Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Merchandise pick-up points

In CIVITAS MIMOSA - the EU flagship project on sustainable mobility - Utrecht is working to decrease car traffic in the city centre by looking into establishing merchandise pick-up points at the fringe of the city. Consumers can park their car at the pick-up point and travel to the centre by public transport. After purchasing large or heavy goods in the centre, they can return to the same pick-up point and collect the cumbersome goods there. Is the time right for this innovative concept? Utrecht has just finished a feasibility study in which nearly four hundred consumers and city centre entrepreneurs were approached to survey the market potential and requirements. “Choice travellers”, who make separate transport choices for every trip they make, and current P+R users are more prone to embrace the concept since they are most open to behavioural change. However, the reactions were not only positive. Utrecht will decide later this year whether to set up a pilot Pick-up point within the CIVITAS MIMOSA project, as one of the first cities in the Netherlands.Velo Mondial will keep you posted. Merchandise pick-up points are a good example of the indispensable connection between various areas of sustainable urban transport. Read more here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reinventing parking

Japan's version of proof-of-parking (shako shomeisho) does not require ownership of a parking space. Permission to lease the space is good enough. If you are renting in a building with no parking you are not prevented from buying a car. You would just have to find a parking space to lease nearby and prove this to the local police. The policy was imposed in the 1950s in Japan as car-ownership first started to take off. With very narrow residential streets, there was an urgent need to prevent them becoming hopelessly clogged with parked cars. The policy generally succeeded on that goal. How does one get proof of a parking space? Find the person who is renting (or willing to rent) you a parking space within 2km of where you live and ask for an official document showing that the space is yours. This document is a Certificate of Permission for Use of Parking (hokan basho shodaku shomei) and it must be stamped by the agent. Then go to the local police station and fill out an application form as well as an application form for a badge (hyosho) so you can certify the space. You have to draw two maps in a detailed manner. Paul Barter, assistant professor LKY School of Public Policy | National University of Singapore explains the background more in detail here.

India joins congestion debate

The Mizoram transport department's move to deny registration of any automobile that is bought without proof of parking space needs to be replicated all over the country. In an upwardly mobile society like ours, owning a car is not just a matter of convenience. It is representative of our status. It supposedly defines where we are on the social pecking order. It is this thinking that is the main driving force behind the third largest automobile market in Asia. Given the furious pace at which cars are being added to our streets everyday, it is only natural that urban road space is at a premium. To counter this problem, we need to increase the cost of owning and maintaining a car. It is all very well to say that the government should provide for better public transport facilities and dedicated parking sites. These suggestions have been on the cards for a long time. Yet no state government can claim to have a plan in place to tackle the massive growth in the number of private vehicles. On the other hand, it is also true that people view public transport as a bitter necessity. Unlike New York's taxis or London's double-decker buses, we hardly take pride in our public transport infrastructure. It is this lack of both supply and demand that needs to be addressed in order to decongest our roads. Read on in The Times of India.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Radio: Cities that work

How do we build a city we can all love living in? From public art and integration to defying developers and preparing for the post-oil age… what it takes to make a place liveable, and likeable. Radio Netherlands World Wide produced a program just about that.  You can also hear the following chapters separately: Good planning vs. bad planning; Host Marnie is joined by urban planner Hannah Evans* to discuss this. Can art fix bad planning? Earth Beat producer Ashleigh Elson takes a walking tour around the Bijlmer with Dutch artist Walter van Broekhuizen who was commissioned to create six public works as part of the most recent transformation. Getting there by bus; Hannah Evans reacts to the idea of commissioning art as a way to make things a little less ugly, and comments on how important it is for planners to take the bus if they want to improve public transportation. We hear about a controversial new project in Toronto, which re-envisions the city’s mental health centre as a place where patients and neighbourhood residents co-exist, inside and outside the facility.  More items discussed in this radio program: What makes a city great? Denying developers.Tripping up Trump. The failure of planning. Peak oil. Post peak living. Planning for the future

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Obstacles according to World Streets

1. The Mayor/city manager: The mayor or prime city leader either: (a) does not get it; (b) , (c), (d), (e) etc. These are the rule; fortunately there are exceptions. 2. The City Council: Where you have city councils taking these decisions, it turns out that they are often much better at disagreeing then agreeing ... 3. The city’s transportation experts: The city’s main transportation expert, team, may well not be interested in having any “outside help”.... 4. Local consultants: The specialized consultants who already work in the sector in that city ... ; 5. Local business groups, who the most part are firmly wedded to the idea of cars and car access ....6. Transportation service providers: bus/transit services, taxis, school and special service buses, others — tend to be the most part narrowly focused on their specific business area,..... 7. Public interest groups: Specific transportation, environmental groups  tend to be committed to their specific turf.... 8. Local media: For reasons of their own, advertising revenues included.... 9. The “local car lobby”. While there are financial interests tied to the continuing abundant unfettered use of cars in the city,..... 10. All of us: Doubtless the biggest single obstacle ... Read on in Eric Brittons cri de coeur here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bikes for sale


Powered by the wind

SAIL 2010 brings the world's most beautiful tall ships and over 500 heritage ships right to the heart of Amsterdam. The city has also presented a lovely walking, biking and even a boating tour right through the heart of SAIL 2010 in the beautiful 'Eastern Docklands' area or Oostelijk Havengebied. This part of Amsterdam is renowned for its wonderful modern architecture and design and its hotspots situated in renovated warehouses. The Oostelijke Handelskade constitutes the heart of the area and has consisted of a chain of storehouses since the end of the 19th century, but Java Island and KNSM Island are most impressive for their modern architecture. From all sides, this is a beautiful part of town, especially from the water! The boating audio tour isn't available (yet) in English, but if you do speak Dutch, then we do recommend taking a trip on the canals with your own hired boat. On the Boat Rental page you'll find a complete list, but we are for obvious reasons a particular fan of sloepdelen; this "boatsharing" company provides electrically powered boats. All tours are available through the Tourist Information Offices and complimentary to the walking tour there is also an 'Oostenlijk Havengebied' audio tour.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Amsterdam still International Cycling Capital

Amsterdammers like to think of their city as the international bicycle city number 1, which is true as far as Velo Mondial is concerned, but in fact nationally it is just bicycle city #259 of the Netherlands in terms of the percentage of trips locals make on bicycle. At least, that can be concluded from a study by Fietsberaad, which analyzed just that. According to the study, Amsterdammers use a bicycle in 21% of their trips. That is a bit more than Utrecht (20%) and The Hague (18%) and quite a bit more than Rotterdam, notorious for its bicycle-unfriendly traffic lights (14%). However, Amsterdam is doing considerably worse than Groningen (30%). Fietsberaad explains that large cities tend to have lower scores because they offer public transportation of a good quality. “Of course, it’s an excellent choice to offer good public transportation, but the consequence is that this does reduce bicycle use to some extent.” Bicycle use is highest at the West Frisian Islands Vlieland and Schiermonnikoog, where cars are not welcome. In Amsterdam, the share of bicycle use has risen by over a third over the past ten years, according to O+S data; something to be pretty proud of; in the center almost 60% of all trips is done on bike. A true World Champion Source Nieuws uit Amsterdam.

Google Maps for Cyclists / USA version

The beta version for bicyclists is just a few months old, but it is already reshaping how bike enthusiasts travel. Spanning more than 200 cities nationwide — and with plans to roll out bicycle routes internationally — Google Maps relies on a mash-up of data, from publicly available sources like bike maps to user-generated information. It joins a host of other bike-mapping Web sites, from Bikely, which lets people share routes in cities around the world, to Ride the City, a geowiki (or self-editing map) app, available in 10 cities (including New York, Boston, San Francisco and Toronto) that allows users to edit their routes as they ride, to MapMyRide, which is geared more toward fitness training and logging workouts. But the one with the most potential — and the most buzz among bikers — is Google’s. There are three kinds of routes highlighted on its maps: bike-only trails (dark green), dedicated bicycle lanes (light green) and bike-friendly roads but with no separate lanes (dashed green). The algorithm factors in variables besides bike lanes, like confusing intersections, steep hills or busy streets, before spitting out the “best” route. The software includes more than 12,000 miles of off-road trails as well. Read on here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Boris Bikes in London

There is no shortage of information on London’s Bike-Sharing scheme.  The media and bloggers have given it a warm welcome, and most users are happy, despite a number of avoidable teething problems. Perhaps the schemes operators are surprised by the enthusiasm for the scheme, with many bloggers, and our reporter Ian Perry experiencing problems contacting their customer service representatives – and when his calls are answered, the person is unable to assist us, instead promising to have someone call us back...  but no one does. Daily use of each bicycle is rising, and will probably break the two uses a day mark before casual users are able to join the scheme, at the terminals in the street, in September 2010. Currently all users have to subscribe in advance online.  TfL is supplying excellent information on the system – which shows them to be having problems with bicycle redistribution.  Docking stations around the stations are empty at the time of writing (midday), but the historical graphs show that they fill up in the evening and overnight, with the electric redistribution vehicles struggling to cope.  For a live update of available bikes click on the link here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bamboo Bicycles

BAMBOO is one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, adding as much as three feet in a single day. That growth rate, along with the giant grass’s sturdy hollow stalks (with a strength-to-weight ratio similar to that of steel) may explain why bamboo is being heralded by bikers, environmentalists and social entrepreneurs as a material with no carbon footprint and the potential to provide cheap wheels in poor countries. Serious spandex-clad cyclists like bamboo bicycles, as do tattooed bike messengers and thrifty Ghanaian shopkeepers. “There is something going on with bamboo bicycles,” said Jay Townley, a partner in the market research firm Gluskin Townley Group. “They’re catching on with urban and commuting cyclists.” Though bicycles with bamboo frames account for only a fraction of the bicycle market, the number of bamboo bicycle start-ups is expanding. They include Boo Bicycles, with bamboo bikes available in shops like Signature Cycles in Manhattan and the Pony Shop in Chicago; Renovo Design out of Portland, Ore.; Panda Bicycles, in Fort Collins, Colo.; Organic Bikes in Wisconsin; and Calfee Design, of Santa Cruz, Calif., a pioneer in bamboo frames whose cycles sell in shops like Eco, a London store owned partly by the actor Colin Firth.  Read on in the New York Times.