Read Robin King's response to the Medellín Declaration on TheCityFix.
Medellín, Colombia recently hosted the Seventh World Urban Forum (WUF7), which focused on “Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life.” The event attracted over 22,000 participants from around the globe to shape the international agenda on urbanization. EMBARQ, the sustainable transport and urban development program of the World Resources Institute (WRI), was represented by experts from its Brazil, China, India, and Mexico Centers.
EMBARQ hosted the “Cities Safer by Design for All,” event, where researchers and city officials could network and showcase the work EMBARQ and its partners have done throughout the year to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists on roads around the world. As well, many from EMBARQ contributed their expertise in presentations, such as EMBARQ China’s director Haitao Zhang, Dr. Robin King, and Dr. Dario Hidalgo, whose presentations touched on a multitude of factors---from finance, road safety, equitability, transit-oriented development---that all influence and are influenced by sustainable transport. All of EMBARQ lent their ideas to help craft the Medellin Declaration, which advocates for the role of equity in cities as a central component needed in the upcoming drafting of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.
Designing cities for access and safety is a full team effort
With traffic fatalities currently claiming over 1.2 million deaths annually – 91% of which occur in low-income and middle-income countries – EMBARQ’s road-safety work has never been more challenging nor more critical. Although the challenges are great, over the past year EMBARQ and its partners have made significant gains in promoting safety and access for “vulnerable road users” around the world, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. At the “Safer by Design” event, researchers from all across EMBARQ’s network, including Brazil, India, and Mexico, shared best practices, research, and key principles to help develop cities and transport options in a way that orients mobility for people and creates safe, connected communities.
EMBARQ’s contribution continued throughout the day. Dario Hidalgo, the Director of Research and Practice at EMBARQ spoke about using financing to increasing equitability in cities, while Robin King, Director, Urban Development and Accessibility at EMBARQ, spoke about the link between transport and justice. Together their words pushed forward the need to link justice and equitability throughout all of EMBARQ’s work, and the work of the organization’s wider network.
EMBARQ China presents on sustainable transport strategies
At a special “China Corner” session, Haitao Zhang, director of EMBARQ China at the World Resources Institute (WRI), made a presentation on the “Low-carbon and Sustainable Transport for Qingdao: A strategic study.” At this presentation, Zhang explained the sustainability challenges within the transport sector in China, which includes rapid motorization with ensuing environmental externalities and outdated planning systems which do not integrate land use and transport. Zhang also spoke about funding shortages for public transport, and the need to shift towards planning human-centered cities.
Zhang spoke emphatically about how urban development influences transport, and the need for China to turn its congested super blocks into pedestrian-friendly thoroughfares. Zhang believes “small scale urban interventions” that replace wide roadways with outdoor cafes and pedestrian friendly plazas, simultaneously lowering carbon emissions and improving pedestrian access, are key in creating more accessible environments. In order to successfully implement these interventions, Zhang understands that it will take a large paradigm shift for drivers who currently have possession over the roadways, as well as stronger accountability measures and collaboration between city leaders and policy makers to successfully implement people-centered urban development projects.
Zhang spoke about the lessons learned from Qingdao, a major city in the northeast, where EMBARQ China connected land use and transport planning together with the “avoid-shift-improve” framework to make the city a more sustainable, human-centered environment. Now EMBARQ China hopes to leverage the lessons learned in Qingdao to create a framework for developing sustainable, people-centered cities across all of China.