Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Seville: the cycling capital of southern Europe

Spain remains far from a paradise for bikes – yet cycling has increased 11-fold in Seville in the space of a few years. Is this proof that any city can get lots of people riding by building an ambitious network of connected, segregated bike lanes? tour around the network reveals fewer cyclists than normal, mainly due to what is, for local standards, something of a cold snap (it is sunny and 11C, a temperature at which Sevillans seemingly require down jackets, thick gloves and hats).But plenty of cyclists are out and what is noticeable to a British eye is both their variety and the ordinariness. The variety comes from the riders themselves – a seemingly equal gender split, with ages going from children to people well into their 70s. Net result is not Dutch or Danish levels of cycling, but nonetheless impressive. The average number of bikes used daily in the city rose from just over 6,000 to more than 70,000. The last audit, about a year ago, found 6% of all trips were made by bike, rising to 9% for non-commuter journeys. Read on here.

Cycling key in reducing urban air pollution

A new study has been published arguing that a modal shift from cars to bicycles will help to cut air pollution in Europe. According to the study, non-technical measures, such as increasing cycling and bringing in restrictions on cars, such as car-free zones, can provide clear improvements in air quality. A core finding was that the stronger the action taken by city authorities, the better the result. Commissioned by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) and conducted by consultancy Ricardo-AEA, the study examined transport pollutants NOx, NO2 and PM10 using five European cities – Antwerp, London, Nantes, Seville and Thessaloniki – as case studies. According to the ECF, the city of Seville managed to comply with EU limit values for air pollution due to raising the modal share of cycling from 0.5% to 7% through investment in cycling and measures to reduce motorised traffic. There has been mounting concern over the health and economic impact of air pollution in Europe’s urban areas. While EU limits have been introduced, in many cities there remains a failure to comply. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Master's Programme Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics

The Master of Science in Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics (“STREEM”) is a one-year master’s programme offered at the Department of Spatial Economics, VU University Amsterdam, which is one of the main players world-wide in these three fields of specialization. This master will be of interest to students with a background not only in economics, but also in geography, transport science and related disciplines. The programme starts in September each year and is completely taught in English. More detailed information is provided at the website. The application deadline for the next academic year is 1 April, 2015 (and 1 March, 2015, if applying for a scholarship). The admission and application procedure can be found hereIn addition to the master’s programme STREEM, we offer a summer school (3 ects) on Metropolitan Economics from 6-17 July, 2015. This might be of interest to the same group of students. It addresses economic mechanisms behind urbanization, urban policy challenges, as well as policy instruments to address these. More information can be found on the website. We look forward to welcoming new students at our department!

Last call for the European Cycling Challenge 2015

The European Cycling Challenge – ECC2015 is a urban cyclists team competition. It will take place from 1 to 31 May. Tt is a challenge among European cities: the city that “rides” the longest total distance wins! The challenge is open to all people living in participating cities, or travelling to/from those cities for work, study or other reason. All trips made by bicycle – except for sport activities – are accepted. For instance: journeys to and from workplace, school, cinema, to have shopping, etc… are valid journeys. The initiative, which is held every year throughout the month of May, sees the participating cities (each with its own official team) challenge each other in using bicycles as the method of urban transport. The European Cycling Challenge is organized by SRM, the Public Transport Authority of Bologna, and by the Municipality of Bologna. Those who participate are able to trace their movements with a free, smartphone App, contributing to the grand total of kilometers travelled in their city. The leaderboards are updated in real time, both on a local (between participants in a city) and European level (between cities), and are a fun way for citizens, colleagues and friends to compete both against each other and against rival cities. Read on here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bogotá Bicycle Account

Bogotá’s reputation as a bike-friendly city dates to the late 1990s with two mayors that promoted bicycles as a viable mode of transportation and developed bikeways and other infrastructures. Although bicycle promotion and infrastructure construction have lagged since then, bicycle use in the city has steadily increased from around 0.5% of daily trips in 1996, before the construction of the first bikeways, to 6% in 2014. Bogotá 2014 Bicycle Account presents a preliminary English-language study of trends, perceptions and needs for cycling in Bogotá. It uses a combination of empirical data on bicycle infrastructure and use in Bogotá and survey data on social perceptions of bicycle use in the city. The Bicycle Account was produced by Despacio, a Bogotá-based NGO that conducts research to promote quality of life in all stages of the life cycle, with a particular focus on sustainable transport and urban development. Despacio hopes to produce future bicycle accounts to monitor and better understand the situation in Bogotá. This report can also serve as a model for other cities around the world wishing to do similar work.Summary and full doc is available here

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cycling infrastructure best practice study

Achieving the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London (March 2013) will require London practitioners to apply tried-and tested techniques from around the world to the London context, and to innovate as necessary. To this end, TfL commissioned a study of selected cities, to understand better what makes for success in relation to cycle infrastructure, safety and culture. The study was based around visits during 2013 to 14 cities of different character, to learn from them by interviews with local practitioners, by observation and by riding. The cities were chosen to enable different types of lesson to be learned: from what works best in cities where mass cycling is established, to how cities lower down the curve have applied learning from those further up; and from physical techniques to systems of governance. For this reason, they visited cities as diverse as New York and Utrecht. The former is a mega-city of 8+ million inhabitants with low overall levels of cycling, but with a recent successful policy of reallocating street space from general traffic to cycling. By contrast, Utrecht (south-east of Amsterdam) has around a third of a million inhabitants and is one of the world’s great cycling cities, where around a third of all journeys are by bicycle. Read more here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Could Smart Cities Slowly Destroy Democracy?

Has the concept of the smart city ”crystallised into an image of the city as a vast, efficient robot?” In the age of the “Internet of Things,” where does the citizen fit in? In this article from The Guardian, journalist Steven Poole takes a critical stance against the purported utopian ideals of smart . Poole delves into the nuances of who the smart city is truly meant to serve, questions the debate over whether it should develop along a top-down or bottom-up approach, and poses the provocative thought: “a vast network of sensors amounting to millions of electronic ears, eyes and noses – also potentially enable(s) the future city to be a vast arena of perfect and permanent surveillance by whomever has access to the data feeds.” Questions of control, virtual reality, free-will, and hierarchies of power, Poole asserts are critical to the discussion of technology’s powerful role in the future. Read the full article to learn more about the possible potential of the smart city to “destroy democracy,” here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Copenhagen: Relatively good for cycling

The purpose of the doctoral study -Vélomobility; A critical analysis of planning and space- is to bring a spatial dimension into the research on urban mobilities and connect the spatial dimension to the marginalisation of cyclists in urban space. This is been done by exploring the role of urban bicycling and transport planning. The materialisation of power relations is analysed with the example of modern planning in Sweden and Denmark. Overall this thesis manages to show how cycling as a mode of transport is marginalised in urban space, and that urban space wars between cyclists and car drivers and among cyclists are fought in Copenhagen as well as in Stockholm. The conclusion is that different factors, such as the economic situations in Denmark and Sweden, have affected urban and transport planning and thus have created two very different transport systems, where cycling plays a large role (Copenhagen) and a smaller role (Stockholm). Nevertheless, this thesis shows that even in cities that are very good for cycling, like Copenhagen, the motorised modes of transport create many problems and are still dominating urban space. Read on here.