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Friday Fun: Bogotá, Colombia celebrates its 15th annual car-free day

Sat, 2015-02-07 02:50

For Bogotá’s 15th annual car-free day yesterday, residents had the chance to walk and bike together in their city’s streets to build a year-round culture of sustainable mobility. Photo by Carlos Felipe Pardo/Flickr.

Yesterday, Bogotá, Colombia celebrated the 15th anniversary of its annual car-free day. Between 5am and 7:30pm, residents left their cars behind and turned to a variety of other modes of transport—a symbolic act that 63 percent of citizens institutionalized through a public referendum in October 2000. This year’s car free day, however, introduced a restriction on motorcycles as well, removing a major source of traffic fatalities and air pollution from the roads for a day. In a city of over 7 million people, the absence of 600,000 private vehicles from the streets made a visible difference.

Bogotá’s bike and bus infrastructure provide real alternatives to cars

Like many other growing cities, Bogotá has grappled with air pollution and car-related traffic fatalities. According to Americas Quarterly, the number of registered private vehicles has risen 76 percent in the past seven years, and respiratory illnesses are the number one cause of infant mortality in the city, with a staggering 600,000 children under the age of five treated annually for breathing-related problems. Furthermore, 322 pedestrians and 56 cyclists were killed in 2014 to car-related accidents, and drivers lost an average of 22 days from waiting in traffic.

However, designating an entire day as car-free means that the city needs to provide dependable alternatives so that residents can still reach their normal destinations.

Fortunately for residents, Bogotá is a global leader in supporting transport infrastructure that is sustainable and people-oriented. The city is home to a number of urban mobility innovations, many the result of former mayor Enrique Peñalosa’s time in office. For example, Bogotá boasts the TransMilenio—one of the world’s most successful bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. TransMilenio opened in 2000—the same year as the city’s inaugural car-free day, currently employs 40,000 people, and indirectly supports another 56,000 jobs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by almost 250,000 tons annually.

Bogotá has also long been a haven for bike enthusiasts, daily commuters, and casual riders alike. Since 1974, popularity has exploded for the city’s traditional “Sunday Ciclovías.” Every Sunday, the city closes its streets to cars so that people can both ride in safety and also participate in a symbolic event centered on public health and community building. For this year’s car-free day, the city expanded its bike lane network to 392 kilometers (244 miles) and added 2,700 new bike parking stations near TransMilenio stations—a great step in making Bogotá’s public transport more multi-modal and integrated.

A symbolic move forward

What would the future look like if Bogotá and other cities made the car-free idea not just an exception for one day, but a normal fact of urban life? Recently, we explored this question and took a look at EMBARQ and IDEO’s thought-provoking project to reimage urban mobility around the world. In the meantime, cities like Jakarta, Indonesia, Chengdu, China, New Delhi, India, and Mexico City, Mexico among others are beginning to experiment with car-free days and other ways of decreasing our unsustainable reliance on cars.

Making long-term sustainable mobility a reality is about not only embracing people-oriented planning and design, but also changing the image of cars and the public’s perception of alternative modes. Single car-free days may not always have a significant environmental impact in the short term, but they have the power to spark discussion, raise awareness, and gradually change transport norms and attitudes. Bogotá’s annual car-free day isn’t just about getting people out of their cars for a day—it’s about showing that other possibilities for urban mobility exist.

What human-centered design teaches us about making cities car-optional

Thu, 2015-02-05 03:21

Mexico City has already transformed its historic downtown to be more pedestrian friendly. What would the city look like if it continued in the car-free direction? Photo by Justin Swan/Flickr.

Previously on TheCityFix, we took you through the initial steps of EMBARQ and IDEO’s project to explore how human-centered design thinking can be put to work for sustainable urban mobility. We’re asking a bold question – what if there were no need for cars in the world’s biggest cities? – and looking for bold solutions. Taking this question to the field in Mexico City, Mexico and Helsinki, Finland revealed key insights for how we can make mobility systems more responsive to peoples’ needs.

Gathering insight through human-centered design

The key to human-centered design is asking the right questions to the right people. To do this, we searched far and wide for inspiration and ideas, no matter how eccentric or seemingly impossible. We started in Helsinki, which last year set the ambitious goal to be car-free by 2025. The city is using technology and consolidated services to build a “mobility on demand” system, greatly reducing the relative convenience of personal cars.

From there, we went to Mexico City and interviewed both everyday commuters and mobility experts. The people we met reflected a wide range of attitudes towards urban transport. We spoke with Beatriz, a busy mom who runs errands all day and needs a car to get from point A to B and even point C; Mitzy, who is afraid of public transport because she does not know how to use it; Abril and Erick, who commute five hours to work each day so they can drop off their children in a community they trust; Fernando, who had enough of public transport, bought his first car, and loves it; and Mercedes, who makes all her life choices based on avoiding car trips to give her kids a different city experience.

Now, we’re working to translate this understanding about mobility needs at an individual level into game-changing transport solutions at the city level.

Trust, community, and mobility: What we learned about people-oriented mobility

The search for trust guides peoples mobility choices: Whether you decide to drive alone, share your ride, or use mass transport, how we use transit systems depends on whether they make us feel safe.

Social validation is the starting point for people to adopt new mobility services: With new mobility services, people need to see them in action, see others using it, and have the right information to understand how they might work for their own needs.

Life changes force people to make adjustments in mobility habits; these changes are rarely proactive: Changing jobs, moving homes, having a child, becoming a student, or getting a first job are moments when people re-evaluate their mobility options. Current systems are not designed to capture those moments and match them to options.

People reward quality service with care in use: Loyal users come from good service design and operation. If transport services demonstrate they care about the human experience, they are rewarded with consistent users.

Barriers to using public transport present themselves before the journey even begins: Commuters need information to understand how to incorporate transit in their door-to-door travels. Having a system that is responsive to their needs is important. Furthermore, long, complicated rides with multiple transfers push people away from public transport.

While there are a variety of transport services, people mainly receive one service experience: In Mexico City, transport systems such as the Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT), the metro, the suburban train, traditional bus systems, and the Ecobici public bike-sharing system are disconnected. Rather than providing an integrated, multimodal experience, they have diverse entry points, payment methods, user information, and quality of service.

Opportunities to reimagine transport services

Learning from these on-the-ground observations, a few opportunity areas emerged for more people-oriented mobility systems:

  • Reimagine the commute: How might we build infrastructure and services that support connections between formal and informal transit? How might we help companies help their employees get to and from work energized and safe?
  • Reimagine the errand: How might people access goods and services? How might we facilitate more efficient route diversions or eliminate them all together? How might we expand existing circles of trust to drive new shared mobility solutions?
  • Reimagine the ride: How might we differentiate transport options with varied services levels that appeal to people’s identity? How might we nudge new, sharing behavior that leads to better trips for all? How might we use data to enhance the quality of transport, from planning your route to paying through one system?

While these lay out a number of different potential paths, one thing in particular stands out: to be car-optional, we need to build a basket of options that address our mobility needs as well as a car does. We need to reimagine our approach to mobility.

With a new perspective on individuals’ mobility needs, IDEO took the lessons learned back to the field to further test assumptions and prototypes. Look for the next blog in this series to learn about prototyping and to see the results which will get us closer to mobility choices that work for people.

###

Acknowledgements: The EMBARQ project with IDEO is underwritten by Mr. Carlos Rodriguez Pastor and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, with additional support from General Motors and TransitCenter. EMBARQ is the sustainable mobility practice of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, a program of the World Resources Institute.

What human-centered design teaches us about making cities car-optional

Thu, 2015-02-05 03:21

Mexico City has already transformed its historic downtown to be more pedestrian friendly. What would the city look like if it continued in the car-free direction? Photo by Justin Swan/Flickr.

Previously on TheCityFix, we took you through the initial steps of EMBARQ and IDEO’s project to explore how human-centered design thinking can be put to work for sustainable urban mobility. We’re asking a bold question – what if there were no need for cars in the world’s biggest cities? – and looking for bold solutions. Taking this question to the field in Mexico City, Mexico and Helsinki, Finland revealed key insights for how we can make mobility systems more responsive to peoples’ needs.

Gathering insight through human-centered design

The key to human-centered design is asking the right questions to the right people. To do this, we searched far and wide for inspiration and ideas, no matter how eccentric or seemingly impossible. We started in Helsinki, which last year set the ambitious goal to be car-free by 2025. The city is using technology and consolidated services to build a “mobility on demand” system, greatly reducing the relative convenience of personal cars.

From there, we went to Mexico City and interviewed both everyday commuters and mobility experts. The people we met reflected a wide range of attitudes towards urban transport. We spoke with Beatriz, a busy mom who runs errands all day and needs a car to get from point A to B and even point C; Mitzy, who is afraid of public transport because she does not know how to use it; Abril and Erick, who commute five hours to work each day so they can drop off their children in a community they trust; Fernando, who had enough of public transport, bought his first car, and loves it; and Mercedes, who makes all her life choices based on avoiding car trips to give her kids a different city experience.

Now, we’re working to translate this understanding about mobility needs at an individual level into game-changing transport solutions at the city level.

Trust, community, and mobility: What we learned about people-oriented mobility

The search for trust guides peoples mobility choices: Whether you decide to drive alone, share your ride, or use mass transport, how we use transit systems depends on whether they make us feel safe.

Social validation is the starting point for people to adopt new mobility services: With new mobility services, people need to see them in action, see others using it, and have the right information to understand how they might work for their own needs.

Life changes force people to make adjustments in mobility habits; these changes are rarely proactive: Changing jobs, moving homes, having a child, becoming a student, or getting a first job are moments when people re-evaluate their mobility options. Current systems are not designed to capture those moments and match them to options.

People reward quality service with care in use: Loyal users come from good service design and operation. If transport services demonstrate they care about the human experience, they are rewarded with consistent users.

Barriers to using public transport present themselves before the journey even begins: Commuters need information to understand how to incorporate transit in their door-to-door travels. Having a system that is responsive to their needs is important. Furthermore, long, complicated rides with multiple transfers push people away from public transport.

While there are a variety of transport services, people mainly receive one service experience: In Mexico City, transport systems such as the Metrobús bus rapid transit (BRT), the metro, the suburban train, traditional bus systems, and the Ecobici public bike-sharing system are disconnected. Rather than providing an integrated, multimodal experience, they have diverse entry points, payment methods, user information, and quality of service.

Opportunities to reimagine transport services

Learning from these on-the-ground observations, a few opportunity areas emerged for more people-oriented mobility systems:

  • Reimagine the commute: How might we build infrastructure and services that support connections between formal and informal transit? How might we help companies help their employees get to and from work energized and safe?
  • Reimagine the errand: How might people access goods and services? How might we facilitate more efficient route diversions or eliminate them all together? How might we expand existing circles of trust to drive new shared mobility solutions?
  • Reimagine the ride: How might we differentiate transport options with varied services levels that appeal to people’s identity? How might we nudge new, sharing behavior that leads to better trips for all? How might we use data to enhance the quality of transport, from planning your route to paying through one system?

While these lay out a number of different potential paths, one thing in particular stands out: to be car-optional, we need to build a basket of options that address our mobility needs as well as a car does. We need to reimagine our approach to mobility.

With a new perspective on individuals’ mobility needs, IDEO took the lessons learned back to the field to further test assumptions and prototypes. Look for the next blog in this series to learn about prototyping and to see the results which will get us closer to mobility choices that work for people.

###

Acknowledgements: The EMBARQ project with IDEO is underwritten by Mr. Carlos Rodriguez Pastor and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, with additional support from General Motors and TransitCenter. EMBARQ is the sustainable mobility practice of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, a program of the World Resources Institute.

How to enable safer access to mass transit in Indian cities

Tue, 2015-02-03 01:02

Bus rapid transit (BRT) stations should be easily accessible and safe for pedestrians. Photo by Meena Kadri/Flickr.

It is increasingly recognized that cities are both powerhouses of economic growth and the primary drivers of economic prosperity, worldwide. This holds true for urban India as well, where exponential growth is expected not only in existing metropolitan areas, but also in the innovative form of 100 new smart cities. This rapid growth presents a huge opportunity to create more sustainable, livable Indian cities, but continuing business as usual patterns will only exacerbate the present challenges of intense traffic congestion, poor air quality, and inequitable access to urban transport. To take advantage of the opportunities presented by urbanization, Indian cities can adopt a more sustainable path by prioritizing people-oriented, integrated transport development.

Fortunately, India has recognized the need for sustainable mobility and has invested US$15 billion in the planning and construction of 19 bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and ten metro rail systems nationwide. While these plans and investments are steps in the right direction, many high-end mass transit projects are being planned in areas that are poorly designed for pedestrians and cyclists, resulting in a lack of safety, security, comfort, and convenience. Projects are often planned and implemented in isolation, without proper thought given to how citizens can access transit hubs. Finally, despite their potential role in public life, the areas around transit stations are not yet perceived as integrated places of multi-modal connectivity, where large volumes of people can live, work, and interact with one another on a daily basis.

Creating safe, accessible transit hubs requires local solutions

Non-motorized transport modes like bicycling and walking are common in Indian cities, accounting for between 25 and 55 percent of all trips. However, the focus in planning and development circles remains improving and increasing road space for vehicles. Additionally, projects to improve access to transit stations across the country are often piecemeal and vary in their approach and area of intervention. New transit systems are not always supported by robust feeder systems that connect commuters to their final destinations, even though Indian cities feature a host of mobility options provided by cycle-rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, taxis, and private bus operators. These services should be integrated into mass transit planning to provide last-mile connectivity and greater accessibility for residents.

Although cycling accounts for half of all trips in some Indian cities, cyclist safety is not always a priority among urban planners and designers. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

While numerous international examples of accessible transit stations exist, Indian cities face unique planning challenges and require appropriately localized solutions. Some of these include high density urban communities, the prevalence of non-motorized transport, informal employment, lower levels of enforcement with limited public participation, and uncoordinated institutional structures. Until today, there has been no clear guidance for Indian city leaders on designing safe, accessible transit stations.

Safe Access to Mass Transit: A new manual

To help planners and city leaders overcome these challenges, EMBARQ, part of the Sustainable Cities program of the World Resources Institute in India, has developed the Safe Access Manual: Safe Access to Mass Transit Stations in Indian Cities. The manual presents a sustainable, people-oriented approach to station accessibility. The new manual lays out clear guidelines for developing accessible stations that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, integrate multiple modes of transport, enhance the local economy, and serve as vibrant public spaces. It further emphasizes equitable access – particularly women’s safety – as well as safety for non-motorized transport users, in general. Finally, the manual suggests tying together the planning, implementation, maintenance, and evaluation of station areas in a single participatory process to allow local and state authorities to better co-ordinate with one another and ensure that safe, accessible mass transit becomes a reality.

This graphic details the safe access approach to station accessibility planning. Graphic by EMBARQ India.

As Indian cities continue to grow at a rapid pace, mass transit stations need to be developed in ways that meaningfully engage with local residents, businesses, city agencies, and other stakeholders in planning and decision-making processes. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the distinct service needs of an area, so that local communities can develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for their surroundings, including their transit station. When city planners properly address issues of equitable access, mass transit stations become safe, dynamic places for all to enjoy.

Learn more about the role of urban design in creating safe, accessible transport systems in the Safe Access Manual here.

How to enable safer access to mass transit in Indian cities

Tue, 2015-02-03 01:02

Bus rapid transit (BRT) stations should be easily accessible and safe for pedestrians. Photo by Meena Kadri/Flickr.

It is increasingly recognized that cities are both powerhouses of economic growth and the primary drivers of economic prosperity, worldwide. This holds true for urban India as well, where exponential growth is expected not only in existing metropolitan areas, but also in the innovative form of 100 new smart cities. This rapid growth presents a huge opportunity to create more sustainable, livable Indian cities, but continuing business as usual patterns will only exacerbate the present challenges of intense traffic congestion, poor air quality, and inequitable access to urban transport. To take advantage of the opportunities presented by urbanization, Indian cities can adopt a more sustainable path by prioritizing people-oriented, integrated transport development.

Fortunately, India has recognized the need for sustainable mobility and has invested US$15 billion in the planning and construction of 19 bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and ten metro rail systems nationwide. While these plans and investments are steps in the right direction, many high-end mass transit projects are being planned in areas that are poorly designed for pedestrians and cyclists, resulting in a lack of safety, security, comfort, and convenience. Projects are often planned and implemented in isolation, without proper thought given to how citizens can access transit hubs. Finally, despite their potential role in public life, the areas around transit stations are not yet perceived as integrated places of multi-modal connectivity, where large volumes of people can live, work, and interact with one another on a daily basis.

Creating safe, accessible transit hubs requires local solutions

Non-motorized transport modes like bicycling and walking are common in Indian cities, accounting for between 25 and 55 percent of all trips. However, the focus in planning and development circles remains improving and increasing road space for vehicles. Additionally, projects to improve access to transit stations across the country are often piecemeal and vary in their approach and area of intervention. New transit systems are not always supported by robust feeder systems that connect commuters to their final destinations, even though Indian cities feature a host of mobility options provided by cycle-rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, taxis, and private bus operators. These services should be integrated into mass transit planning to provide last-mile connectivity and greater accessibility for residents.

Although cycling accounts for half of all trips in some Indian cities, cyclist safety is not always a priority among urban planners and designers. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

While numerous international examples of accessible transit stations exist, Indian cities face unique planning challenges and require appropriately localized solutions. Some of these include high density urban communities, the prevalence of non-motorized transport, informal employment, lower levels of enforcement with limited public participation, and uncoordinated institutional structures. Until today, there has been no clear guidance for Indian city leaders on designing safe, accessible transit stations.

Safe Access to Mass Transit: A new manual

To help planners and city leaders overcome these challenges, EMBARQ, part of the Sustainable Cities program of the World Resources Institute in India, has developed the Safe Access Manual: Safe Access to Mass Transit Stations in Indian Cities. The manual presents a sustainable, people-oriented approach to station accessibility. The new manual lays out clear guidelines for developing accessible stations that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, integrate multiple modes of transport, enhance the local economy, and serve as vibrant public spaces. It further emphasizes equitable access – particularly women’s safety – as well as safety for non-motorized transport users, in general. Finally, the manual suggests tying together the planning, implementation, maintenance, and evaluation of station areas in a single participatory process to allow local and state authorities to better co-ordinate with one another and ensure that safe, accessible mass transit becomes a reality.

This graphic details the safe access approach to station accessibility planning. Graphic by EMBARQ India.

As Indian cities continue to grow at a rapid pace, mass transit stations need to be developed in ways that meaningfully engage with local residents, businesses, city agencies, and other stakeholders in planning and decision-making processes. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the distinct service needs of an area, so that local communities can develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for their surroundings, including their transit station. When city planners properly address issues of equitable access, mass transit stations become safe, dynamic places for all to enjoy.

Learn more about the role of urban design in creating safe, accessible transport systems in the Safe Access Manual here.

Friday Fun: Six mayors who bike, and why this is a good thing

Fri, 2015-01-23 20:30

From São Paulo to Jakarta, mayors are leading their citizens into the streets and onto their bicycles. Pictured (from top left): Joko Widodo (Jakarta, Indonesia) and Boris Johnson (London, United Kingdom), Fernando Haddad (São Paulo, Brazil), Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City, Mexico), and Ana Botella (Madrid, Spain).

Here at TheCityFix, we believe in recognizing profound leadership in urban sustainability. After all, it takes a combination of citizen support and top-down vision to create meaningful change in a city. While public focus is usually on what city leaders can achieve from behind their desks, it’s often what they do in the street that makes an even stronger statement.

With more cities than ever before implementing bike-share systems and expanding cycling infrastructure, we had to ask ourselves: are our leaders practicing what they preach on sustainable urban mobility?

As it turns out, many of them are. In honor of those leaders who are walking the talk, we now present five mayors (and former mayors) who bike and what they’ve done to make their cities more bike-friendly.

Fernando Haddad: São Paulo, Brazil

Mayor Fernando Haddad joins a ride with bike advocates in downtown São Paulo. Photo by Associação Ciclocidade/Flickr.

São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad took office in 2013 riding a campaign promise to reduce traffic congestion and help paulistas move better around their city. This is vital, as time and productivity lost due to congestion take a major toll on both quality of life and the local economy in São Paulo. In his first year as mayor, Haddad has come good on his promise, setting the lofty goal to add 400 km (259 miles) of bike lanes by the end of 2015 and embedding people-oriented mobility in the city’s new master plan. These efforts even helped São Paulo win the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award and the 2014 City/State MobiPrize in recognition of its innovation and vision in sustainable urban mobility.

But Haddad doesn’t just use sustainable mobility as political rhetoric; he lives it. He’s been regularly photographed around town riding in the very bike lanes he championed. In October 2014, he even took Gary Fisher – credited as the inventor of the modern mountain bike – for a jaunt around São Paulo’s downtown.

David Miller: Toronto, Canada

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller is no stranger to helping cities become more sustainable. Miller not only expanded Toronto’s network of bike lanes and supported the establishment of the Toronto Cyclists’ Union, he did so while chairing the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. In this role, he helped cities worldwide implement a range of measures to cut greenhouse emissions, including expanding sustainable mobility measures.

While Miller left office and his role as C40 Chair in 2010 (he’s seen in the video above at the 2009 UN Climate Summit), he’s continued to advocate for sustainable urban communities. In the last year, he’s written in support of the People’s Climate March, on the role of cities in the New Climate Economy, and on pressing urban water issues.

Marcelo Ebrard: Mexico City, Mexico

Marcelo Ebrard served as mayor of Mexico City from 2006 to 2012. Here, he hops on an ECOBICI public bike-share bike for a ride through the city’s Condesa neighborhood. Photo by Noticias de tu Ciudad/Flickr.

Mexico City has one of the longest running weekly car-free events – Muévete en bici – and one of the most vibrant public bike-share systems – ECOBICI – in all of Latin America. Much of this is thanks to former mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who held office from 2006 to 2012 and oversaw a major expansion of the ECOBICI program as well as the cycling infrastructure supporting it. Picking up where Ebrard left off, current mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera also enacted a new mobility law in 2014 prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists over private vehicles.

In the photo above, Ebrard joins a regular organized ride through the heart of Mexico City – on ECOBICI bikes, of course – designed to increase visibility for cycling culture in Mexico.

Ana Botella: Madrid, Spain

Mayor Ana Botella helped introduce public bike-share to Madrid. Here she participates in the system’s inaugural ride. Photo by Madrid City Hall.

In many cities, women are underrepresented in urban cycling, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Madrid mayor Ana Botella. Last year, Botella helped her city implement a public bike-share system, the first in the world that uses a fleet of e-bikes to help riders navigate Madrid’s hilly terrain. When skeptics called into question the safety of the e-bikes, which use small electric motors to give cyclists an extra boost, Botella hopped on a bike herself and rode around the city.

Earlier this year, Botella took her sustainable mobility efforts one step further, announcing plans to ban cars from central Madrid in efforts to curb traffic congestion and improve air quality.

Boris Johnson: London, United Kingdom and Joko Widodo: Jakarta, Indonesia

Former Jakarta mayor and current president of Indonesia Joko Widodo (left) and London mayor Boris Johnson (right) take a bike ride through central Jakarta in October 2014. Photo by Greater London Authority/Flickr.

What could possibly be better than one cycling mayor? Two cycling mayors! The photo above shows London’s Boris Johnson and Jakarta’s Joko Widodo – now president of Indonesia – on a ride through central Jakarta last year.

While Johnson’s reputation as a bike advocate is perhaps more established, Widodo’s track record is equally impressive. After identifying traffic congestion as one of the key issues facing Jakarta, he led by example, making every Friday his own personal bike-to-work day. The ritual has become closely watched by press and everyday onlookers, something Widodo has said he hopes will bring visibility to cycling in Jakarta and encourage commuters to leave their cars at home.

Did we miss anyone? What would it take to get your mayor biking around town? Let us know in the comments!

Friday Fun: Six mayors who bike, and why this is a good thing

Fri, 2015-01-23 20:30

From São Paulo to Jakarta, mayors are leading their citizens into the streets and onto their bicycles. Pictured (from top left): Joko Widodo (Jakarta, Indonesia) and Boris Johnson (London, United Kingdom), Fernando Haddad (São Paulo, Brazil), Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City, Mexico), and Ana Botella (Madrid, Spain).

Here at TheCityFix, we believe in recognizing profound leadership in urban sustainability. After all, it takes a combination of citizen support and top-down vision to create meaningful change in a city. While public focus is usually on what city leaders can achieve from behind their desks, it’s often what they do in the street that makes an even stronger statement.

With more cities than ever before implementing bike-share systems and expanding cycling infrastructure, we had to ask ourselves: are our leaders practicing what they preach on sustainable urban mobility?

As it turns out, many of them are. In honor of those leaders who are walking the talk, we now present five mayors (and former mayors) who bike and what they’ve done to make their cities more bike-friendly.

Fernando Haddad: São Paulo, Brazil

Mayor Fernando Haddad joins a ride with bike advocates in downtown São Paulo. Photo by Associação Ciclocidade/Flickr.

São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad took office in 2013 riding a campaign promise to reduce traffic congestion and help paulistas move better around their city. This is vital, as time and productivity lost due to congestion take a major toll on both quality of life and the local economy in São Paulo. In his first year as mayor, Haddad has come good on his promise, setting the lofty goal to add 400 km (259 miles) of bike lanes by the end of 2015 and embedding people-oriented mobility in the city’s new master plan. These efforts even helped São Paulo win the 2015 Sustainable Transport Award and the 2014 City/State MobiPrize in recognition of its innovation and vision in sustainable urban mobility.

But Haddad doesn’t just use sustainable mobility as political rhetoric; he lives it. He’s been regularly photographed around town riding in the very bike lanes he championed. In October 2014, he even took Gary Fisher – credited as the inventor of the modern mountain bike – for a jaunt around São Paulo’s downtown.

David Miller: Toronto, Canada

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller is no stranger to helping cities become more sustainable. Miller not only expanded Toronto’s network of bike lanes and supported the establishment of the Toronto Cyclists’ Union, he did so while chairing the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. In this role, he helped cities worldwide implement a range of measures to cut greenhouse emissions, including expanding sustainable mobility measures.

While Miller left office and his role as C40 Chair in 2010 (he’s seen in the video above at the 2009 UN Climate Summit), he’s continued to advocate for sustainable urban communities. In the last year, he’s written in support of the People’s Climate March, on the role of cities in the New Climate Economy, and on pressing urban water issues.

Marcelo Ebrard: Mexico City, Mexico

Marcelo Ebrard served as mayor of Mexico City from 2006 to 2012. Here, he hops on an ECOBICI public bike-share bike for a ride through the city’s Condesa neighborhood. Photo by Noticias de tu Ciudad/Flickr.

Mexico City has one of the longest running weekly car-free events – Muévete en bici – and one of the most vibrant public bike-share systems – ECOBICI – in all of Latin America. Much of this is thanks to former mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who held office from 2006 to 2012 and oversaw a major expansion of the ECOBICI program as well as the cycling infrastructure supporting it. Picking up where Ebrard left off, current mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera also enacted a new mobility law in 2014 prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists over private vehicles.

In the photo above, Ebrard joins a regular organized ride through the heart of Mexico City – on ECOBICI bikes, of course – designed to increase visibility for cycling culture in Mexico.

Ana Botella: Madrid, Spain

Mayor Ana Botella helped introduce public bike-share to Madrid. Here she participates in the system’s inaugural ride. Photo by Madrid City Hall.

In many cities, women are underrepresented in urban cycling, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Madrid mayor Ana Botella. Last year, Botella helped her city implement a public bike-share system, the first in the world that uses a fleet of e-bikes to help riders navigate Madrid’s hilly terrain. When skeptics called into question the safety of the e-bikes, which use small electric motors to give cyclists an extra boost, Botella hopped on a bike herself and rode around the city.

Earlier this year, Botella took her sustainable mobility efforts one step further, announcing plans to ban cars from central Madrid in efforts to curb traffic congestion and improve air quality.

Boris Johnson: London, United Kingdom and Joko Widodo: Jakarta, Indonesia

Former Jakarta mayor and current president of Indonesia Joko Widodo (left) and London mayor Boris Johnson (right) take a bike ride through central Jakarta in October 2014. Photo by Greater London Authority/Flickr.

What could possibly be better than one cycling mayor? Two cycling mayors! The photo above shows London’s Boris Johnson and Jakarta’s Joko Widodo – now president of Indonesia – on a ride through central Jakarta last year.

While Johnson’s reputation as a bike advocate is perhaps more established, Widodo’s track record is less equally impressive. After identifying traffic congestion as one of the key issues facing Jakarta, he led by example, making every Friday his own personal bike-to-work day. The ritual has become closely watched by press and everyday onlookers, something Widodo has said he hopes will bring visibility to cycling in Jakarta and encourage commuters to leave their cars at home.

Did we miss anyone? What would it take to get your mayor biking around town? Let us know in the comments!

People-oriented streets and the built environment: Lee Schipper Memorial Scholars present at Transforming Transportation 2015

Thu, 2015-01-22 20:06

Erik Vergel-Tovar (left) of Colombia and Madeline Brozen (right) of the United States—recipients of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship—presented their research findings at Transforming Transportation 2015. Photos by Zhou Jia/WRI.

Last week’s Transforming Transportation conference put forth multiple innovative ideas for how cities can transform mobility to become more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable. Speakers included former heads of state like Mexico’s Felipe Calderón, road safety champions like former New York City DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and entrepreneurs like Zipcar founder Robin Chase. In addition to these heavy hitters, two names you may not have heard of (yet) also contributed their bright ideas for the future of sustainable urban mobility: Erik Vergel-Tovar and Madeline Brozen.

Vergel-Tovar and Brozen were selected last year as recipients of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency. As scholars, they’ve spent the last six months conducting in-depth research on different aspects of sustainable transport, and shared their findings for the first time at Transforming Transportation 2015. Read on to learn about what their research revealed.

Bus rapid transit and the built environment: Findings from Latin America

Vergel-Tovar, a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presented first. He explored the implications of how built environment attributes beyond density – such as the mixture of land uses, proximity to transit hubs and facilities, presence of high-rise developments, and pedestrian infrastructure – influence the ridership levels of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in Latin America. Notably for planners and policymakers, his analysis shows that associations between population density and BRT ridership in Curitiba, Brazil – the birthplace of BRT – are similar or even higher than those found on rail-based systems in North America and Asia. His analysis also shows that some built environment attributes commonly considered as part of transit-oriented development (TOD) features are positively associated with BRT ridership. To achieve this TOD ridership association, however, requires the right enablers:

“We need an appropriate combination of transit-oriented development features,” he said. “This includes high rise multifamily and commercial developments, an even distribution of commercial, residential and institutional land uses, land developments of five or more stories in close proximity to stations, presence of facilities facing the BRT right of way and a network of non-motorized transport infrastructure articulated and connected to BRT stations.”

What does this mean for urban planning? As Vergel-Tovar told TheCityFix earlier this year, it means we can’t rely on density alone to create viable, efficient transport systems. Rather, the relationship between transport and urban development is far more nuanced, and planners need to consider a broader range of built environment attributes when designing transport corridors.

View Vergel-Tovar’s presentation below, and stay tuned for the release of his research findings later this year.

Examining the Relationship between Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the Built Environment in Latin America – Erik Vergel-Tovar – UNC Chapel Hill – Lee Schipper Memorial Scholar – Transforming Transportation 2015 from EMBARQ Moving beyond streets for cars

Brozen, assistant director and complete streets initiative manager for the University of California, Los Angeles’ Institute of Transportation Studies, took a different approach. She examined how current methods of planning and designing urban streets contribute to car-centric urban development. She focused on the need to move away from complex equations that measure street performance and move towards meaningful, human-centered data that can better inform policy decisions. Drawing from the examples of people-friendly metropolises New York City and Copenhagen, she found that the first step towards creating people-oriented streets was using more comprehensive and holistic data points. This approach can help build neighborhoods more supportive of active transport modes like bicycling and walking.

Despite this focus on non-motorized transport, Brozen’s research isn’t about how to create the car-free city. As she stated in an earlier interview with TheCityFix:

“Too often we hear, ‘you bike people just want everyone to get out of their cars.’ Getting away from that us versus them mentality, we can start to think about what a holistic transportation system looks like. That’s what we mean when we talk about complete streets. On a complete street, it’s pleasant, safe, and attractive to get to your destination however you want to do so.”

View Brozen’s presentation below, and stay tuned for the release of her research findings later this year.

Moving Beyond Streets for Cars – Madeline Brozen – UCLA – Lee Schipper Memorial Scholar- Transforming Transportation 2015 from EMBARQ

We hope you are as inspired as we are by the insight and vision of this year’s Lee Schipper Memorial Scholars! To learn more about the Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship, visit the scholarship website. Applications for the 2015 scholarship period are now closed, but check back throughout the year for updates on 2016. Donations to the scholarship fund are welcome at leeschipper.embarq.org/contribute.

People-oriented streets and the built environment: Lee Schipper Memorial Scholars present at Transforming Transportation 2015

Thu, 2015-01-22 20:06

Erik Vergel-Tovar (left) of Colombia and Madeline Brozen (right) of the United States—recipients of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship—presented their research findings at Transforming Transportation 2015. Photos by Zhou Jia/WRI.

Last week’s Transforming Transportation conference put forth multiple innovative ideas for how cities can transform mobility to become more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable. Speakers included former heads of state like Mexico’s Felipe Calderón, road safety champions like former New York City DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and entrepreneurs like Zipcar founder Robin Chase. In addition to these heavy hitters, two names you may not have heard of (yet) also contributed their bright ideas for the future of sustainable urban mobility: Erik Vergel-Tovar and Madeline Brozen.

Vergel-Tovar and Brozen were selected last year as recipients of the 2014 Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency. As scholars, they’ve spent the last six months conducting in-depth research on different aspects of sustainable transport, and shared their findings for the first time at Transforming Transportation 2015. Read on to learn about what their research revealed.

Bus rapid transit and the built environment: Findings from Latin America

Vergel-Tovar, a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presented first. He explored the implications of how built environment attributes beyond density – such as the mixture of land uses, proximity to transit hubs and facilities, presence of high-rise developments, and pedestrian infrastructure – influence the ridership levels of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in Latin America. Notably for planners and policymakers, his analysis shows that associations between population density and BRT ridership in Curitiba, Brazil – the birthplace of BRT – are similar or even higher than those found on rail-based systems in North America and Asia. His analysis also shows that some built environment attributes commonly considered as part of transit-oriented development (TOD) features are positively associated with BRT ridership. To achieve this TOD ridership association, however, requires the right enablers:

“We need an appropriate combination of transit-oriented development features,” he said. “This includes high rise multifamily and commercial developments, an even distribution of commercial, residential and institutional land uses, land developments of five or more stories in close proximity to stations, presence of facilities facing the BRT right of way and a network of non-motorized transport infrastructure articulated and connected to BRT stations.”

What does this mean for urban planning? As Vergel-Tovar told TheCityFix earlier this year, it means we can’t rely on density alone to create viable, efficient transport systems. Rather, the relationship between transport and urban development is far more nuanced, and planners need to consider a broader range of built environment attributes when designing transport corridors.

View Vergel-Tovar’s presentation below, and stay tuned for the release of his research findings later this year.

Examining the Relationship between Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the Built Environment in Latin America – Erik Vergel-Tovar – UNC Chapel Hill – Lee Schipper Memorial Scholar – Transforming Transportation 2015 from EMBARQ Moving beyond streets for cars

Brozen, assistant director and complete streets initiative manager for the University of California, Los Angeles’ Institute of Transportation Studies, took a different approach. She examined how current methods of planning and designing urban streets contribute to car-centric urban development. She focused on the need to move away from complex equations that measure street performance and move towards meaningful, human-centered data that can better inform policy decisions. Drawing from the examples of people-friendly metropolises New York City and Copenhagen, she found that the first step towards creating people-oriented streets was using more comprehensive and holistic data points. This approach can help build neighborhoods more supportive of active transport modes like bicycling and walking.

Despite this focus on non-motorized transport, Brozen’s research isn’t about how to create the car-free city. As she stated in an earlier interview with TheCityFix:

“Too often we hear, ‘you bike people just want everyone to get out of their cars.’ Getting away from that us versus them mentality, we can start to think about what a holistic transportation system looks like. That’s what we mean when we talk about complete streets. On a complete street, it’s pleasant, safe, and attractive to get to your destination however you want to do so.”

View Brozen’s presentation below, and stay tuned for the release of her research findings later this year.

Moving Beyond Streets for Cars – Madeline Brozen – UCLA – Lee Schipper Memorial Scholar- Transforming Transportation 2015 from EMBARQ

We hope you are as inspired as we are by the insight and vision of this year’s Lee Schipper Memorial Scholars! To learn more about the Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship, visit the scholarship website. Applications for the 2015 scholarship period are now closed, but check back throughout the year for updates on 2016. Donations to the scholarship fund are welcome at leeschipper.embarq.org/contribute.

Transport plays a key role in urban air quality

Tue, 2015-01-20 21:59

Transport plays a growing role in both the global climate and public health in cities like Londrina, Brazil (pictured). Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

The city is like an organism, and the swift movement of people and goods is the oxygen that sustains its well-being. When this circulation is inhibited, it significantly compromises the quality of urban life. For example, private cars account for less than one-third of trips in cities worldwide, but are responsible for 73% of urban air pollutants. Per capita, private cars generate three times more greenhouse gas emissions than public transport systems like buses. In the last year, the transport sector accounted for 46.9% of Brazil’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Rapid global urbanization comes with the potential to accelerate current climate change trends, and transport emissions may even triple by 2050. In addition to the severe consequences for the global climate, rising greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles also have a direct impact on human health. Air pollution contributed to 3.7 million deaths worldwide in 2012. It’s also estimated that urban air pollution contributes to 7,000 premature deaths per year in metropolitan São Paulo and reduces life expectancy by 1.5 years on average.

These challenges require urgent action to reduce the negative public health and environmental impacts of urban transport. One of the main paths for achieving this is through better urban planning and design. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of building denser cities with mixed land uses to reduce sprawl. To do this, we need to shift to a “3C” model of urban growth: connected, compact, and coordinated. These are the key proposals of transit-oriented development (TOD) strategies, which focus on adapting urban spaces to the scale of pedestrians and cyclists, providing quality, efficient public transport, and designing safe, connected spaces around transit hubs to improve connectivity and accessibility.

Designing efficient, low-carbon cities and transport systems can improve health and the climate. A 2013 EMBARQ study shows that 11 new bus rapid transit (BRT) projects in Mexico, Colombia, China, India, and South Africa have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31.4 million tons over the next 20 years. This amount is equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 6.5 million cars.

As defined in its National Plan on Climate Change (NPCC), Brazil aims to reduce carbon emissions by between 36.1% and 38.9% by 2020. To achieve this, the country has an important ally: investment in urban transport infrastructure provided by the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC). More than 80 Brazilian cities now have the opportunity to use federal funding to enhance transport corridors, implement TOD strategies, and in the process improve public health and air quality. It is expected that these investments will prioritize active transport and mass transport systems and help to reverse the country’s trend towards car ownership and motorcycle use.

A study by the Climate Observatory indicates that Brazil could be on track to meet the voluntary emissions reduction commitments outlined in the NPCC, but also signals a worrying increase in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, mainly due to fossil fuel consumption from transport. While we still face many challenges to shifting planning and investment to a low-carbon path, there are potential solutions at hand. Current negotiations over funding sources that would subsidize the costs of public transport, such as from taxing fossil fuels, can help build cleaner fleets and make sustainable transport more viable in Brazilian cities.

These is the pathway we need to breathe better in our cities.

This article was originally published in Portuguese in the Revista NTU Urbano.

Transport plays a key role in urban air quality

Tue, 2015-01-20 21:59

Transport plays a growing role in both the global climate and public health in cities like Londrina, Brazil (pictured). Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

The city is like an organism, and the swift movement of people and goods is the oxygen that sustains its well-being. When this circulation is inhibited, it significantly compromises the quality of urban life. For example, private cars account for less than one-third of trips in cities worldwide, but are responsible for 73% of urban air pollutants. Per capita, private cars generate three times more greenhouse gas emissions than public transport systems like buses. In the last year, the transport sector accounted for 46.9% of Brazil’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Rapid global urbanization comes with the potential to accelerate current climate change trends, and transport emissions may even triple by 2050. In addition to the severe consequences for the global climate, rising greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles also have a direct impact on human health. Air pollution contributed to 3.7 million deaths worldwide in 2012. It’s also estimated that urban air pollution contributes to 7,000 premature deaths per year in metropolitan São Paulo and reduces life expectancy by 1.5 years on average.

These challenges require urgent action to reduce the negative public health and environmental impacts of urban transport. One of the main paths for achieving this is through better urban planning and design. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of building denser cities with mixed land uses to reduce sprawl. To do this, we need to shift to a “3C” model of urban growth: connected, compact, and coordinated. These are the key proposals of transit-oriented development (TOD) strategies, which focus on adapting urban spaces to the scale of pedestrians and cyclists, providing quality, efficient public transport, and designing safe, connected spaces around transit hubs to improve connectivity and accessibility.

Designing efficient, low-carbon cities and transport systems can improve health and the climate. A 2013 EMBARQ study shows that 11 new bus rapid transit (BRT) projects in Mexico, Colombia, China, India, and South Africa have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 31.4 million tons over the next 20 years. This amount is equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 6.5 million cars.

As defined in its National Plan on Climate Change (NPCC), Brazil aims to reduce carbon emissions by between 36.1% and 38.9% by 2020. To achieve this, the country has an important ally: investment in urban transport infrastructure provided by the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC). More than 80 Brazilian cities now have the opportunity to use federal funding to enhance transport corridors, implement TOD strategies, and in the process improve public health and air quality. It is expected that these investments will prioritize active transport and mass transport systems and help to reverse the country’s trend towards car ownership and motorcycle use.

A study by the Climate Observatory indicates that Brazil could be on track to meet the voluntary emissions reduction commitments outlined in the NPCC, but also signals a worrying increase in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, mainly due to fossil fuel consumption from transport. While we still face many challenges to shifting planning and investment to a low-carbon path, there are potential solutions at hand. Current negotiations over funding sources that would subsidize the costs of public transport, such as from taxing fossil fuels, can help build cleaner fleets and make sustainable transport more viable in Brazilian cities.

These is the pathway we need to breathe better in our cities.

This article was originally published in Portuguese in the Revista NTU Urbano.

TheCityFix’s Year in Review: Top ten sustainable cities stories of 2014

Wed, 2014-12-31 18:07

TheCityFix wishes you a happy and healthy 2015! If you missed them, here are our top ten most-read stories of 2014. Photo via Equal Streets/Facebook.

As you know if you’ve followed the previous installments in TheCityFix’s Year in Review series, we’ve been witness to some pretty incredible moments for urban sustainability in 2014. Some, however, have captivated our global community of readers more than others.

If you missed them, here are the top ten most-read stories from TheCityFix in 2014. See you in the New Year, CityFixers!

10. Urban green space makes people happier than money

Kicking off our top ten is a story originally shared by our friends at TheCityFix Brasil that examines just how important urban green spaces are for creating livable cities. Considering that one study explored found that living close to green space yields similar positive vibes to getting a new job or getting married, are urban public spaces undervalued where you live?

9. The perfect storm: One country’s history of urban sprawl

Number nine on this list details the complex and overlapping layers of social and economic policy contributing to today’s sprawling Mexican cities. These challenges form the impetus for the country’s current urban reform efforts, a policy overhaul looking to turn Mexico from “3D” – distant, dispersed, and disconnected – to “3C” – connected, compact, and coordinated.

Mexico’s history of urban sprawl holds important lessons for policy and leadership in urban development. Photo by Pablo Lopex Luz/Imgur.

8. 100 smart cities in India: Governing for human impact

In the summer of 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to build ‘100 smart cities’ across India. Even in the wake of this declaration, there’s still no global consensus on what it means to be a ‘smart’ city. As number eight on this list suggests, “the challenge for smart cities in India will be to evolve from the notion of ‘smart’ as one rooted in technology to one rooted in governance.” 

7. People-oriented Cities: Demystifying transit-oriented development 

The opening entry to TheCityFix’s People-oriented Cities series comes in at number seven among the top ten articles of 2014. This article explores and explains transit-oriented development (TOD), an extremely useful approach for planners and city leaders looking to move past car-oriented urban form and build more livable cities for people.

6. What if there were no need for cars in the world’s biggest cities?

Even though number six on this list was published roughly two months ago, we’re still fascinated by this question. What if there were no need for cars in the world’s biggest cities? In order to accelerate the pace of innovation and find the urgent solutions we need for the urban future we want, this article explores how human-centered design thinking can be applied to urban mobility.

5. São Paulo wins 2014 City/State MobiPrize by empowering citizens and fostering innovation

São Paulo’s innovative and award-winning efforts to expand civic participation through open data and citizen science helped it develop a new master plan and helped this article land at number five in our top ten stories of 2014. This year, the city became one of the first in Latin American to open its data and integrate an online crowdsourcing platform into its participatory planning process.

4. Scaling up sustainability: ‘Raahgiri Day’ comes to New Delhi 

2014 witnessed the incredible growth of the open streets movement in Indian cities, which all started with the inaugural Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon in November 2013. There was no bigger Raahgiri moment in 2014 than when New Delhi, India’s capital and second-largest city, initiated Raahgiri Days of its own in July.

Raahgiri Day features a range of activities for participants – including yoga, cycling, dancing, and more – helping citizens reclaim their streets and bring physical activity back into their day. This year New Delhi became the fourth city in India to host weekly Raahgiri Days. Photo by Raahgiri Day, New Delhi/Facebook.

3. A new approach: Social factors in urban development

Urban development projects undergo considerable scrutiny well before being implemented, but as our number three most-read story of 2014 emphasizes, this assessment is often missing important social factors. To create truly sustainable and livable cities, shouldn’t we be considering how the built environment around us affects well-being and quality of life?

2. People-oriented Cities: Designing walkable, bikeable neighborhoods

Our number two most-read story of the year once again comes from the People-oriented Cities series and chronicles the many benefits for cities and citizens of creating communities that foster active transport. Based on this article’s popularity, it seems our readers agree that “it’s time for the world’s cities to start thinking about moving people rather than moving cars.”

A balanced street has ample sidewalks, comfortable bike facilities that connect to a network, and safe ways to cross streets, making active transportation possible even on larger roads. Image by EMBARQ.

1. Mumbai is ready For “Equal Streets – A Citizens’ Movement”

Number one on this list should come as little surprise. When the largest city in India joins the country’s highly publicized open streets revolution, it’s bound to make waves. Mumbai began hosting weekly Equal Streets events in November 2014 to put people back at the center of urban design and road use, making a bold statement by closing major roads to traffic each Sunday. The popularity of this article reflects the grassroots power of Equal Streets, a movement both by and for the people of Mumbai. With the growth of the event over the past two months, Equal Streets continues to empower Mumbaikars to assert their right to the city and advocate for safe, inclusive public spaces they can enjoy.

It’s amazing what you can do with streets when they’re spaces for people, not cars. Photo by Pooja Sharma/Facebook.

Did one of your favorites miss the list? Did we miss something big in the world of sustainable cities and urban mobility? Let us know in the comments!

TheCityFix’s Year in Review: Top ten sustainable cities stories of 2014

Wed, 2014-12-31 18:07

TheCityFix wishes you a happy and healthy 2015! If you missed them, here are our top ten most-read stories of 2014. Photo via Equal Streets/Facebook.

As you know if you’ve followed the previous installments in TheCityFix’s Year in Review series, we’ve been witness to some pretty incredible moments for urban sustainability in 2014. Some, however, have captivated our global community of readers more than others.

If you missed them, here are the top ten most-read stories from TheCityFix in 2014. See you in the New Year, CityFixers!

10. Urban green space makes people happier than money

Kicking off our top ten is a story originally shared by our friends at TheCityFix Brasil that examines just how important urban green spaces are for creating livable cities. Considering that one study explored found that living close to green space yields similar positive vibes to getting a new job or getting married, are urban public spaces undervalued where you live?

9. The perfect storm: One country’s history of urban sprawl

Number nine on this list details the complex and overlapping layers of social and economic policy contributing to today’s sprawling Mexican cities. These challenges form the impetus for the country’s current urban reform efforts, a policy overhaul looking to turn Mexico from “3D” – distant, dispersed, and disconnected – to “3C” – connected, compact, and coordinated.

Mexico’s history of urban sprawl holds important lessons for policy and leadership in urban development. Photo by Pablo Lopex Luz/Imgur.

8. 100 smart cities in India: Governing for human impact

In the summer of 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to build ‘100 smart cities’ across India. Even in the wake of this declaration, there’s still no global consensus on what it means to be a ‘smart’ city. As number eight on this list suggests, “the challenge for smart cities in India will be to evolve from the notion of ‘smart’ as one rooted in technology to one rooted in governance.” 

7. People-oriented Cities: Demystifying transit-oriented development 

The opening entry to TheCityFix’s People-oriented Cities series comes in at number seven among the top ten articles of 2014. This article explores and explains transit-oriented development (TOD), an extremely useful approach for planners and city leaders looking to move past car-oriented urban form and build more livable cities for people.

6. What if there were no need for cars in the world’s biggest cities?

Even though number six on this list was published roughly two months ago, we’re still fascinated by this question. What if there were no need for cars in the world’s biggest cities? In order to accelerate the pace of innovation and find the urgent solutions we need for the urban future we want, this article explores how human-centered design thinking can be applied to urban mobility.

5. São Paulo wins 2014 City/State MobiPrize by empowering citizens and fostering innovation

São Paulo’s innovative and award-winning efforts to expand civic participation through open data and citizen science helped it develop a new master plan and helped this article land at number five in our top ten stories of 2014. This year, the city became one of the first in Latin American to open its data and integrate an online crowdsourcing platform into its participatory planning process.

4. Scaling up sustainability: ‘Raahgiri Day’ comes to New Delhi 

2014 witnessed the incredible growth of the open streets movement in Indian cities, which all started with the inaugural Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon in November 2013. There was no bigger Raahgiri moment in 2014 than when New Delhi, India’s capital and second-largest city, initiated Raahgiri Days of its own in July.

Raahgiri Day features a range of activities for participants – including yoga, cycling, dancing, and more – helping citizens reclaim their streets and bring physical activity back into their day. This year New Delhi became the fourth city in India to host weekly Raahgiri Days. Photo by Raahgiri Day, New Delhi/Facebook.

3. A new approach: Social factors in urban development

Urban development projects undergo considerable scrutiny well before being implemented, but as our number three most-read story of 2014 emphasizes, this assessment is often missing important social factors. To create truly sustainable and livable cities, shouldn’t we be considering how the built environment around us affects well-being and quality of life?

2. People-oriented Cities: Designing walkable, bikeable neighborhoods

Our number two most-read story of the year once again comes from the People-oriented Cities series and chronicles the many benefits for cities and citizens of creating communities that foster active transport. Based on this article’s popularity, it seems our readers agree that “it’s time for the world’s cities to start thinking about moving people rather than moving cars.”

A balanced street has ample sidewalks, comfortable bike facilities that connect to a network, and safe ways to cross streets, making active transportation possible even on larger roads. Image by EMBARQ.

1. Mumbai is ready For “Equal Streets – A Citizens’ Movement”

Number one on this list should come as little surprise. When the largest city in India joins the country’s highly publicized open streets revolution, it’s bound to make waves. Mumbai began hosting weekly Equal Streets events in November 2014 to put people back at the center of urban design and road use, making a bold statement by closing major roads to traffic each Sunday. The popularity of this article reflects the grassroots power of Equal Streets, a movement both by and for the people of Mumbai. With the growth of the event over the past two months, Equal Streets continues to empower Mumbaikars to assert their right to the city and advocate for safe, inclusive public spaces they can enjoy.

It’s amazing what you can do with streets when they’re spaces for people, not cars. Photo by Pooja Sharma/Facebook.

Did one of your favorites miss the list? Did we miss something big in the world of sustainable cities and urban mobility? Let us know in the comments!

TheCityFix’s Year in Review: Five stories that prove building sustainable cities can be fun, too

Fri, 2014-12-26 20:30

There are many obstacles on the path towards sustainable, inclusive, healthy cities, but there’s certainly enough fun and inspiration to go around, as well. Photo by kk9k/Flickr.

With every year that passes, the challenges to creating the sustainable cities we want to live in seem to multiply. Our cities are growing larger, their roads are more congested, their air quality is deteriorating, and their contributions to climate change remain significant. The scale and pace of urbanization across the globe is, in many ways, outpacing today’s solutions.

While it’s no easy task to build a more sustainable and livable urban future, does that mean it’s all doom and gloom? Of course not! 2014 has shown us countless examples of the fun side of urban sustainability and plenty of reasons for optimism. Whether it’s new games for sustainable transport lovers, folklore’s influence on urban development, new platforms for citizen engagement and interaction, or dancing traffic safety zebras, we at TheCityFix are looking forward to documenting more of the innovative and downright zany ways citizens and city leaders are creating more sustainable cities for people around the world.

Without further adieu, here are the stories from the past year that you thought were the most fun, the top five Friday Fun entries of 2014.

5. These maps help to visualize the world’s urban growth

Maps are fun. Data visualizations are fun. Maps and data visualizations of the world’s evolving urban landscape are really fun! Not only is it astonishing to see the rapid rate at which urban growth is occurring worldwide, but visualizing this growth also reveals some interesting trends. For instance, megacities like Dhaka and New Delhi are set to explode in the next half-century, contributing to the continued growth of Asia’s urban population. At the same time, many African countries will go from less than 25% to 75% urban between 1950 and 2050. Not to be left out, every single country in South America is expected to more than 75% urban by 2040.

Graphic by Unicef.

4. Two genius bike-parking ideas for a car-free commute

A safe and convenient place to park a bike can be the difference between choosing to cycle and needing to drive for your morning commute. Even in cities with robust bike infrastructure, cyclists often have to haul their bikes onto public transport or take their bikes inside their office due to lack of parking facilities. Two cities – Tokyo and Portland – have two very different and innovative answers to the bike parking challenge: underground parking controlled by a robot and bike valet. While neither solution is perfect, both provide an important step towards creating bikeable cities that support active, sustainable transport.

3. Cycling innovations make bikeable cities worldwide

If number four on this list didn’t make it clear, city residents are clamoring for creative ways to build a culture of urban cycling. While cities like Copenhagen and Portland have built international reputations for bike-friendliness, they’re not the only cities thinking out of the box to make infrastructure and design better serve cyclists. Hangzhou, for example, boasts the largest bike-sharing system in the world and has one of the most extensive and well-designed networks of dedicated bike lanes in all of China. These measures are helping to curb rising car ownership in the city, a trend currently creating challenges in other Chinese cities.

Hangzhou’s bike lanes make cycling an attractive form of active transport, and have been found to reduce car usage and auto emissions. Photo by Bradley Schroeder/Flickr.

2. Two bold cities’ plans to make car ownership obsolete

When Hamburg announced in January 2014 that its new network of green spaces would eliminate the need for cars in the city within 20 years, it made headlines across Europe. When Helsinki joined Hamburg in July by unveiling plans for a “mobility on demand system” that would make car ownership “obsolete,” it made waves worldwide. Together, these two cities are at the forefront of a movement to explore what our cities would look like if we didn’t need cars to get around them. With car-free days, weeks, and even months becoming increasingly common in cities worldwide, is the world ready for a car-free major city year round? 

1. Moscow metro’s commuter dogs

Take a trip on Moscow’s extensive metro system, and you’re likely to have a furry companion along for the ride. Stray dogs are known to ride the city’s metro – one of the world’s largest in terms of both length and ridership – right along with their commuting human counterparts.

Navigating a large and complex metro system is hard enough for most humans, but Moscow’s commuter dogs find their way around through a combination of sight, smell, and familiarity. Photo by Adam Baker/Flickr.

At first glance, these dogs may seem outlandish or even unbelievable in their behavior. But dig a little deeper and their story is an urban geography lesson in the making. Why and how these dogs commute each day reveals a great deal about the shifting urban form, land use, and economy of the Moscow metropolitan region in the post-Soviet era. That, and they bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘working like a dog.’

TheCityFix’s Year in Review: Five stories that prove building sustainable cities can be fun, too

Fri, 2014-12-26 20:30

There are many obstacles on the path towards sustainable, inclusive, healthy cities, but there’s certainly enough fun and inspiration to go around, as well. Photo by kk9k/Flickr.

With every year that passes, the challenges to creating the sustainable cities we want to live in seem to multiply. Our cities are growing larger, their roads are more congested, their air quality is deteriorating, and their contributions to climate change remain significant. The scale and pace of urbanization across the globe is, in many ways, outpacing today’s solutions.

While it’s no easy task to build a more sustainable and livable urban future, does that mean it’s all doom and gloom? Of course not! 2014 has shown us countless examples of the fun side of urban sustainability and plenty of reasons for optimism. Whether it’s new games for sustainable transport lovers, folklore’s influence on urban development, new platforms for citizen engagement and interaction, or dancing traffic safety zebras, we at TheCityFix are looking forward to documenting more of the innovative and downright zany ways citizens and city leaders are creating more sustainable cities for people around the world.

Without further adieu, here are the stories from the past year that you thought were the most fun, the top five Friday Fun entries of 2014.

5. These maps help to visualize the world’s urban growth

Maps are fun. Data visualizations are fun. Maps and data visualizations of the world’s evolving urban landscape are really fun! Not only is it astonishing to see the rapid rate at which urban growth is occurring worldwide, but visualizing this growth also reveals some interesting trends. For instance, megacities like Dhaka and New Delhi are set to explode in the next half-century, contributing to the continued growth of Asia’s urban population. At the same time, many African countries will go from less than 25% to 75% urban between 1950 and 2050. Not to be left out, every single country in South America is expected to more than 75% urban by 2040.

Graphic by Unicef.

4. Two genius bike-parking ideas for a car-free commute

A safe and convenient place to park a bike can be the difference between choosing to cycle and needing to drive for your morning commute. Even in cities with robust bike infrastructure, cyclists often have to haul their bikes onto public transport or take their bikes inside their office due to lack of parking facilities. Two cities – Tokyo and Portland – have two very different and innovative answers to the bike parking challenge: underground parking controlled by a robot and bike valet. While neither solution is perfect, both provide an important step towards creating bikeable cities that support active, sustainable transport.

3. Cycling innovations make bikeable cities worldwide

If number four on this list didn’t make it clear, city residents are clamoring for creative ways to build a culture of urban cycling. While cities like Copenhagen and Portland have built international reputations for bike-friendliness, they’re not the only cities thinking out of the box to make infrastructure and design better serve cyclists. Hangzhou, for example, boasts the largest bike-sharing system in the world and has one of the most extensive and well-designed networks of dedicated bike lanes in all of China. These measures are helping to curb rising car ownership in the city, a trend currently creating challenges in other Chinese cities.

Hangzhou’s bike lanes make cycling an attractive form of active transport, and have been found to reduce car usage and auto emissions. Photo by Bradley Schroeder/Flickr.

2. Two bold cities’ plans to make car ownership obsolete

When Hamburg announced in January 2014 that its new network of green spaces would eliminate the need for cars in the city within 20 years, it made headlines across Europe. When Helsinki joined Hamburg in July by unveiling plans for a “mobility on demand system” that would make car ownership “obsolete,” it made waves worldwide. Together, these two cities are at the forefront of a movement to explore what our cities would look like if we didn’t need cars to get around them. With car-free days, weeks, and even months becoming increasingly common in cities worldwide, is the world ready for a car-free major city year round? 

1. Moscow metro’s commuter dogs

Take a trip on Moscow’s extensive metro system, and you’re likely to have a furry companion along for the ride. Stray dogs are known to ride the city’s metro – one of the world’s largest in terms of both length and ridership – right along with their commuting human counterparts.

Navigating a large and complex metro system is hard enough for most humans, but Moscow’s commuter dogs find their way around through a combination of sight, smell, and familiarity. Photo by Adam Baker/Flickr.

At first glance, these dogs may seem outlandish or even unbelievable in their behavior. But dig a little deeper and their story is an urban geography lesson in the making. Why and how these dogs commute each day reveals a great deal about the shifting urban form, land use, and economy of the Moscow metropolitan region in the post-Soviet era. That, and they bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘working like a dog.’

TheCityFix’s Year in Review: Momentum builds for the open streets movement

Wed, 2014-12-24 20:33

Open streets movements are spreading worldwide, nowhere faster than in India, where two of the countries largest cities now close major roads to cars every Sunday to reclaim public space. Photo by Raahgiri Day, New Delhi/Facebook.

Do the streets in your city belong to people or cars? In more and more cities worldwide, residents are taking back their streets as public spaces. The open streets movement started in the 1970s with “Sunday Ciclovía” in Bogotá, Colombia, where to this day, 121 km (75 miles) of roads are closed to cars and buses every Sunday. Weekly and annual open streets events have expanded to cities worldwide in recent decades. 2014 was a year of major growth for the movement. The best example is Raahgiri Day, India’s open streets movement that has expanded from Gurgaon in 2013 to six more cities in 2014, including capital New Delhi.

This low-cost, high impact strategy can improve quality of life, provide opportunities for recreation and sustainable transport, and unite citizens around the idea that streets are public spaces that should people’s needs. Beyond the weekly events, open streets events advance efforts to create safe, attractive spaces for people and active transport options like bicycling and walking.

Indian citizens reclaim their streets

Now in Gurgaon, Delhi, Bhopal, Ludhiana, Navi Mumbai, Indore, and Dwarka, Raahgiri events draw tens of thousands of participants weekly in these seven Indian cities. In Gurgaon, nearly 90,000 people came out for Raahgiri in its eighth week. When these cities close major roads to cars on Sundays, it allows people room to bike, walk, do yoga, Zumba, aerobics, and much more. Mumbai has recently launched its own open streets movement called “Equal Streets – A Citizens Movement,” and it has quickly gained momentum. In its first four weeks the crowd grew to approximately 40,000 people.

India is a particularly important country for the open streets movement, as increasing car ownership contributes to serious air pollution and road safety problems. In late January 2014, Delhi’s average daily peak of harmful particulate matter was 20 times the level considered healthy by the World Health Organization (WHO). Meanwhile, 330 people die each day on India’s roads. Raahgiri and Equal Streets advance a different path for Indian cities, one that prioritizes sustainable mobility, public space, and quality of life.

This graphic from the official Times of India contrasts the vibrancy of a road closed to cars during Mumbai’s Equal Streets event with a dangerous, polluted, and congested road on a typical day. Graphic via official Times of India.

Istanbul’s pedestrianization permanently gives streets to people

Istanbul has taken a different approach to turn streets into true public spaces for people. Since 2011, Istanbul has pedestrianized 295 streets throughout its Historic Peninsula, closing the streets to cars and creating safe, accessible, and attractive spaces for community interaction. In 2014, EMBARQ Turkey released the Istanbul Historic Peninsula Pedestrianization Project report to investigate the impact of this pedestrianization. After surveying students, residents, and local business in the Historic Peninsula, EMBARQ Turkey found an 80% satisfaction rate with pedestrianization. Fifty-five percent of respondents felt that transport modes are more accessible by foot, and respondents also reported decreased noise pollution and improved air quality.

What’s next for open streets?

Over 100 cities now have open streets events, and the events have been shown to be effective in cities of all types, from Latin America, to the United States, to India, and beyond. As many cities face rapid growth and increasing car ownership, they are challenged to provide public spaces where people can be safe and active. The Journal of Urban Health estimates that the benefits in reduced medical costs from open streets events substantially outweigh the costs of closing infrastructure to cars.

While open streets events make cities more livable on their own, they also contribute to a larger goal. Each Sunday, the movement is creating advocates for safer streets with infrastructure for people – bike lanes, sidewalks, and sustainable transport, and more. As EMBARQ India’s Amit Bhatt stated, the growth of the open streets movement represents a major step in the advancement of people-oriented cities:

This movement has sparked a ray of hope in many cities in India, which now realize that non-motorized and public transport will be the chosen modes of transport in the future. We have been hearing from passionate citizens and public agencies from different cities in the country, who have shown interest in replicating this initiative.

TheCityFix’s Year in Review: Momentum builds for the open streets movement

Wed, 2014-12-24 20:33

Open streets movements are spreading worldwide, nowhere faster than in India, where two of the countries largest cities now close major roads to cars every Sunday to reclaim public space. Photo by Raahgiri Day, New Delhi/Facebook.

Do the streets in your city belong to people or cars? In more and more cities worldwide, residents are taking back their streets as public spaces. The open streets movement started in the 1970s with “Sunday Ciclovía” in Bogotá, Colombia, where to this day, 121 km (75 miles) of roads are closed to cars and buses every Sunday. Weekly and annual open streets events have expanded to cities worldwide in recent decades. 2014 was a year of major growth for the movement. The best example is Raahgiri Day, India’s open streets movement that has expanded from Gurgaon in 2013 to six more cities in 2014, including capital New Delhi.

This low-cost, high impact strategy can improve quality of life, provide opportunities for recreation and sustainable transport, and unite citizens around the idea that streets are public spaces that should people’s needs. Beyond the weekly events, open streets events advance efforts to create safe, attractive spaces for people and active transport options like bicycling and walking.

Indian citizens reclaim their streets

Now in Gurgaon, Delhi, Bhopal, Ludhiana, Navi Mumbai, Indore, and Dwarka, Raahgiri events draw tens of thousands of participants weekly in these seven Indian cities. In Gurgaon, nearly 90,000 people came out for Raahgiri in its eighth week. When these cities close major roads to cars on Sundays, it allows people room to bike, walk, do yoga, Zumba, aerobics, and much more. Mumbai has recently launched its own open streets movement called “Equal Streets – A Citizens Movement,” and it has quickly gained momentum. In its first four weeks the crowd grew to approximately 40,000 people.

India is a particularly important country for the open streets movement, as increasing car ownership contributes to serious air pollution and road safety problems. In late January 2014, Delhi’s average daily peak of harmful particulate matter was 20 times the level considered healthy by the World Health Organization (WHO). Meanwhile, 330 people die each day on India’s roads. Raahgiri and Equal Streets advance a different path for Indian cities, one that prioritizes sustainable mobility, public space, and quality of life.

This graphic from the official Times of India contrasts the vibrancy of a road closed to cars during Mumbai’s Equal Streets event with a dangerous, polluted, and congested road on a typical day. Graphic via official Times of India.

Istanbul’s pedestrianization permanently gives streets to people

Istanbul has taken a different approach to turn streets into true public spaces for people. Since 2011, Istanbul has pedestrianized 295 streets throughout its Historic Peninsula, closing the streets to cars and creating safe, accessible, and attractive spaces for community interaction. In 2014, EMBARQ Turkey released the Istanbul Historic Peninsula Pedestrianization Project report to investigate the impact of this pedestrianization. After surveying students, residents, and local business in the Historic Peninsula, EMBARQ Turkey found an 80% satisfaction rate with pedestrianization. Fifty-five percent of respondents felt that transport modes are more accessible by foot, and respondents also reported decreased noise pollution and improved air quality.

What’s next for open streets?

Over 100 cities now have open streets events, and the events have been shown to be effective in cities of all types, from Latin America, to the United States, to India, and beyond. As many cities face rapid growth and increasing car ownership, they are challenged to provide public spaces where people can be safe and active. The Journal of Urban Health estimates that the benefits in reduced medical costs from open streets events substantially outweigh the costs of closing infrastructure to cars.

While open streets events make cities more livable on their own, they also contribute to a larger goal. Each Sunday, the movement is creating advocates for safer streets with infrastructure for people – bike lanes, sidewalks, and sustainable transport, and more. As EMBARQ India’s Amit Bhatt stated, the growth of the open streets movement represents a major step in the advancement of people-oriented cities:

This movement has sparked a ray of hope in many cities in India, which now realize that non-motorized and public transport will be the chosen modes of transport in the future. We have been hearing from passionate citizens and public agencies from different cities in the country, who have shown interest in replicating this initiative.

TheCityFix’s Year in Review: What makes a people-oriented city?

Wed, 2014-12-24 01:36

TheCityFix’s 2014 People-oriented Cities series shows the blueprint for connected cities with high quality public transport, mixed-use transit-oriented development, and walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

Transport and urban development are inherently linked. Though the majority of residents in many of the world’s biggest cities do not own a car, cities are often designed around the needs of automobiles instead of the needs of people. In Mexico, less than one-third of urban trips are made in cars, yet three-quarters of the federal mobility budget goes to highways. This can lead to urban sprawl, congested, unsafe roads, insufficient access to public transport, and a lack of public spaces. However, a clear set of strategies is emerging to design cities around the needs of people instead of cars. 

TheCityFix’s 2014 “People-oriented Cities” series explores the recipe for controlling car use and shaping urban development around sustainable transport. By promoting compact and mixed-use transit-oriented development (TOD), investing in quality public transit systems, and making cities walkable and bikeable, cities can save residents time and money while improving health, economic opportunity, and quality of life.

Smarter driving, smarter cities

Cars will likely always play a role in urban transport, at least for the near future. The first step to fostering more sustainable urban development is effectively managing their use. More cars lead to more challenges for cities including road fatalities, traffic congestion, longer commuting times, and more air pollution. Cities can curb car culture using strategies like a congestion pricing scheme, restricting parking, and designing safer streets by narrowing lanes or prioritizing pedestrian crossings.

Using these transport demand management (TDM) strategies is an important first step that allows cities to integrate cars into a network of sustainable mobility options, rather than allow car-use to shape urban development.

Planning for mixed-use and transit-oriented development

As cities deal with rapid urbanization, they often expand outwards. Residents on the outskirts of Mexico City, for example, spend as much as 2.5 hours commuting each day. By integrating land use and transport planning, however, transit-oriented development (TOD) can help reverse this trend and create more livable communities. This planning strategy calls for dense, mixed-use urban development around transit hubs with high quality public transport.

Using codes and zoning regulations, encouraging density and mixed-uses around transit hubs helps create demand for transport services, making high quality transport systems financially viable. Transit-oriented development also ensures that transport services are accessible to more people, connecting communities and expanding employment opportunities.

Fostering dense, mixed-use communities also creates local social and economic benefits. By integrating commercial and residential building, this urban design strategy reduces the need to travel long distances, saving residents money and reducing the strain on transport systems. It also can be a boon for local businesses by increasing foot traffic. Transport for London found that pedestrians spend up to 60% more money at businesses each month than those traveling by car. Combining mixed-use development with pedestrianization amplifies these benefits. Finally, mixed-use communities bring shared community spaces that foster social interaction.

Designing walkable, bikeable neighborhoods

In addition to supporting dense, transport-friendly neighborhoods, cities should ensure that neighborhoods have good conditions for walking and biking. Supporting these forms of active transport creates a number of benefits for cities such as relieving traffic congestion, reducing local air pollution, improving traffic safety, and increasing physical activity

Three design principles are central to encouraging walking and biking: connected streets, car-free streets, and active streets. A network of connected streets ensures that neighborhoods are linked. Car-free streets can become anchors of human-centered activity, providing commuter facilities and supporting recreation. Active streets involve protected and separated spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.

Many cities are experiencing rapid urbanization and rising demand for car ownership. The way cities manage transport will have a dramatic impact on the way they develop. Using people-oriented strategies, policymakers can prioritize growth that fosters public instead of personal transport, connected communities instead of sprawling ones, and inclusive urbanism instead of separated cities. It’s time for the world’s cities to focus on moving people rather than moving cars.

Stay tuned for future installments of the People-oriented Cities series in 2015, and see EMBARQ’s Transit-oriented Development Guide for Urban Communities to learn more about building cities for people, not cars. 

 

Seven ways Belo Horizonte, Brazil inspires sustainable cities

Tue, 2014-12-16 02:45

From developing bus rapid transit to improving public spaces, Belo Horizonte, Brazil is working to become a sustainable city. Photo by Eduardo Beltrame.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil is a city of remarkable cuisine, green spaces, and architecture. The city is increasingly designed using people-oriented urban development strategies that prioritize the people who make the city come alive.

Even for outsiders, this state capital feels like home. A number of initiatives are transforming the city into an example of best practices for sustainable transport, people-oriented spaces, and resilience to landslides and floods. In honor of the city’s 117th birthday, here are seven things worth celebrating about Belo Horizonte:

1. Making room for people

Belo Horizonte transformed Paraná street by creating people-oriented spaces and making room for public transport. Compared to its previous design (shown in the top picture), the street’s new design (shown in the bottom picture) improves mobility, the landscape, and safety. Before photo via Google Maps, after photo by Luisa Zottis/EMBARQ Brasil.

Paraná street – located in the city’s center – provides one of the best examples of how to revitalize urban spaces. Before its transformation, the avenue was a space for cars. Today, it is designed to better serve pedestrians, public transport, and cyclists.

2. High quality public transport

The MOVE bus rapid transit system was designed using international best practices. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

Launched about one year ago, Belo Horizonte’s MOVE bus rapid transit (BRT) system was planned according to international best practices with support from EMBARQ Brasil. Designed to be the city’s official transport system for the World Cup, the MOVE BRT system still benefits 480,000 people every day even without the influx of tourists.

3. Making bicycling easier

People of all ages have room to ride safely on Risoleta Neves Avenue, which contains part of the 2.2 km (1.4 mile) bike path from Saramenha Avenue to St. Gabriel BHBus Station. Photo by the Municipality of Belo Horizonte/Flickr.

Belo Horizonte has more than 70 km (43 miles) of bike paths. Initiatives such as Pedal BH, BH in Cycle, and Belo Horizonte’s Bike Angel program help promote cycling as an alternative means of transport. The city also has 400 public bicycles, available at 40 stations through its Bike BH bike-share program.

4. More green spaces that make for a more enjoyable city

Belo Horizonte’s parks give residents access to green spaces for leisure and social interaction. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

With more than 40 public parks, Belo Horizonte has 18 square meters (194 square feet) of green space per inhabitant. Spaces conducive to leisure, physical activity, and cultural interaction are critical to quality of life and public healthResearch shows that well-kept city parks and green areas make people happier.

5. Resilience efforts recognized by the United Nations

Belo Horizonte’s Civil Defense Initiative was recognized by the U.N. For the past 11 years, there have been no deaths from landslides in the city. Photo by Belo Horizonte City Hall/Flickr.

There have been no recorded deaths in Belo Horizonte due to landslides since 2003, and there have only been three deaths from flooding in the past three years. In 2013, the city won the U.N. Sasakawa Award, which is the world’s largest prize for resilient cities. The city’s main natural challenges are its hilly terrain and 700 km (435 miles) of streams, which makes it prone to flooding and landslides. Transport systems must also be prepared for these risks. One of the keys to Belo Horizonte’s improved resilience was the creation of the Risk Areas Executive Group (GEAR), which convenes city government agencies and officials every Monday to discuss and plan mitigation actions.

6. Pedestrianized streets

Pedestrianized streets create public spaces for people to enjoy. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil.

Cities are our homes, at least for over half the world’s population. Residents interact with the urban environment every day, whether walking on the streets, riding public transport, or in their car. It is essential that cities create people-oriented spaces that encourage social interaction.

7. Bonus: The sunset is beautiful

Belo Horizonte’s Mangabeiras Lookout provides a first-class view of the sensational sunset over the city. It is a must-see for those visiting Belo Horizonte. TheCityFix Brasil – partner blog of TheCityFix – accompanied the winner of its “city in an instant” photo competition, Eduardo Beltrame, who chose a visit to Belo Horizonte as his prize for winning the competition.

This post originally appeared in Portuguese on TheCityFix Brasil

Five new resources for more sustainable Brazilian cities

Tue, 2014-12-09 23:08

Five new publications from EMBARQ Brasil will help foster people-oriented cities with high quality public transport systems. Photo by Dylan Passmore/Flickr.

In some Brazilian cities, poorly managed urban development has led to “3D” urban form – distant, dispersed, and disconnected. Over the past ten years, demand for urban public transport has decreased by 33% in Brazilian cities while car sales are on the rise. A number of Brazilian cities, however, are transitioning towards sustainable urban development and sustainable mobility. Last week, EMBARQ Brasil released five publications to support this shift and empower cities to move towards a “3C” development model – connected, compact, and coordinated. The publications will help cities create urban mobility plans, foster transit-oriented development (TOD), and improve the quality and safety of public bus systems.

How can cities create urban mobility plans focused on people?

By next year, 3,065 Brazilian municipalities must develop urban mobility plans. EMBARQ Brasil’s publication – Step by Step Guide to Developing an Urban Mobility Plan (O Passo a Passo para a Construção do Plano de Mobilidade) – helps cities formulate mobility plans that fit their local needs. On the same day that it launched the publication, EMBARQ Brasil hosted the “Sustainable Urban Mobility Seminar: Practices and Trends.” At the seminar, Jesse Worker from the World Resources Institute (WRI) emphasized the importance of social participation in urban mobility planning. Governments must utilize new methods of engaging residents to create plans that are inclusive and transparent. São Paulo, for example, is using innovative methods to have residents contribute to urban planning and improve transport services. Through its MobiLab initiative, the city has created a crowdfunding platform to gather input for its master plan, and is opening data and sponsoring ‘hackathons’ to spur development of urban transport solutions.

Transit-oriented development for sustainable urban growth

Urbanization poses a number of challenges for cities, but strategic planning that encourages mixed-use development and access to public transport can foster livable urban communities. That is the focus of TOD Cities – a Development Manual for Transit-Oriented Development (DOTS Cidades – Manual de Desenvolvimento Orientado ao Transporte Sustentável). The publication provides technical guidance around seven key elements of people-oriented cities:

  • Quality public transport: High quality, affordable public transport is essential to connected, livable cities.
  • Non-motorized mobility: Prioritizing active transport creates healthier, happier communities.
  • Transport demand management (TDM): From parking regulations to congestion pricing, transport demand management strategies help orient cities around people, not cars.
  • Mixed use and efficient buildings: By coordinating transport and land-use planning, fostering dense, mixed-use development around transit creates vibrant communities and uses space efficiently.
  • Community spaces and active ground floors: Active, human-scale ground floors and community spaces promote social interaction and create a network of attractive spaces.
  • Public spaces and natural resources: Well-designed public spaces can integrate natural resources and create attractive spaces for community interaction and social life.
  • Community participation: Community engagement promotes a sense of belonging and encourages social interaction.

Improving the quality and safety of public transport

There is a strong demand for improving the quality of public transport in Brazil’s cities, as evidenced by strong protests in the wake of transport fare increases and perceived non-productive investments leading up to the World Cup. EMBARQ Brasil – with financial support from FedEx – developed the QualiÔnibus program to study and improve the quality of public bus systems. The program released three publications last week – Satisfaction Survey (Pesquisa de Satisfação), Day One of Operation (Dia Um de Operação), and Safety First (Segurança em Primeiro Lugar).

Satisfaction Survey investigates the most important factors in determining bus user satisfaction, and creates a standardized questionnaire that allows cities to compare the performance of their bus systems across a range of features. Day One of Operation provides a strategic guide for launching public transport systems successfully. The launch of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system impacts user expectations and has long-term implications on ridership. A lack of planning and communication with the public can create a negative perception of the system. This guide will help cities avoid common mistakes and ensure a smooth and successful system launch. Finally, Safety First creates mechanisms for bus companies to improve road safety management. It details three recommended stages – driver training for defensive driving, the implementation of incentive programs for driver development, and accident monitoring.

This post was adapted from three articles on TheCityFix Brasil by Priscila Kichler Pacheco and Maria Fernanda Cavalcanti.

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