- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Reinventing America's Cities - The Time is Now

Incredible piece here in the New York Times about exactly the kind of change that is needed in America's cities. The only disappointment is that it is in the Arts section. This would be equally as relevant in the Politics section or the Business section. Well done Nicolai Ouroussoff. Here's hoping America is listening.

For that matter, let's hope Tokyo is listening. For all the talk of a green Olympics bid, there is scant evidence yet that the road building juggernaut has got the message.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Japan Rail Starts Car-Sharing

OK, here is something Japan specific. And wow. This could really change the way things are done around the place. From "Terrie's Take" (thanks Terrie):

-> Trains and car sharing

It seems that car sharing is really starting to catch on,
with East Japan Railway (JR East) announcing that it will
enter the business and make a small initial fleet of 6 cars
available in Tokyo and Kanagawa. Subscribers will be able
to unlock the cars using the unique ID on their Suica
commuter card. Apparently JR East will extend the service
to over 12 stations in Tokyo over the next 24 months. The
price will be JPY630 for every 30 minutes of use, plus the
usual registration and monthly subscription fees. ***Ed:
Obviously a small experiment to start with, but imagine if
JR East started doing this service at stations popular with
tourists -- outside Tokyo.**

Damn right! Just imagine. And it isn't such a leap from there to imagine JR getting into the bicycle sharing gig also. Just imagine if you could glide into any JR station in Japan and take your pick of car or bicycle depending on the needs at the time. Now THAT is seamless, safe, efficient, ecological transport integration. Enough! highways - THIS is what we really need.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Amazing Video Selection

Sorry. None of this is Japan specific content - just recycling from Streetfilms, but some VERY very cool stuff so I had to pick out a few favourites...

And hooray for more of this!!

And this...! Damn, it is no wonder cars are not selling.

So it is not rocket science, but it WORKS. Talk about 1st class service! If you make the effort to ride your bike, then free vallet parking is the least we can do to reward you!

And this is absolutely INCREDIBLE.

All these great videos from Street Films:

Carfree Communities Are Child's Play

Great stuff this - and how simple it is. It reminds me of the times when it snows in Tokyo, and the back streets become playgrounds. Kids come out of the woodwork and you wonder where they all were before the snow. Of course, before long the snow melts, the cars are back, and the kids are chased back to their computer games. But if we can only redesign communities to restrict automobile access within certain areas...

- Carfree Communities Are Child's Play
Traffic prevents children from playing. Between 1973 and 2006, the proportion
of children playing on UK streets fell from 75% to 15%. Two charities, Sustrans
and Play Wales, are calling on planning authorities to lead the UK to build
carfree housing estates, which gives a high quality of life for all its
residents, particularly for children in traffic-clogged urban areas allowing
them to play safely outside their front doors and travel independently. The
proposals would also help cut obesity in children who are unable to play in
traffic-clogged areas. The plan envisages that car parking in the new
developments would be limited and situated away from people’s homes.