Right to breathe: The link between transport and air quality

Embarq The City Fix - 9 hours 51 min ago

Cities around the world seek out ways to shift, avoid, and improve their infrastructure and transport modes to decrease air pollution. Photo by WBUR/Flickr.

Today, the highest levels of air pollutants are concentrated in developing cities, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Motor vehicles contribute between 25 and 75% of this air pollution. In March 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement citing that 3.7 million pre-mature deaths in 2012 were associated with outdoor air pollution.

In the same month, the World Bank published a report that assesses the health impacts of motorized road transport, and stated that exposure to pollution generated from vehicles is one of the largest causes of death in developing countries. Exposure to particulate matter – tiny acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles – and other pollutants spewed out by vehicles and power plants can cause a range of major health problems, such as ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and in children, respiratory infections.

One of the most likely places for exposure to this air pollution is along transport corridors, where there are both higher levels of pollutants from vehicles and longer exposure to the people walking, bicycling, using transit, or sitting in cars. In order to save lives and improve health for citizens in emerging economies, it is imperative to address air pollution through transport.

Adding to the importance of taking action, the WHO notes that reducing outdoor air pollution also reduces emissions of CO2 and short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon particles and methane, thus contributing to the near- and long-term mitigation of climate change.

What cities can do: A change in how to think about solutions

Despite recent alarming figures such as those above, air pollution is not a new issue. In fact, air pollution has been on national and local agendas for decades. In considering how to best address these problems, decision-makers and technical experts at the local level can use the Avoid-Shit-Improve framework to develop a sustainable transport system that produces low emissions. Below are examples of cities that applied this conceptual framework to address local transport issues and reduce air pollution:


Residents of Lyon, France wanted to confront the environmental cost of urban sprawl, yet, in avoiding one environmental issue, they also found that they were stopping another. In analyzing the root causes of sprawl, specialists recognized that, in the case of Lyon, sprawl was also the primary contributor to air pollution. The city focused on ways to avoid sprawl through smart urban development, and slowly city leaders began to transform Lyon into a more compact city. Specifically, the planning of dense and human scale cities creates an enabling environment for people to move around the cities in modes that produce little or no air pollutants. Lyon created pedestrian walking paths and cycle tracks along main corridors throughout the city so that people could get rapidly to their destinations without the need for automobile transport.


An essential component in creating vibrant, low-carbon transport systems also demands thinking about how to shift people to alternative modes of transport. Istanbul pedestrianized over 250 streets to encourage walking in the city center. EMBARQ Turkey has worked with the city on pedestrianization and to assess the impact of the project. Today, 2.5 million people walk along the pedestrianized streets. Results from a survey conducted for the project found that 86% of respondents that identified emissions and air quality as a concern indicated that they believe the Historic Peninsula’s better air quality is a result of pedestrianization.


In an effort to address problems with air pollution, officials in Mexico City, Mexico took a comprehensive approach to improve their air quality by improving fuel technology. Instead of simply placing reactive policies on people which reduced the number of days they could drive, or charging for miles driven, officials mandated the removal of lead from the city’s gasoline supply, retro-fitted existing automobiles with catalytic converters, and created legislation to make car makers put in catalytic converters into cars from the outset, instead of trying to retroactively stop people driving high carbon-emitting cars.

Moving forward: What can you do?

While it is important that cities understand the Avoid-Shift-Improve framework and its potential to improve air quality for residents, everyone can do their part to reduce contributions to air pollution from the transport sector. For example, you can use a bicycle trips to reduce car usage in your city. You can find pedestrian paths that get you to your destination, or can even be a catalyst by creating paths in your own community. What will you do to help your city work towards low-carbon transport? Let us know in the comment section!

Categories: Europe

On-road cycle-lanes. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (mostly bad and ugly)

Hembrow - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:33pm
This was part of our walking route to school in Cambridge. The van fills both the narrow cycle-lane and the narrow pavement. On-road cycle-lanes have long been controversial. They're a type of infrastructure which raises many questions. For instance, do on-road lanes make cycling safer or do they keep cyclists in the gutter where they are least safe ? Are they more or less convenient for David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Creating active cities and healthy citizens through innovative urban design

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 10:43am

Urban design has a large impact on lifestyle, with bike lanes and pedestrian pathways promoting healthy behaviors for city residents across Brazil. Photo by Raul/Flickr.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, killing as many as 17 million people each year. Sedentary, inactive lifestyles are a major contributor to this rise in cardiovascular disease – stress, pollution, poor diet, and lack of physical activity mark the lives of an increasingly large number of people around the world. Cities play a pivotal role reversing this trend. Cities with few parks and limited pedestrian space are likely to see higher rates of cardiovascular disease among residents, whereas cities employing more people-centered design can go a long way to create healthier citizens and more dynamic cities. This is the idea behind Cidade Ativa (which translates to “Active City”), a project that promotes active design in Brazilian cities, crafting urban environments that enable healthier lifestyles.

Designing a healthier city on all fronts

Cidade Ativa is built on the notion that it takes a broad range of expertise to plan an active, healthy city. Their group consists of experts fielding the fields of public health, architecture, design, and urban planning. All of these different disciplines work together to understand how people move throughout Brazil’s cities, and in turn what developments will prompt people into new patterns of movement. Cidade Ativa also uses different tactics to communicate to city leaders and citizens about urban design, using lectures, workshops, and training sessions to help people understand the impact that the urban environment can have on their attitudes and actions. Just last week, Cidade Ativa participated in the Active Fit Cities Symposium, sponsored by USP Cities. The symposium was a forum for urban planners and designers interested in creating fit, healthy cities to meet and share their experiences. At the symposium, Skye Duncan, consultant and architect on the Active Cities team, spoke to the significant drawbacks of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits, and how these factors are influenced by the city around us:

The way we live in our cities directly influences the rate of increase for these kinds of ‘lifestyle’ diseases. Most of our cities were built without even a spare thought for pedestrians. No sidewalks, no appropriate places for people to gather outside. This forced people to ride in cars or put themselves in danger skirting along the edges of the street. It’s time to change.

And hopefully this change will come soon. But instead of waiting, it is possible for every citizen to contribute to a healthier city in their own way. People can start by first changing how they individually move throughout the city – at work, using the stairs or leaving the car at home for a day can help one realize how easy it is to be active, even without going to the gym. Gradually citizens can turn to helping their neighborhoods create more footpaths, community fitness activities, and parks that will get everyone excited about being active outside. How will you help your city become more active? Let us know in the comment section!

This article was originally published in Portuguese at TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

How local governments can take congestion pricing from concept to reality

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 8:53am

Although congestion pricing is often a contentious issue, its ability to decrease congestion and air pollution while increasing revenue for sustainable transport projects makes it a policy many cities find worth pursuing. Photo by Zhou Ding/Flickr.

Few urban policies have been as contentious or as fruitful as congestion pricing. Congestion pricing is a travel demand management policy that charges a fee for vehicles that enter a certain urban area or a certain street during specific periods of time. It aims to relieve traffic congestion, reduce air pollution and generate revenue for urban transport improvement. Singapore was the first city to introduce congestion pricing in 1975, but it was not until London implemented the policy in 2005 that it began to receive global attention. In recent months, discussions around introducing the measure have also reemerged in New York City, Beijing, and Bogotá.

A range of evidence shows that when cities adopt congestion pricing, they decrease air pollution and travel times, all while increasing revenue. Despite these benefits, few local governments have adopted this policy due. Community aversion and public wariness, the financial investment required, and concerns about the necessary capacity for monitoring and evaluation have all hindered the adoption of congestion pricing in cities that have explored it. To help push forward this controversial yet beneficial policy, below are several ways that city leaders can advance congestion pricing in a way that community members can understand and appreciate.

Communication and outreach is key for success

Getting congestion pricing policy passed in a city requires extensive communication and outreach to ensure public support. Congestion pricing policies affect the daily lives of almost all citizens, even those without cars. Congestion pricing often faces great public opposition because citizens do not fully realize its benefits, and view it as a new tax. To highlight the benefits of congestion pricing, cities must often launch extensive public campaigns. Recently, some cities have rephrased the term “congestion pricing” to other more positive terms, like New York City, which calls their initiative the “Fair Tolling Plan” and makes it clear that its goal is to produce greater social equity. In Beijing, congestion pricing is framed as part of the city’s boarder low-emission zone policy. The city emphasizes the policy’s impact in reducing air pollution, a major concern for Beijing’s residents.

In Stockholm, the government got creative, and launched congestion pricing as a trial so residents could understand the policy before it became permanent. Although test runs are associated with high financial risks (if congestion pricing does not pass, the investment would be wasted) such testing periods did help gain public support, and more people became supportive of congestion pricing after the trial.

But communication cannot stop after a project is implemented. Cities need to dedicate resources to monitor and report on the impact of congestion pricing. Transport for London, for example, releases the performance, operation and finance of congestion charging regularly. Data transparency can help justify the need for congestion pricing in the first place and generate long-lasting public support to continue the policy once implemented.

People are willing to pay – for a purpose

Another component of successful congestion pricing schemes is that they garner revenue for financing sustainable transport projects. While this is the case in Stockholm, this mechanism does not exist in all cities. For instance, China does not set aside tax revenue specifically for urban transport. For this reason, when designing congestion pricing policies, city governments should also establish this new financial model, which will require collaboration between the transport and finance wings of government. This also often demands attaining mayoral support, such as in the case in New York City in 2007. When city leaders proposed congestion pricing in PlaNYC, they also suggested setting up a regional transportation funding authority (SMART) to manage the revenues from the policy. In this case, leadership from the top helped fuel public support and bring together previously fragmented government bodies to begin developing a comprehensive plan to implement congestion pricing.

Justifying the cost

Cities also need to account for the high initial capital investment of installing the necessary technologies – like electric toll collection technology – that come with implementing congestion pricing. Such technologies can cost as much as hundreds of millions of dollars (in Stockholm, it cost US$ 100 million, while in New York City US$ 354 million). Local governments need to justify the policy to funding providers through cost benefit analysis and look secure funding from national and state level bodies, as well. This is not an easy task, but better done before beginning to implement the project than midway through.

Big costs have big pay-offs

Effective congestion pricing policy requires strong governance, effective public outreach and communication, smart of use of the new revenue, and rigorous monitoring and reporting. Developing such a policy and getting it passed itself is a telling test of the government’s effectiveness, reliability, transparency, and accountability. While we at TheCityFix are excited about the number of cities in emerging economies that have implemented simple and straightforward vehicle quotas or travel restrictions, we also need to be aware of how few of them have adopted sophisticated economic instruments like congestion pricing. With additional guidance and resources, cities like Beijing and Bogotá, which have longed explored the measure, can finally turn discussion into reality and use congestion pricing to improve quality of life for urban residents.

Categories: Europe

The New Question for 21st Century Cities

Copenhagenize - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 7:18am
It's all so simple if we want it to be. For almost a century we have been asking the same question in our cities."How many cars can we move down a street?"It's time to change the question. If you ask "How many PEOPLE can we move down a street?", the answer becomes much more modern and visionary. And simple. Oh, and cheaper.When I travel with my Bicycle Urbanism by Design keynote, I often step on the toes of traffic engineers all around the world. Not all of them, however. I am always approached by engineers who are grateful that someone is questioning the unchanged nature of traffic engineering and the unmerited emphasis placed on it. I find it brilliant that individual traffic engineers in six different nations have all said the same thing to me: "We're problem solvers. But we're only ever asked to solve the same problem." This graphic is inspired by the wonderful conversations I've had around the world about my keynote. How many people we can move down the street is the New Question for liveability and transport in The Life-Sized City.With urbanisation on the rapid rise, we need to think big. Think modern. We need to travel Back to the Future for the solutions that will serve our growing populations best. Cycle tracks. Trams. Wider sidewalks. It's all right there for the taking if we dare to take it.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Challenges in managing the motorized two-wheeler sector in India

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:36am

As the two-wheeler sector continues to expand in India, researchers study the demographics of two-wheeler users and their possible role in promoting sustainable mobility. Photo by Meghana Kularni/Flickr.”

With increasing income levels and rapid urbanization, India’s motorized two-wheeler fleet – which includes mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles – continues to expand. As a private transport mode, two-wheelers are particularly popular because of their low costs, fuel economy, maneuverability, and ease of parking in congested conditions. While two-wheelers provide several benefits to travelers, they also create several challenges – including serious safety concerns and dependence on private motorized vehicles, which in turn has many negative impacts on society. As their numbers continue to grow in Indian cities, it is important to understand the role of motorized two-wheelers in urban transport, the profile of their users, and the mobility advantages and disadvantages they offer in order to create informed policy and planning to effectively manage the sector.

Two-wheelers: A step towards the car?

Since the 1970s, motorized two-wheeler growth in India has far outpaced car growth. Currently, two-wheelers make up 72% of the total registered vehicles, compared to cars, which make up 13%. As shown by the chart below, while car ownership may be on the rise, two-wheelers are leading the trend of mass motorization as millions of middle-class Indians can afford an entry level two-wheeler. Evidence suggests that increase in income levels would lead to car ownership, but not necessarily to a decline in the role or mode share of two-wheelers. The experience of Indian cities like Pune and other Asian cities like Taipei also suggest that rising income levels and car ownership do not necessarily lead to a decline in the role or mode share of two-wheelers.

Chart depicting the growth of vehicles in India. Image via Wilbur Smith Associates, 2008.

Who uses two-wheelers? A closer look at Pune, India  

A recent EMBARQ India study of two-wheeler users in the city of Pune found that two-wheelers were the primary mode of transport for 55% of all household members (either as drivers or passengers) – particularly men and women between 18 and 50 years old. After age 50, the percentage of men and women two-wheeler drivers dropped drastically. Safety concerns, greater desire for comfort, and the improved purchasing power of an older adult are possible reasons for this shift.

Safety with respect to two-wheelers is a significant concern. In Pune, 50% of the traffic accident fatalities in 2010 – 2011 were two-wheeler riders, only 1% of whom were wearing a helmet. To increase safety for those riding two-wheelers, Indian states should implement a helmet law and commit to enforcing the law’s statutes.

It was also seen that two-wheeler ownership was not limited to lower income populations, as is commonly believed. The monthly household income of 33% of two-wheeler users was between INR 25,000 – 50,000 (USD 332 – 830), with an equal third below and above this range. Two-wheeler ownership was actually seen to increase with higher household incomes. One third of two-wheelers users who had children also owned a car.

Smart policy for India’s two-wheeler sector

Knowing that these users generally have a higher than expected level of income can influence policy in two ways. First, these users have the disposable income to pay fines for not wearing helmets, yet will likely still feel the pain of a fine. Proper pricing of fines can provide strong incentives for safer two-wheeler use. Additionally, many two-wheeler owners can afford to pay the full cost of use. This may include higher taxes and fuel prices, congestion and parking fees. However, EMBARQ India’s findings in Pune suggest that given the increased need for mobility and the currently unmatched benefits offered by two-wheelers, taxes and fees may not prove to be enough of a disincentive for people to stop using two-wheelers and shift to more sustainable transport modes. It seems that such ‘push’ strategies can only be effective when preceded by and combined with ‘pull’ strategies, such as improving multi-modal public transport systems, and making these services affordable and attractive.

Drawing on lessons from Taipei and other cities in Asia, relevant two-wheeler management strategies that have helped improve road safety and traffic efficiency should be explored and implemented. These relate to road design, traffic engineering and management, two-wheeler specific traffic regulation measures, parking management, education and enforcement. With a combination of clear policy, innovative design, and stakeholder commitment, two-wheelers can replace cars in some circumstances, and in others can themselves be replaced by sustainable transport to help Indians move towards more sustainable mobility solutions.

To learn more, access the full working paper “Motorized Two-Wheelers in Indian Cities – A Case Study of the City of Pune”.

Categories: Europe

Bicycle-Friendly Cobblestones

Copenhagenize - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 3:51pm
Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers - and brainchild behind the Cycling Without Age movement - gave us this great shot from a street in the Østerbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. The City has a new thing they're doing. Replacing the old, bumpy cobblestones on certain streets with smooth ones. Just a strip, like down the middle on this one-way street - to make it a smoother ride for bicycle users. The city keeps a number of streets cobblestoned because of aesthetics and historical reasons. History can be a bumpy ride, though. We like how the new cobblestones are elegantly woven into the existing ones.On a street in the centre of Copenhagen, there are now smoother strips along the curbs for bicycle users to use. Above is a delegation from the City of Groningen, who we took on a Bicycle Urbanism tour of the city a few weeks ago. Apart from their fascination with the curb-separated cycle tracks (they filmed them in order to convince their engineers that they work... yes, they're from Groningen), these smooth cobblestone strips were an object of fascination and I had to drag them away in order to get to lunch in time.I love how even established bicycle cities can continued to be inspired by each other. There is no complete bicycle city - yet.Have a look at the street in the top photo again. It is a one way street but it's clear that the Arrogance of Space exists even in Copenhagen. Stupidly wide street and that means the sidewalks look like this. Cars are prioritised still - at the expense of the pedestrians and bicycle users and basically everyone in the city. And this in a neighbourhood with only just over 20% car ownership.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Films from Copenhagen in 1923, 1932, 1937, 1950s

Copenhagenize - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 3:39pm
Copenhagen. 1932. Thanks to @laxbikeguy (James) on Twitter for the link."Cyclists in hundreds - thousands (millions it seemed to our cameraman!) throng the City of Copenhagen."Wild how there was only 12 views on this film when I clicked on the link from James. Feels like archeology. :-)Here is Copenhagen in 1937. When I found this in 2011 there were only a dozen views or so. Glad it got out to a wider audience.Copenhagen in the 1950s.Copenhagen in 1923.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Calling all innovators to the Powerful Answers Award

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 10:33am

Entrepreneurs passionate about using technology to solve difficult transport problems have the opportunity to turn their ideas into reality. Photo by Benoit Colin/Flickr.

Do you have an idea that could radically change the world, if only you were given the resources to bring it to fruition? Do you see challenges with sustainability, health, or transport in your community and want to solve them through technological platforms? Verizon Wireless is launching the second edition of its Powerful Answers Award to give passionate innovators the chance to make their ideas real and advance technology as a tool for social good.

The mechanics of the contest:

There will be one grand prize of $1,000,000 dollars for the winners within each of the four categories of Education, Health, Sustainability, and Transport.

There will be two prizes of $250,000 distributed to two runners-up per category.

The ideas must address a social need and be the contestant’s own original ideas.

Entrants must submit their applications by June 30, 2014, so start thinking about your submission today!

Visit here to learn more about the details of the contest.

New focus on transport

Verizon has realized that transport is an essential component in solving many of the problems of today’s world, and this year it has expanded its contest to include transport as a new category. Within the larger category of transport, there are many different ways that innovators can tackle the problem of access through sustainable mobility. Innovators can create platforms that optimize logistical and distributional platforms to more effectively transport goods and people throughout the city. Or, innovators can concentrate their efforts on using communications technology to reduce traffic congestion, or use mobile applications to make cities cleaner and healthier for pedestrians. There are many different ways that entrepreneurs can go about improving transport through technology. What will yours be? Let us know in the comments section!

For a closer look at last year’s winner in the sustainability category, see the video below:


Categories: Europe

The bike-share report: Connectivity and bike lanes key to successful bike-sharing

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 9:10am

Safe, connected bike lanes in New York City fosters use of the city’s bike-share systems. Photo by Ted Eytan/Flickr.

Peter Midgley joins us as the author of the Bike-share report series, exclusive to TheCityFix. We invited Peter to share his vast knowledge on bike-sharing gained through his experience tracking the growth of bike-sharing systems since 2007. Peter formerly worked as the Urban Mobility Theme Champion for the global Transport Knowledge Partnership (gTKP). The previous post in this series focused on lessons from the collapse of the Bixi system.

How important are bike lanes to successful bike-sharing? Judging by some bike-share maps, not at all. Surprisingly, very few online maps that show the distribution of bike-share docking stations include bike lane networks. Safe bike lanes, and the knowledge of how those bike lanes connect together and in turn connect to other forms of transport, help to mainstream bike-sharing as a mode of transport and improve overall bike-sharing system performance. One recent study even points out a statistically significant relationship between the number of trips by bike-share and the supply of bike lanes. For this reason, integrating bike-share systems with networks of bike lanes is key to increasing ridership and making bike-share safe and desirable for users.

Growing out of the lane: Networks the way to mobility

Too many cities have bike lanes that go nowhere, end in unsafe conditions, or pass through dangerous intersections. Continuity and connectivity are key ingredients to attract users beyond the typical cycling aficionados and make cycling more viable and comfortable for the everyday commuter. A good example of this approach comes from China’s Xiamen Island, which is developing a 156 kilometer (95 mile) bike lane network as an integral part of launching its new bike-sharing system. The new system will boast a fleet of just over 11,000 bikes and 376 stations and is being developed with stations along six bike routes (1.5 to 2.5 meters/5 to 8 feet wide) that run parallel to existing sidewalks, so that the network of existing footpaths can complement and augment the bike-sharing network. The city is developing a comprehensive and continuous bike lane “network”, not just a collection of disjointed bike lanes. Ensuring users know how to navigate these connected systems is another key, which cities like Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Lyon, Melbourne, Tel Aviv, and Washington DC have honed in on.

The numbers don’t lie: Safety prompts ridership

It’s not enough for bike lanes to be connected to one another and to bike-sharing systems, they also need to be connected safely. Over the past three years, New York City has installed 320 kilometers (200 miles) of bike lanes (bringing the total to an impressive 920 kilometers, or 570 miles). According to a recent study from Hunter College at the City University of New York, over 50% of cyclists in the city use these bike lanes. Even more noteworthy, the study reveals that these lanes are used by 70% of Citi Bike bike-share riders, revealing a “greater tendency to ride on more ‘secure’ street or avenue environments than their cycling counterparts”. This is especially the case with protected bike lanes, furthering echoing the need for safe cycling infrastructure to grow ridership.

Safe, protected bike lanes save lives

Although Transport for London wrote that bicycle “super-highways” can provide for “safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city”, a 2010 review of London’s bike-sharing system and cycle superhighways found that 60% of respondents did not feel safer using the cycle superhighways. A recent article in the Guardian called London’s cycle superhighways “inherently dangerous pieces of infrastructure … that induce cyclists to travel with a greater sense of safety than is warranted.” One of the main issues with the superhighways is lack of continuity, especially at junctions. Now, London is transforming its “cycle superhighways” into protected lanes following the deaths of three cyclists on Superhighway 2 in 2013. Other cities are moving in this same direction: according to an article in Momentum Mag, the number of protected bike lanes has doubled in North America in 2012.

Smaller cities are also recognizing the importance of connectivity for bike-sharing system success and are working towards developing this infrastructure. PeopleForBikes, a nonprofit organization based in Boulder, Colorado, selected Pittsburgh and Boston as two of six new cities that will receive two years of financial, strategic and technical assistance to install protected bike lanes. In Pittsburgh, the first lane is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014 to coincide with the launch of the Pittsburgh bike-sharing program. In Boston, the grant will help speed up the installation of protected bike lanes that are already in the works.

Resources for design and policy

Many cities are new to realizing the importance of safe, connected cycling networks, and they need clear platforms for city leaders and planners to put this into action and implement cycling infrastructure. The Dutch Design plan, as well as the Cycling Embassy of Denmark’s publication “Collection of Cycle Concepts 2012,” both have detailed sections on planning and designing cycling infrastructure that can help designers to create connected bike networks. Also useful is NACTO’s (the United States National Association of City Transportation Officials) comprehensive online “Urban Bikeway Design Guide,” derived from best practices in cities around the world. Finally, Cycling-Inclusive Policy Development: A Handbook from GIZ contains a detailed chapter on designing bicycle networks. The combination of policy and proof of connectivity’s success should encourage cities around the globe to implement safe, connected bike lanes to improve bike-share and expand sustainable mobility.

Categories: Europe

In photos: Walking in Bangalore reveals the plight of pedestrians

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 8:46am

Thin sidewalks and a lack of dividers between pedestrians and cars often makes it uncomfortable and unsafe for those using sidewalks. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

Bangalore has rapidly become a megacity. At nearly 10 million people, the city has already doubled the size of its population in just 20 years. This explosive urban growth has been coupled with increased motorization, with now more than 50% of households owning a motor vehicle, most commonly a two-wheeler. The local administration has responded to this rapid growth and increased motorization by quickly building and expanding roads without much thought to how these developments impact the urban fabric. Walking around Bangalore, it is clear to see how building for cars has destroyed much of the connectivity between neighborhoods and access to public transport. By contrast, EMBARQ India’s experience designing accessible Metro stations shows that this car-centric development process can be reversed, and it is possible for Bangalore to begin to build around people.

In photos: The challenges of being a pedestrian in Bangalore

Radials and ring highways have expanded while congestion has risen following the addition of a flyover through the city center. This allows highways to cut through historical neighborhoods, impeding residents’ quality of life and allowing those with motor vehicles to bypass these neighborhoods. This both decreases connectivity among residents of the city and hurts local economies.

A sidewalk disappears at the gas station, forcing those who use buses to navigate along the edges of the road. Photo by Dario Hidalgo/EMBARQ.

Furthermore, 58% of the investments in the city’s comprehensive mobility plan go to road construction and expansion. This leaves little money for creating pedestrian pathways alongside the road, forcing children to walk directly in the road to get to school.

Lack of connectivity between different places in the city decreases adults’ access to jobs, and children’s access to education. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

Still, the city has a high proportion of residents using public transport and non-motorized modes for their everyday trips. Bangalore has a very strong public transport service, which serves 27% of the city’s, and the city is improving these modes by expanding the metro system, which was launched in 2012. Bangalore actually has the largest bus system in India, the BIG Bus Network, also one of the 20 largest bus systems in the world. The city is even considering a bus rapid transit (BRT) network along Ring Road, a primary artery in the city.

Public transport is complemented by auto-rickshaws (7%), a three-wheeler intermediate public transport service common across India. Rickshaws offer quick last-mile connectivity to mass transport, yet their steep price often makes them viable only for Bangalore’s middle class. This leaves many others skirting along the sides of roadways in order to reach affordable transport.

Rickshaws and pedestrians coexist in the street, but smart design principles can be used to strengthen the dignity shown towards pedestrians in these spaces. Photo by Dario Hidalgo/EMBARQ.

Motorcycles are becoming the predominant mode of transport (25%), and automobile usage is still low at 6%. However, automobile transport is expected to increase over the upcoming years. This means that cities such as Bangalore will need to rapidly expand their mass transport capacity to stem this growth in auto transport.

Bangalore is similar to other large cities in India, like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, which still have high levels of public and non-motorized transport use. Now is the time to understand how these different transport modes can work in unison to stop residents feeling as if they need a car in order to have safe, reliable, comfortable transport.

Sidewalks that are left uneven and unpaved can decrease economic growth as professionals struggle to travel to work. Photo by Dario Hidalgo/EMBARQ.

In order to do this, Bangalore will need to decrease the number of obstructions on its sidewalks. Ramps for cars, sidewalks that disappear at gas stations, and a lack of barriers between pedestrians and fast moving cars decreases the likelihood that people will choose to bike and walk out of fear for their safety.

Multiple modes of transport thrive in the city of Bangalore, but the connectivity between them needs to be strengthened. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

Bangalore was once called the “Garden City,” both for the city’s gentle climate and abundant greenery, but also because of its numerous public parks and the relaxed, convivial way in which people interacted with each other. Increasing motorization has threatened this peaceful image. It is time to harness the expertise of organizations like EMBARQ India to give Bangalore’s residents accessible and high quality sustainable transport options as well as revert to the sense of tightly knit community that marked the city’s history. By re-orienting urban development around people – not cars – Bangalore can grow and thrive while improving livability.

By reorienting Bangalore’s transport network to focus on people instead of cars, the city can give the children access to greater opportunities for their future. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

For more photos from the streets of India’s “Garden City”, view EMBARQ’s Flickr sets on walking, cycling, and buses in Bangalore.  

Categories: Europe

The World's Best Behaved Cyclists are in Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 6:25am
As I highlight in this TED x Zurich talk of mine about Bicycle Culture by Design, Copenhagen has the world's best behaved cyclists. Bar none. I've cycled in close to 100 cities around the world and I've never seen anything that comes close.Citizens in any city do not - contrary to popular perception - wander around all day looking for laws to break.Wherever you happen to be reading this from, you're probably aware of the general perception of "those damned cyclists". Even here in Copenhagen, the perception persists, not least from the Copenhagen Police and their one-man wrecking crew. They - and he - continue to spread personal perceptions about cycling citizens. 52% of the citizens in Copenhagen ride each day and most of the others have bikes that they use regularly. We are dealing with basically the entire population of a European city. The police are out of their league when it comes to behaviour perception.This perception is as old as the bicycle itself. One of Denmark's most loved satirists and cartoonists Storm P. (Robert Storm Petersen), a daily bicycle user, highlighted with great Danish irony the silliness of such perceptions in his piece A New Traffic Etiquette for Cyclists - in 1934. Things haven't changed. The whining minority still whines about the cycling majority. A sign that we need to change the paradigm of planning to prioritise intelligent forms of transport, instead of merely accepting the car-centric status quo that we inherited from a previous century.Behaviour hasn't changed for over 100 years - and won't be changing anytime soon. Here's my baseline: We can't very well expect bicycle users to adhere to a traffic culture and traffic rules engineered to serve the automobile, now can we? It is like expecting badminton players to use the rules of squash.Every single moment of every single day, the citizens of our cities are communicating with us. They are sending messages about the urban space they inhabit and it is of utmost importance that we listen to every communication. Unfortunately, planning and engineering are often too self-absorbed and arrogant to answer the calls of the citizens.Desire Lines are democracy in action and democracy in motion. They are, however, more than merely the mobility patterns of our citizens. They are the physical manifestation of much of the communication from our tireless army of urban cartographers. I find them to be quite beautiful. Not to mention incredibly useful, especially in bicycle planning and even in a city like Copenhagen.If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know all too well our fondness for Desire Lines related to bicycle planning and research. What started with The Choreography of an Urban Intersection has morphed into numerous Desire Lines Analyses of other streets and intersections in Copenhagen and, most recently, Amsterdam. Together with the University of Amsterdam we are analysing behaviour and Desire Lines at ten intersections.With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection back in 2012, Copenhagenize Design Co. decided to take things to the next level regarding bicycle user behaviour. A study of that size and scope had never been undertaken before. So much commentary about bicycle user behaviour has been based on perception for far too long. "Those damned cyclists" repeated ad nauseum in dozens of languages has made us forget that we don't actually know very much about their behaviour.In most cities, the reason for what is percieved as "bad behaviour" is simply the fact that bicycle users haven't been given adequate infrastructure or, even worse, none at all.The explempary behaviour of Copenhagen bicycle users is due to the fact that the bicycle infrastructure network is, largely, so well-designed. Best Practice has been achieved and, for the most part, it is implemented.Nevertheless, if you ask certain uniformed civil servants who work for the Copenhagen Police, it is their personal perception that hits the headlines. With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection we decided to get some numbers to show that the perceptions are coloured with emotion and lack data and fact.As the graph at the top indicates, out of 16,631 bicycle users in the intersection Godthåbsvej/Nordre Fasanvej only 1% broke a serious traffic law. Running a red light or riding on the sidewalk. We called them Recklists. The Momentumists were a group that technically broke a Danish traffic law. We put these infractions in a different category. Basically, if it is legal in another city or country with respectable cycling levels, we are okay with it. The rest, the Conformists, did everything by the book.The results are mirrored by the results in our other studies of other intersections. The vast majority are just playing by the rules.You can see which rules are being bent in the above graph. What is incredibly important to consider is HOW the rules are being bent. What is the actual behaviour of the individual Momentumists when you study each one with detailed obversation?In short, it is exemplary. It is quite beautiful. One of the primary findings was that when an individual entered a zone where a law was being bent, they were aware of it. The pattern was the same: they would change their physical form.Generally, the individual would make themselves appear larger. Rising up from their normal cycling position in order to make themselves more visible to others in the urban theatre. Sometimes this was enough for them but many would also look around with a sweet, apologetic look - vaguely, not at anyone in particular - as though to say "sorry... I know, I know... bear with me". And when they hit the cycle track again, they would assume their usual cycling position.Some would do the classic bicycle chameleon move, swinging their leg off and using the bicycle as a scooter. Again, always aware of their surroundings and the other users of the urban theatre. This subtle awareness of their surroundings was impressive. At no point in the 12 hours were there "cyclist-pedestrian conflicts" as they're called in Emerging Bicycle Cities. In that regard, it was like watching paint dry. The flow was constant, smooth and elegant. It was choreography.Even the Recklists were heartwarmingly civilised in their behaviour, showing consideration for others. Only three bicycle users out of the 16,631 we tracked roared through a red light. They were all bike messengers. Do what you want with that.Momentum is paramount when considering how to plan for bicycles. A smooth flow that eliminates the need to stop and get out of the saddle is the key. Simple measures like the railings and footrests in Copenhagen are a fine example. The Green Wave for cyclists on the main arteries leading to the city are another. Understanding the basic anthropological transport needs of bicycle users - not to mention pedestrians - is the way to designing liveable streets. Bicycles are not cars and this has been the greatest mistake over the past 50 years in city planning... placing bicycles in the same category as motorised vehicles, both regarding traffic laws and the perception of bicycles as vehicles. We are still struggling to rid ourselves of this flawed categorisation all over the world.Stopping and starting in a car involves pushing down on a couple of pedals. Effortless. Stopping and starting on a bicycle requires a bit more effort. Once momentum has been achieved, a bicycle user will try to maintain it. The countdown signals in the middle of this article are an example of someone out there understanding the needs of bicycle users.Children understand the simple necessities of traffic planning. Unfortunately, the geekfest that is traffic engineering has all too often forgotten rationality. Campaigns that try to "improve" behaviour are a waste of money. Simply because the people who think them up haven't bothered to understand the differences between cyclists and motorists or pedestrians.Change the paradigm.Read more about the Choregraphy of an Urban Intersections, including all the findings, here. Or you can download the document as a pdf.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

The intersection of public health and transport in Indian cities

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 9:31am

Conducting Health Impact Assessments can help policy makers throughout India choose transport projects that will decrease air pollution, while increasing connectivity and health. Photo by John Hoey/Flickr.

Typical transport investment and policy proposals in India often consider few factors, some being connectivity with surrounding areas, land use and socioeconomic impacts, available funding, and the level of support from local stakeholders. All too often, these assessments consistently overlook the health impacts of transport. Despite this, there is a consistent and powerful connection between transport and health. A steady increase in motor vehicles, especially motorized two-wheelers (motorcycles and scooters), in India has led to an alarming rise in air pollution levels, traffic injuries and fatalities and chronic diseases due to decreased physical activity. For this reason, India urgently needs a robust Health Impact Assessment (HIA) methodology to evaluate the health impacts of transport projects prior to implementation, allowing cities to pursue only those projects that benefit health and safety while decreasing air pollution.

The challenge: Air pollution and inactivity on the rise

Cities across India currently face a growing number of problems related to air pollution and a drop in physical activity, which are largely by products of transport decisions that did not take local stakeholders into account. For example, in late January 2014, Delhi’s average daily peak reading of PM2.5 – the most harmful type of particulate matter – reached close to 500, 20 times the level deemed healthy by the World Health Organization (WHO). The severe pollution contributed to respiratory issues like asthma, and in some cases heart failure, lung cancer and even early death. One of the largest contributing factors to this disastrously high level of air pollution is the growing number of cars on India’s roadways.

Along with air pollution, lack of physical activity is another silent and preventable killer. Inactivity is responsible for over three million deaths per year globally. It is a leading risk factor for a number of diseases, many of them chronic, including obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  India is now facing a rising obesity epidemic due in large part to the increasingly inactive lifestyle of its residents. It is easy to see why people choose to drive rather than walk, for poor walking and cycling infrastructure, combined with wide roads and heavy traffic, poses safety concerns and discourages people from more active modes of travel.

Health Impact Assessments for transport projects

While some Indian cities are exploring congestion pricing schemes,  a less resource intensive and more preventative measure is to use a Health Impact Assessment at the beginning of any proposed transport plan. A Health Impact Assessment is a systematic process to evaluate the potential health impacts of any plan, project or policy before implementation. Following an evaluation of the original plan, those working on the assessment can then recommend appropriate corrective or preventive measures to manage the health impacts of the proposed plan or policy. Transport Health Impact Assessments can take place at any level, from site to corridor, city, region, and nation, and can be led by trained researchers or volunteers.

Conducting a Health Impact Assessment

Health Impact Assessments differ widely in scope, depth, and level of public engagement but they usually follow six broad steps: Screening, Scoping, Assessment, Recommendations, Reporting and Monitoring and Evaluation.

Health Impact Assessment framework. Image by EMBARQ India. Source:

Throughout all of these steps, researchers should consider the following:

  • The nature and kind of transport investment/intervention proposed
  • Previous research and evidence about possible health impacts of related transport projects
  • Description of the area where the investment is planned and a clearly outlined study area for analysis
  • General demographics around the area of the proposed development
  • Likely economic impacts such as increase or decrease in travel costs from the proposed development
  • Possible changes to travel and traffic patterns because of the new development or policy
Policy implications of Health Impact Assessments 

The most efficient way for governments to meet public health objectives even with limited resources is to find developments and policies that have multiple benefits, such as those that simultaneously reduce pollution and traffic fatalities and increase physical activity. Health Impact Assessments can be used to find those transport projects that will deliver multiple benefits. Even conservative estimates reveal that the impact in terms of reducing mortality and saving lives from sustainable transport investments are substantial. In the pilot application of the Health Impact Assesment methodology to the recently implemented bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor in the City of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, EMBARQ India’s team estimated that roughly 19 lives can be saved per year after 2014, due to fewer trips in private cars, reduced exposure to air pollution, and health benefits from increased physical activity. Multiply this gain throughout dozens of India’s cities, and that can translate into hundreds of lives saved. If transport planners consider the health and human impacts of transport in policy making, it will lead to improved decision-making and much greater health benefits and savings in health-related costs for the country and its citizens.

For a detailed Health Impact Assessment framework and a pilot application quantifying health impacts of air pollution, traffic injuries and fatalities, and physical activity, refer to the EMBARQ India Issue Brief on Integrating Health Benefits into Transportation Planning and Policy in India.


Categories: Europe

Urbanism Hall of Fame: Lee Kwan Yew shaped Singapore as the “Garden City”

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 9:00am

A crowd gathers overlooking Singapore’s Marina Bay. Since the inception of its 1971 Concept Plan, Singapore has become one of the most sustainability-oriented cities in the world. Photo by Nicolas Lannuzel/Flickr.

This is the second entry in the Urbanism Hall of Fame series, exclusive to TheCityFix. This series is intended to inform people about the leading paradigms surrounding sustainable transport and urban planning and the thinkers behind them. By presenting their many stories, TheCityFix applauds these leaders’ efforts, and seeks to challenge our readers to think carefully about what defines leadership and innovation in sustainable transport and urban development.

When looking at some of the great examples of sustainable transport and urban development, we must include the city-state of Singapore and the leadership of Lee Kwan Yew, its founder and Prime Minister for 31 years. Singapore is a young nation, founded only 48 years ago after being expelled by Malaysia. Yet, in such a short time, Lee Kwan Yew led the multicultural city from a chaotic and crime-ridden port in the Malacca Straits to a prosperous nation, providing a high standard of living through human-centered design and planning for its 5.3 million inhabitants.

A rocky start for an island nation

After working hard to gain independence from British rule, Singapore became a part of Malaysia in 1963, but the multiplicity of its different ethnicities and weak internal government made for a difficult relationship with the mainland, and it was soon expelled in 1965.

Lee Kwan Yew was Singapore’s first Prime Minister, and charged ahead to create a strong country despite a lack of natural resources and small geographic area – Singapore is just 286 square miles. New York City, by comparison, is over 50% larger at 468 square miles. The first thing Lee Kwan Yew did was develop a cohesive, long-term urban plan.

The plan organized the city into different districts, some with high density and others with large open spaces. The plan made sure to preserve the central water source, and revolved around a high capacity mass transit system to provide fast and reliable access around the island. New housing complexes were built to be mixed-use and accessible to mass transit, with an eye to the conservation of historic districts.

The original plan developed in the 1970s has been revised every 10 years. These reviews have included integrating land use and transport planning through coordination among government agencies – such as the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of National Development, and Ministry of Trade and Industry, among others. The city-state also recruits top staff and has created strict regulations to avoid corruption, going beyond the master plan to build strong leadership in the public sector.

Singapore’s 1971 Concept Plan. Source: Government of Singapore.

A people-centered plan develops

Although the plan has changed over the years, it has retained its “people-centered” characteristics. This includes developing the city in a way that provides connections with others, opportunities for social interaction, access to numerous services, and an inclusive environment. These elements in the current plan (2013) translate to such concrete developments as building affordable homes, creating green spaces, enhancing mobility and transport connectivity, sustaining the vibrant economy with good jobs, and dedicating resources to the preservation of the environment.

These developments were further complemented with congestion pricing and vehicle registration quotas. Singapore’s congestion pricing was first implemented in 1975, predating London’s congestion pricing scheme by some 28 years. The original congestion pricing scheme has evolved from a manual system to electronic collection, and now includes dynamic pricing. This means that when congestion increases, so does the cost. This keeps the freeways flowing smoothly at 35-65 km/h (21-38 mph) and other roads at 20-30 km/h (12-18 mph). Vehicle registration quotas on the other hand, were introduced in 1990 in a complementary effort to reduce the growth of automobile usage. Nowadays it is more expensive to have a license for a car in Singapore than to own a house in the United States. Revenues from both congestion pricing and vehicle registration quotas are used to improve, maintain and expand Singapore’s world class transit system, combining an extensive metro with high-quality buses and light rail infrastructure.

Putting people at the forefront pays off

Singapore is now ranked number three in GDP per Capita with 60,799 and number 18 in the UN Human Development Index. The country is considered the safest in the world, with 0.3 homicides per 100,000 people. In comparison, the United States had 4.3 homicides per 100,000 people in 2011. Singapore also ranks highly in road safety, with 4.46 fatalities per 100,000 people in 2010, a figure lower than Sweden (5.52).

Apart from these impressive statistics, it has also created an enduring cultural image of itself as a City in a Garden. It has one of the most successful land transport and urban development, and is a poster child of transit-oriented development (TOD). Both as a city and a country, Singapore is a strong example of the potential to advance economic, social and environmental goals simultaneously.

Future transport and urban development plans focus on sustainability and access

There are many actions still to be taken and controversy remains surrounding Lee Kwan Yew and his political approach. The city is in a way a victim of its own success, and affordability has been compromised. Singapore is also jokingly referred to as “The Fine City”, not because of its quality, but its high fines imposed on citizens for activities like jaywalking or chewing gum.

But the future for the city-state is bold. The current metro network is 178 km (110 miles). The vision is to double this to 360 km (223 miles) by 2030, meaning 80% of households would be within a ten-minute walk of a railway station. At the same time, Singapore seeks to enhance its transit hubs, mixing uses with high density and smart design. The city-state also has plans to add bus exclusive lanes complemented by traffic signal priority, and electrify the vehicle fleet, including bus fleets and an extensive e-vehicle recharge network. For pedestrians and bikers, the city will extend sheltered walkways and shaded bikeways.

All of these plans are aimed at achieving bold targets. Singapore aims to achieve 70% of trips by public transport by 2020, and provide 0.8 hectares of green park space for every 1,000 residents by 2030. The plan’s preparation includes an extensive consultation process to identify the needs and expectations of the people in the city, and with the constant inspiration of Lee Kwan Yew to build a city in a garden, or maybe one day, a city in a forest.

Source: Singapore Ministry of National Development.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Smart cars reach tipping point

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 9:38am

Smart cars, which weigh about 1,800 pounds, are the latest targets for a group of pranksters in San Francisco, giving rise to the “smart car tipping” trend. Photo by Jeff Chiu.

No, not that kind of tipping point. While smart car usage is on the rise, it hasn’t quite crossed the Malcolm Gladwell threshold. We’re talking about a different trend: smart car tipping. It seems an unidentified group of six to eight “hooded vandals” have been roaming the streets of San Francisco and turning the lightweight, compact cars and turning them on their sides — to the chagrin of their owners.

The moniker smart car tipping comes as the urban parallel to the practice of “cow tipping”, in which rural residents purportedly sneak up on unsuspecting cows and push them onto their sides. While cow tipping is, by most accounts, completely non-existent, smart car tipping is very real. Four cars were reported tipped in San Francisco on Monday April 7, leaving owners and witnesses, well, mostly confused.

While this is not the first case of smart car tipping, even in San Francisco, it does perhaps have the most interesting social backdrop. As the city of San Francisco opens itself to the high tech industry, tensions are rising between longtime residents and incoming workers for Twitter, Google, eBay, and other major tech companies located in the Bay Area. Smart car tipping, as the theory goes, may be a form of rebellion against the city’s growing technocratic class.

Is smart car tipping an extension of class warfare?

In all likelihood, no. While it may be tempting to overanalyze the recent tippings in light of San Francisco’s shifting social context, no reports have confirmed the intentions of the perpetrators, nor has any pattern been identified among the recent tippings. In fact, it’s probably inaccurate to lump the rise in smart cars on the street in with the rise of the tech industry. Most large tech companies provide private bus or shuttle service — like the much-maligned Google Bus — to transport employees from the city to offices in nearby Silicon Valley.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the recent outbreak of smart car tipping, it serves as yet one more reason to consider transit for your everyday commute. Good luck tipping over a 10,000 pound bus!

Categories: Europe

Shared Space revisited. The hype continues but in reality it still doesn't work.

Hembrow - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 1:52am
If you're unsure about what the term "Shared Space" means, please read the wikipedia article. Note that I disagree with much of that article. Shared Space has been over-sold around the world. Claims have been made of a reduction of danger which I showed earlier this week doesn't seem to stand up to investigation. It is also often claimed that Shared Space creates a "place" where people feel safeDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe

"Shared" no more. An Assen city centre street reclaimed for pedestrians and cyclists

Hembrow - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 1:28pm
When we moved to Assen, the Ceresplein had quite recently been converted into a de-facto Shared Space. This area accommodated pedestrians, cyclists and drivers mostly on the same surface and it looked like this: June 2009 image from Google Maps. The turn that the car is making in the image above was into a street which has been a cycle-path for some years now. However, there's more. Last year David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Going the last mile: Does connectivity influence sustainable transport usage?

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 10:04am

Despite increased investment in mass transport, last-mile connectivity and access to transport hubs remain obstacles for cities across India. Photo by Jack Zalium/Flickr.

Growing numbers of privately owned automobiles, pollution, and congestion have helped governments in cities across India realize the need for better mass transport systems. Cities like Delhi are now making substantial investments to improve existing systems and implement new measures. However, even as Delhi is investing in rail and bus lines, “last mile connectivity” – connecting people from their homes to transport  hubs – remains an area of concern and neglect for the city and the country as a whole. This lack of affordable and safe last-mile connectivity has created a situation in which the poorest, who rely most on mass transport, are the very people that are having the hardest time reaching safe, sustainable, affordable transport options.

Safe, connected transport … for some

In November 2013, the Rapid Metro, India’s first entirely privately funded mass transport venture, began operations in Gurgaon. It attempted to address the issue of last-mile connectivity by connecting commuters from the nearby Delhi Metro to six key places within Gurgaon, including the commercial hub “Cyber City”. However, this being a private venture, it does not meet the needs of all residents. Much of the population who travel daily to Gurgaon from Delhi or nearby regions cannot easily reach the metro because the company only developed infrastructure for those who could afford to use the Cyber City line.

Many of Delhi’s residents opt to use auto-rickshaws for their last-mile commute. However, in some cases the auto-rickshaws are so expensive that they cost more than 50% of the total commute cost. Cheaper options such as the Metro Feeder buses are extremely crowded, in dilapidated condition, and are often unreliable.

As a result, those who cannot afford auto-rickshaws have to walk to get from home to work and back. Walking in India’s exploding cities is difficult, for although most metro rides in India are themselves relatively safe, this changes when users step out of the metro stations. It is almost impossible to walk to and from the metro with no sidewalks, street lights, or pedestrian crossings in the areas surrounding mass transport. Yet, as the World Bank reported, “The urban poor make up a city’s ‘captive walkers,’ but since this group has the least resources, it usually has the smallest political voice.” It is critical in creating a safe and equitable city that all people are able to access high quality, affordable transport.

Those who often most need mass transport are often those who have the hardest time accessing these transport options. Photo by Brinda Sengupta.

Steps towards equitable transport

City leaders in Delhi and Gurgaon have finally realized the importance of efficient and sustainable transport. Now, city governments need to invest in feeder services and ensure accessible pedestrian environments to make the complete commuter experience safe and equitable for all citizens.  A recent survey by New Delhi University’s Department of Urban Planning shows that there is a long way to go, with 65% of current metro users mentioning problems reaching transport, and 40% of private mode users pointing towards last-mile connectivity issues as a large reason for their decision to not use public transport. Yet, at the same time more than 50% of private mode users said that they would be willing to use public transport if given appropriate services to connect to transport lines. It is up to city governments to offer people that chance. Collaboration is needed between transit operators, public organisations, municipal authorities, civil society groups, and the public at large. Ideas and initiatives such as  such as Corporate bus pooling,  creating a Non-Motorized Public Transport Feeder Network, Autorickshaws on call are steps in the right direction. In a city where car ownership is increasing and incomes are rising unequally, finding ways to connect people to affordable transport might be India’s best chance at an equitable future.

Categories: Europe

World Urban Forum highlights opportunities for sustainable cities

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:13pm

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

In recent months, popular protests have broken out in cities around the globe. The causes were different: soaring pollution in Beijing; violent gender-based crime in New Delhi; and access to public services in São Paulo. But, for each, inequality was a significant underlying factor.

Many cities face increasing pressure. The urban population has increased fivefold since 1950. Vehicle ownership is on course to double by 2050, while traffic accidents lead to 1.3 million deaths each year. Cities emit approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  All of this is even more staggering when you consider that 1.5 billion people will move into cities in the next two decades, bringing the total to 5 billion worldwide.

The reality is that well-designed cities can generate jobs, innovation, and economic growth for all. But when designed poorly, with too much sprawl, waste, and inefficiency, they can divide cities and exacerbate pollution, inequality, and political instability. Moreover, poor design has long-term consequences given that urban infrastructure often lasts decades.

Against this backdrop, some 25,000 people are set to arrive in Medellín, Colombia, for the UN-HABITAT’s World Urban Forum this week. The key question they face is: How can cities drive growth that is inclusive and sustainable at the same time?

The answer is complex, but three common elements stand out.

Design matters 

In order to create well-designed, compact cities, spatial planning needs to be explicitly integrated into municipal and national policies.

Compact cities often carry many advantages. New York City is notable for its highly dense layout that contributes to its using 40% less electricity and 25% less water, while containing 20% more green space compared with other large U.S. cities. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled PlaNYC, a cross-agency effort to drive innovation and growth, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve life for the city’s residents. Under the plan, New York’s GDP has increased by 13% while emissions have fallen by 16% in just six years.

Nearly 300 miles east of the World Urban Forum, Bogotá’s Master Plan promotes compact, mixed-use, and accessible development. The city is already one of the densest in the world, and planners have proposed to prevent future sprawl by improving the occupation of central areas, enhancing accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists, expanding mass transit, and protecting fragile watersheds and green areas.

Unfortunately, these examples remain the exception. More frequently, poor planning and perverse financial incentives lead to greater sprawl, create congestion, and promote excessive consumption and waste. In order to create healthy and compact cities, deliberate early design that avoids lock in to future problems is crucial.

Unlocking urban finance

Cities need their own revenue sources in order to avoid selling land that can lead to more sprawl and inefficiency.

Well-designed property taxes and development fees can increase investment for smart infrastructure. Finance can be leveraged through real estate developer fees, value capture taxes, green bonds, and carbon finance. In Hong Kong, for instance, the “Rail Plus Property” model enables the state to capture the increase in property revenues along new transportation routes, rather than have them accrue to private property holders.

Shanghai raised US$ 900 million by implementing a quota system that auctions a license to drive on city streets to the highest bidders – an approach which has been adopted by six other large Chinese cities.

With urbanization on the rise, investment is expected to soar. One potential source of city financing is a 2012 pledge of US$ 175 billion for transport infrastructure by the eight largest multilateral development banks; however, to date less than 5% has been allocated to urban public transport systems. With additional funds, cities can control their growth and resources can be channeled to ensure greater efficiency.

Citizens engage

Finally, citizens, especially vulnerable communities, need the right information and an ability to influence decisions by their city leaders.

Traditionally, many European cities have been at the forefront of citizen participation. For example, in Stockholm, citizens voted to support the nation’s first congestion pricing charges. In Geneva, residents cast ballots to determine how the city should allocate urban space among private vehicles, public transportation, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Meanwhile in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a new open data portal is helping city officials make decisions on mobility, environment, sanitation, and public health. And in Mexico City, citizens are taking matters into their own hands by expanding cycling infrastructure and bike lanes. These examples illustrate how citizen engagement can promote more livable and sustainable cities.

Concluding thoughts

These issues – and more – will be discussed in Medellín. Among the major topics is how the future international development agenda will speak to the poverty, inequality, and sustainability challenges facing cities. As leaders consider what comes once the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, it is clear that cities should be a key element of the agenda.

Near-term decisions by local governments, developers, and planners will determine the resource management and quality of life for billions of people in the coming decades. The World Urban Forum can spur new ideas and drive a deeper commitment to sustainable, equitable urban growth around the world.

Categories: Europe

Is that a shared use path ? Do Dutch cycle paths cause conflict with pedestrians ?

Hembrow - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 6:17am
One of the most common misconceptions about the Netherlands is that where cycle-paths through the countryside which don't have an obvious path for pedestrians alongside, they are mistaken for "shared use paths". Actually, the Netherlands doesn't build shared use paths and the cycle-path network makes for fewer conflicts with pedestrians, not more. Read on for an explanation: Urban areas AnywhereDavid Hembrow
Categories: Europe