Livable Cities Symposium 2014: Enhancing quality of life in the urban age
Over the past half-century, the world has urbanized at an unprecedented pace. In 1970, about 37% of the world’s population lived in urban areas. This number rose to 45% in 1990, 54% in 2014, and is expected to reach 66% by 2050. Much of this urban growth is occurring in less wealthy cities, and has created distinct challenges. Many cities are struggling with insufficient infrastructure, traffic congestion, sprawling urban form, air pollution, and degraded public spaces.
The problems have become so apparent that they’ve given rise to a new paradigm in organizing and defining our cities: livability. Multiple indices from organizations that include the Economist Intelligence Unit, Mercer, Monocle, and the OECD attempt to define this concept and rank cities according to their level of livability. Most indices include crime rates, health statistics, sanitation standards, and expenditures on city services. Monocle – a lifestyle magazine that focuses on the top 25 most livable cities – also includes criteria such as residents’ social and economic standing, infrastructure, and ease and availability of local transport.
With these criteria in mind, EMBARQ Turkey is hosting the second annual Livable Cities Symposium to examine how cities can improve urban transport to improve quality of life and become more livable. The first Livable Cities Symposium was held in November 2013, with more than 200 participants from local administrations, the private sector, universities, and NGOs. Participants met with more than 15 experts from five different continents. The main topics discussed were livable and sustainable cities, urban development and accessibility, transit oriented development (TOD), and traffic safety. According to post-event surveys, the participant satisfaction rate was over 90%.
Creating more bikeable and walkable cities worldwide
This year, the Livable Cities Symposium will bring together more than 30 experts from ten countries, and will have a special focus on bikeability and walkability. It will take place on November 20, 2014 and is co-organized by EMBARQ Turkey and the İzmir Development Agency (İZKA).
As core components of livability, biking and walking create a number of benefits for cities. As part of compact, connected cities, they help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion. They also have a significant impact on residents’ physical health. These forms of transport reduce local air pollution and help improve respiratory health. They also help residents incorporate physical activity into their daily commute. Turkey is one of many countries worldwide that experiences widespread obesity. According to a study conducted by the Turkish Ministry of Health in 2010, 64.9% of Turkey’s population is overweight, and 71.9% are physically inactive. By providing the necessary infrastructure to support biking and walking – two modes of active transport – cities can fight obesity and inactivity while benefiting the environment.
This year’s Symposium will begin with a “Mayors Session,” led by the Director of the Department of Clean Vehicles in Stockholm, Sweden, and the mayors of İzmir and Eskişehir – whose cities were ranked among the ten most livable in Turkey according to a 2009-2010 index prepared by CNCB-E Business. They will discuss best practices to create bikeable, walkable, and livable cities. The Symposium will host a session focused on women’s perspectives on livable cities, featuring two female district mayors, a deputy mayor, and the head of İzmir’s Chamber of Urban Planners. The Symposium will also feature sessions on pedestrianization, public spaces, urban cycling, innovative urban transport solutions, and Symbiocity – an integrated sustainable city concept from Sweden.
As the host city for the Symposium, İzmir claims the ambitious goal of becoming the most livable city in Turkey. The city has already promoted sustainable transport through pedestrianization projects, improving cycling with safe bike lanes and bike-sharing systems, and integrating public transport systems. İzmir established its bike-sharing system, called BİSİM, in January 2014, and has since attracted more than 80,000 users. The system consists of 311 bicycles in 29 bike stations serving the city’s 40 km of bike lanes. According to the 2014-2023 İzmir Regional Plan, sustainable urban development and sustainable transport – which includes biking and walking – are among the fundamental priorities to improve livability in the city.
İzmir also has a history of significant investment in the health sector. Sustainable transport provides another means to create a healthy community. Now that İzmir is on the verge of renewing its transport master plans, the Livable Cities Symposium 2014 will be an important occasion for the authorities to reconsider walkability and bikeability in the city.
The Symposium will support İzmir, and cities throughout Turkey and worldwide to become more walkable, bikeable and livable.
The Livable Cities Symposium 2014 will be organized with the valuable support from the World Resources Institute (WRI), Bloomberg Philanthropies, the World Bank, European Union Turkey Delegation, French Development Agency, Business Consulate General of Sweden, Trade Council of Denmark, Consulate General of Canada, Bombardier, Sampaş Bilişim, IBM, Baksi Smart Bikes Systems, EGİKAD (Aegean Young Businesswomen Association), TEMSA Global (EMBARQ Turkey, Corporational Member), Salcano Bicycle (EMBARQ Turkey, Corporational Member), Yapı Endüstri Merkezi and Akıllı Ulaşım ve Güvenlik Sistemleri Dergisi.
For more information and to register online, please visit the conference website.