Since I have devoted my life to Urban Synergies – the team and I worked very hard but took sufficient time to develop a new paradigm for sustainable urban development that includes health and well-being as well as ethical behaviour as a core principle.
Critical reflection is needed! The latest measurements of IPCC report on global greenhouse gas emissions showing alarming levels and industry is working with a model that does very little or not enough to drive positive change. We know that more that 50 per cent of the world wide population lives now in urban conditions and at the same time cities are the greatest contributor and emitters of pollution threatening human health. Only when we acknowledge our collective bio history, critically reflect and collaboratively work towards a new paradigm we will be able to sustain us.
We are committed! To make a meaningful contribution and to help creating a better world we introduce Urban Synergies healthy sustainable development model.
Should you have any questions relating to our model we would love to hear from you. Feel free to visit our website www.urbansynergies.org
Just came across this excellent blog piece on Active Living. In the Australian context – University of Canberra, University of NSW and University of Melbourne are delivering similar research for better policy outcomes.
Many cities around the globe are home to dangerous roads, social stigmas that bicycling is “for the poor,” and urban designs that neglect walking and bicycling. Photo by Slightly-less-random.
Cities around the globe are seeing a creeping problem of growing physical inactivity, due in part to the lack of pleasurable every-day walking and bicycling. While in some cities there are ample facilities for a refreshing commute on bicycle, a leisurely stroll to the neighborhood market or park, or the ability to walk to high-quality public transport, many of the world’s metropolises are home to dangerous roads, social stigmas that bicycling is “for the poor,” and urban designs that neglect walking and bicycling.
Physical inactivity currently causes 3.2 million deaths worldwide every year, and a growing number of the world’s inactive population comes from low- and middle-income countries. In Brazil people have become more sedentary – physical activity is expected to decrease by 34% from now to 2030. In China, where physical activity already plunged 46% between 1991 and 2009, it is expected to decrease by an additional 51% by 2030. Behind these numbers are sinking levels of active transport, such as walking or biking. Beijing, once known as the bicycle kingdom, has seen the cycling share of total trips plunge from 62% in 1986 to 16% in 2010 while private car trips have increased their share from 5% to 34%. A study in China showed that as people purchased vehicles they became more obese over time, a trend most evident among men, with another study in Colombia showing similar results. This trend has revealed itself across Asia, Latin America and even in Africa where motorization is currently occurring at a lower rate, but where urbanization will boom in the coming decades.
But among policy and decision-makers, the issue remains largely under the radar – and justifiably so. There is little, and in some countries no existing body of research on how to effectively promote active mobility as it pertains to physical activity, let alone basic information on household travel. Many cities’ travel surveys cover only vehicular modes, leaving out walking altogether.
Nevertheless, there is a nascent body of useful research on things such as improvements in mass transport, the built environment (street density, access to parks and traffic safety), efforts to close streets on weekends for Ciclovias, mostly in Latin America, as well as studies trying to determine the context of the physical activity and transport relationship.
With an opportunity to do more, EMBARQ has been working with the International Development Research Centre (IRDC) of Canada to identify research that could inform effective policies and actions that increase active transport in low- and middle-income countries. After a recent workshop with researchers and decision-makers in a variety of sectors from transport to health to housing and land use, three broad categories have been identified.
- First, research is needed that shows the economic and quality of life benefits of active transport. Decision-makers need information to take action. The more we understand about how active transport connects to priorities such as economic development, climate change, traffic safety, air quality, traffic congestion or social equity, the better prepared we will be to make the needed changes to cities. One current tool to build on is the WHO Health Economic Assessment Tool for walking and cycling, mostly applicable now to the developed world.
- Second, with many stigmas, policies processes and other issues connected to why or why not active transport succeeds, research is needed on how political and other forces play a role. Examples include comparative studies of policies (e.g. Ciclovias), reviews of cultural and political needs and opportunities.
- Last but certainly not least, research should provide practical information on how urban design and transport projects can bolster active transport through street networks, BRT and Metro, bicycle infrastructure design, access to parks and public spaces, and bicycle sharing to name a few. Examples include a review of key design characteristics that promote walking in Bogota, or assessing urban design and the relation to active living in China.
One participant of the workshop noted that research regarding physical activity and transport is a relatively new one, which has existed for 15 years in the United States but has been absent until the past few years in the developing world. Providing the necessary research on this issue will require mobilizing resources from a variety of fields from health, transport, housing, parks & recreation, environmental organizations, urban planning and others to come together. If done right, we could see more people walking and bicycling their way to healthier lives against the challenges of urban growth and personal motorization.
Next weekend the world leaders in EcoMobility will meet in Suwon, Korea and discuss ways how we can enable healthier urban systems. Places that make it easy for you to be personally mobile and be friendly to the planet! The EcoMobility world festival will showcase in district scale a conventional vehicle free urban system. I look forward to some engaging discussions with other speakers and participants.
You can learn more under www.ecomobility2013.iclei.org or www.ecomobilityfestival.org/
Photos provided by ecosia, greenpeace and GHM.
Imagine a world of urban mobility where you don’t have to think about how much fuel costs today, about how long you will be stuck in traffic on your daily commute to work, about the perceived unsafe environment around your local school caused by the traffic or how hard it is to find a car park near your destination. Imagine urban systems that support a zero transport emission future, that foster social cohesion and can enable better health outcomes for all people who live, work and play there.
This scenario can work and is being executed in an open lab environment in several places around the globe. New integrative approaches, smart evidence based policy decision, long term political commitment and leadership, concerted efforts of industry, academia, governments and non government partners including holistic cost benefit modelling around sustainable transport infrastructure led to a trial of a new generation of mobility that is truly sustainable.
Eco-mobility means an integrated form of environmentally sustainable mobility that combines the use of non motorized forms of transport including the use of public transport to allow people to move in their local environments without relying on privately owned motor vehicles. It includes those forms of personal mobility undertaken by walking, bicycling, wheeling and public transport powered by renewable energies.
For example cities such as Freiburg in Breisgau (Germany), Portland in Oregon (USA), Muenster (Germany) or Suwon (South Korea) are taking on this vision.
These cities are committed to transforming their transportation systems and creating new markets for symbiotic economies with a whole of system approach that benefits all people.
How can we achieve this vision in the Australian context and can it offer benefits to all Australians living in urban systems?
We know that there is a need for ambitious cities in Australia that want to provide outstanding leadership and long standing commitment to achieving excellent results in certain dimensions of sustainable mobility. Cities that strive to reach similar results in other eco-mobility fields and increase the share of non-motorized or public transports.
The City of Sydney is one of the first that recently has shown this through political leadership.
What we need are more brave cities where citizens can enjoy a high quality of life and access goods, services, people and information in a sustainable and convenient manner. Enhancing and sustaining our natural environment while maximising efficiencies in the built form is important in working towards better overall sustainability outcomes throughout the country.
Integrated smart urban growth, renewable energy systems and sustainable transport infrastructure will support prosperity of the Australian standard of living. New incentives, intelligent long term strategic policies and guidelines can create a new paradigm model that allow new “smarter” industries to prosper, offering more employment options.
Eco- mobility, with sustainable transport infrastructure linked to renewable energy in its core, will help to improve health and wellbeing of the people living in and between our urbanised areas.
If we are committed in delivering a productive, prosperous, sustainable and healthy urban future for all people in this country, we need to set clear, transparent rules and incentives that create certainty through a brave and strategic approach in transport, land use management, planning and equitable monetary support systems.
For example this includes revealing and transferring the true cost of parking to end users, adopting a preferred cost-benefit model for walking and bicycling infrastructure. A model that includes health mortality, morbidity and quality needs assessment when prioritising investments to maximise infrastructure investment return for all tax payers. Another important example is the enhancement of synergies and value parameters between ATC National Guidelines for Integrated Passenger Transport and Land use planning with the National Guidelines for Transport System Management (NGTSM).
Recently the Moving people 2030 Taskforce released its report “Moving Australia 2030 – A transport plan for a productive and active Australia”. This document represents an important and achievable vision and path forward for the federal government.
But what does that all mean from a local perspective here in Canberra? The ACT Government released in March 2012 its Transport for Canberra with the commitment to increase the mode share target for journey’s to work up to 30 % for walking, bicycling and public transport use by 2026.
In order to achieve the targets the ACT government is currently placing its emphasis on a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, and commenced work on a more holistic and integrated policy for walking and bicycling. Also noteworthy is the planning for the Canberra Capital Metro light rail connection between Gungahlin and the city area of Canberra with potential extension towards the airport. Alongside better land use integration on corridors and increased density in town centres this should support higher patronage. A comprehensive policy response with education, proper evaluation, social marketing, supportive infrastructure such as bike’n’ride facilities and path integration shall result into better health outcomes where people who catch public transport or walk and use bicycle meet their daily physical activity intake as part of their routine.
However, change in the built form takes time as well as needing sufficient funding and a long term vision. As Paul Mees & Lucy Groenharts RMIT report “Transport Policy at the Crossroads: Travel to work in Australian capital cities 1976-2011” indicated the implementation of a reliable transport network can be achieved earlier with a slightly different approach. The question is to what price and how quickly? It is suggested “to replace its current transport policies with an approach based on the experience of cities where public transport has succeeded, not those where it has failed.” (Mees, p. 26. 2012).
- Firstly, the ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability’s Eco- mobility Alliance offers an ideal pathway to do exactly that. It can help to create and implement innovative policy solutions around personal and truly sustainable mobility for the 21st century.
- Secondly, a more holistic and preferred approach to cost benefit for active transport infrastructure will help to build this business case.
- Thirdly, guidelines such as Heart Foundations ACT’s Active Living Impact Checklist for developments can make a meaningful contribution from the bottom up when it comes to changes in built form. Concerted effort of community, government, industry, academia and non government stakeholders is important when it come to good governance on this complex issue.
Federal support is welcome in particular if we want to increase liveability, productivity and to create resilience through better transport systems.
Learning from abroad
Transport policy history experience from Germany has shown that a substantial and long term interest in urban transport planning with a strong support from the federal government made a significant contribution in achieving integrated systems. However the new challenge is to make linkages to renewable energy use, and appropriate pricing that drives effective behaviour change to enable a new personal mobility system that can utilise peoples GIS responsive devices with one touch systems.
I’d like to call this the creation of an easy, sustainable travel “cocktail mix”. Your trip won’t be made by car use only, rather you will be part of a post personal vehicle society where you use walking, bicycling, wheeling, e- car-sharing, as well as public transport. This integrated approach in a changing society will and can enable an energy efficient, smart and healthy way of getting to and from people we care about.
Personally, at the end of my life I don’t want to be one of these people having to explain to the next generation that simply the prevailing believe in perceived ‘convenience of car’ led to global unprecedented state of the environment destruction, urban system failure and potential decline of healthy civil societies.
History has shown us that when we are confronted with a serious crisis we can come together, become innovators and create better solution that can make this world a better place. I consciously choose to help drive positive change towards a truly healthy, sustainable and equitable mobility future for all people in my city. I hope you may choose to in your community as well!
The following ideas and suggestion may benefit the process of creating a better bicycling strategy and hopefully healthier urban fabrics in the long run. However it’s also based on the assumption that content research, data collection has been undertaken for your particular local government area prior overlaying these suggestions.
- 1. Compelling
A good bicycling strategy should carry through a compelling lifestyle message that is aligned with the long- term vision of your city or municipality e.g. a sustainable, prosperous, healthy and liveable. This needs to be supported by strong and imaginative visuals throughout the strategy and I don’t mean just male dominated sport cyclists.
- 2. Goal setting
Be clear about your most powerful message in your current political environment of your city. Have a realistic target and focus on how do get there- this should be the new reality on the horizon of your urban environment. Have an integrated and whole of government approach as part of the exercise.
Prevent unrealistic expectation by communicating projected budget allocations early. As long you don’t have the money you will find it hard to implement actions.
- 3. Communication of benefits
Instead of focusing on the issues, celebrate the potential benefits that every member of the community will have because of this strategy. For example economical benefits, CO2 emission savings, less road network congestions, less air and noise pollution, social inclusion, safer, health benefits, happier and more child friendly environments.
Stylish easy to read graphs, facts, simple and consistent language/ terminology should make it easy for all members of the community to understand the bicycling strategy.
Use before and after shots or photomontages, illustrate in sections of the strategy different bicycle users in different problem situation and show what you might be able to do about it as part of the strategy.
- 4. Community consultation
Include holistically active and meaningful engagement opportunities for the community members and stakeholders groups. For example arrange sessions where the existing users are: coffee shops, at street festivals, at workplaces, in schools and universities, at popular bicycle destinations. No one knows a network better than the people who are using it every day.
Most importantly ensure that the community is empowered, feels that you have heard them and you understand what needs to be done. Therefore effective prioritisation and inclusion of innovative concepts support commitment and vision.
Do it proper in the first instance as it will save you a lot of hassle and time later!
- 5. Pure happiness
Evidence suggested that people that are more physical active as part of their daily routine enjoy incredible physical and mental health benefits. Harness this energy and celebrate the civil community through colourful and inclusive images that aim to mainstream bicycling in your community. Make sure images are from your local community and are high in quality. Do this in the strategy documents, at consultation sessions as well as use these images for campaigns afterwards.
- 6. Convenience mapping
Demonstrate in easy to read maps that you are seeking to create a network of convenience for bicycle users. Make sure that members of the community understand that is very much part of an ongoing conversation and by no means a map that is set in stone. You are keen to hear more and create ongoing conversation channels with the community e.g. bicycle hotline, online portal, Bicycle Advisory group to the government. Utilise projects that are already working in the city very well and celebrate these early wins and commit to what you can do with projected budget in the future and perhaps do it even better!
- 7. Bicycle brand label
Branding is very much part of the contemporary zeitgeist and if you are committed to make a valuable contribution to a bicycle revolution- show leadership by creating with the community a unique and strong brand label. Supported by a strong slogan or claim this should be included and integrated in many of your city programs e.g. tourism (cups, t-shirts, stickers, flags), active transport (stencilled on the paths, displayed on traffic messaging boards, in busses), health messaging (TV adds, workplaces), infrastructure provision (in bus shelters, on water bubblers, light poles, community message boards, shop fronts).
- 8.Comfort and safety
Comfort and safety comes first -provide options on how to achieve realistic, sustainable and better network maintenance. Demonstrate pride and include some of your local government staff members from the maintenance team in the strategy and communication e.g. in images showing them at work.
As one size doesn’t fit all – address what want people perceive as a serious safety barrier to bicycling more often. Stick with the realistic arguments, as we won’t be able to change the weather. Apply the following hierarchy:
- Children and older members of the community
- Urban ‘hipsters’
- Employees (commuter cyclists)
Showcase solutions such as some big-ticket items e.g. new separated off road bike lane or child friendly neighbourhoods, as well as small but effective ways that can have a big impact e.g. bike priority on intersection.
- 9. Time travel
The contemporary urban society is often suffering on the perceived issue of not enough time and therefore you need to think about of ways how to improve the real time travelled on bicycles in a direct and effective manner. A dear colleague of mine Dr Paul Tranter has done some excellent work on “effective speeds” in urban environments and strongly suggests getting hold of some of his research findings.
As part of demonstrating the benefits of short travel times on bike perhaps think about the introduction of digital message boards that display travel times for bicyclist compared to vehicles along selected routes. This can be powerful in creating strong messages for behaviour change.
Focus also on how people may go further and quicker by considering new infrastructure such as bicycle highways in appropriate parts your city, or better integration with other means of travel e.g. bike’n’ride or bike racks on all busses.
Make sure you are able to have a summary of your entire strategy on one page available. This should include referencing of modal split as well as cross- references to head topics in the strategy itself with projected targets. Include links to the ongoing communication stream. This is useful for you in meetings and for every stakeholder or interested party to advocate for the collective ideas to make your city a better, healthier and more liveable place.