Why Nova Mobilidade? – A view from Paris

We have no money gentlemen, so we shall have to think. *

The original idea behind this attempt to create a working network of skilled people working in the area of sustainable mobility, sustainable cities and environment in institutions and cities across Portugal, was and is driven by three things:

1. New Mobility Agenda:
Our firm conviction that there really is such a thing as “new mobility”, that it is very different from what we call “old mobility” (basically the suddenly very old, no-choice, high cost, car-based system that the lion’s share of past planning and investment has been oriented to), and that there are many talented people and smaller groups in Portugal who understand this and have the skills to put to work on the new, fairer and more efficient mobility agenda.

2. Lisbon 2010 Mobility Conference:
My pleasant surprise on the occasion of last year’s IMTT conference on Land Use, Accessibility and Mobility Management, when more than five hundred people showed up in Lisbon to talk about new approaches to transport in cities. This heavy participation, including a large number of women and young people, was to me a very serious indication that there is something that is going on in the sector in Portugal. And that if we can find a way to encourage or support this movement, that would be just great.

3. You’re broke:
And if you are not the only ones, that should be at best cold comfort. The present financial crisis that is hitting most of the European economies very hard has not spared Portugal – to the contrary. So it strikes me that there is no better time than now for us to create a lively, informal, independent consortium of capable people to see how, if we get together with enough energy and creative drive, we can show city after city in Portugal and government that it is possible to get a great deal more impact for Euro invested in this New Mobility Agenda.

That at least will explain why I am here and interested to work with you to show how it is possible to improve high quality mobility in cities all over Portugal for a lot less money than has been spent in the last decades.

It’s clear in all this that there are not only people but there are also groups and programs that share our common ideals. The more the better. And in any event, as the unofficial network that we have started to develop with you here and on Facebook in the last days takes shape, we will all see how these various bits can best fit together and reinforce each other. There is plenty of work to keep all willing hands busy. Again, the more the merrier.

* Our situation reminds me of the words quoted above that were uttered by Nobel Prize winner Professor Ernest Rutherford, on taking over the quite broke Cavendish Laboratory in 1919, in the wake of ruinous the First World War. So it really is time to think. And to act.

Now what?

Eric Britton

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About the author:

Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is managing director of EcoPlan International, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving social-technical change and sustainable development. He is also editor of World Streets and the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice.

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