What luck for Penang and George Town that you did not ever invite the famed 20th century Swiss architect, designer, artist and general polymath Le Corbusier, who when he donned his urbanist hat provided the world with several striking examples of how to build a city for cars. That most devinitely is not where you want to go. Fortunately most of his city projects never got off the drawing board. But today, the Danish architect Henrik Valeur tells us about one that did in the city of Chandigarh, and what perhaps Indian planners and urbanists can now do to rectify.
The mind. . . yours, mine, theirs. This is the hardest challenge of all, and one that is right at the core of our Sustainable Penang/New Mobility Agenda transformation project for 2014 and beyond. Fortunately we are not the only ones since it is the age-old habit of man to lock blindly into old ideas — and particularly all those old ideas which are so omnipresent and unquestioned by all who surround us that they finally become invisible. How can we change something if we cannot see it? But let’s hear what our old and great friend Jan Gehl has to say about this in a lecture which he gave recently to the annual conference of the European Foundation Centre on “Sustainable Cities: Foundations and our Urban Future” in Copenhagen.
This is a video transcript of a 20 November 2013 interview with Bolivar Torres, Brazilian journalist with O Globo, a leading Brazilian newspaper. Topic: Notably unsustainable transportation and trends in Brazilian cities — seen from an international perspective. What to do? How to move from today’s failing and inconsistent ad hoc policies which are not getting at the roots of the problems? Perhaps toward a New Mobility Agenda? And what in anything might be introduced in time to improve traffic and life quality conditions for all during the coming World Cup and Olympics? (Much of this is going to be very familiar to Penangites.)
Do you have the feeling that your street could be a lot better if it were designed for people and safe mobility instead of primarily for moving and parked cars? Suppose the entire width of the street, sidewalks, gutters and provision for parked and moving vehicles is, say, xx meters. And if you wanted to see what it could look like if there were more provision for safe walking, cycling, street furniture, trees and greenery, transit shelters, priority public transport, lane dividers, turn lanes, and yes, parked and moving vehicles, then have a look at Streetmix (the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street in Penang).
One of the principle objectives of the Sustainable Penang 2013/New Mobility project is to seek out examples where leading cities in other parts of the world have taken the initiative explicitly to move from a car-dominated, basically no-choice transportation model (“Old Mobility”) to a better mix of mobility options and more choices for everybody, what we call the New Mobility Agenda.
In this report from Anna Holligan in yesterday’s BBC News we have in a few pages some of the shaping elements of the story about why cycling has become such an important transportation option in Dutch cities and outlying areas. Penang could not only learn a great deal from better understanding the Dutch bike model, but also have in hand both the information and guidelines on how to adapt this approach to George Town and others towns and cities in Penang. That information is available, and a good place to start might be the Dutch Cycling Embassy at http://http://www.dutchcycling.nl/. But there are many others.
Smaller Cities in Asia: What, How Many and What to Do about it?
As we look at the city of George Town, with a population of some 750,000 living with the city limits of ca. 120 sq/km (roughly the size of the city of Paris), one of the things that comes most immediately to mind is that, despite the significant challenges posed by the current transportation arrangements, it is certainly not an example of a major Asian megalopolis, or even a “large city” by Asian standards. And even if we take into account the entire George Town Conurbation, the total population is just a bit more than 2.2 million.
So what can we call it? What about a smaller Asian city?