Jane Jacobs as our example for Penang (“Nobody but a bunch of mothers.”)

jane jacobs robert moses

Battle Royal: Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses

It was late Spring 1958 (as I best recall) in New York City when a young Eric Britton, just out of the US Army and about to dig into the Graduate Faculties of Columbia, was – as young men will do — checking out the action in Washington Square Park in the Village on a warm day. When he ran into two little kids wearing a sandwich sign saying something like “Save the Square!”. The kids handed me a pamphlet and explained that they were there to help their mother, who was just over there (they pointed).

And that was how I first met Mrs. Jane Jacobs, hard at work on an at-first very lonely effort to save this precious bit of NYC public space from the depredations of Robert Moses plan to run an urban highway extension of Fifth avenue over the concrete remains of what would once have been a beautiful and much used public park. It was clearly going to be a losing cause, but she decided to stick it out. And as she did others, unknowns and celebrities, gradually started to get behind her cause.

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Sustainable Penang Civil Society Honor Roll

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Dear Friends of a Sustainable Penang,

I am hard at work on a challenging book under the title BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Mobility to Smaller Asian Cities, which is not about Penang, the focus being much broader. However, at one point in the book I intend to comment on some of the most interesting things I have observed that are being done in Penang via the internet and civil society in order to broaden the debate and inform both concerned citizens, government, the business community, policy makers and the public more generally. We call this The Third Force.

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Planning and Policy Objectives for a Real Strategic Transport Plan for Penang

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Again and again and again, when it comes to “transport master planning” in Penang, it seems as if we always end up circling to the same old structurally wrong thing. And in the process allowing the undertrained proponents of the Big Bang “solution” of the present government package, to occupy the center of the debate. This is a huge mistake.

It is my position that the starting place for responsible and effective transport planning and policy in Penang is NOT to link it to land deals —  but to look at the challenge in and of itself. From a well defined, explicit strategic perspective.

Some will say that they do not have enough money to accomplish their objectives — which quickly become wild, pharaonic, costly and not related to the real problems and priorities at hand. Remember, transport for people and not for cars (infrastructure included)

Here is the simple question that the policy makers need to ask and resolve.

(a) What is it that they can accomplish for the people of Penang,

(b) working with available resources in order to

(c) alleviate the day-to-day mobility problems of the people of Penang – with

(d) especial attention to the needs of the poorer half of society and the vulnerable populations (elderly, handicapped, poor, isolated, non-car owners, and

(e) above all women of all ages and stations of life, and in

(f) in the coming four years, i.e., 2017-2020.

How hard is that? And why is no one minding this store?

Please someone, tell me why this is not being done?

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About the author:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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Archives: The struggle for local democracy in Malaysia

This is one of those special times for Malaysia when change and ideas are most  welcome. So there is hope and opportunity.  And it is one of those special times when change, even paradigm shifts are possible, and local governments given a new and more central place in the lives of our citizens. If we can together constructively, creatively and systematically build and add to the many promising initiatives , and if civic engagement leads an upsurge of citizen interest, we will surely see the emergence of an efficient, effective, equitable, democratic local government system in Malaysia that is socially, ecologically and economically sustainable.  And make a marked improvement in the quality of life of all Malaysians.
* Anwar Fazal, Penang. In Malaysiakini, 12 April 2001

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Heads-up Penang: Have you thought about getting an Undriving license?

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There is a program in Seattle, USA that wants to teach you to become an “Undriver”. — Go to http://undriving.org/ for details.

And what about this?  Should Penang also start its own Undriver project. A grassroots movement to show what individual citizens who care can do for themselves and for others for a better, safer and fairer Penang.

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Op-Ed: Do Not Feed The Hungry Road Monster

This is not the most subtile treatment of the “More Roads/More traffic” problem I have ever seen, but let’s take a look about how the Penang Forum in its civil society pleading for a real vision and strategy behind transport policy and investment in Penang puts their case.

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