Connectivity and Sustainability in 21st Century Cities

A guest post by Duncan Smith, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted byAnnick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.

Connectivity and Sustainability in 21st Century Cities
Transportation is only one domain of urban sustainability, yet it is a critical aspect as connectivity is (arguably) the fundamental social and economic purpose of cities. Furthermore transportation has widespread consequences for urban quality of life, and of course for energy use and carbon emissions. This discussion is a reflection on a talk given by Prof Michael Wegener at CASA UCL.
The history of urbanism is one of massively increasing mobility, both within urban regions and between them in terms of travel, trade and globalisation. The graph below illustrates the dramatic change in vehicle miles over the last fifty years in the UK. This has been enabled by greatly reduced costs of motoring, through unprecedented fossil fuel exploitation and growth in the global car industry. Yet this change is fundamentally a result of social behaviour, that is the desire of people to maximise their opportunities and choice by using increased mobility to live, work, shop and socialise over greater and greater distances.

Figure taken from Department for Transport, 2009b / UK total travel distance by mode 1952-2008.

Duncan Smith is a researcher in GIS and urban geography at CASA UCL, completing a PhD on the topic of polycentric urban form and sustainable development. He also works as a research fellow at the Greater London Authority Economics Unit.

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