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

As Europe’s traffic fatalities drop, Brazil’s soar

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 10:57am

Brazil’s rising traffic fatalities show the need for traffic calming measures on roadways, and infrastructure that promotes pedestrian safety and well-being. Photo by Gerden van Heijningen/Flickr.

Traffic safety improvements in Europe are being hailed as one of the greatest advances for the region in the past decade. Europe should be proud of its success: since 2010, there have been 17% fewer deaths on the continent’s roads. This translates into 9,000 lives saved. The European Union (EU) is on the cusp of meeting the goal set forth in the Decade of Action for Road Safety, which is to cut the number of road fatalities in half by 2020. This decrease is no fluke, either. According to official data, Europe saw 8% fewer deaths between 2012 and 2013 and 9% fewer deaths between 2011 and 2012. Yet, in this same period, Brazil saw a 4% increase in lost lives from 2011 to 2012, an increasing trend all too prevalent in Latin America as a whole. The disparity between traffic fatality trends in the two regions shows an uneven distribution of the impact of the global traffic safety crisis; however, it also shows emerging economies that this is not an insurmountable challenge. With a people-oriented approach to transport and dedication to enacting smart policies, this tide of fatalities can be reversed.

A people-centered approach to transport

An approach to creating transport infrastructure that puts people first is the first step towards stemming traffic deaths. The European Union developed a holistic, strategic plan for road safety. Among the plan’s measures were  improvements to the street design that prioritized pedestrian safety, technology to help enforce traffic regulations, and driver education to be aware and cautious around pedestrians. Siim Kallas, Vice President of the European Commission and an active player in past road safety legislation, stated that he is committed to continuing this model of road safety throughout the decade. This combination of design, policy, and education makes Europe’s safety plan a model for the rest of the world, albeit, an imperfect model. Seventy people still die every day on Europe’s roads. Also, there is still a disparity amongst the different countries in the European Union. The United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark reported 30 deaths per million inhabitants, while Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Greece saw over 80 lives lost per million inhabitants during the same time period. Each country can work towards improving traffic safety until the death toll amounts to zero.

A troublesome reality demonstrates need for innovative policy

Over ten years, 41.7% more people died on Brazil’s roads than Europe’s. Even in Romania, where 92 people are killed in traffic per million inhabitants, Brazil exceeds this death toll by 150%, or 22.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The states with the largest increase in deaths are Maranhão (156%), Piauí (126.2%) and Bahia (105.7%). Innovative and swift legislation is needed, and the Ministry of Cities and Health has answered. The Ministry created the National Pact for the Reduction of Traffic Accidents – A Covenant for Life , which mandates engagement of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, as well as civil society, to reduce traffic accidents. Through the National Pact it has also prepared the National Plan to Reduce Accidents and Road Safety for the Decade 2011-2020, with recommendations based on five pillars: enforcement, education, health, infrastructure and vehicle safety. But whether cities take up this legislation and incorporate it into city plans is yet to play out.

Currently, traffic accidents are a leading cause of death in developing countries. It is time for Brazil, and Latin America as a whole, to begin a different kind of leading, by combining smart policies and people-centered development plans to stem this increasing tide of road fatalities.

This post was originally published in Portuguese at TheCityFix Brasil

Categories: Europe

How did high-speed rail transform China’s regional transport sector?

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 10:03am

China’s high-speed rail system has offered affordable, sustainable alternatives to travel for China’s residents, while strengthening the linkages between China’s emerging cities. Photo by Michael Vito/Flickr.

In the past few years, China has made eye-catching achievements in building the world’s largest high-speed rail system, with a total length of over 9000 km (5,600 miles) in operation in 2012. In China, trains travelling at design speeds above 200 km/hour (124 miles/hour) are considered high speed, including bullet trains running on upgraded mixed-used rails, which have been in place since 2007, and those running on passenger-dedicated lines  excluding freight transport, which have been in operation since 2008. This article analyzes high-speed rail’s impacts on the economic landscape of China’s regional transport sector during the first five years of full operation. It illustrates that: (1) High speed-rail did not put airlines and highway transport out of business as many were concerned it would; (2) The significant economic benefits of travel time savings for rail travelers; (3) The potential benefits of shifting capacity to freight transport on conventional rails have been less than expected.

Competition against alternative regional transport modes

The opening of the major high-speed rails led to an immediate sharp drop in the occupancy rates of airplanes and even cancellation of some short-distance flights (e.g., Beijing-Taiyuan, Nanchang-Hangzhou). However, the ridership picked up later after airline companies adapted pricing schemes and improved punctuality. The overall modal share – which measures the portion of the passengers using a given transport option – of railway transport remained stable even after the introduction of high-speed rail in 2007. Railway transport accounted for 5% of travel measured by number of passengers and 30% measured by passenger-kilometers. High-speed rails did not attract many passengers from airplanes or buses to rails at a national scale, but instead shifted those who were already using conventional trains to high-speed trains, as shown in the graphs below.

Modal Share of Passenger Travel in China (2008-2012)

Market share by mode measured by number of passengers. Data via China Statistic Yearbook, 2013.

Market share by mode, measured by passenger-kilometers. Data via China Statistics Yearbook, 2013.

Note: Percentage of passengers travelling by highways is not included in the first graph because it is too large and makes other modes invisible. Inland waterways are not included as the mode share is less than 0.1%.

In China, the average travel distance by mode is around 50 km for highways, 500 km for railways and 1500 km for airlines, and the pattern remains almost unchanged over the past decade. Each mode has its unique niche in the national transport system with respect to distance traveled. Given its competitive advantage, high-speed rail has an important role to play in strengthening the linkages within existing and emerging megalopolises (groups of spatially proximate and economically integrated cities) in China. This is in line with China’s recently released National Plan on New Urbanization (2014-2020), which aims to optimize regional spatial structure and foster collective economic growth in the form of urban clusters.

Value of travel time savings

As shown in the graphs above, the real change in modal share occurred within the railway sector. In 2012, one out of five people traveling by rail was taking high-speed rail. High-speed rail has remarkably improved the service quality and efficiency of railway transport, leading to enormous time savings for travelers. The average traveling speed of conventional rail is about 65 km/hour (40 miles/hour), while high-speed rails traveled at an average speed between 140 – 160 km/hour (86 – 99 miles/hour) from 2008 to 2012. The time savings for the five-year period is estimated to be around 2.4 billion hours in total, or 2.8 hours per passenger trip. Assuming that the time saved would be spent on productive activities, the monetary value of the time saved could reach US$ 7.25 billion (45 billion RMB). This is a conservative estimation considering that people who travel by high-speed rail may have higher-than-average value of time.

Shifting capacity to freight transport

It has been argued that by moving passengers to high-speed rail lines, it is possible to release more capacity on conventional rails for freight transport. However, this argument is not confirmed by empirical evidence. Even though the absolute amount of freight by all modes grew between 2008 and 2012 due to a booming economy in China, the percentage of freight shipped by railways kept declining in terms of weights and volumes despite the introduction of high-speed rail. This trend is explored in the graphs below.

Modal Share of Freight Transport in China (2008-2012)

Modal share by mode, measured by tons of freight. Data by China Statistics Yearbook, 2013.

Note: Percentage of freight by highways not included in the first graph.

While it may still be too early to draw concrete conclusions regarding high-speed rail’s long-term impacts on the economic landscape of China’s regional transport sector, available evidence indicates that during the first five years of full operation, the impacts of high-speed rail have been dominated by qualitative improvement instead of quantitative expansion of the railway sector. High-speed rail enhanced the competitiveness of the railway sector and created incentives for alternative transport modes to improve service quality as well, which eventually led to efficiency gains for the whole society. Understanding the nature of such impact is important, as the high-speed rails currently in operation are in the busiest transport corridors connecting affluent regions of China, and the uncertainty in obtaining market share will increase as the high-speed rail system expands to less developed regions with lower willingness or ability to pay. Further improvement in railway sector’s competitiveness should combine better service quality with more flexible pricing schemes.

Categories: Europe

Where the crashes are: Shared Space and other bad junction designs lead to crashes and injuries

Hembrow - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 5:02am
A useful website shows where all crashes have occurred on Dutch roads. I've used it below to demonstrate the relative safety of different roads and cycle-paths in this country. Is Shared Space safe ? The Laweiplein Shared Space "squareabout" in Drachten has been the subject of much hype. Many claims have been made for a low accident rate here but the evidence does not support this. Drachten David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

Copenhagen - Is Cycling Up or Down or What?

Copenhagenize - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 4:50am
It's all so confusing. Numbers indicating rise and falls in cycling levels. Although perhaps not as much as we think. Firstly, back in 2009 I made a bet with anyone who would take it. Cycling levels in Copenhagen had been stagnant for many years. In 2008, a whole new kind of stupid showed up in Denmark. The Danish Road Safety Council (Rådet for Sikker Trafik - or Rodet for Sikker Panik if you like) decided to expand their ideological campaigns by promoting bicycle helmets. They convinced the Danish Cyclists Federation (DCF) to join the parade. To this day, the DCF remain one of the few national cycling organisations in all of Europe who support promotion of bicycle helmets. Anyway, hardcore emotional propaganda hit the streets of Denmark in January 2008. As usual with such organisations, there was little science involved. An unsuspecting population were subjected to a one-sided view on helmets and not offered any balanced, scientific perspective. The Culture of Fear is powerful when applied correctly. Now, 17% of Copenhageners wear helmets on average. They are usually the ones involuntarily performing Risk Compensation studies. Keep a careful eye when cycling out there with them.In this article from 2009 - Cycling is booming - just not in Denmark - I predicted that the rash of bicycle helmet promotion would not cause cycling levels to increase - despite the massive political will at the time. As I wrote:Here's my bet. Because of the intense bicycle helmet propanganda in 2008:- the percentage of cyclists in Copenhagen - 37% - will not rise. It will either fall or remain unchanged.Few colleagues believed it. What happened?Copenhagen cycling levels fell from 37% to 35% by 2010. That's a lot of people who hopped off the bicycle. The people who made that happen have blood on their hands.In order to explain the drop, the usual suspects will tell you that it was because there were two hard winters in Copenhagen. So we looked at all the different factors involved, including the weather, and compared it all with Amsterdam. Amsterdam, and the rest of the Netherlands, suffered EXACTLY the same hard winters in the same period. Amount of snow, temperatures, you name it.Cycling levels didn't fall in Amsterdam. They remained steady. Fewer people drove because of the winters, but cycling wasn't affected.The emotional propaganda onslaught faded away and, as one would expect, cycling levels started to recover. We're now at 36% modal share of people arriving at work of education in the city and have lingered there for a few years.The news today in Copenhagen is of a massive increase in cycling in Copenhagen. Numbers from travel survey data from Danish Technical University show the following:- The average trip length for Copenhageners increase by a whopping 1 km since 2012.- Copenhageners ride 2,006,313 km a day, compared to 1.3 million in 2012.- Car trips are down 12%.- Public transport also increased its modal share from 28% to 32% since 2007.One of the newspapers in Denmark that is arguably the most anti-cycling - Politiken - try to wrap their pretty heads around why there has been an increase in this article, in Danish. They ask all manner of academics who offer up their opinions.The journalists claim that the City of Copenhagen's focus on infrastructure is a reason for it. They mention, among other things, the bicycle bridges over the harbour but fail to notice that they aren't even finished being built yet. So that doesn't work. There have been infrastructure improvements on certain streets, sure, but nothing on a large enough scale to boost cycling levels this much.It's all very simple if you want it to be.Right here, in all its simplicity.Copenhagen is one massive building site. 17 new Metro stations are under construction all at once. Last year, work was finally completed on the huge network of pipes providing central heating to most of the city centre, which only contributed to the chaotic construction in the city. In the above article, the DCF - to my delight - recognised this as the reason for the current increase.If you want to encourage cycling and public transport, make driving a pain in the ass. It is the only way forward and the only way we know to get motorists to change their behaviour.Trip lengths by bicycle are up in Copenhagen - and car trips are down - simply because it's a pain to drive in the city because of all the construction at the moment. That's it and that's that.If the City wants to maintain these cycling levels, keep the current chaos, albeit in a nicer form, when the Metro construction is finished.The new numbers are nice today, but if everything just reverts to the car-centric status quo when construction is finished (and remember that the Metro expansion is already projected to reduce cycling levels by 3%), the honeymoon will be over and it will be abrupt and shocking when it happens.Mark my words.It's all so easy if you want it to be.Don't promote helmets.Make driving difficult, complicated, expensive.Duh.The homo sapiens of a city will always figure out the fastest A to B. We call it A2Bism. We are all like rivers, finding the easiest route. Make that the bicycle or public transport and you are halfway there.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

What do Victor Veilig and Benni Brems say about Subjective Safety ?

Hembrow - Sat, 04/05/2014 - 2:17am
Over the last few years in the Netherlands, small yellow boys, 80 cm tall, have become a more common sight on the streets. Victor Veilig ("Safe Victor") and his older German cousin Benni Brems ("Benni Brakes") are claimed by the manufacturers and distributors to remind drivers to slow down. Victor and Benni are light in weight and parents are told that they should place him outdoors when their David Hembrow
Categories: Europe

A safe city is a just city

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 11:45am

Medellín, Colombia has undergone a drastic urban transformation, and will now host the Seventh World Urban Forum. Photo by PehMed2020/Flickr.

As cities in the developing world continue to grow, so do their traffic safety concerns. Latin America, for instance, now sees three times as many deaths from traffic crashes as Europe, the vast majority of which occur in cities. Vulnerable road users are particularly at risk: older pedestrians and cyclists can account for up to 45% of pedestrian fatalities and up to 70% of cyclist fatalities globally.

Improving developing cities’ traffic safety is a critical task for ensuring that these growing urban centers become safe, equitable, and sustainable places to live. A key part of achieving this safety? Smart, sustainable urban design.

The connection between safety and justice is a major theme of the upcoming World Urban Forum (WUF7), organized by UN-HABITAT, which this year focuses on “urban equity in development – cities for life.” At the event, EMBARQ experts will host a Cities Safer by Design for All networking session. The event will convene key experts and explore ways that urban design can improve safety – and in turn, justice – in developing cities around the world.

At the intersection of safety, justice, and urban design

Disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted by shortsighted urban design choices, whether it’s the poor – who are forced to live on the city’s periphery – or the disabled, who face mobility obstacles every day. Smart urban design principles can improve these citizens’ quality of life while also boosting a city’s overall safety.

For example, implementing urban design principles like transit-oriented development (TOD) that encourage mixed commercial and residential land use, compact – as opposed to sprawled – layout, access to high-quality mass transport, and pedestrian-friendly streets is an important step towards creating livable cities for all communities. Cities built in this way provide opportunities for walking, bicycling, and using transport instead of relying on a car – an expense many cannot afford. Furthermore, promoting sustainable urban design components like bike lanes and pedestrian walkways can have significant traffic safety benefits through reducing exposure – such as by preventing the need for vehicle travel altogether – and risk – by limiting vehicle speeds and prioritizing pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Three safer cities by design

Connecting urban design to safety is a concept that’s still under-utilized by most local officials and even urban planners. But some cities are beginning to emerge as leaders in this space.

Mexico City, Mexico

In order to combat its history of urban sprawl, Mexico City is enhancing its sustainable transport systems and revitalizing public spaces. The newest corridor of the Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT) system took a complete streets approach – which aims to design streets that account for all road users – providing safe infrastructure for transport, cars, cyclists and pedestrians. One shining example of the transformation along Avenida Eduardo Molina is the city’s decision to change a dangerous and confusing intersection design that forced cars and buses to switch from the right side of the road to the left at the stoplight. EMBARQ research finds that streets with such confusing designs, called counter flow intersections, have 82 percent more severe and fatal crashes than other streets.

Mexico City has also introduced new “pocket parks” or “parklets” that repurpose street space previously allotted to cars to create new public spaces for socialization and interaction. These spaces help to calm traffic, reduce street-crossing distances for pedestrians, and provide protected areas for recreation. The city has built five in the last year, and expects to build as many as 150 in the coming years.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

As a host to both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro is using these mega events as a catalyst to make significant improvements to its design. One of Rio’s flagship projects is the Morar Carioca initiative, which pledges US$ 3.76 billion to improve accessibility, health, education, and the environment in the city’s favelas.

Favelas pose an interesting challenge for city officials, as they house the city’s poorest residents and are often cut off from city services. Furthermore, EMBARQ Brazil’s household travel survey revealed that 90 percent of residents travel on foot while inside favelas, yet 70 percent use public transport when outside favelas. In short, proximity to transport is key to ensuring that these residents have access to jobs and opportunities within the city

With this in mind, Morar Carioca is the one of the first favela improvement initiatives in Rio to emphasize connecting these communities to the city at large via new BRT lines like the TransCarioca, which will also connect the core of the city to the Olympic Village in 2016. Systems like TransCarioca will provide vital access to jobs and opportunities in the city center and help ensure that favela residents are not cut off from the benefits or urban life. 

Bangalore, India

Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, with almost 10 million residents. The majority of this population relies on public transport – most notably bus and metro – for mobility, so it’s imperative that these services meet the needs of all residents. Bangalore, like many Indian cities, is also home to many making a living through the informal economy– such as street vendors and auto-rickshaw drivers – who rely on pedestrian traffic and transit hubs to make their living. While Bangalore’s bus and metro stations are hubs of economic activity, they are also currently hubs of congestion and chaos. Previous attempts to ease congestion and improve safety around these areas have privileged cars over pedestrians and transport users, and erased the informal economy, harming the city’s poorest residents.

To reverse this trend, EMBARQ India is working with local authorities to make transport hubs safer for cars, cyclists, and pedestrians while retaining the vitality of the informal economic sector. New station area plans for Bangalore’s Namma Metro prioritize safe access to transport hubs and reorganize public space around these hubs. The redesigned stations promote safer links to other transport modes like auto-rickshaws and buses, provide space for vendors, and improve the quality of the public space and public transit experience for all. With the plans now under development, city officials intend to implement the new station designs over the next two years, improving accessibility and safety in some of the most crowded parts of the city.

Putting urban design and safety on the international agenda

It’s time to change the narrative about urban design. It’s not about building more roads or luxury apartment complexes – it’s about creating cities that are safer, more livable, and healthier for a growing number of residents. As this year’s WUF7 tagline explains, “A safe city is a just and equitable city.”

Discussions at the WUF7 can play an important role in shifting the urban design narrative. While the week long conference emphasizes civil society participation, the official dialogues will feed into the ongoing discussions of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, clarifying issues related to urban prosperity. These include such broad topics as sustainable cities and human settlements, infrastructure, and economic growth. The WUF7 presents an opportunity for organizations from around the world to insert real examples to bring this agenda to life and explicitly tie equity to the urban development narrative. In short, the WUF7 discussions are a key way of ensuring that safe and equitable cities are a first level objective of the U.N.’s emerging SDGs, which are set to be released in 2015.

Every minute of every day, new cities are being built and existing cities are constantly evolving. Smart design can help ensure that these cities are built for people – not cars.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Shanghai Tower raises questions on the future of walkability

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 8:56am

The construction of the Shanghai Tower is a testament to architectural skill and China’s growing economic power, but does this come at the expense of vibrant street life? Photo by Jerry Yang/Flickr.

Shanghai Tower, designed by transnational architecture design tycoon Gensler, will soon become the third tallest building in the world this year. Once complete, it will proudly join Shanghai’s already crowded skyline, which currently consists of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao, and the Shanghai World Finance Center. The tower is located in the locality of Luijiazui, China. Twenty years ago, Luijiazui was mainly farmland with simply a handful of warehouses and wharfs. Two decades later, it has become China’s Wall Street, with Lujiazui’s Finance and Trade Zone being the only finance and trade zone amongst the 185 state-level development zones in China. Yet, this massive economic growth and the ensuing architectural achievements come with large questions of what this will mean for access and walkability within China’s cities.

Economic growth brings challenges and opportunities

While China’s economic growth is impressive, this rapid expansion of wealth brings with it a myriad of challenges. One such challenge is how the city will maintain or even increase walkability to help its residents maintain healthy lifestyles. Obesity rates in China have skyrocketed as the economy has boomed. The rising purchasing power of the Chinese citizens has increased the availability of fast food and the extra funds to buy such goods as cars. Meanwhile, China’s worsening air quality and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle has also meant there has been lower numbers of people able to walk in the city to get a healthy level of exercise.

This has led Associate Architecture Professor of Syracuse University, Jonathan Solomon, to say that perhaps ‘walkability’ needs to be redefined in the Chinese context. There might be an ‘alternative’ walkable urbanism possible in which Shanghai Tower and other members of the “high tower family” can become neighborhoods where people essentially do their walking within the tower or between clusters of towers.

Shanghai Tower rendering. Image by Gensler Architects.

Mobility for those with the means

The above is an outrageous statement for urban planners who are trained in the new urbanism movement that has swept across Europe and North America, in which ‘walkability’ measures pedestrian-friendliness and safety for actual streets, not the walkability of elongated hallways. Stacking different services vertically like shoe boxes in a tower and building pedestrian corridors to connect them does not equal improving walkability, especially when Chinese officials decide to keep inserting notorious 100-meter wide roads a a  round these towers. This leaves the rich able to swiftly move around the city, only interacting with those who can afford to live within the towers, while leaving the infrastructure for the majority of the city’s residents to degrade.

Yet Solomon’s fellow architects at Gensler seem to side with him, as their design of Shanghai Tower comes complete with walkable spaces inside the tower and closed off pathways between the towers. In the marketing material, efforts seem to be made to make sure ‘separate elevators shuttle people among zones, and below-grade parking links via walkways to the nearby super-high-rise towers.’ This ideology is reminiscent of Le Corbusier, a strong advocate for high towers disconnected with street life. In Le Corbusier’s defense, high towers provide more access to sun, space, and greenery while allowing cities to house dense networks of people. It might be possible to foster social relations by making community spaces, or ‘earthbound neighborhoods in the air’ where people interact in those spaces. Yet, this is only a thin façade of urbanism, as this means only some people will be included in these private neighborhoods.

“A City of Towers.” Sketch by Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier would love Shanghai Tower and the Lujiazui locality as a whole, or at least its exterior. Unlike Pruitt-Igoe, one of Le Corbusier’s designs, Shanghai Tower is not a single-use affordable housing project building. According to Gensler’s program, the tower hosts retail, entertainment, luxury hotels, office space, and cultural venues. With the Shanghai tower, only those who can afford to are privileged to work, shop or attend conferences in the building. Claiming high towers are improving walkability of the whole society is like having a gym in the corporate building and claiming this policy improves ‘public’ health.

At the end of the day, China continues to turn to the building and construction industry to showcase its economic achievements. In the words of Qingwei Kong, the president of Shanghai Tower Construction & Development Co., “this tower is symbolic of a nation whose future is filled with limitless opportunities.”

But opportunity for whom?  

Architects’ current penchant for building mammoth towers stands in opposition to  urban planners who focus on people-centered design. Cities are not simply an accumulation of buildings, but a product of the interaction of people with each other and their surroundings that happens at the street level.CC Cities should be pedestrian-friendly, with short streets that prioritize walking, and infrastructure that allows for biking instead of high-speed thoroughfares. This international competition for the tallest tower might boost country self-image in the short term, but in the long term might leave no one the winner.

My only suggestion is to send a free copy of Deaths and Lives of the Great American Cities to every single architect and stakeholder in China so that they can learn about Jane Jacobs’ mindset towards cities. Image from

And the fierce competition for height seems to have just begun. The tallest building for the moment is the 828-meter Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but Chinese architects and engineers have already moved on to their next project. According to CNNgo, a Chinese construction company called Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) has spearheaded to build ‘the Sky City’ of 838 meters in Changsha, China.

How tall can these towers go? For now, it seems only the sky’s the limit.

Categories: Europe