Mission statement

Letter from the editor. (Working draft)

Paris, 11 December 2011

The impetus behind the Safe Streets Challenge project has three main parts, starting with our long concern in the extensive collaborative international work of the New Mobility Agenda since its founding in 1988 with distinguishing situations in which (a) technologies can have a useful, even critical role in permitting improvements in our present deficient transportation arrangements in cities north and south, as opposed to (b) situations/projects/programs, etc. in which the technologies take over the lead and, as often happens, become of first-line importance in themselves, all too often at great cost to the underlying social and economic objectives. (Put in the simplest terms, our objective is to figure out how to get the horse in front of the cart.)

The second and even more fundamental preoccupation behind this new program has to do with our concern with the more or less unquestioned 20th-century acceptance of a polemic spiral which starts out innocently enough (a) with man’s inevitable itch to toolmaking, which in turn takes us all to (b) technology, and in our particular case on to (c) speed, which in the context of our settlements — cities, towns and even outlying rural communities — brings us to the next notch in this spiral, namely (d) the ever-increasing spending of distance. And as we have seen, the stretching of distances has had extremely deleterious impacts on our communities and the sense of proximity which is so important for happy and efficient society.

All that is clear enough to the careful observer, but what makes it even more destructive is that this is an on-going spiral in which future iterations take place at ever greater speeds, pushing out to ever greater distances, and yet more destroying the fundamental concepts of human scale and a safe and happy city.

The third basic building block in the process of creating this website/rallying point for ideas and views resulted from the editor’s participation in the Smart Cities Congress in Barcelona in late November of this year. if you check through the online documentation for the conference you can find here you will note the strong orientation to ITC technologies, which for the most part, in my view that is, dominated the agenda and certainly the financial aspects of the Congress itself. Fortunately, the organizers, including the Mayor of Barcelona, made a point on numerous occasions that despite the name the goal of this significant international event was, without any doubt, the improvement of life conditions in the city and not simply the knee-jerk preoccupation with advancing this or that technology or approach. Still with all the brouhaha of technological accomplishment and potential, this balance was and is not easy to keep. It requires, like just about everything else in the sustainable transportation agenda, eternal vigilance on the part of responsible citizens and indeed all those concerned.

I returned to Paris after a full and exciting week in Barcelona trying to think through how we might better make use of all of this extraordinary technological potential in the context of the real values and concerns of the city. One thing is very clear: it would do no good to put ourselves in opposition to our colleagues in leading companies, institutions and universities around the world, on the grounds that they have significant resources which we really do need in order to get out of this terrible spiral which is proving so costly to our cities and to those who live, work and play in them. So how do we put all of this better together, and at the same time develop a timeframe which corresponds with the true priorities that we should be addressing.

Hence the decision to create a program around the concept of safe streets which would welcome without prejudice ideas, projects and concepts, and technologies, which have a common aim of increasing the safety of our streets. In the first months of 2012 we intend to open up these pages to the fullest possible range of approaches, in order to establish a broad and very foundation for a more analytic and critical work which will follow. Policy work and advisory recommendations will follow.

Eric Britton, editor

[To complete draft}

– Big house approach to differences

– With out ignoring the Speed link as our eventual prime target. But we will take our time in building up this case)

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