Editorial: Future topics? Thinking out loud

Here as we get ready to start up is one first rough cluster of ideas for proposed topics for future articles, which I share with you here in the hope that some of you will critique, amend and possibly squash as useful, and as well hopefully add to this list with ideas of your own. We can then keep this growing list in sight as we get to work full speed for our launch on November 1st.

1. India Streets that work.
For example, the above street scene from Chennai (other than that awful, looming, Hitchcockian overpass just to the right ) looks to these eyes like a street that is already working quite well in many respects. And while I am sure that it can certainly be improved at the level of numerous details, certainly not in the sense of unleashing our old mobility traffic engineering friends go to work with their unbridled technical zeal to turn this into one more dangerous channel for swiftly moving cars.

My thought is that if we begin to assemble a bit of a pantheon of Indian streets that work and then start to generalize the basic underlying principles, this might be useful for supporting better advised transport policy and practices on the street.

2. India Streets that don’t work.
A “hall of shame” showing exactly the sorts of projects that have somehow gotten built and others of the same ilk that are getting government support at many levels but which work against the interest of the people and the city. (It should not be very hard to find some awful but pungent examples, including in the category of overall transformations, over- and under-passes for pedestrians, cyclists, and other wonders of old mobility thinking and practice at its very worst. )

3. Groups working toward New Mobility in Indian Cities
We know that there are people and groups across this great sprawling country that are fighting the good fight, often cornered in a pocket of local indifference and even hostility. One of the contributions of India Streets can be to provide a high-profile platform so that these till now quite isolated groups and efforts can be made known on a larger stage. And supported where we can

4. Old Mobility thinking, projects and proposals
It will be important that we hear from the other side on these issues,. So what if, say every two weeks or so, we turn over the rostrum to people and groups who do not share our views and priorities. (Again it should not be hard at all to come up with striking examples in this category.) These ideas and proposals can then be calmly discussed.

5. Post Mortems
Bad or failed projects tend to be swept under the carpet very quickly. The organizers disperse, change their names, and/or move to Geneva. In this way no known person was ever responsible, none of the lessons of the project and all that hard-earned public money ever get known. And thus we are destined to repeat those same basic mistakes again and again. But might India Streets help in improving our collective memories on these events?

There are also failures – and one would fully expect many of them in a world that is not always welcoming to new ideas – of projects that may in fact have been pretty good or even excellent ideas, but which for one reason or another were unable to find their full place and prevail. Here too we need to know more about outstanding examples, because some of these ideas may be the sort of things that we should be looking at now. Especially if we can learn the lessons of their failure the first time around.

6. The 90/10 rule.
As has been pointed out many times, we live in an age in which on the order of 90% of all taxpayer moneys are being spent on projects that at most will benefit ten percent of the people’s mobility needs. Those that are car-based are surely worth our vigilant citizen’s eyes, but also the mega-PT projects, and dare I mention the new metro proposals in the same breath? And perhaps too (I tremble) some of the possibly less well advised BRT proposals as well. Whatever it may be, let’s have a good look.

7. RSI – Real Stupid Ideas

Without wishing to hurt the feeling of otherwise surely well-intentioned people and groups, I think it will be a very healthy thing indeed if we keep our eyes out for excessively stupid proposals and projects that really could benefit from a bit of kind but strong ridicule. If we get these right they can be truly delicious to do, to read, and to learn from.

8. Profiles/Place of honor
People and groups across the country about whom we will do well to know more.

9. Events:
Anybody or place that is planning/organizing an event that our readers will do well to know more about. These should be short, neutral, and take the reader direct to source.

10. Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Other
One every fortnight or so, let’s break out of our main boundaries and see if we can lend space, thought and encouragement to projects in areas which have much in common with India’s streets and cities.

11. Sharing:
More and better sharing, of vehicles, streets., public spaces has to be one of the central pillars of India’s new mobility strategy. Let’s get this critical component of w well working and fair city out of the shadows and into the bright light of public and media consideration.

12. Walkable cities
If there were one single great thing we could achieve with all this effort, it would be to improve the conditions of walking as transport in the cities across India. Walking is the queen of all transport modes, and we need to find ways to put it into the first line of transport policy in our cities. A great city is one that is safely, agreeably and efficiently walkable. If your city does not pass the walkability test, well it is simply not a great city. You fail! So it’s for you to choose.

May I now turn over the floor to you?

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