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Haitian Streets after the emergency: Introduction to an Informal brainstorm

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  • Eric Britton
    Haitian Streets after the emergency: Introduction to an Informal brainstorm * Comments invited to editor@worldstreets.org to the group via
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2010
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      Haitian Streets after the emergency: Introduction to an Informal brainstorm

      Haitian Streets after the emergency: Introduction to an Informal brainstorm

      ·       Comments invited to editor@...   to the group via  NewMobilityCafe@yahoogroups.com :

      ·       References:  Oops. Your help invited to prepare a good list here. Our own  print materials are for the most part old, and in large part look at what can be done with bicycles. Anyone who may have more good up-to-date references will be more than welcome to share them (with URL).

      ·       World Streets MsF article of 17 Jan. http://tinyurl.com/yghn6xf

      What is this:

      I would like to brainstorm on this with whomever out there may want to pitch in. The working notes assume some familiarity with city transport conditions in very poor countries. I attach a first good note just in from Dave Holladay of Glasgow which to my mind certainly belongs on our final idea shortlist.

      Just to be sure that we have our future street work in the big picture, I also attach below some notes that appeared in yesterdays' positing to World Streets in support of the Medecins sans Frontières brave work to deal as best possible with the emergency. As with the following, there are intended merely food for thought and for comment, discussion and improvement.  In an attempt to get a running start on what needs to happen on the streets of Haiti's cities.

       Here to get us going are my first imperfect thoughts.

      1.      Keep it simple. (Not least because there is a lot there they can work well with)

      2.      Work with what you have. Don't try to get fancy, expensive or introduce  a lot of new infrastructure.

      3.      Don't fix what is already working pretty well (i.e., once you have fully understood, we then work with what we have and figure out how to make the best of it –which is we get it right will be very good indeed.

      4.      Strong Points: Here are the strong points that should NOT be shouldered aside in any ill-considered attempt to "modernize" or otherwise follow the dominant western mobility model.

      a.      Congestion: Heavy density on many streets forces traffic to go slow – That's perfect. Do what is needed to keep it slow and safe

      b.      Confusion: Highly varied mixed use – Walkers, Animals, bikers, peddlers, street life, motorized two wheelers, buses, taxis, vans, trucks – keep it mixed (and keep it slow and safe)

      c.      Danger: Taxis, Tap-Taps, buses, trucks, motor bikes  as public or shared transport providers – There is a lot out there and it is carrying many people every day. It may be unsafe, dirty, dangerous, polluting chaotic and at times life threatening.  But one way or another it accomplished an important job every day and the city and the people would be badly deprived of these lively services if they were to be swept away. Keep it, improve it and give attention to making it better in all these key areas (and bear in mind that you can't do it all overnight).

      5.      Firing order: Favor, protect and support in this order:

      a.      Pedestrians (targeting above all safety and comfort for women and children walking to school)

      b.      Bicyclists (non-motorized)

      c.      Peddlers and other street people

      d.      Shared transport providers (taxis collectives, small buses, Tap-taps, etc.)

      e.      Local delivery services

      f.      Parking (i.e., none for cars)

      g.      Cars – do what is needed to provide high quality mobility without favoring or supporting individual car ownership (in cities)

      h.      Community participation in system design and policing

      i.      Enforcement

      6.      Dave Holladay comments on role of bikes:

      a.      In the UK the Postal service runs around 40,000 bikes, and a 7 year renewal cycle means that about 6000-7000 bikes are replaced every year. Many go out to Africa through various routes. The French postal service also uses sturdy cargo carrying bikes - what happens with their renewal programme?

      Could we perhaps divert the postal service workbikes that are being renewed out to Haiti?

      Work bikes tend to be a) robust b) have drum brakes and c) of relaxed geometry which in turn makes them easier to ride with flat or no tyres. Unlike a motor vehicle sent as 'aid' the bike requires no further import of fuel (and consequent need to secure the bunkering facilities) and can carry almost 20 times its own weight, as well as packing to a high density in a shipping container - you get a far greater transport capacity from a container filled with bikes than one with 1 or 2 motor vehicles.

      Bikes can also help to resolve the local unrest by giving the people wanting aid to be delivered a role in its delivery, and if you can accept some 'leakage' the bikes will filter in to driving the local economic recovery moving people and produce around.

      If you need mechanics then recruit from the youth-bike projects which have won back kids from a route into delinquency - offer them a trip to help Haiti - an adventure with hard work but guaranteed to deliver a 'lifetime' memory.

      Dave Holladay, Glasgow

      PS  The other issue I noted was the dependence of portable power generation on imported fuel. Baxi make a Sterling Engine-powered unit and as this is an external combustion engine it can use any source of heat which can be focussed onto the right part of the cylinder(s), an so it can generate power as long as you have something to burn.

      II. What we intend to do once the emergency has been met.

      (Notes from http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2010/01/we-support-medecins-sans-frontieres-in.html)

      The goal of this section is to make sure that we keep our target area in the necessary broader context:


      The importance of safe streets:
      No city, no place in the world can hope for a fair future if it does not have safe streets that work for people in their day to day lives. Streets are the circulatory systems of our cities, They are not "roads" which tend to be treated as more or less isolated conduits down which we try to channel as many vehicles as fast as possible. No streets are rather highly idiosyncratic, hugely varied human spaces in which people move and mill around but also do a lot of other things as well. Roads are for vehicles, streets are for people. We do streets.

      But in their rightful place:
      We all know the old one that to a man with a hammer all problems look like nails. So of course we have to make sure that all that we think is important is properly understood in the broader context of the needs and priorities of the people in that place. Alanna Hartzok of Earth Rights Institute sent us this morning their list of priorities for rebuilding Haiti. Putting on my hat as an development economist, let me share with you my own revised read of the situation.

      The overall priorities as I see them then, in some kind of rough order . . .

          1. Public safety
          2. Potable water
          3. Access to basic food supply
          4. Sanitation
          5. Habitat
          6. Safe streets
          7. Appropriate transport (affordable, clean, available to all, sustainable)
          8. Low cost first-line health care
          9. Public schools for all
          10. Reforestation


      And not even one nanometer behind these:

          1. Land reform
          2. Agricultural fields (rice and root crops) and appropriate technology
          3. Transparent public finance
          4. Wind and solar energy
          5. Dairy farms (goats, cows)
          6. Cotton and hemp fields for fabric and building material
          7. Mangosteen, mango, pineapple, papaya, trees
          8. Nut trees/ coconut trees, ground nuts (peanuts)
          9. Cooperatives.
          10. Small industries

        Debt Forgiveness: A critical step to help Haitians build a better tomorrow will be to convince global creditors to cancel Haiti’s $890 million international debt. This I believe should extend to all debts held by the poor. After bailing out the biggest banks on the planet we are not talking about huge numbers here. Doing so will help make sure that every possible future dollar goes towards rebuilding a stronger Haiti, not to servicing old debts.

        United Nations Trusteeship Council:
        To all of which I have to add a much stronger role on the part of the much-neglected Trusteeship Council which needs a far more aggressive mandate for overseeing the next ten or twenty years in democracy and peace. In many parts of the world we have for far too long been fooling ourselves about the importance of that trip to the polls as a guarantor of democracy. The facts speak for themselves. True democracy requires a full stomach and a safe walk to the polling place. And there are times in life when we all can use a little help from outside.

        International Partnerships for Sustainable Transport:
        And in this, our partial bailiwick, I hope that our collaborators around the world will now turn their eyes and hearts toward Haiti, not only for a bit of help from our wallets today but more actively in the months and years ahead. Already and in part in reaction to the great chaos that soured COP15 in Copenhagen last month, a broad range of groups and programs are already beginning to get together lay the base for more effective international collaboration in our field, and World Streets is but one small example of this. The OECD's International Transportation Forum is also an important force for international collaboration and support. The new International Partnerships for Sustainable Transport (http://slocat.net/) already groups brings together come fifty of the most active international, bi-laterals, NGOs and other actors in our field. Others are emerging and hopefully will be regularly introduced and tracked in the pages of World Streets.

      Read World Streets Today at  HYPERLINK "http://www.worldstreets.org/" _

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