What about making 2009 - "The year of the small sustainable city".
1: First feedback (work in progress)
Here is the first group of suggestions we have received from the group on this thus far:
· Arnhem NL
· Basle CH
· Concepción Chile
· Davis CA USA
· Florianópolis Brazil
· La Rochelle FR
· Louvain BE
· Oxford UK
· Rosario Argentina
· Sbadel ES
· Schopfheim DE
Hmm. Nothing in Scandinavia? I can’t believe it. Canada? Japan? Mexico? Eastern Europe? Russia? What about the rest of Asia/Pacific? Reassure us with at least one African city that is fighting its way toward sustainability? There have to be some remarkable templates there. I have to bet there are at least one hundred worthy small city candidates so we are just starting to scratch the surface. Help us find them.
2: Why small cities?
Certainly one thing I know for sure is that we have here today is a whirlwind of sustainable development in the transportation arrangements of quite a few smaller cities around the world, which in many ways are the real laboratories of sustainable transportation implementation today.
A big city – Paris, New York, Delhi, Bogota, Nairobi, Cairo, what have you – is really, when you look closely, nothing but a collection of neighborhoods (i.e., smaller cities). Now these places already have higher density going for them, which is already a terrific first step toward sustainability. And then if policies can be enacted which increase diversity and activity choices (work, shopping, leisure) within the smaller units (each of them is almost a city in itself), then we are really on the road to sustainable development and social justice.
Now what is interesting in this respect is that when a city is more or less free standing, and smaller, their autonomy for individual action and adaptation goes up. So it just might be that these smaller cities, some of them at least, are hotbeds of innovation. Moreover, if we can find a way to honor and make well known these alternative approaches, we will have made a significant contribution to the major paradigm change which is needed to get all our cities on track for sustainability.
What about making 2009 – “The year of the small sustainable city”.
3: What we are looking for (tough criteria!):
By way of brief reminder, what we would like to find some way to honor are two things: first, one or better still a program/basket of linked new mobility initiatives that are already making a difference in the city in terms of traffic, emissions, congestion, accidents and the other perverse effects of non-functional transportation systems; while improving the local economy, real estate values, amenity and levels of service for the least favored members of the community.
The second, is resilience, or as one of our number, Sujit Patwardhan from Pune put it some years back: “the long slog”. The goal of a sustainable transportation policy is not to give the thrill of a single project, ribbon cutting, or disconnected one shot effort, but the consistent, dogged, effective long term push, that is the only thing that can make the real difference our cities need, large and small.
To conclude, I do not think we are giving enough attention to the smaller cities and their progress and ideas, so if you have any further ideas for us on this they would be more than welcome. Of course we are going to need a short summary of the reasons for each of these if this list of names is to be turned into an effective argument for recognition, and I hope that we can count on you to help us on this City by city in the areas in which you have the requisite knowledge and materials at hand. Team work, if you will.
PS. Let me invite you to distribute this call to other appropriate lists and to colleagues who share our interests and concerns.