Monthly Archives: December 2011

Man and car: Who is driving whom this morning?

What is it about what the English call a motor car that, when an otherwise perfectly decent human enters it and slams the door shut, somehow there is a total transformation of that person gripping the stirring wheel into something, into someone who is just a little bit less decent and a little bit less human. A consistent theme of World Streets is that over the last hundred years or so our cars have not only transported us but they have also in the process also transformed us. Oops. And in the process they have fatally (I chose my word) altered the dimensions of the space in which we live our daily lives, and in the same process made this thing that was supposed simply to transport us from A to B at our leisure, into a defining part of our daily lives — and indeed in some ways part of ourselves. A cruel critic might say, half Faust and half Frankenstein. Continue reading

In Memoriam: Victims of traffic in New York City, 2011

This is certainly among the saddest posts to appear in World Streets at the end of each year; it consists of nothing less than a word for word, image by image reposting of the annual carnage memoriam of traffic in New York City, that is published yearly by our friends and colleagues Streetblogs.org. We do this not only in homage of all those who lost their lives on the contested streets of the Big Apple, but also in the hope that other civil society groups that deal with issues of transportation, public space and well-being in other cities around the world will follow this lead. We do not see how the voting public and responsible politicians cannot be moved by such tragic personal stories with names and faces of innocence, no matter how brief. Of course we need to keep the pressure on them. Unrelenting vigilance.  The eternal task of the civil society. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Litman on Metro Projects and Urban Road Safety

In response to a series of comments and questions that came up recently in the Sustran Global South forum, Todd Liltman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in Canada offered the following references and observations on the topic: Continue reading

Op-Ed: Do you know your ecological footprint?

Toward the end of each year, I take a few minutes to run my personal Ecological Footprint scan to see if I can get a handle on how I am doing relative to myself, to others and to the planet. Seems like the least I can do, not less because it does oblige me to think about my life pattern and choices in the greater scheme of things. “Walk the talk”, etc., etc. (PS. On a more global basis, to get a feel for where the high scores hang out, this map of earth lights at night will provide you with some good clues.)

And while the Ecological Footprint drill is all very approximate, nonetheless there is , I would say, more than a grain of truth in it. (For more information on how it works, check out http://myfootprint.org/en/about_the_quiz/faq/.)

Continue reading

Defining principles: Remembering Mrs. Jacobs

As we move ahead with the Safe Streets project over the course of the year ahead, there will be a small group of people to whom we shall be referring from time to time who have, through their insights and contributions, basically redefined the entire field of transport in cities. And Mrs. Jane Jacobs is of course one of this wonderful group. We are honored to be able to share these leadership profiles with you, and for Mrs. Jacobs we pass the word to Michael Mehaffy who reminds us of her contributions and takes on her critics head-on. Continue reading

International Advisory Council

While we have been working on these issues in many places and for a number of years, including both on the technology and the (to us far more important) policy side, we nonetheless do not hesitate to acknowledge that we are going to need help and guidance over the course of the year ahead if we are to be really useful on this important  and highly challenging topic. Fortunately the field is developing quite swiftly now, at long last,  and a new expert consensus  is growing up among those working on these issues in leading cities and groups —  so we have set out to tap this leading edge of international expertise by means of an informal International Advisory Council,  which we are pleased to introduce to you here in working draft form today.  As you will see this work is still very much in progress, but if you have any suggestions for us, it would be good to hear from you.  And all the more so if you may have a candidate for us to complete this world level group.

Continue reading

La femme est l’avenir de l’homme

* Credit: Nasser Nasser/AP. Click to enlarge

The French poet Louis Aragon told us some two generations ago that “Woman is the future of man”. And if we had any doubts about that as we enter into 2012, we have today before our eyes this exceptional, moving photograph of a street demonstration yesterday in which several thousand brave women marched through central Cairo in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking female demonstrators in Tahrir Square. Continue reading

Defining principles: Remembering Donald Appleyard

Safe Streets is a collaborative worldwide project which will aggressively network over the whole of 2012 in our search for shaping ideas with some of the leading thinkers, groups and programs in the field , looking to the future but also not forgetting the past — including drawing attention to the defining contributions of a certain number of leading thinkers. teachers, writers and sustainability activists, who are no longer with us but who through their work have laid down some of the most important principles which we now need to recall and take into account as we move to create a broad common framework for sustainable streets all over the world. For those of you who do not already know about the formidable vision and work of Donald Appleyard, we have pulled together a collection of reference points that should give you a good first introduction, and at the end of this piece some additional reference materials for those wishing to go further (as indeed you should).
Continue reading

What happens in a high-tech smart city when the lights go out?

Wouldn’t you say that is worth thinking about while you are figuring out how to spend the taxpayers money for safe streets?
Continue reading

Seeking safety on Kampala’s streets

The streets of Kampala are, as with the case in all too many cities in the Global South, more than a little rough on cyclists and pedestrians. More than that, there is rarely any real interest in most political establishments in the concept of safe streets. So where do you start in order to break the old pattern and long standing deadlock? A group of young people in Kampala Uganda, decided this year to organise their first Car Free Day. The following document reports on the plans and intention. A courageous effort that we should all be applauding. Continue reading

Letter from Kathmandu: Promoting walking as sustainable transport in cities

Does anyone notice anything a bit strange in these two photos of traffic in Kathmandu Nepal on any typical day. To the left we have boiling Asia-style traffic propelling speeding high carbon males. While to the right we see a woman and a girl making their way as best they can by foot. Hmm. Continue reading

Road safety: a public health challenge (India)

India’s hurried quest for development and its disregard for road safety have resulted in a major public health problem that demands serious thought and action.

This article by Professor K.S. Jacob, which is central to the matters which bring us together here in the Safe Streets 2012 Challenge, originally appeared in the pages of The Hindu of 6 October 2010 and was reprinted immediately in our sister publication Streets of India. As with John Whitelegg’s prescient 1993 piece on Time Pollution which was published here on Monday of this week, this independent expert commentary on safe, or rather unsafe, streets helps us to better understand the realities we need to face on the streets of our cities. Continue reading

Who is checking into the Safe Streets 2012 Challenge?

The goal of this project is that, by mapping and reviewing the very widest range possible of concepts and techniques that are intended to improve safety in city streets, we will in time come up with a higher understanding of what are the best ways for public policy to support these goals.

The Safe Streets Challenge project was put on line just one week ago today. The site has thus far been visited by readers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, United Republic Of, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela. It’s an interesting beginning. Continue reading

Man – > Technology – > Speed – > Distance – > Destruction of proximity

This out of control  bulimic spiral begins with man’s uncontrollable tool-making itch, and from thence ,and unknown to us at the time, to tools which take on transforming lives of their own — one of which in the domain of mobility being ever-increasing speed, which in turn leads to ever-increasing distances, and which finally and in largely unnoticed fatal tandem destroys the reality and oh-so important qualities of proximity and community.  That’s the deal and facing all this is the challenge of this collaborative project for 2012. What we thought was merely more convenient transportation, has snuck up on us and turned into very inconvenient and altogether unanticipated transformation.

Continue reading

Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets

Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets
– Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Traffic Calming—The First Wave
For several decades there have been efforts to use roadway modifications, such as humps and chicanes, to control motor vehicle speeds on streets whose primary roles are non-traffic ones (Hass-Klau 1990). Such traffic calming began in north-west Europe and by now is familiar almost everywhere. Continue reading