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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

Citizen's preferences and the 15-minutes city

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For decades, the behaviour of urban planners and politicians, but also of residents, has been determined by images of the ideal living environment, especially for those who can afford it. The single-family home, a private garden and the car in front of the door were more prominent parts of those images than living in an inclusive and complete neighbourhood. Nevertheless, such a neighbourhood, including a 'house from the 30s', is still sought after. Attempts to revive the idea of 'trese 'traditional' neighbourhoods' have been made in several places in the Netherlands by architects inspired by the principles of 'new urbanism' (see photo collage above). In these neighbourhoods, adding a variety of functions was and is one of the starting points. But whether residents of such a neighbourhood will indeed behave more 'locally' and leave their cars at home more often does not depend on a planning concept, but on long-term behavioural change.
An important question is what changes in the living environment residents themselves prefer. Principles for the (re)design of space that are in line with this have the greatest chance of being put into practice. It would be good to take stock of these preferences, confront (future) residents conflicting ideas en preconditions, for instance with regard to the necessary density. Below is a number of options, in line with commonly expressed preferences.

1. Playing space for children

Especially parents with children want more playing space for their children. For the youngest children directly near the house, for older children on larger playgrounds. A desire that is in easy reach in new neighbourhoods, but more difficult in older ones that are already full of cars. Some parents have long been happy with the possibility of occasionally turning a street into a play street. A careful inventory often reveals the existence of surprisingly many unused spaces. Furthermore, some widening of the pavements is almost always necessary, even if it costs parking space.  

2. Safety

High on the agenda of many parents are pedestrian and cycle paths that cross car routes unevenly. Such connections substantially widen children's radius. In existing neighbourhoods, this too remains daydreaming.  What can be done here is to reduce the speed of traffic, ban through traffic and make cars 'guests' in the remaining streets.  

3. Green

A green-blue infrastructure, penetrating deep into the immediate surroundings is not only desired by almost everyone, but also has many health benefits. The presence of (safe) water buffering (wadis and overflow ponds) extends children's play opportunities, but does take up space. In old housing estates, not much more is possible in this area than façade gardens on (widened) pavements and vegetation against walls.  

4. Limiting space for cars

Even in older neighbourhoods, opportunities to play safely and to create more green space are increased by closing (parts of) streets to cars. A pain point for some residents. One option for this is to make the middle part of a street car-free and design it as an attractive green residential area with play opportunities for children of different age groups. In new housing estates, much more is possible and it hurts to see how conventionally and car-centred these are often still laid out. (Paid) parking at the edge of the neighbourhood helps create a level playing field for car and public transport use.  

5. Public space and (shopping) facilities

Sometimes it is possible to turn an intersection, where for instance a café or one or more shops are already located, into a cosy little square. Neighbourhood shops tend to struggle. Many people are used to taking the car to a supermarket once a week to stock up on daily necessities for the whole week. However, some neighbourhoods are big enough for a supermarket. In some cities, where car ownership is no longer taken for granted, a viable range of shops can develop in such a square and along adjacent streets. Greater density also contributes to this.  

6. Mix of people and functions

A diverse range of housing types and forms is appreciated. Mixing residential and commercial properties can also contribute to the liveliness of a neighbourhood. For new housing estates, this is increasingly becoming a starting point. For business properties, accessibility remains an important precondition.  

7. Public transport

The desirability of good public transport is widely supported, but in practice many people still often choose the car, even if there are good connections. Good public transport benefits from the ease and speed with which other parts of the city can be reached. This usually requires more than one line. Free bus and tram lanes are an absolute prerequisite. In the (distant) future, autonomous shuttles could significantly lower the threshold for using public transport. Company car plus free petrol is the worst way to encourage sensible car use.  

8. Centres in plural

The presence of a city centre is less important for a medium-sized city, say the size of a 15-minute cycle zone, than the presence of a few smaller centres, each with its own charm, close to where people live. These can be neighbourhood (shopping) centres, where you are sure to meet acquaintances.  Some of these will also attract residents from other neighbourhoods, who walk or cycle to enjoy the wider range of amenities. The presence of attractive alternatives to the 'traditional' city centre will greatly reduce the need to travel long distances.
 
The above measures are not a roadmap for the development of a 15-minute city; rather, they are conditions for the growth of a liveable city in general.  In practice, its characteristics certainly correspond to what proponents envisage with a 15-minute city. The man behind the transformation of Paris into a 15-minute city, Carlos Moreno, has formulated a series of pointers based on all the practical examples to date, which can help citizens and administrators realise the merits of the 15-minute city in their own environments. This book will be available from mid-June 2024 and can be reserved HERE.
 
For now, this is the last of the hundreds of posts on education, organisation and environment I have published over the past decade. If I report again, it will be in response to special events and circumstances and developments, which I will certainly continue to follow. Meanwhile, I have started a new series of posts on music, an old love of mine. Check out the 'Expedition music' website at hermanvandenbosch.online. Versions in English of the posts on this website will be available at hermanvandenbosch.com.

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

Will the 15-minute city cause the US suburbs to disappear? 6/7

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Urbanisation in the US is undergoing major changes. The image of a central city surrounded by sprawling suburbs therefore needs to be updated. The question is what place does the 15-minute city have in it? That is what this somewhat longer post is about
 
From the 1950s, residents of US cities began moving en masse to the suburbs. A detached house in the green came within reach for the middle and upper classes, and the car made it possible to commute daily to factories and offices. These were initially still located in and around the cities. The government stimulated this development by investing billions in the road network.
From the 1980s, offices also started to move away from the big cities. They moved to attractive locations, often near motorway junctions. Sometimes large shopping and entertainment centres also settled there, and flats were built on a small scale for supporting staff. Garreau called such cities 'edge cities'.
Investors built new suburbs called 'urban villages' in the vicinity of the new office locations, significantly reducing the distance to the offices. This did not reduce congestion on congested highways.
 
However, more and more younger workers had no desire to live in suburbs. The progressive board of Arlington, near Washington DC, took the decision in the 1980s to develop a total of seven walkable, inclusive, attractive and densely built-up cores in circles of up to 800 metres around metro stations. In each was a wide range of employment, flats, shops and other amenities . In the process, the Rosslyn-Balston Corridor emerged and experienced rapid growth. The population of the seven cores now stands at 71,000 out of a total of 136,000 jobs. 36% of all residents use the metro or bus for commuting, which is unprecedentedly high for the US. The Rosslyn-Balston Corridor is a model for many other medium-sized cities in the US, such as New Rochelle near new York.
 
Moreover, to meet the desire to live within walking distance of all daily amenities, there is a strong movement to also regenerate the suburbs themselves. This is done by building new centres in the suburbs and densifying part of the suburbs.
The new centres have a wide range of flats, shopping facilities, restaurants and entertainment centres.  Dublin Bridge Park, 30 minutes from Columbus (Ohio) is one of many examples.
It is a walkable residential and commercial area and an easily accessible centre for residents from the surrounding suburbs. It is located on the site of a former mall.
 
Densification of the suburbs is necessary because of the high demand for (affordable) housing, but also to create sufficient support for the new centres.
Space is plentiful. In the suburbs, there are thousands of (semi-)detached houses that are too large for the mostly older couples who occupy them. An obvious solution is to split the houses, make them energy-positive and turn them into two or three starter homes. There are many examples how this can be done in a way that does not affect the identity of the suburbs (image).
New construction in suburbs
 
This kind of solution is difficult to realise because the municipal authorities concerned are bound by decades-old zoning plans, which prescribe in detail what can be built somewhere. Some of the residents fiercely oppose changing the laws. Especially in California, the NIMBYs (not in my backyard) and the YIMBYs (yes in my backyard) have a stranglehold on each other and housing construction is completely stalled.
 
But even without changing zoning laws, there are incremental changes.  Here and there, for instance, garages, usually intended for two or three cars, are being converted into 'assessor flats' for grandma and grandpa or for children who cannot buy a house of their own.  But garden houses are also being added and souterrains constructed. Along the path of gradualness, this adds thousands of housing units, without causing much fuss.
 
It is also worth noting that small, sometimes sleepy towns seem to be at the beginning of a period of boom.  They are particularly popular with millennials. These towns are eminently 'walkable' , the houses are not expensive and there is a wide range of amenities. The distance to the city is long, but you can work well from home and that is increasingly the pattern. The pandemic and the homeworking it has initiated has greatly increased the popularity of this kind of residential location.
 
All in all, urbanisation in the US can be typified by the creation of giant metropolitan areas, across old municipal boundaries. These areas are a conglomeration of new cities, rivalling the old mostly shrinking and poverty-stricken cities in terms of amenities, and where much of employment is in offices and laboratories. In between are the suburbs, with a growing variety of housing. The aim is to create higher densities around railway stations. Besides the older suburbs, 'urban villages' have emerged in attractive locations. More and more suburbs are getting their own walkable centres, with a wide range of flats and facilities. Green space has been severely restricted by these developments.
 
According to Christopher Leinberger, professor of real estate and urban analysis at George Washington University, there is no doubt that in the US, walkable, attractive cores with a mixed population and a varied housing supply following the example of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor are the future. In addition, walkable car-free neighbourhoods, with attractive housing and ample amenities are in high demand in the US. Some of the 'urban villages' are developing as such.  The objection is that these are 'walkable islands', rising in an environment that is anything but walkable. So residents always have one or two cars in the car park for when they leave the neighbourhood, as good metro or train connections are scarce. Nor are these kinds of neighbourhoods paragons of a mixed population; rents tend to be well above the already unaffordable average.
 
The answer of the question in the header therefore is: locally and slowly

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AMS Institute, Re-inventing the city (urban innovation) at AMS Institute, posted

Join AMS Institute's Scientific Conference, hosted by TU Delft, Wageningen University & Research, MIT and the City of Amsterdam.

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Do you want to learn from and network with the best researchers and scientists working to tackle pressing urban challenges?
 
AMS Institute, is organizing the AMS Scientific Conference from April 23-25 at the Marineterrein, Amsterdam, to address pressing urban challenges. The event is organized in collaboration with the City of Amsterdam.
 
The conference brings together leading institutions in urban research and innovation, thought leaders, municipalities, researchers, and practitioners to explore innovative solutions for sustainable development in Amsterdam and other global cities. 
 
Keynotes, research workshops, learning tracks, and special sessions will explore the latest papers in the fields of mobility, circularity, energy transition, climate adaptation, urban food systems, digitization, diversity, inclusion, living labs experimentation, and transdisciplinary research.
 
Attendees can expect to gain valuable insights into cutting-edge research and engage in meaningful discussions with leading experts in their field. You can see the full program and all available sessions here.
 
This year's theme is 'Blueprints for messy cities? Navigating the interplay of order and messiness'. 
 
The program
 
Day 1: The good, the bad, and the ugly
Keynotes by Paul Behrens of Leiden University and Elin Andersdotter Fabre of UN-Habitat will be followed by a city panel including climate activist <strong>Hannah Prins</strong>. The first day concludes with a dinner at the Koepelkerk in Amsterdam: you're welcome to join our three-course meal with a 50 euro ticket.
 
Day 2️: Amazing discoveries
Keynotes by Carlo Ratti of MIT and Sacha Stolp of the Municipality of Amsterdam discuss innovation and research in cities. <strong>Corinne Vigreux</strong>, co-founder of TomTom, and Erik Versnel from Rabobank will participate in the city panel.
 
Day 3️: We are the city
Keynotes by Paul Chatterton of Leeds University and Victor Neequaye Kotey Deputy Director of the Waste Management Department of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana. They discuss how we shape the future of our cities together. This will be followed by a city panel including Ria Braaf-Fränkel of WomenMakeTheCity and prof. dr. Aleid Brouwer of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.
 
To buy tickets: You can secure your conference tickets through our website.
Dinner tickets: On April 23 we’re hosting a dinner at the Koepelkerk in Amsterdam. Tickets for this can be added to your conference pass or bought separately. 

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

How do higher density and better quality of life go together? 3/7

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A certain degree of compactness is essential for the viability of 15-minute cities.  This is due to the need for an economic threshold for facilities accessible by walking or cycling. A summary of 300 research projects by the OECD shows that compactness increases the efficiency of public services in all respects. But it also reveals disadvantages in terms of health and well-being due to pollution, traffic, and noise. The assumption is that there is an optimal density at which both pleasant living and the presence of everyday facilities - including schools - can be realised.  At this point, 'densification' is not at the expense of quality of life but contributes to it.  A lower density results in more car use and a higher density will reduce living and green space and the opportunity to create jobs.

The image above is a sketch of the 'Plan Papenvest' in Brussels. The density, 300 dwellings on an area of 1.13 hectares, is ten times that of an average neighbourhood. Urban planners often mention that the density of Dutch cities is much lower than in Paris and Barcelona, for example. Yet it is precisely in these cities that traffic is one of the main causes of air pollution, stress, and health problems. The benefits of compactness combined with a high quality of life can only be realised if the nuisances associated with increasing density are limited. This uncompromisingly means limiting car ownership and use.

Urban planners often seem to argue the other way round. They argue that building in the green areas around cities must be prevented at all costs to protect nature and that there is still enough space for building in the cities. The validity of this view is limited. In the first place, the scarce open space within cities can be better used for clean workshops and nature development in combination with water control. Secondly, much of the 'green' space outside cities is not valuable nature at all. Most of it is used to produce feed for livestock, especially cows. Using a few per cent of this space for housing does not harm nature at all. This housing must be concentrated near public transport. The worst idea is to add a road to the outskirts of every town and village. This will undoubtedly increase the use of cars.
 
Below you can link to my free downloadable e-book: 25 Building blocks to create better streets, neighborhoods and cities

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The 15-minute city: from metaphor to planning concept (2/7)

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Carlos Moreno, a professor at the Sorbonne University, helped Mayor Anne Hidalgo develop the idea of the 15-minute city. He said that six things made people happy: living, working, amenities, education, wellbeing, and recreation. The quality of the urban environment is enhanced when these functions are realized near each other. The monofunctional expansion of cities in the US, but also in the bidonvilles of Paris, is a thorn in his side, partly because this justifies owning a car.
 
A more precise definition of the concept of the 15-minute city is needed before it can be implemented on a large scale. It is important to clarify which means of transport must be available to reach certain facilities in a given number of minutes. The list of facilities is usually very comprehensive, while the list of means of transport is usually only vaguely defined. But the distance you can travel in 15 minutes depends on the availability of certain modes of transport (see figure above).
Advocates of "new urbanism" have developed the tools to design 15-minute cities. They are based on three zones: the 5-minute walking zone, the 15-minute walking zone, which coincides with the 5-minute cycling zone, and finally the 15-minute cycling zone. These are not static concepts: In practice, the zones overlap and complement each other.

The 5-minute walking zone

This zone corresponds to the way in which most residential neighbourhoods functioned up until the 1960s, wherever you are in the world. Imagine a space with an average distance from the center to the edge of about 400 meters. In the center you will find a limited number of shops, a (small) supermarket, one or more cafes and a restaurant. The number of residents will vary between two and three thousand. Density will decrease from the centre and the main streets outwards. Green spaces, including a small neighbourhood park, will be distributed throughout the neighbourhood, as will workshops and offices.
In the case of new construction, it is essential that pedestrian areas have a dense network of paths without crossings at ground level with streets where car traffic is allowed. Some paths are wider and allow cycling within the 5- and 15-minute cycle zones. The streets provide access to concentrated parking facilities.

The 5-minute cycle zone and the 15-minute walking zone.

Here the distance from the center to the edge is about one kilometer. In this area, most of the facilities that residents need is available and can be distributed around the centers of the 5-minute walking zones. For example, a slightly larger supermarket may be located between two 5-minute walking zones. This zone will also contain one or more larger parks and some larger concentrations of employment.
This zone can be a large district of a city, but it can also be a small municipality or district of around 15 to 25,000 inhabitants. With such a population there will be little room for dogmatic design, especially when it comes to existing buildings. But even then, it is possible to separate traffic types by keeping cars off many streets and clustering car parks. The bottom line is that all destinations in this zone can be reached quickly by walking and cycling, and that car routes can be crossed safely.
The car will be used (occasionally) for several destinations. For example, for large shopping trips to the supermarket.

The 15-minute cycle zone.

This zone will be home to 100.00 or more residents. The large variation is due to the (accidental) presence of facilities for a larger catchment area, such as an industrial estate, a furniture boulevard or an IKEA, a university or a (regional) hospital. It is certainly not a sum of comparable 5-minute cycle zones. Nevertheless, the aim is to distribute functions over the whole area on as small a scale as possible. In practice, this zone is also crossed by several roads for car traffic. The network of cycle paths provides the most direct links between the 5-minute cycle zones and the wider area.
 
The main urban development objectives for this zone are good accessibility to urban facilities by public transport from all neighbourhoods, the prohibition of hypermarkets and a certain distribution of central functions throughout the area: Residents should be able to go out and have fun in a few places and not just in a central part of the city.
 
Below you can link to my free downloadable e-book: 25 Building blocks to create better streets, neighborhoods and cities.

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The 15-minute city: from vague memory to future reality (1/7)

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Without changing the transport system in which they operate, the advent of autonomous cars will not significantly improve the quality of life in our cities. This has been discussed in previous contributions. This change includes prioritizing investment in developing high-quality public transport and autonomous minibuses to cover the first and last mile.
 
However, this is not enough by itself. The need to reduce the distances we travel daily also applies to transporting raw materials and food around the world. This is the subject of a new series of blog posts, and probably the last.
Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the sustainability of the need for people and goods to travel long distances. In many cities, the corona pandemic has been a boost to this idea. Paris is used as an example. But what applies to Paris applies to every city.
 
When Anne Hidalgo took office as the newly elected mayor in 2016, her first actions were to close the motorway over the Seine quay and build kilometres of cycle paths. Initially, these actions were motivated by environmental concerns. Apparently, there was enough support for these plans to ensure her re-election in 2020. She had understood that measures to limit car traffic would not be enough. That is why she campaigned on the idea of "La Ville du Quart d'Heure", the 15-minute city, also known as the "complete neighbourhood". In essence, the idea is to provide citizens with almost all of their daily needs - employment, housing, amenities, schools, care and recreation - within a 15-minute walk or bike ride of their homes. The idea appealed. The idea of keeping people in their cars was replaced by the more sympathetic, empirical idea of making them redundant.
 
During pandemics, lockdowns prevent people from leaving their homes or travelling more than one kilometer. For the daily journey to work or school, the tele-works took their place, and the number of (temporary) "pistes á cycler" quickly increased. For many Parisians, the rediscovery of their own neighbourhood was a revelation. They looked up to the parks every day, the neighbourhood shops had more customers, commuters suddenly had much more time and, despite all the worries, the pandemic was in a revival of "village" coziness.
 
A revival, indeed, because until the 1960s, most of the inhabitants of the countries of Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia did not know that everything they needed on a daily basis was available within walking or cycling distance. It was against this backdrop that the idea of the 15-minute city gained ground in Paris.
 
We talk about a 15-minute city when neighbourhoods have the following characteristics
- a mix of housing for people of different ages and backgrounds - pedestrians and cyclists
- Pedestrians and cyclists, especially children, can safely use car-free streets.
- Shops within walking distance (up to 400 meters) for all daily needs
- The same goes for a medical center and a primary school.
- There are excellent public transport links;
- Parking is available on the outskirts of the neighbourhood.
- Several businesses and workshops are located in each neighbourhood.
- Neighbourhoods offer different types of meeting places, from parks to cafes and restaurants.
- There are many green and leafy streets in a neighbourhood.
- The population is large enough to support these facilities.
- Citizens have a degree of self-management.
 
Urban planners have rarely lost sight of these ideas. In many cities, the pandemic has made these vague memories accessible goals, even if they are far from reality.
 
In the next post, I will reflect on how the idea of the 15-minute city is moving from dream to reality.

Below you can link to my free downloadable e-book: 25 Building blocks to create better streets, neighborhoods and cities

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

When will robotaxi’s become commonplace? (8/8)

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Until recently, optimists would say "in a few years." Nobody believes that anymore, except for Egon Musk. The number of - so far small - incidents involving robot taxis is increasing to such an extent that the cities where these taxis operate on a modest scale, San Francisco in particular, want to take action.

Europe vs USA

In any case, it will take a long time before robotaxis are commonplace in Europe. There are two major differences between the US and Europe when it comes to transportation policy.
In the US, each state can individually determine when autonomous vehicles can hit the road. In Europe, on the other hand, a General Safety Regulation has been in force since June 2022 that applies to all countries. This states, among other things, that a driver must maintain control of the vehicle at all times. Strict conditions apply to vehicles without a driver: separate lanes, short routes on traffic-calmed parts of the public road and always with a 'safety driver' on board.
The second difference is that in the US 45% of all residents do not have public transport available. In Europe you can get almost anywhere by public transport, although the frequency is low in remote areas. Governments say they want to further increase accessibility by public transport, even if this is at the expense of car traffic. To this end, they want an integrated transport policy, a word that is virtually unknown in the US.

Integrated transport policy

In essence, integrated transport policy is the offering of a series of transport options that together result in (1) the most efficient, safe and convenient satisfaction of transport needs, (2) reduction of the need to travel over long distances (including via the '15- minutes city') and (3)  minimal adverse effects on the environment and the quality of life, especially in the large cities. In other words, transport is part of policy aimed at improving the quality of the living environment.
Integrated transport policy assesses the role of vehicle automation in terms of their contribution to these objectives. A distinction can be made between the automation of passenger cars (SAE level 1-3) and driverless vehicles (SEA level 4-5).

Automation of passenger cars

Systems such as automatic lane changes, monitoring distance and speed, and monitoring the behavior of other road users are seen as contributing to road safety. However, the driver always remains responsible and must therefore be able to take over steering at any time, even if the car does not emit a (disengagement) signal. Eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Driverless cars

'Hail-riding' will result in growth of traffic in cities because the number of car kilometers per user increases significantly, at the expense of walking, cycling, public transport and to a much lesser extent the use of private cars. Sofar, the number of people who switch from their own car to 'hail-riding' is minimal. The only way to reverse this trend is to impose heavy taxes on car kilometers in urban areas. On the other hand, the use of robot shuttles is beneficial in low-traffic areas and on routes from residential areas to a station. Shuttles are also an excellent way to reduce car use locally. For example, in the extensive Terhills resort in Genk, Belgium, where people leave their cars in the parking lot and transfer to autonomous shuttles that connect the various destinations on the site with high frequency.
 
A few months ago (April 2023), I read that Qbus in the Netherlands wants to experiment with 18-meter-long autonomous buses, for the time being accompanied by a 'safety driver'. Routes on bus lanes outside the busiest parts of the city are being considered. Autonomous metros and trains have been running in various cities, including London, for years. It is this incremental approach that we will need in the coming years instead of dreaming about getting into an autonomous car, where a made bed awaits us and we wakes us rested 1000 kilometers away. Instead of overcrowded roads with moving beds, we are better off with a comfortable and well-functioning European network of fast (sleeper) trains on a more modern rail infrastructure and efficient and convenient pre- and post-transport.

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

Automated cars; an uncertain future (7/8)

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The photograph above is misleading. Reading a book instead of watching the road is not allowed in any country, unless the car is parked.
 
For more than a decade, car manufacturers have been working on technology to take over driver's actions. A Lot  of money has been invested in this short period and many optimistic expectations have been raised, but no large-scale implementation of the higher SAE levels resulted so far. Commercial services with robotaxi’s are scarce and still experimental.  

The changing tide

Especially in the period 2015 - 2018, the CEOs of the companies involved cheered about the prospects; soon after, sentiment changed. In November 2018, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said that the spread of autonomous cars is still decades away and that driving under poor circumstances and in overcrowded cities will always require a human driver. Volkswagen's CEO said fully self-driving cars "may never" hit public roads.
The companies involved are therefore increasingly concerned about the return on the $100 billion invested in the development of car automation until the end of 2021. The end of the development process is not yet in sight. Much has been achieved, but the last 20% of the journey to the fully autonomous car will require the most effort and much more investment. Current technology is difficult to perfect. “Creating self-driving robotaxi is harder than putting a man on the moon,” said Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, after terminating Argo, the joint venture with Volkswagen, after the company had invested $100 million in it.
 
The human brain can assess complex situations on the road much better than any machine. Artificial intelligence is much faster, but its accuracy and adaptability still leave much to be desired. Driverless cars struggle with unpredictability caused by children, pedestrians, cyclists, and other human-driven cars as well as with potholes, detours, worn markings, snow, rain, fog, darkness and so on. This is also the opinion of Gabriel Seiberth, CEO of the German computer company Accenture, and he advises the automotive industry to focus on what is possible. Carlo van de Weijer, director of Artificial Intelligence at TU Eindhoven, agrees: “There will not be a car that completely takes over all our tasks.”
Elon Musk, on the other hand, predicted that by 2020 all Tesla’s will have SEA level 5 thanks to the new Full Self Driving Chip. In 2023 we know that its performance is indeed impressive. Tesla may therefore be the first car to be accredited at SAE level 3. That is not yet SAE level 5. The question is whether Elon Musk minds that much!  

The priorities of the automotive industry

For established automotive companies, the priority is to sell as many cars as possible and not to make a driver redundant. The main objective is therefore to achieve SAE levels 2 and possibly 3. The built-in functions such as automatic lane changing, keeping distance, and passing will contribute to the safe use of cars, if drivers learn to use them properly. Research shows that drivers are willing to pay an average of around $2,500 for these amenities. That is different from the $15,000 that the beta version of Tesla's Full Self Driving system costs.
The automotive industry is in a phase of adjusting expectations, temporizing investments, downsizing involved business units, and looking for partnerships. GM and Honda are collaborating on battery development; BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler are in talks to share R&D efforts for autonomous vehicles; and Ford and VW have stopped developing an autonomous car and are working together on more realistic ambitions.  

Safety issues at SAE level 3

But even with a focus on SAE level 3, the problems do not go away. The biggest safety problem may well lie at this level. Elon Musk has suggested for years that Tesla's autopilot would allow drivers to read a book or watch a movie. All they must do is stay behind the wheel. They must be able to take control of the car if the automatic system indicates that it can no longer handle the situation. Studies in test environments show that in this case the reaction time of drivers is far too long to prevent disaster. An eye on the road and a hand on the wheel is still mandatory everywhere in the world, except in  few paces for cars accredited at SEA level 4 under specified conditions.
The assumption is that the operating system is so accurate that it indicates in time that it considers the situation too complex. But there are still many doubts as to whether these systems themselves are sufficiently capable of properly assessing the situation on the road at all times. Recent research from King's College London showed that pedestrian detection systems are 20% more accurate when dealing with white adults than when dealing with children and 7.5% more accurate when dealing with white people compared to people with dark skin.
In the next post I will go into more detail about the legislation and what the future may bring.

You still can download for free my newest e-book '25 building blocks to create better streets, neighborhoods and cities' by following the link below

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

First driverless taxis on the road (6/8)

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Since mid-2022, Cruise and Waymo have been allowed to offer a ride-hailing service without a safety driver in a quiet part of San Francisco from 11pm to 6am. The permit has now been extended to the entire city throughout the day. The company has 400 cars and Waymo 250. So far, it has not been an unqualified success.  

A turbulent start

In a hilarious incident, an empty taxi was pulled over by police; it stopped properly, but kept going after a few seconds, leaving the officers wondering if they should give chase. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating this incident, as well as several others involving Cruise taxis stalling at intersections, and the Fire Department reports 60 incidents involving autonomous taxis.

Pending further investigation, both companies are only allowed to operate half of their fleet. In addition to the fire department and public transport companies, trade unions are also opposed to the growth of autonomous taxis. California's governor has rejected the objections, fearing that BigTech will swap the state for more car-friendly ones. It is expected that autonomous taxis will gradually enter all major US cities, at a rate just below that of Uber and Lyft.
 
Cruise has already hooked another big fish: In the not-too-distant future, the company will be allowed to operate autonomous taxis in parts of Dubai.
The number of autonomous taxi services in the world can still be counted on one hand. Baidu has been offering ride-hailing services in Wuhan since December 2022, and robot taxis have been operating in parts of Shenzen since then.
Singapore was the first city in the world to have several autonomous taxis operating on a very small scale. These were developed by nuTonomy, an MIT spin-off, but the service is still in an experimental phase. Another company, Mobileye, also plans to start operating in Singapore this year.
The same company announced in 2022 that it would launch a service in Germany in 2023 in partnership with car rental company Sixt 6, but nothing more has been heard. A survey by JD Power found that almost two-thirds of Germans do not trust 'self-driving cars'. But that opinion could change quickly if safety is proven and the benefits become clear.  

What is it like to drive a robotaxi?

Currently, the group of robotaxi users is still small, mainly because the range is limited in space and time. The first customers are early adopters who want to experience the ride.
 
Curious readers: Here you can drive a Tesla equipped with the new beta 1.4 self-driving system, and here you can board a robotaxi in Shenzhen.
 
The robotaxis work by hailing: You use an app to say where you are and where you want to go, and the computer makes sure the nearest taxi picks you up. Meanwhile, you can adjust the temperature in the car and tune in to your favourite radio station.
Inside the car, passengers will find tablets with information about the journey. They remind passengers to close all doors and fasten their seatbelts. Passengers can communicate with remote support staff at the touch of a button. TV cameras allow passengers to watch. Passengers can end the journey at any time by pressing a button. If a passenger forgets to close the door, the vehicle will do it for them.
The price of a ride in a robotaxi is just below the price of a ride with Uber or Lyft. The price level is strongly influenced by the current high purchase price of a robotaxi, which is about $175,000 more than a regular taxi. Research shows that people are willing to give up their own cars if robotaxis are available on demand and the rides cost significantly less than a regular taxi. But then the road is open for a huge increase in car journeys, CO2 emissions and the cannibalisation of public transport, which I previously called the horror scenario.  

Roboshuttles

In some cities, such as Detroit, Austin, Stockholm, Tallinn and Berlin, as well as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, minibuses operate without a driver, but usually with a safety officer on board. They are small vehicles with a maximum speed of 25 km/h, which operate in the traffic lane or on traffic-calmed streets and follow a fixed route. They are usually part of pilot projects exploring the possibilities of this mode of transport as a means of pre- and post-transport.

Free download

Recently, I published a new e-book with 25 advices for improving the quality of our living environment. Follow the link below to download it for free.

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

4. The automation of driving: two views (4/4)

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At this time, every car manufacturer plus hundreds of startups are working on developing artificial intelligence for driving automation. This should enable communication with the car’s passengers, sensing and anticipating the behavior of other vehicles and road users, communicating with the cloud and planning a safe and fast journey. I will write later about the investments made to achieve this goal.
The development of car automation became visible when Google was the first to start a project in 2009. The activities that technology companies and the automotive industry carry out start from two different visions of the desired result.

Maintain the existing traffic system

The first view assumes that automation is a gradual process that will result in drivers ability to transfer control of the vehicle in a safe manner. It is provisionally assumed that a driver will always be present. That is why taking over control is no problem under specific conditions, such as bad weather and crowded streets. Tesla, an outspoken supporter of this vision, has therefore been talking about its autopilot for years. This came under heavy criticism because the number of functions that were automated was limited. Partly because of this, the so-called autopilot could only be used on a limited number of roads and under favorable conditions.
Most established automotive manufacturers primarily have in mind the higher segment of automobiles and announce they will only make relatively cheaper models suitable for this purpose at a later stage. Maintaining the current traffic system is paramount. The car industry wants to avoid at all costs that people will eventually stop buying cars and limit themselves to ride-hailing in autonomous vehicles.

Moving towards another traffic system

The latter is exactly the intention of the companies that adhere to the second vision. These primarily include non-traditional automotive companies, with Google (later Alphabet) in the lead. What they had in mind from the start was to achieve SAE level 4 and, in the long term, SAE 5 level, cars that can drive safely on the road without the presence of a driver. Companies belonging to this group advocate a completely new transport system. In their opinion, safe driving at SAE level 3 is impossible if the driver is not constantly paying attention. They believe that in the event of a 'disengagement signal', taking control of the car takes too much time and will result in dangerous situations. In addition to Google, Uber (in collaboration with Volvo) also belonged to this group, but now appears to have dropped out. This also applies to Ford and Volkswagen. General Motors is betting on two horses and aims to maintain accreditation at SAE level 4 with its subsidiary Cruise, although Alphabet's subsidiary Waymo has by far the best cards.

Important message for the readers

From next year on, the frequency of my articles about the quality of our living environment will decrease. I admit to an old love: Music. In my new website (in Dutch) I write about why we love music, richly provided with examples. Maybe you will like it. Follow the link below to have a look.

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Why we should stop talking about self-driving cars (3/8)

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The term 'self-driving car' is used for a wide variety of technical support systems for car drivers. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has distinguished six types, as mentioned in the tabel above. This classification is recognized worldwide.

At SAE level 0, a car has been equipped with various warning systems, such as unvoluntary deviation from lane, traffic in the blind spot, and emergency braking.

At SEA levels 1 and 2, cars can steer independently or/and adjust their speed in specific conditions on motorways. Whether drivers are allowed to take their hands from the steering wheel depends on national law. That is certainly not the case in Europe. As soon as environmental conditions make steering and acceleration more complex, for example after turning onto a busy street, the driver must immediately take over the steering.

A properly functioning SAE Level 3 system allows drivers to take their eyes off the road and focus on other activities. They must sit behind the wheel and be on standby and are always held responsible for driving the car. They must immediately take over control of the car as soon as 'the system' gives a ('disengagement') signal, which means that it can no longer handle the situation. There is currently no car worldwide that is accredited at SEA-3 level.

This level of control is not sufficient for driverless taxi services. Automotive and technology companies such as General Moters and Alphabet have been working hard to meet the requirements of the higher levels (SAE 4). Their expensive cars (up to $250,000) have automated backups, meaning they can handle any situation under specified conditions, such as well-designed roads, during the day and at a certain speed. Under these circumstances, no driver is required to be present.

SAE Level 5 automation can operate without a driver in all conditions. There is currently no vehicle that meets this requirement.

The variety of options in this classification explains why the term 'self-driving car' should not be used. Cars classified at SAE level 1 and 2 can best be called 'automated cars' and cars from SAE level 3 onwards can be called autonomous cars.

The state of California introduced new rules in 2019 that allow cars at SAE 4 level to participate in traffic. Very strict conditions apply to this. As a result, Alphabet (Waymo) and General Motors (Cruise) have been allowed to launch driverless taxi services. All rides are monitored with cameras to prevent reckless behavior or vandalism.
 
<strong>Last week, you might have read the last in a series of 25 posts about improving environmental quality.  Right now, I have finalized an e-book containing all posts plus additional recommendations.  If you follow the link below, you can download the book (90 pages) for free. A version in Dutch language can be downloaded HERE**</strong>

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My personal highlights and learnings from the World Smart City Expo 2023

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At the start of November, I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona for the World Smart City Expo 2023. Together with my Amsterdam Smart City colleagues and a group of our network partners, I organized -and took part in- keynotes, panel discussions, workshops and visits to international pavilions. As this was my second time visiting the Expo with our network, I was able to keep my focus on the content amidst the overwhelming congress hall and side activities. The following text describes some of my best insights and discoveries.
 
Informal Transport: Challenges and Opportunities
My mobility colleague Chris de Veer took part in a panel discussion on public transport and mobility options in urban environments. Following a plea on the implementation of micro subsidies (increasing equity and efficiency of subsidies), Chris explained the Dutch efforts to get people out of theirs cars and onto bikes and public transport, and making shared mobility solutions accessible for everyone. An important story but something I’ve been working on and getting really familiar with the past year. However, when Maria Nieto, a DU60th PhD Scholar, entered the conversation the discussion took an unexpected turn.

Maria introduced the topic of Popular, or Informal, Transport. For some years, she had been studying this topic of individuals and small scale entrepreneurs organizing ‘unregulated’ transport services. While many would say  that this is ‘just chaos on the streets’ (think of the Rickshaws in New Delhi, or the moped taxi’s in Asian countries), she argued how it’s actually quite an efficient and demand responsive service. With the help of public authorities, this source of livelihood for many could be implemented in urban mobility systems. And if electric vehicle alterations would be relatively cheaper, these entrepreneurs would be happy to help make this large fleet more sustainable overnight. Furthermore, they could help please our obsession for data on travel behaviour. These drivers know exactly where people are traveling to- and from!  

But where to start? Randolf Wilson, head of the Department of Transport at Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (Ghana) and Ajoy Sharma, Principal Secretary at the Government of Punjab (India) shared stories from their own districts and how they’re trying to improve this sector. They explained how the main challenges revolve around unsafe working (& traffic) conditions and unregulated pricing mechanisms. In order to get a grip on these problems they are currently doing their best to map this sector. Unions play a key role in getting as many entrepreneurs registered as possible. Through these unions, governments are able to (micro)subsidize this growing sector, collaborate with the drivers, and ‘tidy up the chaos’.

This panel made me realize how every country and region is dealing with their own mobility challenges, and how extremely organized our own mobility system is.

Pikala Bikes in Marrakech
During the congress, I had the pleasure of meeting Cantal Bakker, founder of Pikala Bikes. With Pikala Bikes, she is introducing the city of Marrakech to cycling culture and the benefits it brings to people, their health and the city as a whole. Unknowingly, I had actually visited her repair café in March, when I travelled though Morocco.

With the help of financial income from bike tours, bike rentals, repairs and the café, Cantal is training and employing Moroccan youth in the cycling and tourism sector. At the same time, the growing presence of bikes in the urban environment inspires citizens to consider biking as a means of transport instead of the popular mopeds.

However, because the local government is still hesitant in giving cyclists more space in their infrastructure plans, she’s now putting extra effort in convincing local authorities of all the benefits a growing cycling culture could bring to the city. As this is one of the Netherlands’ great export products, we look forward to help her in connecting with Dutch ambassadors and high profile names within the Dutch cycling sector and add some persuasive power to the table!
 
Affordable and sustainable housing
During the final day of the Expo, I decided to join a talk on the challenges and opportunities regarding affordable and sustainable housing. While I’m not professionally involved in this sector, I do have great personal interest in this global challenge.

The panel consisted of a combination of architects, researchers and city officials. I was especially impressed by John Roberson, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Chicago. His way of talking and the Chicago projects he described were inspiring. I decided to hang on for a while afterwards to speak to him.

We had a conversation about one of the aspects of our current housing crisis that intrigues me; apart from the need for more physical buildings for housing, there also needs to be more ‘flow’ in our current housing market. There are too much house owners and tenants living in a house that’s not ‘suited’ for their current stage and situation in life. Think of; elderly who are living alone in a spacious multiple bedroom house, and a starting family cramped up in a studio. He explained to me how culture and pride make this a difficult matter; people consider their (family)homes their biggest pride and property in life. Furthermore, the longer people live and settle in a place, the harder it gets to move and build up a life and social network in a different place. To overcome this lack of flow in the housing market (e.g. elderly occupying big family homes), we shouldn’t focus on measures to get people out of their houses, but we should make housing options for elderly as attractive as possible and distributed throughout the country. Moving away from family and the social circle you’ve build up throughout life, is one of the biggest reasons not to move!
 
A big thank you to all people involved in making this International trip happen, and I’m excited to follow up with all the new people and organizations I’ve met! See you next year Barcelona!

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The impact of the availability of 'self-driving' cars on travel behavior 2/8

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If autonomous cars can transport us affordably, do we no longer want to own our own car? Are we switching en masse from public transport, do we leave our bikes unused, or do we walk less? Do we drive alone, or do we share the car with other passengers? Will autonomous cars share he road with other traffic, including cycling? Are we going to use a car more often and longer and how many cars drive empty waiting for a customer?
Of course, no scientific study can answer all these questions yet. Nevertheless, research offers some insight.  

Ride-hailing

 
First, what do we know about the influence of ride-hailing? That is calling a taxi from Uber or Lyft and a handful of other companies with an app. Juniper Research expects that the use of this service, which already has a global turnover of $ 147 billion, will increase fivefold in the coming five years, regardless of whether the taxis involved are 'self -driving' or not. Clear is that most users seem not to appreciate the presence of fellow passengers: the number of travelers that share journeys is only 13%.
Research in seven major American cities shows that 49 to 61 percent of all Uber and Lyft-taxi rides would have been made by walking, cycling, taking public transport or not at all. These journeys only replace car use to a limited extent. As a result, the number of train passengers has already fallen by 1.3% per year and that by bus by 1.7%. At the same time, congestion has increased.
A publication in the Journal Transport policy showed that travelers travel twice as many kilometers in every American region that they would have done if Uber and Lyft did not exist. It also turned out that taxis drive empty 50% of the time while they are waiting for or on their way to a new customer. Another study found that many Uber and Lyft customers who once used public transport buy a car for themselves.  

The effect of 'self -driving' cars

 
The number of studies after the (possible) effect of the arrival of 'self -driving' cars is increasing rapidly. Research by the Boston Consultancy Group showed that 30% of all journeys will take place in a 'self -driving' car as soon as they are available. A considerable number of former public transport users says they will change. Despite the price advantage, the respondents will make little use of the option to share a car with other passengers, but it is known that attitudes and related behavior often differ. Nevertheless, this data has been used to calculate that there will be more cars on the road in large parts of the cities, resulting in more traffic jams.
Semi-experimental research also showed that the ability to travel with a 'self-driving' car results in an increase in the number of kilometers covered by around 60%. Unless autonomous cars drive electrically, this will also have significant negative consequences for the environment.
The Robottaxis in suburbs had a different effect: here travelers would leave their car at home more often and use the taxi to be transported to a station.  

See robot taxis and public transport in combination

 
Despite all the reservations that must be made with this type of research, all results indicate a significant increase in the use of taxis, which will be at the expense of public transport and will result in more traffic jams in urbanized areas. This growth can be reversed by making shared transport more attractive. Especially on the routes to and from train, metro, and bus stations. Only in that case, will there be an ideal transport model for the future: large-scale and fast public transport on the main roads and small-scale public transport for the last kilometers and in rural areas.

In a couple of days my new ebook will be available. It is a collection of the 25 recommendations for better streets, neighbourhoods and city's that have been published at this spot during the last months

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1. 'Self-driving' cars: a dream and a nightmare scenario (1/8)

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How far are we from large-scale use of 'self-driving' cars. This and subsequent posts deal with this question. In answering it, I will focus on the potential contribution of self-driving cars to the quality of the living environment. Nowadays, the development of self-driving cars has faded a bit into the background. There is a reason for that, and I will get to it later.

When 'self-driving' vehicles first emerged, many believed that a new urban utopia was within reach. This would save millions of lives and contribute to a more livable environment. However, it is only one of the scenarios. Dan Sperling writes: The dream scenario could yield enormous public and private benefits, including greater freedom of choice, greater affordability and accessibility, and healthier, more livable cities, along with reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The nightmare scenario could lead to even further urban expansion, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and unhealthy cities and people.

The dream scenario

Do you have to go somewhere? On request, a self-driving car will stop in front of your door within a few minutes to make the desired journey. After you have been safely dropped, the car drives to the next destination. Until a few years ago, companies like Uber and Lync were looking forward to the day when they could fire all their drivers and offer their services with 'self-driving' cars. Naturally at lower prices, which would multiply their customer base. In this scenario, no one wants to have their own car anymore, right? The number of road casualties also will reduce drastically in this scenario. Autonomous cars do not drink, do not drive too fast, never get tired and anticipate unexpected actions of other road users much faster than human drivers. At least that was the argument.
Quick calculations by the proponents of this scenario show that the number of cars needed for passenger transport could decrease by a factor of 20 (!).

The nightmare scenario

This calculation was perhaps a little too fast: Its validity depends on a perfect distribution of all trips over day and night and over the urban space and on the presence of other road users. What you don't want to think about is that outside rush hour, most of the fleet of 'self-driving' cars is stationary somewhere or driving aimlessly in circles. Moreover, the dream scenario assumes that no one switches from public transport, walking, or cycling. Instead of improving cities, these types of cars have the potential to ruin them even further, according to Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar. Taxis, especially those from Uber and Lyft, are already contributing to traffic jams in major American cities and to the erosion of public transportation
 
Both views are based on suspicions, expectations, and extrapolations and a dose of 'wishful thinking' too. In the next posts, I will discuss results of scientific research that allows to form a more informed opinion about both scenarios.

Dit you already visit my new website 'Expeditie Muziek'. This week an exploration of world-class singer-songwriter 'Shania Twain

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A new challenge: Floating neighbourhoods with AMS Institute and municipality of Amsterdam

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A lot of what we did in Barcelona was about making connections, sharing knowledge, and being inspired. However, we wouldn’t be Amsterdam Smart City if we didn’t give it a bit of our own special flavour. That’s why we decided to take this inspiring opportunity to start a new challenge about floating neighbourhoods together with Anja Reimann (municipality of Amsterdam) and Joke Dufourmont (AMS Institute). The session was hosted at the Microsoft Pavilion.

We are facing many problems right now in the Netherlands. With climate change, flooding and drought are both becoming big problems. We have a big housing shortage and net congestion is becoming a more prominent problem every day. This drove the municipality of Amsterdam and AMS institute to think outside the box when it came to building a new neighbourhood and looking towards all the space we have on the water. Floating neighbourhoods might be the neighbourhoods of the future. In this session, we dived into the challenges and opportunities that this type of neighbourhood can bring.

The session was split up into two parts. The first part was with municipalities and governmental organisations to discuss what a floating neighbourhood would look like. The second part was with entrepreneurs who specialized in mobility to discuss what mobility on and around a floating neighbourhood should look like.

Part one - What should a floating neighbourhood look like?

In this part of the session, we discussed what a floating district should look like:

  • What will we do there?
  • What will we need there?
  • How will we get there?

We discussed by having all the contestants place their answers to these questions on post-its and putting them under the questions. We voted on the post-its to decide what points we found most important. 
A few of the answers were:

  • One of the key reasons for a person to live in a floating neighbourhood would be to live closer to nature. Making sure that the neighbourhood is in balance with nature is therefore very important.
  • We will need space for nature (insects included), modular buildings, and space for living (not just sleeping and working). There need to be recreational spaces, sports fields, theatres and more.
  • To get there we would need good infrastructure. If we make a bridge to this neighbourhood should cars be allowed? Or would we prefer foot and bicycle traffic, and, of course, boats? In this group, a carless neighbourhood had the preference, with public boat transfer to travel larger distances.

Part two - How might we organise the mobility system of a floating district?

In the second part of this session, we had a market consultation with mobility experts. We discussed how to organise the mobility system of a floating neighbourhood:

  • What are the necessary solutions for achieving this? What are opportunities that are not possible on land and what are the boundaries of what’s possible?
  • Which competencies are necessary to achieve this and who has them (which companies)?
  • How would we collaborate to achieve this? Is an innovation partnership suitable as a method to work together instead of a public tender? Would you be willing to work with other companies? What business model would work best to collaborate?

We again discussed these questions using the post-it method. After a few minutes of intense writing and putting up post-its we were ready to discuss. There a lot of points so here are only a few of the high lights: 
Solutions:

  • Local energy: wind, solar, and water energy. There are a lot of opportunities for local energy production on the water because it is often windy, you can generate energy from the water itself, and solar energy is available as well. Battery storage systems are crucial for this.
  • Autonomous boats such as the roboat. These can be used for city logistics (parcels) for instance.
  • Wireless charging for autonomous ferry’s.

Competencies:

  • It should be a pleasant and social place to live in.
  • Data needs to be optimized for good city logistics. Shared mobility is a must.
  • GPS signal doesn’t work well on water. A solution must be found for this.
  • There needs to be a system in place for safety. How would a fire department function on water for instance?

Collaboration:

  • Grid operators should be involved. What would the electricity net look like for a floating neighbourhood?
  • How do you work together with the mainland? Would you need the mainland or can a floating neighbourhood be self-sufficient?
  • We should continue working on this problem on a demo day from Amsterdam Smart City!

A lot more interesting points were raised, and if you are interested in this topic, please reach out to us and get involved. We will continue the conversation around floating neighbourhoods in 2024.

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

The Netherlands: country of cars and cows

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Last months, 25 facets of the quality of streets, neighbourhoods and cities have been discussed on this spot. But what are the next steps? How urgent is improvement of the quality of the living environment actually?
 
I fear that the quality of the living environment has been going in the wrong direction for at least half a century and in two respects:  

Country of cars

 
Firstly, the car came to play an increasingly dominant role during that period. Step by step, choices have been made that make traveling by car easier and this has had far-reaching consequences for nature, air quality, climate and environmental planning. Our living environment is designed based on the use of the car instead of what is ecologically possible and desirable for our health. At the same time, public transport is rarely a good alternative, in terms of travel time, costs and punctuality.  

Country of cows

 
A second structural damage to the quality of the living environment comes from the agro-industry. About one half of the surface of our country is intended for cows. These cows make an important contribution to greenhouse gas emissions that further destroy the remaining nature. But this form of land use also leads to inefficient food production, which also results in health problems.
 
In the next months I will explore two themes: 'Are 'self-driving' cars advantageous ' and the 'The merits of the 15-minute city'. These themes are case studies regarding the quality of the living environment and in both cases mobility and nature  play an important role.
 
After the publication of these two miniseries with zeven posts each, the frequency of my posts on this site will decrease, although I will continue to draw attention on the fundamental choices we have to make regarding environmental issues.
 
Meanwhile, I started a new blog 'Expeditie Muziek' (in Dutch). I have always neglected my love for music and I am making up for it now. I think readers who love music will enjoy my posts in which pieces of text alternate with YouTube videos as much as I enjoy writing them.
 
Curious? Visit the link below

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

24 Participation

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This is the 24st episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Its topic is how involving citizens in policy, beyond the elected representatives, will strengthen democracy and enhance the quality of the living environment, as experienced by citizens.

Strengthening local democracy

Democratization is a decision-making process that identifies the will of the people after which government implements the results. Voting once every few years and subsequently letting an unpredictable coalition of parties make and implement policy is the leanest form of democracy. Democracy can be given more substance along two lines: (1) greater involvement of citizens in policy-making and (2) more autonomy in the performance of tasks. The photos above illustrate these lines; they show citizens who at some stage contribute to policy development, citizens who work on its implementation and citizens who celebrate a success.

Citizen Forums

In Swiss, the desire of citizens for greater involvement in political decision-making at all levels is substantiated by referenda. However, they lack the opportunity to exchange views, let alone to discuss them.
In his book Against Elections (2013), the Flemish political scientist David van Reybrouck proposes appointing representatives based on a weighted lottery. There are several examples in the Netherlands. In most cases, the acceptance of the results by the established politicians, in particular the elected representatives of the people, was the biggest hurdle. A committee led by Alex Brenninkmeijer, who has sadly passed away, has expressed a positive opinion about the role of citizen forums in climate policy in some advice to the House of Representatives. Last year, a mini-citizen's forum was held in Amsterdam, also chaired by Alex Brenninkmeijer, on the concrete question of how Amsterdam can accelerate the energy transition.

Autonomy

The ultimate step towards democratization is autonomy: Residents then not only decide, for example, about playgrounds in their neighbourhood, they also ensure that these are provided, sometimes with financial support from the municipality. The right to do so is formally laid down in the 'right to challenge'. For example, a group of residents proves that they can perform a municipal task better and cheaper themselves. This represents a significant step on the participation ladder from participation to co-creation.

Commons

In Italy, this process has boomed. The city of Bologna is a stronghold of urban commons. Citizens become designers, managers, and users of part of municipal tasks. Ranging from creating green areas, converting an empty house into affordable units for students, the elderly or migrants, operating a minibus service, cleaning and maintaining the city walls, redesigning parts of the public space etcetera.
From 2011 on commons can be given a formal status.  In cooperation pacts the city council and the parties involved (informal groups, NGOs, schools, companies) lay down agreements about their activities, responsibilities, and power. Hundreds of pacts have been signed since the regulation was adopted. The city makes available what the citizens need - money, materials, housing, advice - and the citizens donate their time and skills.

From executing together to deciding together

The following types of commons can be distinguished:
Collaboration: Citizens perform projects in their living environment, such as the management of a communal (vegetable) garden, the management of tools to be used jointly, a neighborhood party. The social impact of this kind of activities is large.
Taking over (municipal) tasks: Citizens take care of collective facilities, such as a community center or they manage a previously closed swimming pool. In Bologna, residents have set up a music center in an empty factory with financial support from the municipality.
Cooperation: This refers to a (commercial) activity, for example a group of entrepreneurs who revive a street under their own responsibility.
Self-government: The municipality delegates several administrative and management tasks to the residents of a neighborhood after they have drawn up a plan, for example for the maintenance of green areas, taking care of shared facilities, the operation of minibus transport.
<em>Budgetting</em>: In a growing number of cities, citizens jointly develop proposals to spend part of the municipal budget.

The role of the municipality in local initiatives

The success of commons in Italy and elsewhere in the world – think of the Dutch energy cooperatives – is based on people’s desire to perform a task of mutual benefit together, but also on the availability of resources and support.
The way support is organized is an important success factor. The placemaking model, developed in the United Kingdom, can be applied on a large scale. In this model, small independent support teams at neighbourhood level have proven to be necessary and effective.
 
Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.  

   

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20. Facilities within walking and cycling distance

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This is the 20th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Its topic is to enable citizens having daily necessities in a walking and bicycling distance.

During the pandemic, lockdowns prevented people from leaving their homes or moving over a longer distance. Many citizens rediscovered their own neighbourhood. They visited the parks every day, the turnover of the local shops increased, and commuters suddenly had much more time. Despite all the concerns, the pandemic contributed to a revival of a village-like sociability.

Revival of the ‘whole neighbourhood’

Revival indeed, because until the 1960s, most residents of cities in Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia did not know better than their dally needs were available within a few minutes' walk. In the street where I was born, there were four butchers, four bakers, three greengrocers and four groceries, even though the street was not much longer than 500 meters. No single shop survived. My primary school was also on that street, and you had to be around the corner for the doctor. This type of quality of life went lost, in the USA in particular. However, urban planners never have forgotten this idea. In many cities, the pandemic has turned these memories into attainable goals, albeit still far removed from reality. Nevertheless, the idea of the 'whole neighborhood' gained traction in many cities. It fits into a more comprehensive planning concept, the 15-minute city.

Support for facilities

The idea is that residents can find all daily needs within an imaginary circle with an area of approximately 50 hectares. This implies a proportionate number of residents. A lower limit of 150 residents per hectare is often mentioned, considering a floor area of 40% for offices and small industry. The idea is further that most streets are car-free and provide plenty of opportunity for play and meeting.

Opportunity for social contacts

In a 'whole neighbourhood', residents find opportunity for shopping and meeting from morning to evening. There is a supermarket, a bakery, a butcher, a greengrocer's shop, a drugstore, a handful of cafes and restaurants, a fitness center, a primary school, a medical center, craft workshops, offices, green spaces and a wide variety of houses. Here, people who work at home drink their morning coffee, employees meet colleagues and freelancers work at a café table during the quiet hours. Housemen and women do their daily shopping or work out in the gym, have a chat, and drink a cup of tea. People meet for lunch, dinner and socializing on the terrace or in the cafes, until closing time. A good example is the Oostpoort in Amsterdam, albeit one of the larger ones with a station and a few tram lines.

Planning model

On the map above, the boundaries of the neighborhoods with an area of approximately 50 hectares are shown in the form of circles. The circular neighborhood is a model. This principle can already play a role on the drawing board in new neighborhoods to be built. In existing neighbourhoods, drawing circles is mainly a matter of considering local data. The center of the circle will then often be placed where there are already some shops. Shops outside the intended central area can be helped to move to this area. Spaces between existing homes can be reserved for small-scale businesses, schools, small parks, communal gardens and play facilities. Once the contours have been established, densification can be implemented by choosing housing designs that align to the character of the neighbourhood. Towards the outside of the imaginary circle, the building density will decrease, except at public transport stops or where circles border the water, often an ideal place for higher buildings.

If a thoroughfare passes through the center of the circle, this street can be developed into a city street, including a public transport route. Facilities are then realized around a small square in the center of the circle and the surrounding streets.
Incidentally, space between the circles can be used for through traffic, parks, and facilities that transcend districts, for instance a swimming pool or a sports hall or an underground parking garage. Mostly, neighborhoods will merge seamlessly into each other.
It will take time before this dream comes true.
 
 
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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

19. Safe living environment

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This is the 19th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. This post is about increasing the independent mobility of children and the elderly, which is limited due to the dangers that traffic entails.

For safety reasons, most urban children under the age of ten are taken to school. The same goes for most other destinations nearby. It hampers children’s independent mobility, which is important for their development.

Car-free routes for pedestrians and cyclists

For security reasons, car-free connections between homes and schools, community centers, bus stops and other facilities are mandatory (photo’s top left and bottom right). Car routes, in their turn, head to neighborhood parking spaces or underground parking garages. Except for a limited number of parking spaces for disabled people.

Design rules

Model-wise, the design of a residential area consists of quadrants of approximately 200 x 200 meters in which connections are primarily intended for pedestrians and cyclists. There are routes for motorized traffic between the quadrants and there are parking facilities and bus stops at the edges. Inhabitants might decide that cars may enter the pedestrian area at walking pace to load and unload to disappear immediately afterwards. The routes for pedestrians and cyclists connect directly with the shops and other destinations in the neighborhood, based on the idea of the 15-minute city. Shops 'ideally' serve 9 to 16 quadrants. In practice, this mode will have many variations because of terrain characteristics, building types and aesthetic considerations.

Examples

The number of neighborhoods where cars can only park on the outskirts is growing. A classic example is 'ecological paradise' Vauban were 50 'Baugruppen' (housing cooperatives) have provided affordable housing (photo bottom middle ). Car-free too is the former site of the Gemeentelijk waterleidingbedrijf municipal water supply company in Amsterdam - (photo bottom left). Here almost all homes have a garden, roof terrace or spacious balcony. The Merwede district in Utrecht (top middle) will have 12,000 inhabitants and for only 30% room for parking is available, and even then only on the edge of the district. Shared cars, on the other hand, will be widely available. The space between the houses is intended for pedestrians, cyclists and children playing.

More emphasis on collective green

Due to the separation of traffic types and the absence of nuisance caused by car, there are no obligatory streets, but wide foot- and cycle paths. Instead there are large lawns for playing and picnicking, vegetable gardens and playgrounds. Further space savings will be achieved by limiting the depth of the front and back gardens. Instead, large collective space appears between the residential blocks; remember the Rivierenwijk in Utrecht that I mentioned in the former post (top right). Behind the buildings, there is room for small backyards, storage sheds and possibly parking space.
 
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14. Liveability

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The picture shows the average development of the liveability per household in residential neighborhoods in the Netherlands from 2014 (source: Leefbaarheid in Nederland, 2020)
 
This is the 14th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. This post discusses how to improve the liveability of neighbourhoods. Liveability is defined as the extent to which the living environment meets the requirements and wishes set by residents.

Differences in liveability between Dutch neighbourhoods

From the image above can be concluded that more than half of all households live in neighborhoods to be qualified as at least 'good'. On the other hand, about 1 million households live in neighborhoods where liveability is weak or even less.
These differences are mainly caused by nuisance, insecurity, and lack of social cohesion. Locally, the quality of the houses stays behind.
The neighborhoods with a weak or poorer liveability are mainly located in the large cities. Besides the fact that many residents are unemployed and have financial problems, there is also a relatively high concentration of (mental) health problems, loneliness, abuse of alcohol and drugs and crime. However, many people with similar problems also live outside these neighbourhoods, spread across the entire city.

Integration through differentiation: limited success

The Netherlands look back on a 75 years period in which urban renewal was high on the agenda of the national and municipal government. Over the years, housing different income groups within each neighbourhood has played a major role in policy. To achieve this goal, part of the housing stock was demolished to be replaced by more expensive houses. This also happened if the structural condition of the houses involved gave no reason to demolishment.
Most studies show that the differentiation of the housing stock has rarely had a positive impact on social cohesion in a neighborhood and often even a negative one. The problems, on the other hand, were spread over a wider area.

Ensuring a liveable existence of the poor

Reinout Kleinhans justly states: <em>Poor neighborhoods are the location of deprivation, but by no means always the cause of it.</em> A twofold focus is therefore required: First and foremost, tackling poverty and a structural improvement of the quality of life of people in disadvantaged positions, and furthermore an integrated neighborhood-oriented approach in places where many disadvantaged people live together.
I have already listed measures to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged groups in an earlier post that dealt with social security. I will therefore focus here on the characteristics of an integrated neighbourhood-oriented approach.
• Strengthening of the remaining social cohesion in neighborhoods by supporting bottom-up initiatives that result in new connections and feed feelings of hope and recognition.
• Improvement of the quality of the housing stock and public space where necessary to stimulate mobility within the neighborhood, instead of attracting 'import' from outside.
• Allowing residents to continue living in their own neighborhood in the event of necessary improvements in the housing stock.
• Abstaining from large-scale demolition to make room for better-off residents from outside the neighborhood if there are sufficient candidates from within.
• In new neighborhoods, strive for social, cultural, and ethnic diversity at neighborhood level so that children and adults can meet each other. On 'block level', being 'among us' can contribute to feeling at home, liveability, and self-confidence.
• Curative approach to nuisance-causing residents and repressive approach to subversive crime through the prominent presence of community police officers who operate right into the capillaries of neighbourhoods, without inciting aggression.
• Offering small-scale assisted living programs to people for whom independent living is still too much of a task. This also applies to housing-first for the homeless.
• Strengthening the possibilities for identification and proudness of inhabitants by establishing top-quality play and park facilities, a multifunctional cultural center with a cross-district function and the choice of beautiful architecture.
• Improving the involvement of residents of neighbourhoods by trusting them and giving them actual say, laid down in neighborhood law.
 
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