Monday, April 28, 2014

The Rise and Fall and Eventual Rise Again of the 'Smart City'

It would have been hard to miss the messaging over the last five years: Major global tech firms like IBM, Cisco, and Siemens seemingly all adopted the same "smart cities" mission at the same time. And they weren't alone. Across the globe, technology companies of all sizes have taken aim at the burgeoning smart city market, a nebulous term that can include anything from complex networks of government-controlled sensors and cameras to a parking meter that sends you a text message when you run out of time on the meter. For Anthony Townsend, research director at the Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future and an adjunct assistant professor of planning at NYU Wagner, the rise of the "smart city" concept is both the result of global economic forces and the culmination of decades of technological progress. But with his new book Smart Cities, Townsend also sounds the alarm that the real "smart" city of the future can't and shouldn't merely be a reflection of what large technology companies would like to sell to local governments. Recently we chatted with Townsend about his research and current work on smart cities. Read on here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Protecting car drivers and cyclists is done like this

The streets in the Netherlands are constantly and rapidly being improved for cycling. For this post I have another before and after example, this time in the city of Eindhoven. By chance I had filmed the streets Kastanjelaan en Glaslaan in 2012 as part of a route I took, cycling from Hovenring to Eindhoven’s central station (see that post here). These two streets formed the worst part of that particular route with cycle lanes in the door zone of parked cars. But when I visited the same streets again in 2014 the cycle lanes had turned into protected cycle tracks. The cycle infrastructure in both these streets is now of the same high standard as the rest of the route that already had protected cycle tracks. These streets formerly had a separate bus track (one bus lane in each direction), but that was no longer used. After this multinational relocated its production, the area -and all the buildings on it- was disused and it had to be redeveloped. In the place of the original two bus lanes the city of Eindhoven now built separated cycle tracks, a new side-walk on one side of the street and even an extra parking lane. In the reconstruction all the original trees in both streets could be spared and there was even room for a new line of trees. Read on here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's 'the cycling' stupid!

According to a new study, over 76,600 people could become employed by green transportation businesses, and 10,000 lives would be saved, if major EU cities adopted Copenhagen's bicycle sharing system. Nearly 50% of Copenhagen's residents commute by bicyle to work or school. Out of all city trips, 26% are undertaken by bike. This is only rivalled by Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. The publication by the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and UNECE, Unlocking new opportunities, states for the first time that investing in green and healthy transport is also economically profitable. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, therefore urges governments to invest in the greener transportation. “The pay-offs from these investments are enormous, and include new jobs and healthier people from more physical activity, fewer road traffic injuries, less noise and better air quality,” Jakab said. Since it discourages physical activity, transport contributes to nearly 1 million deaths per year. In total, the costs linked to unsustainable transport can be up to 4% of a country's GDP. Read on here & here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A small step forward in truck safety

The European Parliament has voted to support revised rules on the dimensions of heavy goods vehicles that will enable manufacturers to produce safer lorries. The legislation will allow for cabs with improved visibility, especially important for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in urban areas. Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said: “This legislation is a step forward because it will enable innovative new designs that include crumple zones along with better visibility and protection of car occupants, pedestrians and cyclists. "But the Parliament should remain vigilant and ensure that these safety requirements don't get watered down in negotiations with Member States or by the working groups that work out the technical details of the new rules." According to ETSC data, around 4300 people died in collisions involving lorries in 2011.  Because of their size and weight, crashes can be catastrophic with a much higher risk of death or serious injury. A study carried out for the European Commission estimates that as many as 500 lives could be saved every year if the cabs were made safer. Read on here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Glowing lines very suitable for cycle paths

Early April 2014 the first Glowing Lines was constructed on the N329 provincial highway near Oss (Province of Noord-Brabant). The artwork was designed by artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde and the road was constructed by Heijmans. This makes the project the first light-emitting highway pilot in the world. The Glowing Lines are part of the internationally known and award-winning Smart Highway concept. With this concept for the intelligent highway of tomorrow, Roosegaarde and Heijmans are jointly working on innovating the Dutch landscape in which poetry, design, technology, safety and an energy-neutral future converge. The Glowing Lines make the road sustainable, safer and poetic. Roosegaarde and Heijmans have developed a light-emitting lining that charges itself during the day and glows at night. For designer Daan Roosegaarde, the Glowing Lines are genuine Dutch landscape artwork with their ‘Zen-like lines of light’. Furthermore, it is a sustainable alternative for areas where there is no conventional lighting and they provide drivers a frame of reference, because the lines clearly make the road’s trajectory visible. Read more here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Europe adjusts to more cycling

The number of people killed on Europe's roads fell by 8% last year, following a 9% decrease between 2011 and 2012, provisional figures released by the European Commission show. Commenting on the announcement, Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said: “We welcome the reduction in the number of road deaths in Europe last year. But the fact that more than 500 lives are still being lost every single week on our roads is a reminder that Europe needs to step up its efforts.”Speeding is a primary factor in about one third of fatal collisions and an aggravating factor in all crashes. The Commission says that the number of cyclists killed has been increasing, partly due to the increase in popularity of cycling. Legislation on the weights and dimension of lorries is currently being negotiated by the EU. ETSC says that the safety elements of the proposals, enabling a safer front end design and increased visibility, are of tantamount importance and must be given the green light as soon as possible. Read on here.