Seville is Spain’s Cycling Gem

It’s well known that the future of urban design and transportation will support the mass use of bicycles. Still, some cities are slow to catch on to this. In Spain where cycling is not nearly as popular in colder northern parts of Europe the city of Seville is leading the charge into the future.

How Seville became such a great cycling city is a far out tale:

“As soon as the building work was finishing and the fences were removed the cyclists just came. The head of the building team, who’d been very sceptical about the process, called me and said, ‘Where have all those cyclists come from?’ That’s when I knew for sure it was going to work. The came from all over the city.”

The net result is not Dutch or Danish levels of cycling, but nonetheless impressive. The average number of bikes used daily in the city rose from just over 6,000 to more than 70,000. The last audit, about a year ago, found 6% of all trips were made by bike, rising to 9% for non-commuter journeys.

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The 20 Safest Cities in the World

The Economist safe cities list (pdf link) has been released and the results are pretty neat! There are some cities that you’d expect to be there and some surprise too!

The analysts looked at digital, health, and personal security of every city on the list plus the condition of the city’s infrastructure.

Is you city on the list?

3. Osaka

The Japanese city of 2.6 million ranks second in personal safety and sixth in health security. As with Tokyo, Osaka is relatively wealthy, and it ranks second for GDP per capita among upper-middle-income cities.
The city ranks lower in digital security than Tokyo, as it has fewer cybersecurity teams and privacy policies.

See the full list.

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Copenhagen Designed a Neighbourhood to Cope With Climate Change

Climate change is happening faster than projected and this means that cities need to react sooner than anticipated. We’ve seen efforts in New York that will create barriers against rising sea levels and other cities have done similar infrastructure improvements. Copenhagen has taken the next logical step: converting an existing neighbourhood into one ready for climate change.

The redesigned chunk of the city use vegetation and reigned streetscapes for a future-proof city.

They went for the green option. “Adding sewers is insanely costly, so a green-and-blue [vegetation and water] approach is more economical,” notes Esben Alslund-Lanthén, an analyst at the Copenhagen-based sustainability think tank Sustainia. There was just one challenge: No city has ever tried climate-change-adapting a whole neighborhood using just plants and water. “It’s a huge amount of water that we’ll have to redirect when the next cloudburst hits,” says Flemming Rafn Thomsen of Tredje Natur, the Danish architecture firm chosen for the project. “We looked at St. Kjeld and thought, ‘That’s a lot of asphalt with no function. We can use some of that space for water.’” On top of having little function, the asphalt gave St. Kjeld, a somewhat rundown working-class neighborhood, an even more depressing feel.

The answer, Rafn Thomsen and the city decided, was to tear up the neighborhood’s squares and replace their asphalt covering with what’s essentially a hilly, grassy carpet interspersed with walking paths. Should a storm, flood or rising sea levels hit the Danish capital again, the bucolic mini-parks will turn into water basins, the hills essentially functioning as the sides of a bowl. Thanks to a new pipe system, the squares will even be able to collect water from surrounding buildings’ roofs. Surrounding streets will, for their part, be turned into “cloudburst boulevards.” Under ordinary circumstances, they’ll just be ordinary streets with raised sidewalks, but during floods and megastorms, they’ll become canals, channeling rainwater away from the squares to the harbor. Millions of gallons of water will be dispatched back to the harbor on such aboveground waterways, St. Kjeld becoming a temporary Venice.

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Slow Increasing Carbon Waste by Growing Cities

People living in cities have a lower carbon footprint than those in the suburbs and rural areas. Some people find this rather counter intuitive for reasons I don’t fully understand. There are researchers looking into the future of our global carbon footprint and they have concluded that if we increase the percentage of people in urban places instead of suburban/rural we can lower the rate of wasteful carbon increase.

By taking these key steps, particularly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the analysis concluded that the world’s cities could limit themselves to using 540 exajoules of energy in 2050 (it takes the U.S. about three weeks to produce enough crude oil to generate 1 EJ of energy). That’s a lot of energy—more than double cities’ 2005 energy demand of 240 EJ. But it’s a quarter less than the projected demand of 730 EJ under the business-as-usual scenario analyzed.

Given that most of the energy used by humanity today comes from fossil fuels, improving the energy efficiency of cities could deliver big climate benefits. Cities account for so much of the world’s energy use that a recent U.N climate report concluded they’re responsible for three quarters of yearly carbon dioxide pollution.

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Growing the Green Roof Industry in North America

Green roofs are great! They help alleviate a lot of issues that arise in urban living while making cities more beautiful. There is growing interest in making sure that urban green roofs take off and it looks like it is working.

While other countries like Germany have been using green roofs since the 1980’s, North America has been playing catch up. Toronto, however, is a city enamoured with renewable energy and sustainability. Ryerson’s engineering building on Church St., the new Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex and Toronto City Hall are all notable examples of green roof early adopters.

A pioneer in North America, the city requires all new builds with a minimum gross floor area of 2,000m2 to include a portion of vegetation on roof surfaces. It also offers a grant of up to $75/square metre to offset the cost of green-roof installation. Similar incentive programs are being instated in Washington DC, NYC and Chicago, but Toronto is the first to actually mandate builders to include a vegetated roof – or face a hefty fine.

And with good reason. Green roofs divert waste, help manage storm water, moderate ‘urban heat island’ effects and improve air quality. They also reduce noise and can save significant amounts of money. In a warehouse complex, for example, the evaporation characteristics of a green roof can lower the inside temperature from between three to five degrees celsius.

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