Sustainable transport is non-negotiable for livable cities

In the lead up to the EcoMobility World Congress, taking place from 2-4 October 2017 in Kaohsiung, we have invited Congress speakers to share their thoughts on the three key Congress themes: shared, livable and intelligent mobility.

Our first guest post is from Camilla Ween, Urban Designer and Director of Goldstein Ween Architects, President of WTS, an international organization dedicated to advancing women in transportation, and Chair of Spacelink Learning Foundation.

A livable city is one that serves the needs of people and the environment. Since the 1950s, cities have grown rapidly and the overall priority was to accommodate vehicle traffic. This was seen as “progress” and good for the economy, but the needs of people were mostly ignored. In the last couple of decades this has been re-evaluated and the focus is now on making cities fit for people rather than cars. A “livable city” must be socially healthy and equitable and it must be environmentally respectful.

Central priorities must be to provide equal access to opportunity through good transport options and to provide healthy lifestyles by creating active travel options and high quality urban realm. The public realm is, in fact, part of the transport network. A good city will be in tune with its environment if its systems are clean, low carbon and supportive of biodiversity. By suppressing vehicle use and providing integrated transport networks that include walking infrastructure, it is possible to create the livable city.

People hate traffic and traffic destroys the quality of life. Cars have become the cancer in modern cities.  We need to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. Fossil fuel engines have a deadly impact on air quality and traffic congestion. Traffic is also stressful and bad for the economy. By getting more people to engage in active travel, it is possible to improve the citizen’s physical and mental health. By providing links that connect communities, we can improve social inclusion. By providing clean transport including walking and cycling networks, we can improve the environment. All of these are good for the city’s economy. It makes complete sense.

Cities do need access for freight and public service vehicles – to bring in our food and goods, to relocate waste and for emergency services.  It is possible to design this infrastructure to respect all of the above principles. The pictures show designs Goldstein Ween Architects proposed for bus and freight hubs in the city of Kano, Nigeria, a project for the World Bank Environment Program. The central concept for both was to integrate the facilities into the city by connecting footpaths and cycle lanes, and to create “gardens’ providing shade and shelter to dwell in and biodiversity habitat. Instead of being vast seas of tarmac we created mini parks within the city.

All this proves we actually know the way forward and even have the tools to improve livability in cities through transport. Cities need to take bold steps and make these transformations. We need citizens to change their behaviors and we need innovative and sustainable transport options.

The EcoMobility Festival in Kaohsiung from 2-4 October 2017 will bring together these actors and discuss livability as one of the three central themes.

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The contents of this article reflect the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

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