratory health risks—is now a household phrase. But the problem continued to worsen, and in 2013, PM2.5 in Beijing spiked to 25 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization. Today, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection reports that cities across China suffer more than 100 days of extreme haze—when PM2.5 concentrations reach four to five times the acceptable levels—per year. Local governments have responded quickly to inform the public about proper protection responses and implement emergency emissions reductions, but public pressure for further action has never been higher.

Even before Under the Dome—and despite its censorship—public awareness of the reality and consequences of living with air pollution has been steadily approaching fever pitch.

Chinese government responds

Public outrage over deteriorating air quality in China did eventually prompt government response. On September 12, 2013, China’s State Council released the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, setting a road map for air pollution control from 2013-2017 in three key megalopolis regions: Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, the Yangtze River Delta, and the Pearl River Delta. The Action Plan states that the regions’ annual average concentrations of PM2.5 should be reduced by 25 percent, 20 percent, and 15 percent, respectively.

More recently, the national government released a new plan that aims to build long-term momentum towards better air quality across the country. This plan pulls from three previous attempts at air pollution control:

China went through three strategic phases of air pollution control before 2010. Each phase has target pollutants, major emission sources, and control approaches. Table adapted from Prof. He Kebin, Tsinghua University. Click to enlarge.

The current combination of regional action plans and national strategies make China’s “war on pollution” a much more robust and far-reaching approach to addressing noxious air pollution.

The way forward for better air quality

Implementing the Action Plan requires initiative at the local, provincial, and national levels. Some notable features of the Action Plan include:

  • Distributing responsibilities and conducting performance assessments: The central government has assigned 80 tasks to various national ministries and has signed agreements with 31 individual provinces to make sure air quality improvement targets are achieved.
  • Curbing emissions from industrial sources: Six emissions standards have been issued since September 2013, covering variety of industrial and manufacturing industries.
  • Managing vehicle emissions: The central government will strengthen vehicle emissions standards by 2018 and has established a timetable to transition to cleaner sources of fuel. At the local level, older car models will soon be phased out the market.
  • Restructuring economic and energy sectors: One notable example of these efforts is that the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region introduced measures to reduce coal consumption.
  • Enhancing air quality management: Several ministries are improving air quality forecasting and scientific research has focused on identifying the sources of pollution. The Ministry of Environmental Protection has issued technical guidelines for developing a comprehensive emissions inventory and assessing energy efficiency that will guide local, on-the-ground work.

Whether because of public sentiment, globally influential campaigns like Under the Dome, or the sheer reality of how much air pollution costs China, the government is now taking the issue very seriously. Now is the time for the country’s growing civil society sector to keep engaging key stakeholders for continued action and bring forward sustainable solutions that clean the air and improve quality of life.

Categories: Europe

Fortaleza, Brazil shows why waste matters for sustainable urban development

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 4:47pm

Catadores—Fortaleza, Brazil’s waste pickers—are helping the city reuse its waste and avoid landfill expansion, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Photo by Louis Vasconcelos/Flickr.

In 2002, Brazil produced 60,000 metric tons of waste per day, 76 percent of which was disposed of in landfills with no long-term management or water treatment. In response to growing challenges with waste production and trash dumping, the country passed the Política Nacional de Resíduos Sólidos (PNRS) in 2010, which aims to make integrated waste management a national priority.

The PNRS provides tremendous opportunities for cities across Brazil to improve waste management. Still, by 2013, only 33 percent of Brazilian cities reported having plans to address waste management.

Fortaleza was one of those cities and can serve as a model for making the best use of PNRS today. After measuring the extent of its waste challenge, Fortaleza found that its waste—discarded food, plastic, and other materials—more than doubled from 2,375 tons per day in 2001 to 4,816 tons per day in 2011, while the city’s population only grew 14 percent over the same period. Through an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions, Fortaleza also found that 25 percent of its carbon emissions come from waste.

A close look at Fortaleza’s efforts to improve its own waste management reveals lessons for how strong waste management strategies can contribute to sustainable urban development globally.

Committing the city to international waste management standards

Fortaleza unveiled its waste management proposal in April 2012, which included an investment of about $375,000 to develop a separation and recycling system for materials like plastic bottles and aluminum cans. That may not sound like much money, but in 2013, only 39 percent of Brazilian cities even let customers separate trash from recycling in some areas of their jurisdiction. Recycling is key for Fortaleza, as the city currently sends the remainder of its solid waste to the massive Caucaia landfill, which had to absorb nearly 1.8 million tons of waste in 2011 alone. Recycling can also provide benefits like job creation and reducing the energy needed to produce goods.

For Fortaleza, the impetus to improve waste management also comes from a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through the Urban LEDS project, the city is implementing machinery designed to capture methane entering the atmosphere from the Caucaia landfill. The machinery will capture and purify methane before using it as fuel in place of natural gas. Reusing the purified landfill gases for power is expected to reduce Fortaleza’s carbon emissions by 318,000 metric tons per year, or about 8 percent of its current annual emissions.

Grassroots organizing for a cleaner city

In addition to these top-down efforts, communities within Fortaleza are taking bold steps forward on sustainable wastewater issues. Only about one-third of households are connected to the city’s wastewater system. Without proper wastewater services, sewage from favelas—informal slum communities—can sit in containers accessible by mosquitoes or enter into groundwater reserves that serve as drinking water sources. These mosquitoes have been known to help incubate Dengue Fever, a serious health risk. By working with Project Fortaleza—an initiative to promote trust and social capital among slum dwellers—150 families came together to complete the Palmas community’s first project to improve wastewater drainage. In addition, these families paid only an average of $84 for the project—compared to the $420 they had to pay for illegal and unreliable water services before.

Fortaleza’s waste pickers, or “catadores,” are also an unexpected source of grassroots activity in the city. They sift through trash to collect, sort, and sell useful materials to the Brazilian recycling industry. Some even turn waste materials into jewelry, furniture, and art. Still, it’s not a perfect system. To collect waste, the catadores work in hazardous conditions, are cut off from much of society, and many face food insecurity. While the PNRS formalized the catadores’ work in 2010, little is being done to integrate them into Brazilian society and many think the PNRS has failed to help catadores shed the social stigma that follows their line of work.

While it may not have happened yet, the PNRS can in fact catalyze projects that improve the lives of catadores. For example, The Green Methane Committee and the The Appalachian Energy Center want to ensure the previously mentioned project to capture methane at Fortaleza’s Caucaia landfill creates safer working conditions and better pay for catadores.

Fortaleza as an inspiration for change across Brazil

When we think of waste management, we often forget that it does not occur in isolation of other aspects of urban life. Recycling lowers not only lowers greenhouse gas emissions, but also drives economic development by providing employment and reducing the cost of raw materials. Water and wastewater management improve health and sanitation, especially for marginalized populations most vulnerable to diseases. Integrating smart waste and water management into a city is an important part of a broader sustainable city development strategy.

The PNRS presents local governments in Brazil with a fresh opportunity to evaluate and improve their waste management systems to improve health, reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen the economy.

Categories: Europe

Why planning for expansion helps build sustainable, equitable cities

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 11:07am

São Paulo has historically struggled to expand fast enough to match rapid population growth, resulting in many informal favelas housing residents in the city’s periphery. Photo by Gabriel Cabral/Flickr.

Consensus is building around the many benefits of compact cities. Overall, compact cities use fewer resources, produce fewer carbon emissions, and provide better quality of life for their inhabitants than their sprawled counterparts. In rapidly urbanizing countries in the global south, however, many medium-sized cities are expected to double their populations in the coming decades. This increase will strain efforts to achieve compact urban development. While some of these cities have densities three times higher than those of cities in industrialized economies, some degree of urban land expansion is inevitable. If current trends continue, the amount of developed land in these cities could triple between 2000 and 2030.

With these issues in mind, New York University (NYU) created the Urban Expansion Initiative in 2013. The basic concept of the Initiative’s making room approach is simple. It entails working directly with city leaders to realistically assess where urban populations are expected to expand so that strategic plots of land can be identified as sites for public space, infrastructure, or transport, and then acquired before they are lost to development.

By planning for future growth in this way, cities can ensure that development happens in a way that is compact, sustainable, and equitable.

Rapidly growing cities face challenges for sustainability

Planning for growth is a challenging task. The planning process around the making room approach must be long-term, but this timeline often conflicts with city leaders’ short-term interests. This approach requires significant investment from local and sometimes national governments, and can involve difficult negotiations with landowners. Where possible, the Initiative attempts to influence cities to avoid direct payment when purchasing land and instead rely on land value capture financing to compensate the owners. Such methods can be challenging for cities because they require financial expertise and political will to ensure that compensation makes its way to the existing land owners.

The consequences of failing to plan for expansion are clear. In Brazil, beginning in the 1940s, development began to expand beyond the boundaries over which the municipal government had jurisdiction. Control over development in these areas was then functionally ceded to residents and real estate speculators, resulting in often-chaotic, uneven development that would leave disconnected, empty spaces. Additionally, many developers didn’t provide basic services and some committed outright fraud. Due in part to these trends, a comparatively large proportion of São Paulo’s slum (favela) population now resides in the city’s periphery, where they face long commutes and lack adequate infrastructure. Fortunately, the city has shifted toward more compact growth in recent years. But had leaders taken a closer and more realistic look at rapid population growth from the beginning, they could have taken a more calculated approach to development and avoided many of the city’s current growing pains.

The making room approach can help control the risk of uneven expansion

By contrast, the benefits of the making room approach—if applied effectively—are equally clear. Purchasing and retaining land for arterial roads and public space can cost-effectively avoid many of the potential drawbacks of rapid urbanization. Creating infrastructure or public spaces retroactively and without available development-free land costs three to nine times as much and is more damaging to existing communities than making room tactics. And, while there have been innovative efforts to provide efficient and integrated transport for residents of informal communities, these innovations would not be necessary if neighborhoods had proper access to road infrastructure in the first place.

With greater knowledge of and control over growth, city leaders can influence urban expansion to generate compact and transit-oriented development.

Balancing growth in a comprehensive vision for integrated development

While these benefits are compelling, cities should put the making room approach in perspective given the importance of each city’s unique context. To properly manage expansion, cities should balance expansion with added density and integrate regional and metropolitan planning in a comprehensive vision for development. This can include analysis to better understand natural and ecological networks, economic geography, growth patterns, transit connectivity between settlements, and other relevant factors. Bangalore, India has already moved toward such an approach by creating a Revised Structure Plan for 2031 for its metropolitan region. The plan attempts to shape urban expansion through a detailed land capability analysis, which examines land to determine its suitability for particular uses. While the likelihood of full implementation remains uncertain, the plan itself represents a vital step toward ordering and steering urban growth in sustainable ways.

Furthermore, in order to pursue the making room approach, cities must ensure they have the appropriate mechanisms for procuring land. Otherwise they risk missing out on opportunities for shared prosperity and equitable growth. Beyond the traditional means of land acquisition or even land value capture, city leaders should explore new models of partnership with land owners such as land pooling mechanisms and the town planning schemes seen in Gujarat, India.

The Urban Expansion Initiative has grown rapidly in the past year, expanding its efforts from its pilot countries of Colombia and Ethiopia to India, Mexico, Ecuador, Malaysia, and China. However, the scale of the issue is far greater than any single initiative can address. Now more than ever, city leaders must take a serious look at the future of urban land, and make sure that they capitalize on opportunities to ensure efficient and sustainable growth.

Categories: Europe

Edisonstraat in Hoogeveen. A road redesign which had fatal consequences. What lessons can be learnt ?

Hembrow - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 5:48am
On the tenth of February, a 63 year old employee of the Fokker aircraft company in Hoogeveen was seriously wounded at 7:30 in the morning while cycling to work as a result of a collision with a car driven by a 19 year. The next day, he passed away in hospital. Shortly afterwards, one of his colleagues contacted me and asked that I take a look at recent changes in and around Edisonstraat where theDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Just an 8 Tooth Cog in the Machine

Henry WorkCycles - Sat, 04/04/2015 - 10:42am

This folks is an 8 tooth cog. These are the tiniest cogs in the bike world and probably in all of machine world too since a gear with only eight teeth is actually a pretty bad idea. The problem is that it’s not really round, it’s basically an octagon so it runs roughly as it’s effective diameter gets bigger and smaller between each tooth. In freestyle BMX though, such tiny cogs are handy because they enable making a useful gear ratio with a tiny chainring… one that won’t get bent in half when a rider smacks it onto a stairway railing or priceless sculpture.

Anyhow at times like this we at WorkCycles feel a little like that little 8 toother: Handy but basically just a minuscule cog in the giant financial machine. A handful of power brokers work the controls and we spin around, trying to do our thing. My understanding of such matters is limited but I read that the powers that be decided it would be good to turn on the presses and print a whole lot more Euro money. Of course the total real value of that money hasn’t actually increased; It’s just been divided into smaller units. In other words printing more money makes whatever money you already have worth less. I suppose the saving grace is that I don’t have any money to lose value.

Oh and then there’s that exchange rate thing, the reason I’m driveling on about this. Now with more, less valuable Euros in the world, a Euro becomes less valuable in comparison to other currencies. In our case the US Dollar is the issue because the parts of the world that make lots of stuff sell their stuff in US Dollars. WorkCycles bikes are NOT made in one of those countries but some of their most expensive parts are: gear and dynamo hubs, rollerbrakes, some frames, cranks, pedals and other smaller components.

That above is the relationship between the value of a Euro and a Dollar over the last year. One Euro is worth approximately 30% fewer Dollars than a year ago. Alternatively you could say that the roughly 25% of a WorkCycles bike’s contents purchased in Dollars now costs 30% more for us Euro money wielding Dutch folks to purchase. Being a little company competing against giants our profit margins are already pathetic. We wrestle each year with where to set our prices so that our bikes are a good value for end customers, our dealers can earn a living from their margins, and we can pay our own employees and bills. It’s been apparent that considerable price increases would be necessary and and making them suck is not an option we’ll ever entertain. We delayed the inevitable as long as possible and have finally pulled the trigger: As of April 2015 WorkCycles bike prices are increasing approximately 10% instead of the usual yearly increases of a couple percent. We’ll honor quotes with the old prices from March 2015 so if you have one of those in your hands you’ve got about three weeks to to say “YES! and get a great deal”. On bikes sold to dealers our margin is so small that the new prices unfortunately have to apply to all new orders. I’ll be mailing those out shortly.

That was the BAD news. The GOOD news is that WorkCycles bikes are now about 30% cheaper for those of you outside Euroland! We pack and ship our bikes almost everywhere (except when it competes with our active dealers). Here are a few examples of the more exotic or unexpected destinations for WorkCycles bikes in the last year or so: Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, Seychelle, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Singapore and Texas. Of course most WorkCycles end up in more predictable locales throughout Europe and North America.

With that out of the way here’s my four year old cutie doing what she loves best: riding her bike.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: China’s ‘dancing grannies’ vow to dance on

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/03/2015 - 11:32am

A group of elderly men and women dance to traditional songs in Lijiang, China, demonstrating how public spaces can be an important facilitator of both physical activity and community building in Chinese cities. Photo by Buster&Bubby/Flickr.

Walk through any public square or park in most Chinese cities and you’re likely to see—and probably hear—a colorful group of elderly residents dancing and singing to their favorite classical Chinese songs. The dancing grannies, as they are known, have become a permanent fixture of Chinese urban life. But they have also aroused the anger of nearby residents who complain of the noise that often runs late into the evening. Responding to this outcry, China’s national government recently announced guidelines in an attempt to regulate, but not completely ban, the dancers.

Far from settling the issue, the government’s attempt to rein in the dancing has only sparked more discussion of the grannies and their loud music, and has arguably failed to deal with the chief complaint: the noise that disturbs nearby residents. Despite the complaints, we think these grannies deserve some appreciation for their contributions to vibrant urban life.

Where did the grannies come from?

The practice of the elderly gathering to dance in China’s public squares probably began in the 1990s, according to The New York Times. This was a period when many state-owned enterprises were downsizing and laying off workers, precipitating a rise in unemployed elderly with little to occupy their time. In recent years, however, conflicts have erupted as the dancing culture has irritated younger residents of the city who complain about the noise and disruption. There have been reports of human feces dumped on dancers from nearby buildings. In one city, a group of residents pooled funds to buy a rival loudspeaker to drown out the grannies’ dance music.

It’s no coincidence that the grannies emerged around the same time China’s economy underwent a dramatic transformation. As China’s economy moved from a controlled, planned economy to a market-driven one, the elderly were largely left behind. Before China’s economic reforms, cities were typically planned around the danwei, or work unit. Citizens were supposed to live, work, and play in one fixed community. While the reforms have unleashed unprecedented economic growth and new opportunities for millions, Chinese cities have been slow to provide adequate spaces for community interaction and recreation.

The need for community space in Chinese cities

China’s rapid urban development has led to sprawl as well as the destruction of older neighborhoods—like Beijing’s hutongs—where human-scale spaces foster a sense of community. Strolling through ancient alleyways, observers will find residents playing xiangqi (Chinese chess) or chatting on a neighbor’s doorstep. This is also what American urbanist Jane Jacobs described in New York as the eyes on the street that contribute to neighborhood security and safety. However, this type of informal community life is typically absent from newer subdivisions of massive high-rise apartments.

Elderly dancers gather in a park in Beijing as part of their morning exercise routine. Photo by Andrew Stokols/WRI.

What can China’s cities learn from the dancing grannies?

China’s dancing grannies shouldn’t be thought of as a quaint anachronism. Concerns over noise and disruption to neighbors are legitimate, and could be addressed through modest regulations—such as prohibiting dancing at certain times and in certain places. But the grannies also provide valuable lessons to urban planners and designers.

The phenomenon of the dancing grannies exemplifies the concept of insurgent space which urban planning scholar Jeffrey Hou uses to describe the urban spaces where certain (often minority) groups spontaneously exercise their right to use public space. They’re also engaging in physical activity and promoting public health, which will be crucial to creating healthier cities in China.

In this sense, the grannies have responded to a failure in planning by taking matters into their own hands. It’s similar to pedestrians who, in a park or green space, create dirt paths by “voting with their feet”—indicating where a path should run.

As China hopes to move an additional 250 million people into cities over the next 10 years, there is a small window of time to start designing new cities and neighborhoods that have ample public space and green space for physical activity. If cities plan for more recreational spaces, they can avoid or at least reduce conflicts between neighbors and dancers. Additionally, the actions of groups like the dancing grannies could prove a powerful and free way to foster community and interaction among urban residents, revitalizing cities.

Categories: Europe

The eight principles of the sidewalk: building more active cities

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 04/02/2015 - 1:05pm

Sidewalks are an integral part of cities and should be prioritized as a central component of people-oriented urban design. Photo by Marc Buehler/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 at EMBARQ Brasil, 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.

Walking is the most democratic way to get around. It is the oldest mode of transport, the most common in the world, it’s free, and it may even help you burn a few calories.

Nevertheless, people are walking less and less. As cities have become more sprawled, highways have replaced sidewalks, creating significant obstacles to walking safely. Sidewalks with broken concrete, narrow widths, and illegally parked vehicles on them are further evidence that walking has is slowly being suffocated by other modes of transport that are less healthy for both people and cities.

We need a shift back to pedestrian-friendly streets. Enhancing the quality of city sidewalks not only attracts more pedestrians, but also helps to create enjoyable public spaces where people want to spend their time.

While they’re decreasing in number, these places do exist already. Living sidewalks can be found in many cities in Brazil and around the world where city leaders have made active transport a priority. Instead of just paving a small strip along broad avenues dominated by automobiles, these cities have decided to enrich their walkable public spaces, emphasizing interaction between people.

To support make walking both accessible and safe, sidewalks should be constructed with these eight complementary and interconnected principles in mind. Together, they not only make for vibrant sidewalks, but contribute directly to the development of active and healthy cities.

Meet the eight principles of the sidewalk:

1. Proper sizing 

Sidewalks are made of up three zones: the free zone, where people actually walk; the service zone, where street furniture like benches or trashcans are located; and the transition zone, which gives those on the sidewalk access to buildings lining the street. Understanding the relationship between these components is key for designing appropriately sized sidewalks.

Well-designed sidewalks have three zones, helping them serve as vibrant public spaces. Photo by Luísa Schardong/EMBARQ Brasil.

2. Quality surfaces

The material used to construct sidewalks needs to be consistent, firm, stable and slip-resistant. In order to ensure that a sidewalk functions properly, designers must be aware of how the sidewalk is being constructed and the quality of the handiwork.

On larger streets, pedestrian medians can also be designed to serve as safe, accessible sidewalks. Photo by Luísa Zottis/EMBARQ Brasil.

3. Efficient drainage

Waterlogged streets, paths, or sidewalks are unsuitable for walking. Sidewalks that accumulate water become useless, as pedestrians will likely end up diverting their route through car-filled roads, risking their safety.

Green areas, even small ones, help drain sidewalks and keep them safe and accessible during storms. Photo by Glen Dake via TheCityFix Brasil.

4. Universal accessibility

The sidewalk, as a public space, should be accessible to a wide spectrum of users—including those with limited mobility. This means designing spaces that serve those in wheelchairs, on crutches, pregnant women, the elderly, and others with special mobility needs. Listing out the different potential users and their mobility limitations during the design process can help ensure the final product will meet the needs of all pedestrians.

Bumpy or uneven sidewalks are particularly hard to navigate for the mobility impaired. Photo by Gilmar Altamirano via TheCityFix Brasil.

5. Secure connections

Pedestrians often transition to other modes of public transport, and need to be able to safely access stations. It’s important that sidewalks are connected and integrated within larger transport networks.

Curb extensions, especially at crossings and intersections, minimize the risk of traffic crashes involving pedestrians. Photo by Marta Obelheiro/EMBARQ Brasil.

6. Attractive spaces

Streets are a fundamental part of the urban environment. Sidewalks can play an important role in making the urban experience more enjoyable. Interesting, vibrant sidewalks that can captivate people and make walking more attractive will ultimately facilitate more physical activity while reducing traffic congestion.

Using lighter, reflective materials to design sidewalks can minimize the urban heat island effect. Photo by USP Cidades via TheCityFix Brasil.

7. Permanent security

Day or night, weekday or weekend, sidewalks are always open for us. However, there are fewer people out on foot during certain times of the day and week, leading to potentially unsafe situations given the lack of friendly eyes on the street. Adopting strategies to positively influence safety and security can further encourage walking and help all city dwellers feel more at home in their city.

Active ground floors are good for business and help ensure friendly eyes on the street for pedestrian safety. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

8. Clear signage

Just like drivers of motor vehicles, pedestrians need clear information so that they can both orient themselves in the city and understand the rules and guidelines of particular sidewalks.

This sign in London shows clearly which destinations the average person can walk to in five minutes. Photo by Charlotte Gilhooly via TheCityFix Brasil.

This article was originally published in Portuguese at TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

People-centric smart cities: five ways technology can support better urban living

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 2:09pm

Cities worldwide can become smarter by using technology to make public transport more efficient, sustainable, and effective at meeting the mobility needs of their residents. Photo by Cristina Valencia/Flickr.

What are smart cities? While there isn’t a standard definition, consensus is growing around the idea that smart cities utilize technology to foster green development, innovation, and new forms of citizen participation. Smart cities currently enjoy a strong positive image, with 89.6 percent of the population in ten U.S. and Canadian cities in favor of smart city development. Globally, smart cities are buzzing, as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced last year an initiative to build 100 smart cities by 2024.

To further explore this concept on a world stage, the Smart City Expo World Congress—held March 25-27, 2015 in Montréal, Canada—brought together public administrators, international experts, and business leaders. The open and diverse discussion allowed participants to explore the concepts surrounding smart cities, like energy and climate change, urban resilience, open government, and sustainable mobility.

Much of the discussion revolved around the idea that smart cities are not truly sustainable unless they equip their citizens with the tools they need to contribute to civic life. The conference emphasized putting people and citizen participation at the center of the smart city movement. Keynote speaker Gil Peñalosa reinforced this point, indicating that smart cities aren’t just about technical solutions—they’re about serving people.

There are many ways that technology can help cities be more responsive to residents’ needs, while also making urban areas more efficient and green. Here are five promising ideas for enabling smart, sustainable mobility from the Smart City Expo World Congress:

1. Helping planners understand mobility needs

New ways of acquiring and processing data, utilizing open-source mapping platforms, and generating powerful data visualizations are already empowering communities and helping planners improve zoning, street design and transit performance. For example, Assaf Biderman, Associate Director of the MIT-SENSEable City Lab, shared some of the amazing ways open information can provide data on transportation patterns. Similarly, the transit specification format GTSF helped researchers map Nairobi’s matatu system, making it open and available to the public for the first time.

2. Empowering communities to engage in the planning process

Technology can help inform citizens about planning in their communities and also facilitate citizen participation in policymaking. Funding for Vancouver’s transit system, for example, is currently under review by referendum. Throughout the process, the city has used different online and social media platforms to inform residents about updates and obtain feedback. Another example is Indore, India’s bus rapid transit system and its extensive use of social media to involve the larger community at every level of the decision-making process.

3. Improving the travel experience

Providing people with real time information about departure times helps improve transit operations. Transit agencies—like STM in Montréal—are developing a much closer relationship with their users, since data now comes in through a variety of sources thanks to new technologies. Utilizing social media and crowdsourcing can help transit agencies better respond to citizens’ mobility needs. Transit apps like Moovit, used in more than 500 cities in industrialized and emerging economies around the world, not only help users navigate the city, but also provide opportunities to get feedback through user ratings and performance metrics.

4. Integrating technology as a component of wider sustainable development objectives

Cities need to embrace a comprehensive approach. Focusing exclusively on technological approaches—like solely increasing the number of hybrid and electric vehicles—will not be enough to achieve the significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required to meet the two-degree target recommended by scientists. Technology-centric solutions may result in intense traffic congestion or high traffic fatalities, despite being more environmentally sustainable. Instead, technology needs to be integrated into a greater framework for sustainable mobility and urban development in order to tackle persistent challenges beyond transport emissions. Toronto’s waterfront development, for example, embodies all the principles of sustainable, smart development and is one of the most interesting redevelopment plans in the world.

5. Rediscovering bicycle ‘technology’

Technology offers nearly endless possibilities for sustainable cities, from planning and user information, to electrification of vehicle fleets and smart grids of renewable energy sources. However, it’s important to expand our thinking, and to recognize the bicycle as another technology of the future. Bicycles will likely have the greatest impact on mobility in the next five to ten years. They are already well established as the main mode of transport in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam; and they are growing fast in the U.S. and in Latin America. Bikes have become an expression of a new lifestyle for younger generations. Even though modern bicycles are almost 200 years old, they are a clean, effective, healthy, and fun mode of transport. Safe bike lanes and parking, integration with transit, tech support—like electronic assistance—and even technology-enabled bikesharing systems can help establish bicycles as an essential mode of transport in smart cities.

These five ideas are useful not just for cities in industrialized countries, but also for the rapidly growing cities of the global south. Cities everywhere face formidable challenges, but technological changes present immense opportunities for tackling these seemingly intractable issues. Smart cities can utilize these technologies to create safe, sustainable, livable and resilient places for people.

Categories: Europe

Choreography of a Copenhagen Corner - Desire Line Analysis

Copenhagenize - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 8:18am
Desire Line Analysis: Choreography of a Copenhagen CornerCyclist Behaviour at a busy Copenhagen cycle intersectionBy Marie Lindebo Leth - Anthropologist For the next study in our Desire Line series we have picked a renowned Copenhagen bicycle hotspot: the Søtorvet / Dronning Louise’s Bro intersection. Over 40,000 bicycle trips are made through this intersection at a daily basis, making it one of the busiest in the world in terms of cyclist volume. Such numbers create a special need for appropriate bicycle infrastructure in order to accommodate the bicycle users crossing this point. At Copenhagenize Design Company we have asked ourselves how we can determine the actual needs of bicycle users, and what solutions would be appropriate. This quest requires a greater understanding of the relationship between urban infrastructure and cyclist behavior, which is why we have conducted a Desire Line Analysis of this intersection.The value of studying cyclist behavior This study was conducted in collaboration with eight students from 4Cities, an international Urban Studies Master’s programme. Eight great and passionate students who tackled this analysis with professionalism.Lorena Axinte (Romania), Jamie Furlong (United Kingdom), Elina Kränzle (Germany), William Otchere-Darko (Ghana), Lucie Rosset (Switzerland), Guillén Torres (Mexico), Mäelys Waiengnier (Belgium) and Devon Willis (Canada).In order to identify how cyclists interact with infrastructure, and with other cyclists and road users, the students positioned a video camera and a few observers at the intersection between the hours 7:00 and 19:00 on a day in November 2014. One particular spot in the intersection is the center of attention for this study. When cyclists approach the intersection, coming from North East along Søtorvet and want to turn right onto Dronning Louises Bro, they tend to either ‘cut’ the corner by riding onto the pedestrian zone, or run a red light when turning right. At Copenhagenize Design Co. we are interested in digging deeper into this behavioral pattern and understand the scale of, and reason behind the exhibited behavior. Knowing how and why bicycle users consistently choose particular routes and strategies can help us understand priorities and motivations of bicycle users and inform our solutions - design-wise and political - in order to better accommodate their needs while paying mind to other road users as well.What are Desire Lines?At Copenhagenize Design Company, we have developed a method for determining how bicycle users actually navigate within the built environment and what routes they choose to take in various situations. This method we call Desire Line Analysis. By observing a bicycle user’s trajectory through a course of a road, we can determine the most traveled through routes - their desire lines. Desire lines are the easiest and most convenient ways of getting from point a to point b for bicycle users, and conceptually they should be distinguished from actual infrastructure with its pre-established paths. Desire lines might correspond with pre-established paths, but sometimes they don’t, and this is where they reveal flaws in the infrastructure that at the same time create opportunities for improvements. Six Desire LinesBased on our video footage we identified the cyclists’ desire lines, first by tracking their point of departure - Øster Søgade or Gothersgade - and then by observing their destination - straight ahead, or right onto Dronning Louises Bro. However, in this Desire Line study our main focus is on those cyclists turning right. We discovered six general desire line categories that cyclists use when turning right onto Dronning Louises Bro. The desire lines above illustrate that cyclist typically chose one of following six trajectories or strategies when making a right turn:1. Following the official bike path - this desire line accounts for cyclists who turn right when the traffic lights are either green or red. All other desire lines below are drawn by cyclists that “cut”, i.e. they ride from the bicycle path up onto the sidewalk, cutting the intersection in order to arrive at Dronning Louises’ Bro. 2. Avoid the pedestrians - cyclists who zigzag or change their path in order to avoid pedestrians.3. Cut in the middle - cyclists who did not cut immediately, but followed the path for a few more meters than category 4 and 5, before deciding to cut4. Cut following the path - cyclists who ride onto the sidewalk and proceed by mimicking the bicycle path until they are close to the traffic light  5. Cut right away - cyclists that cut the sidewalk as early as they can, without trying to follow the path. 6. Cut last minute - cyclists who cut just as they arrived at the red light. (we suspect that when being confronted with a red light, people prefer riding on the sidewalk rather than waiting at for the light to change).Shortcutting to keep the momentum The question of what motivates people to cut the corner in order to arrive at the bike lane on Dronning Louises Bro is central to this study. In order to get closer to an explanation, we will first distinguish between cyclists who cut when traffic lights are red, and those who cut during a green light - where they could just as well have followed the bike path without stopping.The first group - cyclists who cut the corner during a red light - is the largest of the two. In particular, cyclists coming from Gothersgade, arriving on Øster Søgade, then turning right, were more prone to cutting the corner when the light was red. This is probably because they most often arrive at a red light in the intersection. Traffic lights in this area are timed to provide cyclists coming a different direction - Øster Søgade via Fredens Bro - with constant green lights that follow the speed of the average cyclist - the so called ‘green wave’. This, however, means that cyclists coming from Gothersgade will have their momentum disrupted when they arrive at the Dronning Louises Bro/Øster Søgade intersection. Thus, using the wide sidewalk as a quick way to avoid waiting for the lights to change can be tempting. The second group - cyclists who cut the corner while traffic lights were green - most often did so when there was a considerable number of cyclists in front of them, causing a queue for either turning right or continuing straight ahead. Such a situation creates an incentive to improvise a shortcut by riding across the sidewalk to get to Dronning Louises Bro. During the twelve hours we spent observing the intersection, only a few cyclist-pedestrian conflicts occurred. We are convinced that the considerable width of the sidewalk plays an important role here, since it leaves enough space for both pedestrians and cyclists to navigate around each other. Most played it safeWe also found that of all the cyclists travelling through the intersection (i.e. those who went straight along Øster Søgade and those who turned right onto Dronning Louises Bro), the majority acted “correctly” (i.e. they did not cut or go through a red light, but rather followed the traffic laws correctly). During midday (11:30- 13:30), 72% of cyclists acted correctly (following the traffic laws) and only 28% acted incorrectly or inappropriately (going through a red light or cutting). Similarly, during rush hour (15:30-17:30), 76% acted correctly and only 24% acting incorrectly. This means that on average 74% followed the traffic law, meaning that they respected red lights and stayed on the bike path instead of cutting the corner. The remaining 26% performed some form of law breaking act. However, during the morning rush hour, an average of 50% cyclists either cut through the sidewalk or jumped the red light, when heading towards Nørrebrogade from Øster Søgade. 58% were male and 42% were female. Right-turners bent the rules more oftenWhile on average most cyclists acted correctly (74%), when looking at right-turning cyclists exclusively, the difference between those who followed the rules and those who didn’t, was less significant. Among cyclists who turned right onto Dronning Louises Bro, 52% acted correctly, while 48% acted incorrectly. Of those acting incorrectly, 35% went through the red light and 65% cut through the sidewalk. This ‘improper behavior’ might be connected to a phenomenon we have observed before; the so-called ‘domino effect’ where the actions and routes taken by one cyclist is copied by other cyclists behind him or her. In this sense a specific action legitimizes or inspires other cyclists to perform similar actions. For example, we noticed that once a cyclist is cutting, others start to follow suit. Conversely, when none in the front of the line cuts, the cyclists queueing behind also tend to stay in the group. Fewer cyclists run red lights during rush hourIn the early afternoon (13:30-15:30), many more cyclists acted incorrectly, an average of 68% cut or went through a red light, as opposed to a daily average of 48%. We suspect that this is because there are much fewer cyclists, cars and pedestrians on the road during this time of the day, and thus it is easier for cyclists to cut the intersection or slipping through a red light in a safer way, without getting noticed as much.Only 16% of all the cyclists we observed went through a red light (i.e. actually going through the red light on the bicycle path, not by cutting). Although the average is quite low, as mentioned above, larger numbers of cyclists were going through the red light at certain points of the day: in the late morning (9:30-11:30) an average of 27% of cyclists coming from Gothersgade went through the red light, and in the early afternoon (13:30-15:30) an average of 41% of cyclists coming from this street went through the red light. Again, it seems like cyclists are more likely to run a red light in between rush hours. In fact, only 3% of cyclists went through the red light from Gothersgade during rush hour. This observation supports our theory that a higher volume of road users creates a lesser incentive for cyclists to go through a red light.Lessons learnedOur study confirms findings generated in previous desire line studies, showing how bicycle users create routes based on what is faster and most convenient, regardless of whether appropriate infrastructure is there or not. Although it sometimes means that bicycle users will follow the informal lead of other cyclists, and circumvent traffic rules in order to get to their destination, considerations regarding safety and/or public shaming do appear to inform their decision making. Only 1:4 of the total number of bicycle users we observed actually broke the law. When they did cut the corner, they strategically picked different routes through the pedestrian zone in order not to collide with each other, and only very few conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians occurred. To make a long story short, bicycle users are motivated to keep momentum going, and depending on the circumstances, some are ready to circumvent formal rules and collectively improvise their own in order to make their travel easier, if existing infrastructure does not accommodate their needs. Copenhagenize FixesSo where should we go from here? Depending on the priorities of city authorities, different approaches could be used to mitigate the percieved ‘improper cyclist behavior’ in this intersection.
  • Considering the volume of bicycle traffic, the most obvious retrofit would be creating a cycle track in an arc across the corner to allow cyclists to turn right unimpeded by traffic lights. A similar solution is already in place on the opposite corner, leading cyclists across a sidewalk to Vendersgade from Nørrebrogade. As we understand it, one department in the City of Copenhagen would be against this - worried about protecting the architectural integrity of the location. This is rather silly, considering the fact the City had plans to rip out of the grassy knolls formed by WW2 bunkers, cut down the trees and sanitize the whole area. That idea died, fortunately, but it is clearly a sign that change can happen at this location. The basic fact at this location is that the majority of cyclists are turning right and the minority are heading parallel to The Lakes. Desire Lines are democracy in motion. People voting, as it were, with their feet and bicycle wheels.
  • As we found from the research, the main reason for cutting the corner or going through the red light is that cyclists coming from Gothersgade are trying to bypass the red light and simply maintaining their momentum. Especially in the busy rush hour it would be beneficial to time the traffic lights for cyclists coming from Gothersgade so that they continue in a smooth flow up Nørrebrogade. Maintaining, respecting and legitimizing the momentum that cyclists need would eliminate the need for cutting the corner.
  • It is with good reason that allowing right turns on red is steadily becoming law all over Europe. Making this the default at this intersection would also impact the behaviour positively. It is not the be all, end all solution at this location however.
  • The wide swath of sidewalk is currently a kind of “shared space” that works well at this location. Making the area shared use would require little physical change and would formalise the behaviour of the cyclists. A fun idea, but it is important to maintain a design standard and throwing a mixed use area into the well-functioning infrastructure design tradition may not be a good, permanent solution.
  • If you wish to read the entire report on this study please go to our company website. It's downloadable from there.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
    Categories: Europe

    Make Life Shine - Yes, You Volvo

    Copenhagenize - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 3:10pm
    Volvo's new attack on pedestrians and cyclists is insulting to every traffic user. They have developed what they call "Life Paint" and expect pedestrians and cyclists to spray it on. The problem is that Volvo - and other automobile manufacturers - are the problem. They make products that kill 1.2 million people a year around the world. 35,000 alone in both the European Union and the USA alone. Not to mention the millions injured by cars or the many millions killed slowly by emissions. They continue to pass the buck, to set up smoke screens to make us focus elsewhere and forget the true problem. Look at every tactic the tobacco industry has used over the past 20 years and you see it mirrored in Big Auto. Volvo claims to lead the way in safety, but their Life Paint cannot hide their true colours.Quite simply, we've started a petition. Enough of this Ignoring the Bull in the China Shop.Make Life Shine. Sign it at Change.orgInstead of targeting the vulnerable traffic users and continuing the victim blaming, we insist that Volvo offers free Life Paint to every Volvo owner on the planet so that cars can be illuminated better in cities and rural settings. Get the spray can at the local dealer or get it shipped for free. Spray that car immediately.We know a few things:- Black, grey and silver cars - in that order - are more likely to be involved in crashes, according to a Monash University study. Based on 20 years and 850,000 car crashes. Reflective paint on cars is a no-brainer.- Cars and motorists kill. You read the stats, above. There is a 9-11 every month in America alone and it's been there every single month for over 60 years. Volvo, of all car companies, should be tackling this head on instead of blaming the victims.- Volvo should be lobbying intensely for mandatory reflective paint in every market that they operate in. Their Life Paint should be the jewel in their safety crown. Instead, it's tear gas in the eyes of the victims.- Why stop there, Volvo? What about rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags? These ideas exist for good reason. There is science to support them. What about health warning legislation on all automobiles? The ills caused by tobacco are virtually the same as those caused by Volvo's products.Sign the petition to get Volvo to offer Life Paint on every car on the roads today. See the ridiculous Life Paint here: the planet. And have a lovely day.
    Categories: Europe