How Cities Must Change Radically in Face of Population Growth

megacities on the move image

Image credit: Forum for the Future, used with permission.

As Lloyd reminded us, Alex Steffen once posted on the now sadly discontinued Worldchanging a fabulous piece called My Other Car is a Bright Green City. And yesterday, Lloyd also posted about a bike advocate complaining about the electric car hype that is so rife in the media (this site being no exception.) "Show me a car that doesn't require a parking space," argued the activist, "then I might be interested." Cars that don't require parking spaces—or at least can share their parking spaces with other cars by stacking, and can be rented out by the hour—are just one of the innovations being highlighted in a major new study on how megacities must change to meet mobility needs. Luckily, bikes feature pretty heavily too. Maybe Alex Steffen's other car is about to become reality.With over half of the world's population living in cities, and that figure set to rise to two thirds by 2040, there is no doubt that an urgent rethink is needed for how people live, work, and move about in cities. If cities are to have any hope of keeping up with these massive population shifts, the new report argues, they need to start planning and acting now for a truly integrated, innovative, and people-centric approach to mobility that utilizes everything from transportation innovations, through better urban planning, to IT solutions that eliminate the need for some travel all together.

The report lays out four possible scenarios for the future of our cities, ranging from the dystopian Sprawl-ville and Planned-opolis, to the rather idyllic sounding Renewa-bad and Communi-city, and it identifies six specific solutions for sustainable mobility which, if implemented as an integrated strategy, could help radically change the way our cities work:

1. Integrate, integrate, integrate. Cities need to consider transport, urban planning, business, public services, energy and food supply as part of the same integrated system.

2. Make the poor a priority.
Urban mobility systems must ensure that goods, services and job opportunities are open to all.

3. Go beyond the car. Cities need to be designed for people, not cars, and promote alternative forms of transport.

4. Switch on to IT networks. Information technology can create more efficient vehicles, better integrated transport systems, and can offer online and telepresence solutions which avoid the need for travel altogether.

5. Refuel our vehicles. Climate change and rising prices mean we need to focus on energy efficiency and shift the way we power our vehicles from petrol to renewable, low-carbon fuel sources.

6. Change people's behaviour.
Infrastructure and technology are not enough, we need to create new social norms that encourage more sustainable, low-carbon lifestyle.

Most importantly, it also supplies real-world examples of initiatives that are already putting these principles into practice—ranging from prototype stackable electric cars, through Vancouver's bike- and pedestrian-friendly planning revolution, to peer-to-peer car rental schemes.

Released today, Megacities on the Move is a collaboration between the UK-based think tank Forum for the Future, telecommunications giant Vodafone, the FiA Foundation, a non-profit charity founded by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and Embarq - the WRI center for sustainable transport.

More on Sustainable Mobility and Livable Cities
How NYC Became Walk, Bike and Transit Friendly (Video)
Worldchanging - 2003-2010
Volt, Schmolt; Get a Bike Instead
A North American Journalist Describes Cycling in Copenhagen
Parking Lots to Parks: Designing Livable Cities
Organizing Cities to Encourage Staying at Home

Related Content on