City Matters Bulletin - brought to you by Urbanicity - web version

Welcome to the October 2015 edition of City Matters.


As usual we have summarised the most popular and interesting news stories for last month below, and the entire month's catalogue of news items can be seen here.

If you are looking for information on conferences about cities and city issues, check out the latest issue of Diary Dates.

And lastly, if you want the most regular news updates, be sure to follow us on Twitter

Jeremy Flay

Editor in Chief


Why is a Paris suburb scrapping an urban farm to build a car park?

With the UN climate conference putting Paris in the eco-spotlight this year, the impending closure of R-Urban, a project at the forefront of urban sustainability, seems curious – not least in its timing


Making urbanization work for Africa

With close to half a billion people living in cities in 2015 and 1 billion expected in 2040, Africa will have doubled its urban population in the next 25 years. At this early stage in its urbanization process, Africa has the chance to avoid the mistakes of so many other regions and get it right. See in this video some solid data on the particular characteristics of urbanization in Africa --where manufacturing is declining in rapidly growing cities, and population is sprawling-- and a proposed approach to urban jobs, housing and transport that will make cities work not just in terms of infrastructure, but most importantly to improve the lives of their residents.


Local and regional governments mobilize towards COP 21 

From 31 August to 4 September climate negotiators met for an extra inter sessional week in Bonn to progress on the text to be agreed upon during the COP 21 in Paris (30 November-11 December 2015).
The negotiators worked on the basis of the “Tool” released by the Co-chairs over the summer, an 80-page document divided into three parts


Cities announce new partnerships and commitments at US-China Climate Leaders Summit

At the US China Climate Leaders Summit, local governments have announced new commitments and partnerships to mitigate climate change, increase climate resilience and strengthen bilateral cooperation. 
ICLEI Member Cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and several Chinese cities have committed to greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions and concrete climate action plans. These actions are intended to support US and China's post-2020 national climate targets that seek to limit global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.


A Case Study in Reviving a Dying Downtown

Marcus Westbury’s new book, Creating Cities, describes the small-scale fixes that helped Newcastle, Australia.
In a way, there’s nothing special about Newcastle, Australia. Like a lot of other places around the world, this small city on the nation’s southeastern shore grew and flourished because of heavy industry—steel, in this case—and declined when that industry collapsed toward the end of the 20th century. Despite a still-thriving coal trade and an active port, Newcastle’s downtown emptied out, and its once-bustling central business district became blighted.

Cities must tackle 'sharing economy'

The revolution, it appears, will be app-based.
Across Canada, the “sharing economy” has taken hold, upending established business models and driving regulators to distraction.
No one is riding the wave so brazenly as Uber, the app-based ride-sharing service.
Its entrance into markets around the country – mostly recently eyeing Calgary for expansion – has undermined the monopolies on which licensed taxi operations are based.


A towering challenge: Habitat III must promote municipal fiscal health

Around the world, local governments are going broke — and nearing a crisis point.
At next year’s Habitat III conference on cities, the world’s leaders will come together in Quito to set a new urbanization strategy for the coming two decades. In the run-up to that event, there is perhaps no greater challenge: If we seek a New Urban Agenda and envision a more balanced and equitable future for the world’s cities, we must be more innovative in financing that bright new future.


Lagos plans to build a new city called Eko Atlantic

The government of Nigeria’s former capital, Lagos has announced that it intends to build a new city, which will become the new financial centre of Nigeria, and perhaps West Africa. Eko Atlantic, pitched as Africa’s answer to Dubai, is a multibillion dollar residential and business development that would be sited as an addition to Victoria Island, along the renowned Bar Beach shoreline in Lagos. The plan calls for many high-rise buildings which would take root on 10 sq km of land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. It would house 250,000 people, and employ a further 150,000 people commuting on a daily basis. The new district would be promoted as a 24-hour, green-conscious, world-class city, which can attract and retain top multinational corporations.


Urban Greening: A Solution to Blight and Toxic Stress?

Urban blight continues to plague many Northeastern and Midwestern cities in the United States. Cities that were once thriving manufacturing hubs have suffered from decades of economic disinvestment, population loss, and as a result, blight. Philadelphia, for example, was home to over 2 million people at its peak in 1950. Between the 1960s and 1980s, the city lost over half of its manufacturing jobs; this job loss, along with the national trend of suburbanization, reduced Philadelphia’s population by 25% to roughly 1.5 million by 2000. It is no surprise then that Philadelphia has over 40,000 vacant lots in the city, many more thousands of abandoned homes, and other signs of urban blight.


Ten efforts underway to colonize the sea

Far-fetched attempts over the decades to colonize the ocean were abysmal failures. Visionaries lacked the technology, designs and support to create cities either on or under the sea. But Nicola Davison reports for the Financial Times that the dream of creating aquatic cities is finally poised to become reality.
Across the globe, there are at least ten serious efforts to achieve “ocean urbanization,” the article says. The need to develop cities tethered to water is more urgent today that ever. Rising tides, lack of space on land and a desire to tap the ocean’s vast resources are key motivators, Davison notes.


The World Could Save Trillions with Buses and Bikes

The argument that embracing a low-carbon future is a road map to economic ruin is bunk, say a band of economists who argue that investing in more efficient transportation, buildings and waste management could save cities worldwide at least $17 trillion. One way to unlock that savings is to promote bikes and buses.


Cities must be part of defining the New Urban Agenda

In May, nearly 140 metropolises around the world urged the United Nations to formally include cities in the Habitat III negotiations.
By Michael Müller, Michael Müller is the governing mayor of Berlin and co-president of Metropolis.
The United Nations has a contradictory relationship with cities. This became clear to me last year, when I was asked to represent Metropolis, the global association of major urban areas, at the preliminary meetings for Habitat III, next year’s major summit on urbanization.


How to Build Better Suburbs

I grew up on a tree-starved street in the suburbs of Toronto.
It was a newer residential development with cookie-cutter houses, in-ground pools, and pristine lawns. Preserving wilderness or promoting "community" were afterthoughts. Houses were crammed together, separated by thin alleys, and the indoor mall was the local hangout. Here, urban sprawl dominated, anointing the car as king and public transit a mere minion. Later on, a nearby marsh land was bulldozed to accommodate a new subdivision, demolishing my playground for spotting frogs, fish and critters.
After graduation, I fled the 'burbs and never looked back.


City & University: a Symphony for Progress?

How can cities and their universities benefit more from each other? What kind of governance is needed to establish fruitful strategic (rather than ad hoc) collaborations? These were the central questions in the EUniverCities project. 
The issue has a long history. Many universities started as institutions very much embedded in their local economy and society, set up by urban elites to educate technicians, civil servants and professionals that would serve the local society and economy. Since then, as an overall trend, the local orientation of universities has steadily decreased: many became more oriented to the national or international level (that’s where the funding comes from), and focused on scientific publications and rankings rather than local engagement. But in recent years, we observe a growing interest to re-establish the link between city and university.


Parklets Are Great, But Big Parks Pack a Big Punch

Is there a right way to green a city? Yes, University of Exeter researchers say, planning high-density neighborhoods with grand parks, as opposed to low-density neighborhoods with ample lawns and smaller public spaces, is significantly better for a city’s ecosystem and residents.
In times of rapid urbanization, the Exeter-based authors of a new study in September’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment argue that setting aside larger parkland, or “land sparing,” is key for environmental stability globally. (The latest U.N. forecast estimates that two-thirds of world’s population will live in cities by 2050; more than half of the current population already does.)


UNI portal to provide new outlook for partnerships with academia

A new portal launched by UN-Habitat promotes universities becoming closer partners of cities, actively engaged in problem solving, thus closing the gap between academia and practice and encouraging collaborative learning.
The portal, part of the Habitat University Network Initiative (UNI), invites universities, staff and students to join over 180 existing partner universities from around the world in their collaborations towards sustainable cities.


The Global EcoDistricts Protocol

The EcoDistricts Protocol is set to become a recognized global standard for district and neighborhood-scale sustainable development.
The Protocol is a platform for building district governance and leadership, a framework for unleashing innovation, a system for encouraging and rewarding leadership, and a blueprint for creating just, sustainable and resilient cities and neighborhoods for all. Focusing on process and upstream performance, the EcoDistricts Protocol addresses many common challenges that have emerged in our efforts to regenerate our communities successfully. This includes the lack of rigorous project governance, interdisciplinary goal-setting, fragmented project assessment processes, and a continued reliance on traditional funding models.


Why Cyclists Form Stronger Commuting Habits Than Drivers

One likely reason: They enjoy their trip more in the first place.
Among the many reasons that an overwhelming majority of people commute by car is that driving to work literally becomes a habit. Once the routine is established, you wake up and follow a chain of automatic cues that end on the road. In a practical sense, whatever choice you once had about your travel mode no longer exists.


Interculturalism in Cities

Cities are increasingly recognized as new players in diversity studies, and many of them are showing evidence of an intercultural shift. As an emerging concept and policy, interculturalism is becoming the most pragmatic answer to concrete concerns in cities. Within this framework, this book covers two major concerns: how to conceptualize and how to implement intercultural policies.


How Urban Designers Can Get Smaller Cities Walking

A new study identifies two important street features that draw pedestrians—outside of New York City.
Earlier this week, my colleague Eric Jaffe wrote about the three design traits shared by New York City’s most walkable streets, according to a recent study.
After counting pedestrians on hundreds of blocks (sampled for different densities, districts, and Walk Scores), a group of researchers found that active uses (i.e., well-trafficked buildings or busy parks, schools, and cafes), street furniture or items (from benches to fire hydrants to ATM machines), and first-floor windows (measured by window-to-facade ratio) all had statistically positive relationships to the number of pedestrians.


Boston appoints city’s first ‘chief of streets’

From the historic cobblestones of Beacon Hill to the working class streets of South Boston, help is on the way. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced the appointment of city’s first “Chief of Streets.” Chris Osgood, a member of the mayor’s cabinet, has been named to the role, the announcement says. He also is co-chair of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.
Osgood is tasked with finding innovative ways to modernize Boston’s streets and public transit. That means exploring new technologies and designs, as well as data analytics, the mayor’s office notes. And it requires balancing the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and mass transit riders.


Value of smart public transport € 1.5 billion by 2019

A new report has projected that the value of smart public transportation in Europe will be € 1.5 billion by 2019.
Smart public transport covers a range of areas and includes global positioning systems (GPS) to accurately track public transport vehicles, collecting and monitoring real-time traffic data, and contactless or mobile ticketing.



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