No strategy for reducing the impacts of global climate change is complete without addressing the challenge of urbanization. Cities contribute about 70% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, despite only accounting for 2% of global land area.
Reducing this environmental impact may seem daunting, but a new report, Better Growth, Better Climate, finds that there are several actions city leaders can take that can reduce emissions while driving economic growth. The report finds that connected, compact cities could save $3 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next 15 years. Not only that, but they can also curb global climate change and yield immediate local benefits for air quality, health, and quality of life.Unstructured urbanization: Bad for the planet, bad for economies
Urbanization is occurring at an unprecedented scale and pace, with about 60% of the global population expected to live in cities by 2030. It took 150 years for the urbanization rate in European countries to go from 10% to 50%, but we’ve now seen the same shift take place in one-third of the time in many Asian countries. Unfortunately, the dominant paradigm in urban growth – characterized by unstructured expansion, sprawl, and increasing dependence on cars – is no longer affordable environmentally or economically.
Of particular concern is the issue of urban air quality, which is projected to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality by 2050. In the 15 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, the damage to health from poor air quality is valued at an average of about 4% of GDP. Cities in emerging economies suffer even more: Bangalore has witnessed an average 34% increase in air pollutants between 2002 and 2010. In Beijing, a recent estimate suggests that heavy haze in the month of January 2013 alone caused RMB 23 billion (USD 3.7 billion) in economic losses, about 98% of which were health-related costs. Another study indicates that the total social cost of air pollution and congestion from motorized transport in Beijing lies between 7.5 and 15% of the city’s GDP, well above the global average.
Urban sprawl and the resulting prevalence of private vehicle use are considered major contributors to both local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, Atlanta emits roughly 10 times as much carbon from transport than Barcelona, even though the two cities are similar in population and income levels. The difference lies in Atlanta’s much larger urban footprint – 4,280 square kilometers compared to 162 for Barcelona.
Air pollution is but one of the economic and social costs of unstructured urbanization, which also contributes to the failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, traffic congestion and crashes, and the unsustainable cycle of rising energy demand.Climate-friendly cities pay off
Targeting urban challenges like air quality and traffic congestion can open up opportunities for substantive climate actions as well as economic benefits.
For example, EMBARQ research on the socioeconomic impacts of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems found that air quality improvements resulting from Mexico City’s Metrobús Line 3 alone are poised to eliminate more than 2,000 days of lost work due to illness, four new cases of chronic bronchitis, and two deaths on average per year, saving the city an estimated US$ 4.5 million. At the global level, 11 registered BRT projects in Mexico, Colombia, China, India, and South Africa are forecast to reduce emissions by 31.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent over 20 years. That amount equals the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 6.5 million cars.
Economy-climate synergy also applies to water and land pollution, specifically that arising from cities’ wastewater disposal and solid waste management. Waste management emits 5% of global greenhouse gases and 12% of methane. One study in Brazil estimates that scaling up more sustainable waste management practices – such as small-scale, integrated projects – to cities across the country would reduce CO2 emissions by between 158 and 315 tons and avoid at least 2,500 premature deaths from air pollution over 20 years. Meanwhile, it would create between 40,000 and 110,000 jobs, save 0.5 to 1.1% of Brazil’s electricity demand, and increase the country’s GDP by anywhere from $13.3 to $35.2 billion between 2012 and 2032.Emerging cities, emerging opportunities
Emerging cities – the mid-size cities of today and megacities of the future – will shape the global economic and environmental outlook, as they are the largest sources of economic productivity and emissions. In fact, a group of 291 rapidly expanding, mid-sized cities in emerging economies will account for more than one-quarter of global income growth and more than one-third of energy-related emissions growth in the next two decades. Given the rapid onset of urbanization and the long-lived nature of urban infrastructure, it is essential that mayors, city planners, and other leaders take the opportunity to act now. The decisions they make today can drive economic growth and curb climate change, or perpetuate the unstructured urbanization that dominated the 20th century.
Road safety issues have reached a pinnacle in Indian cities. In 2013 alone, 140,000 people died in traffic crashes, and many more were severely injured. These premature deaths and debilitating injuries put an intense burden not just on families and communities, but also on the workforce and the economy. One study even estimated the social costs of traffic crashes in the country at the equivalent of 3.2% of GDP. Improving road safety in India, then, is a pursuit that can both support economic growth and save lives.
To meet this aim, India’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) published last week a draft Road Transport and Safety Bill for public comments and suggestions. The Bill pulls from global best practices in mobility policy to address issues around transport, motor vehicles, and road safety. If passed by Parliament, it would replace the existing Motor Vehicle Act of 1988.
In its current form, the Bill includes ambitious and far-reaching changes to governance, public transport systems, regulations, and more. Its national impacts are expected to include saving 200,000 lives in five years, growing national GDP by 4%, and creating one million jobs through increased investment in the transport sector.
At the local level, here’s what the Bill means for everyday citizens.New governing bodies for road safety and transport
The Bill proposes three independent authorities to serve as regulators, facilitators, and enforcers of its grand vision – to make the movement of people and freight safer, faster, cheaper, and more inclusive.
The first of these authorities is the Motor Vehicle Regulation and Road Safety Authority of India, whose principle objective would be to improve road safety and vehicle regulation.
The second regulatory body, the National Road Transport and Multi-modal Co-ordination Authority, will facilitate the government’s ‘Make in India’ vision. This body will serve as an independent authority aiding accountability and transparency in the planning and development of efficient multi-modal infrastructure in order to move goods and passengers safely, swiftly, and economically. With a special emphasis on the safety of vulnerable road users, this dedicated authority will facilitate safe, integrated systems that use innovative technologies for enforcement.
A third agency, the National Highway Traffic Regulation and Protection Force will deal exclusively with the enforcement of this act along national highways. This body will be responsible for the safety and efficiency of national highways via enforcement, investigation of crashes, maintenance of signage and equipment, and secure medical attention to victims of traffic crashes.New standards for vehicle regulation and driver licencing
Comprehensive regulation with regard to motor vehicles’ design, manufacturing, registration, maintenance and safety standards will emphasize adopting new technologies in areas like alternative fuels and retrofitting.
A new driver licensing system will also standardize processes throughout the country. New models for driver testing facilities will open the industry to private sector participation and create more jobs. Automated testing systems will reduce corruption and bribery in the driver testing process. Education will also no longer be required in order to apply for a licence.
Centralizing the vehicle registration system will standardize the process across all states. The database records of the vehicle registration would be linked to a certificate of fitness, insurance, and past offences. Finally, integrating all stakeholders and opening they system up to private sector participation will lead to greater transparency.Impact on passenger and freight transport
The Bill aims to make public transport more safe and sustainable. Improved infrastructure and traffic management for freight networks will reduce congestion, helping to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Enhanced regulations will also lower logistical costs, reducing inflation and enabling Indian manufacturing to become globally competitive.
Clear standards for multi-modal infrastructure in both passenger and freight transport include construction, traffic management, and inter-state transit development. These changes can increase safety and reliability while at the same time reduce the cost of transportation.Offenses, fines, penalties, and claims
This Bill places a high emphasis on safety, and gives emergency and para-medical vehicles right of way, even over VIP vehicles.
Enforcement practices will focus on children and the most vulnerable road users. The Bill also calls for electronic enforcement – like traffic cameras – in urban clusters, especially in cities with populations over one million, and harsher penalties for speeding and drunk driving.
Third party insurance will be made mandatory, as well as detailed accident investigation reports in the event of crashes. Claims tribunals will have an improved case management system, with a time bound application process for claims and the settlement of claims. Compensation payments will follow a structured formula, and payments to accident victims made quick and easy.
Traffic offenses and penalties will follow a points-based system where the scale of the penalty would correspond to the nature of the offence, as well as the accumulation of penalties can lead to harsher penalties in future. The new system will have combination of fines, imprisonment, impounding of vehicles, cancellation of licenses or permits along with penalty points will serve as a deterrent.What’s next for the Road Safety and Transport Bill?
MoRTH is currently seeking comments from the public and other key stakeholders, after which the Bill will be finalized. It will be presented to the Indian Parliament during its upcoming winter session.
Chennai, India has long been notorious for its lawless auto-rickshaw drivers. On August 25, 2013, the Tamil Nadu state government sought to change this perception by reforming rickshaw fare structures for the first time in 17 years. The government was forced to implement the reform based on a directive from the Supreme Court following a petition filed in 2010. Tamil Nadu’s transport commissioner hosted a closed door meeting with stakeholders to gather input for the rerforms and with EMBARQ India’s assistance, the state devised a meter-based fare system acceptable to all. However, it remains unclear whether this restructuring will have a significant impact on either the users or the drivers’ perception of the system, or whether the restructuring will shift users away from private cars to the more sustainable transport option.
To uncover whether or not fare restructuring had an impact on user behavior, EMBARQ India spent three months speaking to over 500 commuters and 500 auto-rickshaw drivers in the city, along with stakeholders such as government officials, auto-rickshaw union leaders, entrepreneurs, activists and journalists, to discover how the fare restructuring has impacted customers and drivers – and identify what challenges still remain.The impact of fare reform on commuter choices
EMBARQ India’s surveys, conducted between February and April 2014, revealed that the price reforms prompted many commuters to shift their dominant mode of transport. At the beginning of the survey, 89% of respondents reported that they use their personal vehicles due to the poor quality of auto-rickshaw and public transport services in Chennai. Nearly 80% of respondents, however, reported having shifted some trips from other modes of transport to auto-rickshaws after the reforms.
The survey has also shown that pricing reform has influenced residents’ decisions to buy cars. Almost 79% of the respondents owned personal vehicles, of which 73% were not planning to buy another motor vehicle after the auto-rickshaw meter reform. From the respondents who did not own any vehicle, 63% are not planning to buy any personal vehicle.
Both of these shifts in mindset speak to the positive influence of fare reform on perceptions and usage of Chennai’s auto-rickshaw fleet, providing residents a viable and sustainable mobility option beyond the car.Auto-rickshaw drivers more resistant to meter reform
By contrast, roughly 87% of auto-rickshaw drivers were not satisfied with the meter reform, and have been hesitant to accept it. This is largely due to the fact that while the daily average distance travelled by drivers has marginally increased from 97 km (about 60 miles) per day to 98 km (about 61 miles) per day and the daily average number of trips has also marginally increased from 21 to 22 per day, “dead trips” – where no one is in the vehicle – have also increased by about 4% on average. In short, drivers are driving more but losing revenue. In addition, when auto-rickshaw drivers are earning money, they aren’t earning as much – drivers report a drop in earnings of 24% from 720 INR (USD 12) before reform to 547 INR (USD 9) after the fare reform. It must be noted, however, that this reduction in income could not be confirmed because fare price before the reform was largely based on the bargaining acumen of the rider.
Because of the drivers’ resistance, the state government has established a grievance call center for customers to register complaints regarding drivers’ non-compliance with the new meter policy. Transport authorities intend to take strict action against the accused drivers, but putting the burden on the customer to enforce a state-wide policy is not an ideal solution for any party involved.Challenges ahead for successful fare reforms
For potential customers, the main factor preventing them from using auto-rickshaws during heavy traffic periods is over-charging by auto-rickshaw drivers. According to the survey, 48% of commuters found that drivers are still negotiating for a higher fare or are asking for extra money over the meter reading. Although it is true that drivers are burning more fuel and travelling shorter lengths for the same fare, a middle ground between strict regulation and pure negotiation is the route that would satisfy both drivers and passengers.
Additionally, 16% of customers believe that the metered fares are still not competitive to other cities and other modes of transport in the city. About 25% of commuters blame the culture of the drivers, including rudeness or harassment, as a reason not to use auto-rickshaws, while 5% cite safety concerns.
Drivers’ concerns relate more to overregulation in a competitive market. About 21% of the auto drivers feel that competing share-autos and share-taxis have cut into their ridership and revenue. In such a competitive market, they feel it is necessary to have the freedom to barter. About 4% of auto drivers are frustrated by the need to bribe the Regional Transport Office for permits, license and fitness certificates and feel victimized by the new regulated fare.
Others say that they cannot use the meter system because the reported 24% reduction in earnings does not give them enough income to live on. Another 7% cite the fluctuation of fuel prices, and a fare that does not rise with it, as a challenge. Finally, 37% of the drivers reported an increase in dead trips as a challenge.
This resistance to the fare reform will likely continue without necessary adjustments. To increase the number of commuters using sustainable transport like rickshaws, Chennai must establish a mutual consensus between all stakeholders. To help further reform the system, EMBARQ India plans to expand these statistics with more robust recommendations to help the city, drivers, and commuters resolve these challenges.
To learn more about the impact of auto-rickshaw fare reforms in Chennai, see EMBARQ India’s survey results here. For further questions regarding EMBARQ India’s survey, please write to Roshan Toshniwal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City leaders have a key role to play at next week’s UN Climate Summit in New York City, which brings together heads of state, mayors, business leaders, and civil society representatives to build momentum towards an international agenda to tackle climate change and build resilience.
The window of opportunity to make meaningful progress in the battle against climate change is shrinking. This is especially true in cities, which are set to gain 1.4 billion people by 2030 and develop trillions of dollars in new infrastructure. Since 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions originate in cities – and these same cities are expected to bear the brunt of climate change impact – any international climate agreement must address urbanization to address the full scope of the challenge.
The Climate Summit places cities high on an agenda packed with different ideas for reducing the world’s emissions. Specifically, municipal leaders will narrow in on three lines of action for low-carbon, sustainable cities: adaptation and resilience; greenhouse gas accounting; and closing the finance gap for sustainable urban development.Urban adaptation and resilience
Cities are not only major contributors to global climate change, but also the battleground where the negative impacts of climate change will play out. An estimated 360 million urban residents worldwide live in areas prone to flooding, sea level rise, and storm surges, all of which are expected to increase with rising global temperatures. China alone has 78 million city dwellers in such at-risk areas, a number rising annually by 3%.
To protect citizens and economic assets, cities must plan to adapt over the long term. This means investing in climate-resilient infrastructure as well as curbing emissions. Investment is key, because the cost of adapting to climate change for the world’s cities is estimated at $70 billion to $100 billion per year. Cities in the developing world are especially vulnerable to climate impacts, and are expected to bear 80% of the global costs of adapting to these impacts.
At next week’s Summit, national governments, business leaders, NGOs, and mayors will explore the tools and policies necessary to achieve resilient cities.How to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions in cities
A growing number of countries and companies now measure and manage their emissions through greenhouse gas inventories. Not all cities, however, employ a common standard for tracking their own emissions. At next week’s Summit, we will see that change.
By signing on to the Compact of Mayors – a new agreement spearheaded by international city networks – leading mayors will commit to four steps toward a more transparent approach to climate action in cities:
- Disclosing data about their emissions
- Setting ambitious targets for reducing emissions
- Developing strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change
- Tracking and reporting their progress
In doing so, these cities will also commit for the first time to a standard method of measuring and reporting emissions at the city level. A global standard and partnership – like the Global Protocol for Community Scale Emissions – can increase the data accuracy necessary to spur climate action, establish an international benchmark for city-level emissions, and help cities build the case to finance low-carbon development.Closing the finance gap
The innovative cities nominated for 2014’s City Climate Leadership Awards show the range of new ways for cities to become more sustainable. The challenge is making these ideas a worldwide reality.
Financing low-carbon, resilient projects is an important part of closing this gap, particularly in emerging economies, where growing populations mean city leaders must build infrastructure now that will last for decades. The need is great: the World Bank has estimated that closing the infrastructure gap in developing cities requires US$ 1 trillion per year. But official development aid (ODA) – an important financial flow to emerging economies – stands at only US$ 135 billion annually.
The City Climate Finance Leadership Alliance addresses this challenge by creating a network where city leaders and national and international financing bodies can exchange ideas and create a marketplace for low-carbon projects. The alliance’s action statement – expected to be endorsed by a number of leading international organizations, NGOs, and development finance institutions – sets the goal of closing the investment gap in sustainable cities within the next 15 years.A key moment for city leadership
As Former New York City Mayor and UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg said at the 2013 City Climate Leadership Awards, “When it comes to climate change, cities are where the most exciting progress is being made.”
Bloomberg’s statement reflects the unique role city leaders play in inherently global climate issues. While their authority is local, their decisions have far-reaching implications. The summit is a key moment for these leaders to promote the right decisions, for the future of their cities and the planet, kicking off two years of globally important climate negotiations in Lima and Paris, the formation of a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and 2016’s HABITAT III conference on housing and sustainable urban development.
Photo: City of Copenhagen/RambøllHere's a little story about some innovation soon to show up in Copenhagen. In a city with many busstops and cycle tracks, there is the question of coexistence. For a number of years, the City of Copenhagen has worked hard to establish islands at busstops for the bus passengers to use when disembarking. It really is the baseline for infrastructure and the City, by and large, prefers it over anything else. Since the City starting retrofitting busstops to provide islands, safety has increased dramatically across the city.In 2015, The City of Copenhagen will establish LED bus islands at certain locations where there isn't space to build a proper island. When there is no bus, there will be a green strip along the curb. When a bus rolls up, the LED light show will expand across the cycle track to indicate to all traffic users that passengers have the priority. When the bus leaves, the LED lights revert to the green strip.The Mayor for Traffic and Environment, Morten Kabell, said, "We know that tradtional bus islands are a good idea but don't have space everywhere for them because some streets are too narrow.""Therefore it will be exciting to see that if a lighted busstop can create a better sense of safety for both parties, create a better flow on the cycle track and create space for bus passengers". The pilot project will start next year, with a budget of $400,000.This is an example of a standard bus island. The cycle track continues between the sidewalk and the island. In this instance, the law dictates that passengers have to wait for the cyclists to pass before crossing to or from the island.There are, however, a number of locations where space is limited. This kind of situation will be perfect for the new pilot project. In locations like this, the law dicates that the bicycle users have to stop to allow the passengers to board and disembark the bus. Generally, in detailed observations that Copenhagenize Design Co. have done, there is not a lot of drama at busstops. Things do get a bit tight in the rush hour, sometimes a bicycle user and a bus passenger will bump into each other. Generally, this LED solution will clearly mark out the territory for all parties involved. Many people aren't clear about the rules - or the fact that they differ between places with an island or without. This solution is a positive addition to the traffic equation in Copenhagen.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
By 2050, the world’s population is estimated to grow to 9.6 billion, with 66% living in cities. How can we accommodate urbanization while avoiding costly urban sprawl that can lead to unequal access to transport and increased greenhouse gas emissions? The efficient, dense, self-contained cities of arcology are one exciting possible solution.
The city is the necessary instrument for the evolution of humankind.” – Paolo Soleri, creator of arcologyArchitecture + ecology = arcology
Arcology – a combination of the words architecture and ecology – is an architectural design principle that focuses on creating a hyper-dense city within a highly integrated and compact three-dimensional urban structure. It is the antithesis of wasteful consumption, facilitating access to shared infrastructure services, conserving water and reducing sewage; minimizing the use of energy, raw materials and land; reducing waste and environmental pollution; and allowing interaction with the surrounding natural environment. An arcology approach also emphasizes human connectedness and, through mixed-use development principles, makes walking the primary mode of transport.Paolo Soleri and his arcology prototype, Arcosanti
Italian architect Paolo Soleri (1919-2013) developed the concept of arcology. In 1947, he came to the United States and spent a year and a half in fellowship with Frank Lloyd Wright. For over 40 years, the proceeds from his award-winning ceramic and bronze wind bells have funded construction to test his theoretical work in arcology. In 1964, he and his family established the Cosanti Foundation, an educational organization. The Foundation’s major project is Arcosanti, a prototype town in central Arizona based on Soleri’s concept of arcology. Today, Arcosanti is an urban laboratory, attempting to test and demonstrate an alternative human habitat. Thousands of students have participated in the educational program and on-going construction of Arcosanti, which hosts 35,000 tourists each year in guest facilities. The Arcosanti project has gone through numerous design changes since inception. The current master plan, Arcosanti 5000, features layers of super structures designed to provide facilities to support a population of 5,000 people.
Arcology remains an unproven concept, and as Arcosanti demonstrates, completing a dense, self-sustaining structure is an ambitious goal. Still, architects around the world are planning arcologies that could have a dramatic impact on urban design, and a few have even made it beyond the planning stages. Read on for some of today’s city designs inspired by the tenets of arcology.Masdar City
In 2008, Masdar City broke ground in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, endeavoring to develop the world’s most sustainable eco-city. Narrow, shaded streets help capture prevailing winds and keep the city cooler. The city also uses energy generated onsite from solar rooftops. The city prioritizes walking and cycling, but it also has an integrated transport system that includes light rail, automated pod cars, and a variety of electric-powered public transport options. A few thousand people currently live and work in Masdar City. When complete, the city aims to house 40,000 people, with an additional 50,000 commuting every day to work and study.Endless City in Height
The Endless City in Height skyscraper design by SURE Architecture would function like a vertical ecosystem, with ramps wrapping the inside and outside and connecting different spaces within the skyscraper similarly to streets. The mixed-use tower would feature various sustainable approaches to energy, water, and waste management. For example, it aims to maximize passive energy and reduce artificial lighting, ventilation and cooling needs. The Endless City in Height was designed for London, and won the 2014 SkyScrapers and SuperSkyScrapers Competition.Boston Arcology
The BoA, short for Boston Arcology, was designed as a floating city for 15,000 people containing hotels, offices, retail, museums, condominiums, and a new city hall. BoA would supplement walking with moving walkways and/or electric train carriers. It would also aim to achieve carbon neutrality through features such as wind turbines, fresh water recovery and storage systems, gray water treatment, and solar panels.Harvest City
Harvest City was designed to be a floating agricultural and industrial city for Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. The two mile diameter complex of tethered floating modules would accommodate 30,000 residents. Features include one-acre crop circles and energy generation from solar panels and wind turbines. Floating aquifers would also collect and protect water while waste would be managed with composting toilets and compact treatment plants.
These are only some of the existing arcology designs. To accommodate new residents, cities of the future must be well-planned, resource efficient, and connected places to live. It remains to be seen whether arcology designs can become a consistent part of that urban future, and whether they can be part of equitable communities instead of being utopias for the wealthy. Still, whether Arcosanti in the desert or the Endless City in London, arcologies could scale-up the benefits of mixed-use development and sustainable mobility.
In nature, as an organism evolves it increases in complexity and it also becomes a more compact or miniaturized system. Similarly a city should function as a living system. Arcology, architecture and ecology as one integral process, is capable of demonstrating positive response to the many problems of urban civilization, population, pollution, energy and natural resource depletion, food scarcity and quality of life. Arcology recognizes the necessity of the radical reorganization of the sprawling urban landscape into dense, integrated, three-dimensional cities in order to support the complex activities that sustain human culture. The city is the necessary instrument for the evolution of humankind.” – Paolo Soleri
Foreword: The upcoming United Nations Climate Summit comes at a critical time for cities worldwide. Cities already account for 70% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and between 2011 and 2030, urban areas are expected to gain 1.4 billion people. In particular, many cities in lower- and middle-income countries are growing at unprecedented rates. City leaders must act now to avoid the lock-in effects of long-lasting urban infrastructure. This blog post, originally published on WRI Insights, highlights the reasons why this summit is an important forum for international leaders to address climate change.
On September 23, heads of state and leaders in finance, business and civil society will gather in New York City for the United Nations Climate Summit 2014. The summit is a critical milestone on the path to addressing the global threat of climate change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon organized the high-level meeting to re-engage world leaders to spur climate action on national and international stages.
Tens of thousands of concerned citizens are seizing the opportunity, organizing the largest climate march in history. During summit week, hundreds of organizations have arranged speeches, documentary film showings, and other gatherings to present the overwhelming evidence of the consequences of climate change and cost-effective solutions to address the problem. New scientific research like the National Climate Assessment and the latest IPCC reports have illuminated the risks from carbon pollution, while new economic analysis including WRI’s upcoming New Climate Economy report will dispel the notion that climate action will slow economic growth.
Yet this is hardly the first time governments have convened to counter climate change. So why is this summit worth watching? Here’s why:1) It’s the first time in five years that heads of state have gathered to address climate change
This will be the first time in five years – since the 2009 negotiations in Copenhagen – that so many world leaders have gathered to discuss climate change. Secretary-General Ban established the summit to kick-start a 15-month period of intense climate engagement and negotiations to try to reach a global agreement in December 2015. Building momentum in New York City will be critically important to achieving that goal.2) Leaders from the United States and China will be there
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, leaders in the world’s two largest emitting countries, are expected to attend the summit. If substantive measures to address greenhouse gas emissions are to be achieved, both the United States and China will need to be integrally involved. Encouragingly, the two countries are already collaborating on clean energy projects at the research, business and government levels through initiatives like the US-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). In July they unveiled eight new climate partnership agreements.3) New voices calling for greater action
Most of the current country leaders were not yet in power during the 2009 Copenhagen summit. Many of them are outspoken about the current threat climate change poses to their countries, as well as the prospect of economic opportunities from shifting to a low-carbon economy. These new voices come from middle-income countries such as Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Indonesia, where governments are implementing ambitious climate policies or have indicated their willingness to do so. Their new perspectives will shape these high-level discussions.
Poorer countries are also expected to come forward to present their challenges and their contributions to solving the problem.4) New commitments from countries, cities and the private sector
The one-day summit will be a forum for countries to share new initiatives. In fact, the whole morning is packed with three concurrent sessions where countries will announce their climate actions. The announcements will likely range from commitments to capitalize the Green Climate Fund, as Germany recently did by pledging US$ 1 billion dollars to help countries prepare for climate impacts and pursue low-carbon pathways, to domestic actions that prompt a shift from coal and toward scaled-up renewables.
World leaders can also use the gathering to commit to present a draft of their post-2020 climate plans by March 2015 (known as “intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs) – and will encourage their peers to do so as well. Abiding by this deadline will give domestic and international stakeholders an opportunity to respond and suggest improvements before countries submit their final proposals nine months later in Paris.
Finally, the gathering offers a platform for bold, new ideas from the private sector and city leaders. Expect to learn of brand new private- and/or public efforts on energy, low-carbon cities, forest restoration, transportation, agriculture, finance and resilience. These new initiatives will supplement country actions by engaging all levels of society in the global effort to tackle this problem.5) The global transition to clean energy is reshaping the policy landscape
The rapid adoption of renewable energy in recent years has shifted what was considered feasible just five years ago. Solar manufacturing costs have plummeted 80% and wind power has never been more affordable. Last October, Denmark produced more energy from wind power than the country consumed. China has set aggressive renewable energy targets for 2015, 2017 and 2020. More and more American utilities are finding that wind and solar offer the cheapest way to add additional generating capacity. And nearly 100 developing countries now have renewable energy policies in place. The shifting energy landscape and strong social and economic benefits from transitioning to clean energy enables world and corporate leaders to make a strong case for climate leadership.A chance for world leaders to commit to climate action
The summit will be a harbinger for the commitment of heads of state to tackle the climate crisis in the lead-up to Paris and beyond. Strong, clear commitments would elevate climate change on the global agenda and set the stage for national and international progress.
During a high-level meeting in Abu Dhabi this May, Secretary-General Ban urged participants to “empower and motivate your national leaders to bring bold announcements to the Climate Summit in September… The race is on. It’s time to lead.” In a few short weeks we will see if leaders are up to the challenge.
Editor’s Note: When originally published on WRI Insights, this blog post indicated that Chinese president Xi Jinping would attend the UN Climate Summit. After it was published, reports were released indicating that he will not attend. Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli is expected to attend in his place.
Yeah, so, there I was on summer holidays with the kids, standing atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Been there, done that many times before, but it's always a beautiful experience looking out over a beautiful city. If you're afraid of heights, the rule of thumb is "don't look down". When you work with liveable cities, transport and bicycle urbanism... it would seem that this rule applies as well. Don't look down. I did, however. I looked down at the intersection on Quai Branly where it meets Pont d'Iéna over the Seine. This is a place with easily hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and more and more cyclists. It is also clearly a place dominated by The Arrogance of Space of last century traffic engineering. It is a museum for failed, car-centric traffic planning - sad and amusing all at once.You may recall my earlier article about The Arrogance of Space in traffic planning. I talk a lot about it in my keynotes, this Arrogance of Space and I decided to revisit it.I did a simple thing. I squared off the photo with (very roughly) one square metre squares. It's not totally exact and it doesn't really matter. Creating this grid, I gave the urban space colours based on who it is intended for. It's pretty self-explanatory above.Worth noting, however, that while I reluctantly gave the goofy bike boxes the "space for bikes" colour, I refused adamantly to do so for the sharrows in the intersection. They are ridiculous and should never, ever, be classified as bicycle infrastructure.With the colours you soon see how much space is allocated for motorised transport. Arrogantly so.Removing the photo gives you an even better idea of the blatant injustice of space allocation.In this version I roughly mapped out the actual space taken up by the motorised vehicles (dark red) and bicycles (dark purple). There were only two bicycle users and a pedicab with two passengers in the intersection at this moment. Yes, cars take up a lot of space, but man... look how much space they don't even occupy. Space that could easily be reallocated to a few hundred thousand pedestrians and many bicycle users.When you actually count the number of individuals using the space the injustice becomes more and more apparent. The Arrogance morphs into pure mocking of the majority of citizens and visitors to the city. Pedestrians clustered together at crossings waiting for The Matrix to reluctantly grant permission to cross. Bicycles thrown to the hyenas into the middle of the Red Desert.Clotilde, an urban planner here at Copenhagenize Design Company, gave me another photo. This one taken from the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. The intersection is Boulevard du Montparnasse around Place du 18 Juin 1940.Here is the space allocated to motorised transport... including, it's worth noting, a number of buses.Simplied further, there is an arrogant ocean of red and bits and pieces of painted bike lanes. Bikes heading to the right can use the bus lane on the Boulevard, which isn't exactly pleasant. I've tried it.Here are the individuals using the space. Buses are great, of course, so let's count on 50+ people on board. But still a shocking amount of space for a few red dots. Only one bicycle user in the middle of nowhere safe. This photo was taken in 2011, by the way, so a lot of that "dead" space is probably repurposed.For contrast, I found this photo taken from the Calgary Tower in my archives. The first Arrogance of Space article was based on Calgary, so let's revisit the city. Sure, I shot this photo facing south and that's the roof of a car park in the foreground, but let's add some colour.Mars. The Red Planet.I only marked out the space I could see, so sure... that sidewalk at middle right will continue to the left, but I couldn't see it.In a liveable city you should be able to climb to a high place, look down at any given moment and see humans in the urban theatre. In this shot I could only see four human forms.For contrast to the contrast, this is the view from my favourite hotel in Tokyo, overlooking the Shibuya crossing - which just may be the world's busiest crosswalk. I don't stay anywhere else when I'm in Tokyo simply because I love this view.There are often bicycles in the crossing, as you can see in the film, above, that I shot a few years ago. There are probably more bikes in the bike parking areas around nearby Shibuya Station than in many countries.Time for some colour. No bike infrastructure here but goodness me... look at that blue.According to my EXIF info I took this on Friday, May 22, 2009 at around noon. Not so busy at this moment, but still great to see. Pedestrians here get their own signal in all directions, including diagonally.If we want to change our failed traffic planning tradition from a previous century, it's time to change the question.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Lagos – the largest city and commercial capital of Nigeria – has traditionally struggled with a lack of reliable mass transit systems and severe traffic congestion. The average Lagos commuter spends over three hours in traffic every day. More recently, however, the city has made strides to improve mass transit options. In 2008, Lagos introduced Africa’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) system modeled on its South American counterparts in cities like Curitiba, Bogotá, and Santiago. Lagos is also pursuing sustainable transport options such as light rail, ferry, and cable car. These transport options are part of the city’s efforts to reduce its environmental impact and improve climate resilience. While Lagos still has significant room to improve mobility, its multimodal approach to transport investments holds great promise for the city’s commuters.Improving sustainable transport in Lagos
In 2006, the city and state government adopted the Strategic Transport Master Plan with the goal of delivering an integrated public transit system within two decades. In accordance with this plan, Lagos became the first city in Africa to implement a BRT system in 2008. Though the system does not use all the features of some BRT systems, it still has many advantages over a traditional bus system. For example, the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority (LAMATA) dedicated a special lane for BRT buses along 65% of the Mile 12-Ikorodu Road corridor to reduce travel time from mainland suburbs to the central business district on Lagos Island.
This BRT service has had a significant impact on transport in Lagos, and already has daily ridership of 200,000 people. Despite accounting for 25% of commuters, the BRT system contributes only 4% of all traffic. Further, the system was constructed at the relatively low cost of USD$ 1.7 million per kilometer. In comparison, Bogotá’s TransMilenio cost about USD$ 6 million per kilometer.
Lagos is building on its BRT system with investments in a range of other sustainable transport options. In a speech at last month’s Mail & Guardian conference on urban migration and renewal, Lagos Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola outlined six areas of infrastructural investment in mass transit. These included a light rail project called “Eko Rail,” a suspended cable car system, and improvements to the existing ferry system.
Investments in the ferry system aim to address Lagos’ underutilization of water as a means of transport. The ferry system currently only carries about 18,000 people, even though about one fifth of the city is made up of water in the form of lagoons, creeks and the Atlantic Ocean. Three new jetties will supplement the existing ferry infrastructure. The cable car system, meanwhile, aims to be an affordable means of transport that can reduce average journey times by up to 70 minutes each direction.
The addition of Eko Rail could further ease traffic congestion and help meet the rising demand for affordable mass transit in the metropolis. The Blue Line, which is the first of seven rail lines in the network, will be operational in 2016. Eko Rail plans to offer through-tickets for buses and will encourage transit-oriented development (TOD) around stations. When operational, Eko Rail will have the capacity to capture up to seven times as many passengers daily as the BRT system. Integration between multiple transport solutions will offer Lagosians a greater variety of mass transit options, and will improve quality of life and the ease of doing business in the city.Mitigating and adapting to climate change through transport investments
Investments in sustainable transport are an important part of mitigating climate change. At the annual Lagos Climate Change Summit (LCCS), organized by the state government to address vulnerabilities associated with climate and environmental change, participants discussed strategies to finance sustainable transport projects such as public-private financing frameworks and financial intermediaries. For example, Lagos is partnering with the African Development Bank, which is providing a USD$ 60 million loan for the Lagos Cable Transit System and is advising the application of carbon credits from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Improving sustainable transport options could have a significant impact on helping Lagos minimize its climate impact. The deployment of BRT, for example, has contributed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from urban transport by 13%. Meanwhile, the light rail system will be powered by a 25MW gas-thermal power station. It will also use electric-powered cars to ensure cleaner operation.
Since most of Lagos lies 10 meters or less above sea level, infrastructural investments have also been driven by the need for climate-resilient development. When referring to improvements to existing roads a recent interview, Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure in Lagos Dr. Obafemi Hamzat noted “we are not just building roads to move cars and people, but we are also building roads to move water. Where we have outflows, where we discharge water is important to us.”Lagos still has room to improve transport options and reduce car congestion
Despite Lagos’ efforts, continued improvements are necessary. Recent studies suggest that mass transit schemes like BRT systems and light rail networks alone do not necessarily reduce overall car traffic when there is high demand for road space. To reduce congestion, expanding transport options may need to be complemented by other initiatives like congestion pricing to discourage the use of cars and a shift towards compact, mixed-use development.
Increased bus fares are a greater concern to Brazilian citizens than increased electricity, water or telephone bills. This fact and others come from a recent study presented at the Brazilian National Association of Transport Operators (NTU) 2014 National Seminar on Urban Public Transportation.
The NTU surveyed 91 representatives from the transport sector, including opinion leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs, journalists, technical experts, academics, parliamentarians, and members of city governments in order to help policymakers respond to strong social demand for improved public transport among Brazilian citizens. Respondents’ proposed a number of potential policy changes focused on three areas of frustration for Brazilians citizens: price, quality of service, and transparency.Containing bus fares
“Not for 20 cents.” This statement defined a wave of protests in 2013 triggered by an R$ 20 cents (USD 9 cents) increase in Porto Alegre’s bus fare. Though the protests focused broadly on social rights, increased spending on bus transport was of particular concern. According to the respondents, this concern is justified for two main reasons. First, 56.8% of respondents believe it to be justified because bus fares are a daily – not monthly – expenditure for many Brazilians. Second, 24.8% of respondents believe Brazilian’s concerns to be justified because public transport is considered the most relevant public service for society at large.
A plurality of respondents (39.6%) support a tax focused mainly on wealthier citizens as an alternative to raising bus fares. Another 23.1% of respondents believe the federal government should fully subsidize bus fares, while 18.7% of respondents believe the fares should be subsidized based on users’ income level. Finally, 8.8% of respondents support a uniform fare for all users. Most respondents also favor raising revenue from other forms of transport in order to support public transport: 92.3% of respondents favor parking fees, 85% support a gas tax, 85.9% support congestion pricing in central areas, and 51% support increasing property taxes on more expensive properties.Offering high quality of service
High quality of service is crucial to making bus transport a viable alternative to private cars. According to the survey respondents, the most important features of high quality bus systems are predictable schedules (78.8%), minimal time spent waiting at stops and traveling (72.5%), and safety in buses, terminals and stations (57.1%). Also emphasized were adequate user information as well as cleanliness and lighting (53.8% and 50% respectively). Investing in dedicated bus lanes and high capacity transport systems such as bus rapid transit (BRT) can also drastically improve quality of service. A seminar panel that included EMBARQ Brasil’s Toni Lindau examined many of the factors that impact the quality of BRT systems.Improving transparency of finances and service information
Brazilian citizens demand better access to transport information. Among survey respondents, 75.8% believe open information and data about services to be a main concern for citizens, followed by regulation and oversight of transport operators (69.2%), financial transparency from the city and operators (57.1% and 38.5% respectively), and accountability to public concerns (37.4%).
This survey reinforces the need for bus systems to have priority on urban roads, efficient operations, and transparent data. It is crucial that policymakers understand and respond to users’ demands in order to ensure that bus systems provide a sustainable form of mobility, and that they give citizens access to health, education, leisure, and employment opportunities.
A supermarket in the centre of Assen in the 1970s. Note that the car-park is more than full. Conditions for cycling were not particularly pleasant at this time and it should be no surprise that cycling was in decline across the Netherlands when this photo was taken. It's not unusual to hear calls from cyclists, especially cycling campaigners, for an increase in the price of car parking. The David Hembrowhttp://email@example.com://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/09/does-free-car-parking-make-people-drive.html
Claudia Adriazola, Health and Road Safety Director for EMBARQ – producer of TheCityFix – spoke with David Thorpe of the Sustainable Cities Collective about challenges, trends and best practices in sustainable transport and road safety. Among other topics, Adriazola and Thorpe discussed the importance of making roads and other public spaces more pedestrian-friendly and promoting sustainable transport options such as bus rapid transit (BRT). Have a look here at some of the most striking facts from the interview, and watch the full video at the bottom of the page.50 million
The number of people that are seriously injured every year in traffic accidents; 1.3 million of these people die.
One strategy Adriazola highlights to reduce traffic crashes is intersection design that accounts for pedestrians’ needs. By reducing the number of lanes and the distance between crossings, planners can encourage drivers to slow down and make roads safer for pedestrians and cars alike. “The environment, if you are going to mix pedestrians with bikers and cars, has to take care of the most vulnerable [users],” she said.4 million
The number of people that die every year due to a lack of physical activity.
Active transport options – especially walking and biking – can improve health by increasing physical activity. Using public transport such as bus rapid transit (BRT) or metro can also allow people to incorporate walking into their commute. Pedestrianization of public spaces is one strategy to decrease car congestion and provide safer spaces for walking and biking. For example, closing major streets to vehicles in Istanbul gives residents more opportunities for physical activity and makes other modes of transport more accessible by foot.695
The approximate reduction in annual traffic crashes on the Macrobús BRT corridor in Guadalajara, Mexico as a result of reserving one lane exclusively for buses.
Before implementing a dedicated bus lane, about 700 accidents occurred annually on this stretch of road. Since implementation, the number of crashes is about five. Dedicated bus lanes are also able to carry more people. The two-lane road could previously carry about 3,000 passengers per hour, while the BRT lane alone can now carry about 5,000.100
The number of kilometers of BRT in Mexico City.
Mexico City is leading a shift towards BRT that is spreading in cities across Mexico and around the world. “Many delegations from other countries have come to Mexico City to see what has happened there,” Adriazola described.181
The number of cities that have implemented some kind of BRT system, which has continued to rise even since the interview.
Over 31 million people now use BRT systems across the world daily. Adriazola also explained that transport systems have important impacts on driver behavior. “If you have a city like Lima, where you are getting stuck in traffic for two or three hours, you don’t want to miss that yellow traffic light … because you are getting desperate.” She says that “All our work is a system,” and we must examine “what other elements are contributing to this poor behavior.” For example, designing more compact cities with better mass transport can reduce the need for car use and reckless driving.
Deficiencies in urban design and transport systems also cause more people to use motorcycles, a concern for road safety. “Again, we need to look at what is happening behind all this. We have people who live very far away from where they work, the public transportation systems are not working completely, the distances are too big, you cannot bike, and you cannot walk. If you take the bus it is going to take you three hours. So the solution is to take your motorbike and sometimes be reckless.” In addition, this is also the result of poor policy towards motorbikes. “A lot of countries are making a mistake in providing subsidies for motorcycles. The externalities that come with the motorcycle are huge.”
Learn more about the intersections between sustainable mobility, health, and road safety in the full interview below:
Nine intersections. 19,500 cyclists. Nine hours. All in a city considered as a model for many urban planners. The Copenhagenize Design Company Desire Lines analysis tool headed south to Amsterdam to study bicycle user behaviour and how it interacts with - or is affected by - urban infrastructure.In ca lose collaboration between Copenhagenize Design Co. and The University of Amsterdam in the guise of Marco te Brömmelstroet - and for the City of Amsterdam - nine intersections in the city were filmed during the morning rush hour in order to complete the world's largest study of bicycle user behaviour. We're pleased to reveal the results of our study and showcase some of the data, analyses and desire line maps. The bicycle infrastructure in the City of Amsterdam is rather different from the typology used in Copenhagen ,where we did the first anthropological studies of the cyclists - The Choregraphy of an Urban Intersection, and others. It was therefore interesting for us to observe the trajectories and behavioiur of Dutch cyclists crossing over-crowded intersections. The Desire Lines are more numerous and more complex, while in Copenhagen, the vast majority of bicycle users stick to the rules and react positively to the infrastructure which is more uniform and simplified. It has been fascinating for us to be able to compare the two cities, as well. Do we really have the World's Best Behaved Cyclists in Copenhagen or can the Dutch compete with that? Monitored intersections in AmsterdamThe behaviour of Amsterdam cyclists is a recurring theme in public debate in that city. In many of these discussions, the majority of cyclists are deemed to display a strongly anarchistic attitude – e.g. ignoring red lights, cutting corners, etc. Our Desire Lines tool is the perfect way to figure out if these perceptions are true or false and to feed the debate with precise data. The study demonstrates how the cyclists respect the infrastructure as well as exploring whether or not the infrastructure fits the behaviour of the cyclists and whether there is room for improvement.In our study we address the general research question: How do Amsterdam cyclists interact with design, each other and other road users and how do they experience it all? Nine intersections were allocated to a group of three first-year sociology students from the University of Amsterdam. They used our tried and tested methodology called the “Desire Lines Analysis Tool” and filmed the intersections. Then they went to work counting the cyclists and observing/studying the behaviour. In addition, the students conducted some interviews to gain insight into the experiences and emotions of cyclists at these intersections. Cyclists were classified as Conformists, Momentumists and Recklists - as they always are in our Desire Lines studies.Here are the data collected at the intersection named Nassauplein (mapping of the trajectories of the cyclists + classification of the cyclists). Behaviour of the cyclists at the intersection NassaupleinTo read about the eight other intersections, you're welcome to download the full report here - - it's a pdf and it is 10 mb. At the end of the analysis of the nine intersections, here are our conclusions: Generally, the outcome of the Desire Lines Analysis suggest that the infrastructure at these crossings is under severe pressure by the sheer number of cyclists in peak hour traffic. As a result, the limitations of these infrastructure are challenged every day by the users. Behaviour of the cyclists at the 9 intersections in AmsterdamAlthough 87% of all 19,500 cyclists conform to all rules, there is a significant group that follows shortcuts, use sidewalks, adapts right-of-way rules or ignore traffic lights. Below, we also offer some more detailed reflections:
- The nine intersections are very crowded. The video material is from February, so we expect even more cyclists in spring and summer
- The general impression is that traffic is highly chaotic during rush hour but there were no serious conflicts observed
- Most cyclists are used to this chaos, but many are also irritated by it. Even to the extent that they tend to avoid it by deviating from the existing infrastructure
- The width of the cycle tracks does not fit the numbers of cyclists during rush hour. In most directions and on most crossings there is continuous ebb and flow
- There is a significant lack of waiting space at the traffic lights. This is especially the case for left turning traffic
- The large majority of cyclists are “conformists” but the number of “momentumists” and “recklists” are substantial. Most crossings have a large number of different Desire Lines:
The NYU Stern Urbanization Project has created a number of fascinating time-lapse videos showing urban land use in different cities from the 1800s through to 2000. These videos strikingly depict the well-evidenced trend of urban growth, both in population and land area. By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. While urbanization can have a number of benefits, if not controlled, it can also lead to costly urban sprawl. In some expanding cities, land use is expected to grow at about double the rate of the population. The Urbanization Project’s visualizations give context to the challenge of urbanization and land use as cities plan for the next century of growth and development.Urban expansion in cities worldwide
From 1985 to 2000, the population of Accra, Ghana increased by 50% while the city’s land area increased by 153%. It has been argued that this expansion is due to a number of global and local factors, including Ghana’s Structural Adjustment Program, a weak planning framework for growth, and cheap land prices on the city’s periphery.
In Nairobi, the average commuter distance increased from 0.8 km in 1970 to 25 km 1998. This is partially the result of low population density, rapidly expanding satellite towns on the city’s edge, and inadequate, expensive housing in the city’s center.
In Istanbul, policies have encouraged highway and housing development on the city’s periphery, contributing to sprawl. One of the consequences of this expansion is highly unequal access to transport – as nine out of ten families do not own cars – though the city has improved public transport through its heavily used bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is one example of a long history of urban sprawl in Mexican cities due to relaxed regulations and shortsighted policies. National housing policy in the late 1900s encouraged developers to overbuild housing on urban peripheries in an effort grow the Mexican economy. Many people living on the edge of Mexican cities have little or no access to public transport, employment opportunities, education and health services. In Mexico City, sprawling development has increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 70%, and is responsible for USD 2.5 billion (33 billion pesos) annually in lost economic productivity. Some signs point towards a shift in development strategy in Mexican cities. For example, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a strategy for urban development and housing that aims to create more compact and accessible cities.
A variety of factors have contributed to sprawl worldwide. At the most basic level, many cities have lacked an adequate vision and strategy to deal with prevailing patterns of rural to urban migration. By highlighting the history of urban expansion, the NYU Stern Urbanization Project aims to encourage cities to plan for the needs of future residents. As cities continue to urbanize, the Urbanization Project stresses the need to “make room for urban expansion” by dedicating land for public works projects before development occurs in urbanizing areas. To form comprehensive plans for sustainable, inclusive development, city leaders must first understand the land use patterns that define their cities today.
Pedestrians hit by vehicles when crossing on red are 56% more likely to be severely injured than those crossing on green. While crossing on red is often assumed to be mainly an issue of poor individual pedestrian behavior, recent research from EMBARQ indicates that it is also significantly related to the design of signals and intersections. Indeed, complex traffic signals with long waiting times can make it more likely for pedestrians to cross on red.Poor intersection design can lead to more crossing on red
In the previously mentioned study, researchers from EMBARQ collected video data of pedestrians crossing on red and developed a statistical model to predict how intersection design can impact this type of behavior. The main finding was that intersections with multiple signal phases and long waiting times are associated with a higher percentage of people crossing on red. The graphic below shows the expected percentage of pedestrians crossing on red based on pedestrian delay (average wait time) at three different intersections.
But beyond delay, the configuration of traffic signals also impacts pedestrians’ choices and compliance with traffic signals. Pedestrians are most likely to wait for green when the main conflict is with cross traffic. The research showed that when traffic signal configuration becomes more complex, pedestrian signal compliance decreases. Protected left turn phases, for instance, are associated with a higher incidence of pedestrians crossing on red.
The physical configuration of the crosswalk also impacts the probability of crossing on red. Pedestrians are more likely to wait for green at longer crosswalks on streets with heavier traffic. It is interesting to note that while shorter crosswalks are associated with more crossing on red, research has also shown them to be safer. This illustrates the complexity of the relationship between pedestrian safety and pedestrian signal compliance: while crossing on red is generally more risky, pedestrians are also more likely to disobey the signal at locations that have more safety features, such as shorter crosswalks.Accounting for pedestrians’ behavior when designing streets
Intersections in urban areas are not always designed with pedestrians’ needs in mind; instead the focus is often on moving vehicles, and as a result, pedestrians face long waiting times, and complex, difficult to understand signal configurations. While we would caution against drawing too many conclusions from a single study, there are nevertheless several design insights that can be drawn from this research.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from this paper is that in order to minimize crossing on red, signal cycles should be kept as short and as simple as possible. Adding phases to accommodate additional turning movements, or extending phases to increase capacity for vehicles will result in either longer pedestrian delays or more complex signal configurations. Both of these situations are likely to result in a higher percentage of pedestrians crossing on red.
From a pedestrian safety and accessibility perspective, shorter crosswalks should always be preferred, since they have a better safety record, and safety is clearly a more important performance indicator for the quality of pedestrian infrastructure than the probability of crossing on red. However, designers should also be aware that narrowing a road is likely to also make pedestrians more likely to not comply with the signal, which might offset some of the safety benefits from reducing the crossing distance. A good practice from this perspective could be to couple road narrowing with additional traffic calming devices, such as speed humps.
Every morning for the last six months I have observed the same man parking his car in the handicap spot.
At first, I flashed him angry and annoyed expressions to try to convince him to park somewhere else; no results. I proceeded to leave post-it notes on his windshield that said: “RESPECT, this spot is reserved for handicapped people.” After this failed to have any impact, I decided to talk to him directly, to which his response was, “if you don’t like it, it’s not my problem.” Finally, I decided to go to the authorities. Their answer: “he is not bothering anyone.” They have not and will not do anything about it, and the man continues to park his car in the same handicap spot.
Does the inappropriate use of reserved spots, ramps, and other spaces really not trouble anyone, or do I have some strange, individual pleasure in seeing them unoccupied? I wondered this then as I do now.
Handicap spots and other reserved spaces are not a whim of those who design public transport, parking lots, and sidewalks, or of those who respect their status as “reserved.” These spots are logical measures; obligations that guarantee the mobility, accessibility and safety of millions of people that live permanently or temporarily with a disability. According to the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI for its acronym in Spanish) there are 5,739,210 people with some kind of disability in Mexico, equivalent to the population of the states of Morelos, Hidalgo, and Colima combined.
Reserved spots in parking lots and seats on public transport are located immediately next to entrances so that the people who require them do not need to go searching, and also to guarantee that they will not have to deal with crowds nor stand for long periods of time. Similarly, the doors on public transport are designed to be wider so a wheelchair, walker, or even a person with crutches can easily exit and enter the vehicle.
This is not the only issue that pertains to the need for mobility, accessibility, and safety for disabled persons in Mexico. Less obvious but equally important are the obstacles disabled persons face when planners decide that streets and avenues are not wide enough, eliminating sidewalks and crosswalks. There’s also the flagrant use of sidewalks as parking spots, motorcyclists and bicyclists that ride on the sidewalk, vendors impeding footpaths to sell food, groceries or accessories (formally or informally) to people waiting to cross the street; and property owners that create mountainous ramps in the middle of the sidewalk in the name of creating a driveway.
On top of this is the lack of voting ballots available in Braille, ramps instead of stairs, clear signage with easy-to-read language, functioning escalators, clear and simple information at transport stations and stops, and drivers who are aware of the impact abrupt acceleration and braking has on the body.
The only way to counteract this history and help disabled persons overcome their mobility barriers is through financial policies, education campaigns, and urban design that prioritize mobility for all residents. It appears Mexico may be headed this direction. The recently announced “Mexican Charter of Pedestrian Rights” centers on people regardless of gender, age, or condition, and reinforces that this issue is not a matter of preference or nuisance; it’s about individual rights.
Note: According to the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; “accessibility” (Article 9 of Mexican Constitution) refers to ensuring that people with disabilities can access their environment, transportation, facilities and public services, and information as well as technologies and communications; i.e., identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers that limit accessibility.
Brazilian National Association of Transport Operators seminar examines response to rising social demand for urban transport
Conducted by the Brazilian National Association of Transport Operators (NTU), this year’s Seminar on Urban Public Transportation responded to a growing demand among Brazilian citizens for improved public transport. On August 27 and 28, 2014, city planners, experts, transport operators, and civil society – including President and Director of EMBARQ Brasil Luis Antonio Lindau – met to review and discuss all aspects of this topic that is becoming increasingly relevant to Brazilian cities. The goal of the seminar is to analyze and propose solutions to transform public transport across Brazil.Responding to growing social demand for transport improvements
The pressure on Brazilian governments to improve public transport came to a head last July when a wave of protests swept the country. The question of how to effectively meet the needs of residents, however, still has no conclusive answer. To analyze the best strategies and solutions, the inaugural NTU panel brought together specialists from different areas. In discussing a range of challenges and potential solutions, participants all shared the view that improving public transport needs to be an urgent priority. They discussed issues such as federal investment in public transport and the creation of integrated transport networks, busways and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. The panel also analyzed strategies to make public transport more affordable for citizens, such as tax breaks for public transport operators, which allows for lower fares, and even free forms of public transport.
Journalist Alexandre Garcia mediated the panel, which consisted of NTU President Octavius Cunha, Executive Secretary of the National Front of Mayors (FNP) Gilberto Perre, President and Director of the National Forum of Secretaries of Transportation Renato Gianolla, Junior Director of the National Confederation of Neighborhood Associations (Conam) Getúlio Vargas, representative from the National Movement for The Right to Quality Public Transport (MDT) Nazarene Affonso, and transport expert Frederico Bussinger.Building high quality, safe bus rapid transit systems
The second panel of the day was titled “Quality and Safety in BRT systems,” and featured EMBARQ Brasil’s Luis Antonio Lindau. “It’s the first time in Brazil that we are addressing BRT at an event without needing translators,” joked Lindau, in reference to the fact that Brazilian cities, more so than any other country in the world, already have high quality BRT systems. “The BRT systems of Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro are models for other cities, and luckily others also are already gradually deploying their systems using best practices,” he added.
Joining Lindau on the panel were Ramon Victor César of Belo Horizonte’s BHTrans, Conrado Grava de Souza of the São Paulo Metro, Lélis Marcos Teixeira of the Rio de Janeiro bus system, and Clarisse Cunha Linke of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP Brasil). They discussed strategies to ensure maximum efficiency, quality, and safety of BRT systems.
Among other issues, Lindau discussed road safety audits as a key to improving safety and saving lives on BRT systems. In Brazil, he estimated that 315 km (196 miles) of corridors have been audited. “Yet we are faced with the big problem of traffic fatalities. Transforming this reality entails a continuous process of inspections and improvements in the road safety system. This technical work is important during project design and for routes already in operation. We have a constant struggle to reduce the potential for crashes, and road safety interventions are vital for this.”
Lindau also explained that both transport users and pedestrians benefit from road safety interventions. In fact, road safety audits, which consist of risk mapping and technical recommendations to improve a project or system in operation, have the potential to reduce the chance of accidents by 40%.
Components of an efficient bus rapid transit system
A mass transit system such as BRT requires technical precautions to operate efficiently and deliver a high quality service to the community. In the panel on BRT safety and quality, Lindau presented the three initiatives of the QualiÔnibus (Quality Bus Service) program, developed by EMBARQ Brasil with support from FedEx. “We have developed a satisfaction survey to measure user perception before and after the implementation of a BRT system. [QualiÔnibus] aims to create a standard questionnaire template that is adaptable to the context of different cities; understand users’ needs and practices and share solutions with other cities; and encourage the creation of high quality management systems in cities,” said Lindau. This project is also being implemented in Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro.
Another initiative within QualiÔnibus, called “Day 1 of Operation,” helps BRT operations run smoothly from the start. As Lindau described, “There are a few years between the time the decision is made to implement BRT and its inauguration. The first day of operation is strategic to show the system is strong and reliable.” Lindau also said that operators have the chance to learn from other cities that have already launched their systems.
An important factor in the security of BRT systems is the driver. A third initiative within the QualiÔnibus program, called “Safety First,” trains drivers in personal and professional development and monitoring programs. “The goal is to stimulate attention for road safety within companies that operate urban transport to reduce the number of incidents involving city buses,” Lindau said.
The seminar continued its programming on Thursday, August 28 with a series of panels. One panel, called “Anti-Corruption Law and Policy Compliance,” included a case study of Fetranspor (Federation of Passenger Transport of the State of Rio de Janeiro), and workshops on intelligent transportation systems, “electronic ticketing and technologies for control of tipping” and “operational management and user information.” Learn more about the seminar on the NTU website (Portuguese) or on the seminar event page (English).
How can we ensure that all urban inhabitants have the necessary rights and conditions for a dignified and secure existence in the city? As the world rapidly urbanizes, the livelihoods, health, and safety of residents living in informal settlements remain at risk. These residents lack formal property rights and access to vital infrastructure and services. Recognizing informal property rights and improving the quality of housing in informal settlements are important steps toward meeting the basic needs of these most vulnerable urban populations.Urbanization magnifies the challenge of informal settlements
According to the recently released United Nations 2014 World Urbanization Prospects report, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Most urbanization will occur in Africa and Asia, with India, China, and Nigeria alone accounting for one third of all urban population growth. Although urbanization is associated with development and poverty reduction, rapid urbanization also presents a number of challenges.
One such challenge will be increasing urban sprawl, as the land area covered by expanding cities is expected to grow at about double the rate of the population. For example, from 1985 to 2000, the population of Accra, Ghana increased by 50%, whereas the city’s land area grew by 153%.
With urbanization has come growth of the urban poor and informal settlements, also referred to as slums. A whopping 32% of the world’s urban population lives in slums. Even with modest successes in poverty reduction and upgrading informal settlements, the world’s slum population could still reach 889 million by 2030. Informal settlements are densely populated and lack basic property rights and access to critical infrastructure, such as clean water and sanitation. They are also often most at risk in the event of environmental hazards. To protect their livelihoods, health, and safety, residents of informal settlements are the most in need of secure property rights and inclusion in land management and planning, while also the most vulnerable to eviction without notice or compensation.How cities can improve livelihoods in informal settlements
Recognize informal property rights
The cityscape in low and middle-income countries is a kaleidoscope of informal property rights. As shown in the graphic below, a single structure in an informal settlement can be the site of half a dozen formal and informal property rights, from a pavement dweller to an owner with legal title. Titling, or the issuance of legal rights over a specific land parcel, is one way to give informal residents formal property rights. Titling often brings tenure security, which in turn can increase the property’s value.
Titling, however, is not a silver bullet. There remains the risk of outside residents claiming parcels in an informal settlement in anticipation of titling, or wealthier residents purchasing land after its been titled. This process, called downward raiding, simply relocates the intended beneficiary of titling to another informal settlement. Some projects, such as the Slum Networking Project in Ahmedabad, India, combine the issuance of titles lasting for a fixed period, such as ten years, with improvements in infrastructure and enforced bans on eviction. Title for even a limited time can be enough to encourage residents to invest in their community and discourage opportunistic claimants.
Use an inclusive approach to land improvement
Cities use multiple approaches to increase population density while also improving the quality of housing and providing basic services through land readjustment. One approach to readjustment is land pooling, where rights holders pool their land into a single partnership administered by a government agency, which then, after redevelopment, issues secure ownership rights. Cities can also use land sharing by encouraging the owner of land occupied by an informal settlement to transfer part of the land to the informal occupants at a reduced price.
Like titling, if not done responsibly these techniques risk further marginalizing the most tenuous of informal property rights holders. For this reason, UN-HABITAT adopted the Participatory and Inclusive Land Readjustment (PILaR) approach. Unlike traditional readjustment, which often requires the state to seize land, PILaR calls for early and consistent engagement with all stakeholders, including women, minorities, and the poorest members of a community. The first test of the PILaR approach is underway in Medellín, Colombia and is expected to conclude by the end of 2014. Early reports are positive, with extensive stakeholder engagement at all levels and the settlement showing both improved population density and better access to services and public infrastructure.
Resettle residents of informal settlements when necessary
Readjustment techniques are not always appropriate. In some cases, governments may need to resettle informal settlements, such as when informal settlements are vulnerable to flooding or other environmental hazards. If resettlement is required, cities must give adequate notice to inhabitants, engage residents in planning decisions, and provide fair compensation for informal property rights holders to minimize the impact on their livelihoods. Finally, residents in these cases should be resettled to housing that is durable, secure, affordable, and equipped with basic services.Learning from successful interventions
Rapid urbanization is a daunting challenge for cities with large and growing informal settlements. Slum upgrading projects sometimes fail to achieve their intended purpose. Worse, some cities use slum clearance to evict inhabitants of informal settlements. Yet slum upgrading projects like those in Ahmedabad and Medellín have improved the quality of life in informal settlements. With a focus on inclusive planning for the most vulnerable residents, cities can help ensure all inhabitants enjoy security and opportunity.
Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Even in Copenhagen.There is a street in a densely-populated neigbourhood in Copenhagen - Østerbro - without any cycle tracks. I know, I know... it's like a street in New York without honking taxis or a street in Paris without cafés populated by moody philosophy students. It's weird. Also because it's a long street in a thriving neighbourhood and it's one of the streets in the city with a far too high levels of incidents involving bicycles.It's weird because it's a perfect street for cycle tracks. It's also weird because only 29% of households in Copenhagen even own a car but politicians and the City say that taking out car parking on this street would be "difficult".A local politican, Jonas Bjørn Jensen, when campaigning for the last election decided to ask people in the neighbourhood if they wanted cycle tracks. Over 90% of the people he asked said, "yes". Together with Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers and Thomas Lygum Sidelmann from Urban Action we at Copenhagenize Design Company decided to just do our own proposed street design. Enough talk. Let's get some imagery onto the table.Above is the street as it looks now. Nordre Frihavnsgade (don't try to pronounce that please) is a central street in the Østerbro neighbourhood connecting Strandboulevarden, Trianglen and Østbanegade. It's an important shopping street and has a lively environment, with schools and shops and... life. There are 5800 bicycle users a day and 5300 cars. Ole Kassow, who lives nearby, has spoken with many locals and the general consensus is that the street doesn't feel safe. It's not nice to cycle on it. There are also many pedestrians crossing back and forth to the various shops and cafés and other destinations.Bizarrely, the street is a 50 km/h zone, except at the narrowest section where it is "only" 40 km/h. One thing that Copenhagen sucks at is the fact that they haven't embraced the 30 km/h movement like the rest of Europe. If this street was in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, etc etc. it would be 30 km/h. Years ago.Anyway, we decided to visualise what the street should look like. Our point of departure was that if cycle tracks are ooooh so difficult for the City of Copenhagen, then we will give them an easier, cheaper solution. The Dutch have their fietsstraat and while the Copenhagen Police have been vocal opponents of them - and most everything else that would improve cycling in the city - there is finally a pilot project on Vestergade in Copenhagen as we speak.So we made the street a "cykelgade" - a bicycle street - dictating that cars are welcome as guests on the street but they have to drive at the tempo that the bicycle users dictate.We designed a Danish version of the Dutch Fietsstraat signage, as well. Based on the Danish standards for pictograms and font.Here is the street in it's full length. Our proposal would improve the street greatly. It would benefit local businesses, make pedestrians feel safer and it would be a new benchmark for neighbourhood planning in Copenhagen.While there is nothing regarding bicycle infrastructure that we can learn from the Americans, the parklet concept is something that we can happily subscribe to. We included them in our designs to also plant this idea in the minds of Copenhageners. More of these would be fantastic.It is vitally important to create visualisations. Talk is fine but when you design a visualisation, suddenly you have a whole group of different people who understand what you're on about. They are really powerful tools for change. Cross your fingers for a positive development on this street.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
A car blocking the bike lane/cycle track. The source of much irritation and many social media photos. This photo, however, is from Denmark and that is a car that we WANT driving down the cycle track.Cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus don't just build the necessary infrastructure to encourage cycling, keep people safe and help make people FEEL safe, they regularly measure the quality of the infrastructure.Citizens always say in polls that the quality of the cycle tracks and bike lanes is of utmost importance to them when they are considering to commute by bicycle.So, specially adapated cars like these are regularly sent down the cycle tracks to measure for bumps and smoothness, among other factors, using laser technology and recording the data.There is a veritable armada of vehicles designed to operate on cycle tracks. Street sweepers, municipal garbage collection and, not least, snow clearance vehicles like those in our classic article: The Ultimate Snow Clearance Blogpost.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.