Transport and Society – ITF Forum Leipzig 2011

People first transportation in the 21st century?

Helle as part of a distinguished panel discussing Meeting People's Needs in Policy in Planning

As part of the OECD, the International Transport Forum’s annual Summit is the place for a vibrant exchange of ideas about recent developments and the future of transport. As the unique global platform that brings together Ministers, decision-makers, experts and practitioners from around the world and from all modes of transport, the International Transport Forum has established itself as the leading global mobility event.

This year, the focus of debate is “Transport for Society”. It has been impressive to hear so many ministers of Transport, academics, and practitioners talk about prioritizing the needs of people in transport planning.   It is also encouraging to hear more and more panelists and speakers talk about the need to focus on integrating land use planning and human scale urban design together with complex transport networks.

It is exactly these issues that Founding Partner at Gehl Architects, Helle Søholt focused on in the two panels that she participated in during the Forum.  In both  Keeping it Clean – Transport, Health and the Environment and Meeting People’s Needs in Policy and Planning, Helle emphasized the need to balance fast transport with slow mobility and to complement capital intensive mega projects with non-motorized mobility improvements.  Helle contributed to the esteemed panel including Gao Hongfeng, Vice Minister of Transport in China and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York.

Helle emphasized that all public transit riders and motorists begin their journey as pedestrians and therefore the transit and automobile network can only be as good as the pedestrian network that brings them to other modes of transit.

A portion of the Our Cities Ourselves Exhibit is also on display at the ITF Forum

The key is to provide dignified choice and multi-faceted options for mobility. In integrating these systems and promoting safety, comfort, convenience  in moving through the city and inviting people to meet and spend time in public spaces, we can come a long way toward making cities for people.  Yet a change of mindset still needs to occur where decision makers consider proximity as well as density, quality of experience as well as capacity, safety as well as reliability.  This is the approach of the Our Cities Ourselves campaign, developed in collaboration with ITDP and also on display at the ITF Forum.

Helle argued that we can still accommodate for motorists and public transit riders by prioritizing proximity high quality conditions for  pedestrians and cyclists.  But experience from around the world shows the converse is not true; we cannot create good environments for people by prioritizing the needs of motorists and public transport capacity alone.

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