24.–27.05.2023 #polismobility

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On the redesign of public space, equitable, common good-oriented distribution of space and participation at eye level

INTEGRATED PLANNING

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Dr. Franziska Kirscher and Lisa Klopf from the Planersocietät talk about the redesign of public space as well as fair and common good-oriented distribution of space and participation at eye level.

Cycle and footpath in Dortmund between Phoenix-See and Phoenix-West © Planersocietät

Cycle and footpath in Dortmund between Phoenix-See and Phoenix-West © Planersocietät

"Transport planning processes always take time, which can give the public the impression that the mobility turnaround is being put on the back burner, even if a lot is being done in the background."

Lisa Klopf
Planersocietät

Dr Kirschner, Ms Klopf, that the need for sustainable and future-oriented urban mobility is increasing with every passing day is certainly not doubted by anyone today - at least no one with an informed opinion. You work closely with municipalities: How would you describe the momentum at the moment? Is there already enough movement on the matter or is the mobility turnaround being put on the "back burner"?

Kirschner: First of all, the term "mobility turnaround" must be distinguished from the term "transport turnaround"; in public discourse, we often only talk about the latter. The mobility turnaround is about creating opportunities for everyone to get from A to B smoothly. As soon as the person steps out of the front door, we talk about transport. And it is indeed the case that we are at different stages at different levels. Especially in local government, there is a great will to act, but it is always a political question whether this will actually be realised - because in the end it depends on those who make the decisions. To give an example: In Munich, there are the summer streets, where streets and parking spaces become traffic-calmed areas and play streets for some time, and in addition, the second S-Bahn main line has been extended for some years. So there is action at various levels. In NRW, too, movement in the right direction can be heard in many places, such as the expansion of cycle paths in the state. A lot is happening; what is missing, in my opinion, is the larger overarching vision that everyone can agree on.

Klopf: Political will basically decides everything. Even if a municipality takes up the cause of a mobility revolution, nothing will happen if it is not pursued vigorously. In addition, transport planning processes always take time, which can give the public the impression that the mobility turnaround is actually being put on the back burner, even if a lot is being done in the background. However, the selective successes are becoming increasingly apparent; in Cologne, for example, more and more interconnected cycling infrastructure is emerging.

Kirschner: There are some places where we can learn from our neighbouring countries. In Germany, we often work with pull factors, i.e. with attempts to make environmental transport more attractive. Of course, this also happens elsewhere, but there such measures are combined with push factors, in that motorised private transport loses its attractiveness through restrictions. In my opinion, the push factors have been too few in Germany in recent decades. The interplay of both perspectives is very important - even if it is more difficult to implement politically.

Quality of accessibility by public transport in the university city of Giessen - section of the city centre © Planersocität

Quality of accessibility by public transport in the university city of Giessen - section of the city centre © Planersocität

As a planning firm, you focus on needs-based spatial design and integrated urban development. Away from the definition of the term per se - what does "integrated" mean in this context? How do you go about it?

Klopf: The integrated approach comes primarily from the diverse disciplines represented in our team, from spatial and transport planning to geography, engineering and communication. We are concerned with a redesign of public space, with a fair distribution of space that is oriented towards the common good. That's why we rely heavily on mediation in our work; after all, any concept, no matter how good, is doomed to fail if it is not communicated and discussed with citizens at eye level. It is important to us to make participation processes transparent and understandable - both for professional actors and the public. The discussions can become quite emotional and require a great deal of argumentation and sensitivity.

Kirschner: For us, "integrated" also means really involving all actors and including them in the planning processes. We are talking about public space, where large parts of life take place, including traffic. Everything there is interconnected, which is why it is important that all threads run as smoothly as possible. It must also be clear: If I park a car in public space, the area can no longer be used by other road users. If I plan a cycle path, the space provided for it is no longer available for other uses. Without this systemic approach, it is not possible.

How do you deal with headwind?

Kirschner: It is indeed the case that everyone is a mobility expert; after all, we are mobile all day long and move from A to B. This is why it is very important to address the concerns of those who will ultimately be affected by any measures. Therefore, it is very important to address the concerns of those who are ultimately affected by any measures. The parking debate, for example, is so emotional because there is a feeling that something would be taken away from someone that was previously available for free. That's why we spend a lot of time collecting data to get a clear picture of what the status quo is - in this example, in relation to car parks, street parking, etc. This turns the emotional debate into a debate about parking. This turns the emotional debate into a factual one, which often shows: There is not too much to worry about. After all, it's not about eliminating parking spaces; it's more about generating space for other uses and green spaces that not only benefit the climate, but also the city and the residents themselves.

Klopf: You also have to get away from the idea of trying to convince everyone at the same time. There will always be people who are passionate about driving and always will be, which is perfectly fine. We have not set ourselves the goal of abolishing the car, but rather to redistribute the space it occupies in public space in particular and to create space for all road users. Parking spaces - to stick with this very catchy example - can also be relocated. I often have the impression that those who are vehemently against it are the loudest; but many are also grateful that their municipality is having such a concept drawn up and wants to implement it ...

Kirschner: It is indeed the case that everyone is a mobility expert; after all, we are mobile all day long and move from A to B. This is why it is very important to address the concerns of those who will ultimately be affected by any measures. Therefore, it is very important to address the concerns of those who are ultimately affected by any measures. The parking debate, for example, is so emotional because there is a feeling that something would be taken away from someone that was previously available for free. That's why we spend a lot of time collecting data to get a clear picture of what the status quo is - in this example, in relation to car parks, street parking, etc. This turns the emotional debate into a debate about parking. This turns the emotional debate into a factual one, which often shows: There is not too much to worry about. After all, it's not about eliminating parking spaces; it's more about generating space for other uses and green spaces that not only benefit the climate, but also the city and the residents themselves. Klopf: You also have to get away from the idea of trying to convince everyone at the same time. There will always be people who are passionate about driving and always will be, which is perfectly fine. We have not set ourselves the goal of abolishing the car, but rather to redistribute the space it occupies in public space in particular and to create space for all road users. Parking spaces - to stick with this very catchy example - can also be relocated. I often have the impression that those who are vehemently against it are the loudest; but many are also grateful that their municipality is having such a concept drawn up and wants to implement it ...

Kirschner: Of course, it is beneficial to health on many levels to use the environmental network, i.e. to walk, cycle and use public transport. We also know from studies that people who walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems and have a higher life expectancy. In addition, with every person who refrains from driving, we have lower levels of particulate matter - not to mention noise. But speed is also an important factor: if, for example, the speed were reduced from 50 to 30 km/h at night time, the noise pollution would be incomparably lower. This also raises the question of social justice; after all, it is mostly people with low incomes who live along busy roads. It therefore makes sense that many municipalities have joined forces and want to introduce a more comprehensive 30 km/h speed limit.

Of course, there is no question that each municipality has its own characteristics and therefore needs individually adapted planning methods. Are there any processes at all that can be transferred? Or do you open a completely new book with every assignment?

Klopf: I wouldn't say that it is always a new book, but it is a new chapter in any case. The basic goals and framework conditions are very similar; it is rather the circumstances on the ground, i.e. factors such as the spatial or settlement structure and the topography, that need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, these are very prominent. For example, we are currently working on a mobility concept for the city of Wuppertal, where a collective switch to the bicycle cannot be realised without further ado. In this context, the issue of demographics and the individual needs of the population also come into play. In addition, political goals also play a big role, some municipalities insist on certain topics that may be taboo for others because they have had bad experiences in the past. Some measures are transferable, but the individual consideration definitely prevails.

Public transport is obviously one of the factors that will decide in the long run whether the mobility revolution will happen or not. The car lobby likes to use the slow expansion as an argument and emphasises that it is not yet possible to do without the car. What is the reason that the pace is being increased so slowly? Are spatial conflicts decisive here as well?

Klopf: First of all, public transport would of course also benefit from fewer cars and traffic jams on the roads and become more reliable. In fact, however, the problem is usually not the availability of space, but the financing. Many municipalities would like to launch service offensives, but do not know how to pay for them. In addition, due to the pandemic, fare revenues, the most important source of financing for public transport, have fallen sharply and it is uncertain how the situation will develop. I see the need for a rethink at the federal level, as funding and subsidies are simply not sufficient in many places to achieve the goals that have been set.

Kirschner: While motorised individual transport has been massively subsidised for decades. However, a very large proportion of the distances travelled in cities are less than five kilometres. That is a distance that is also doable for most people by bicycle. A faster expansion of public transport and cycling infrastructure is of course indispensable, but transport modes can also be combined, not only for short distances (key words: multimodality and digitalisation), in order to already bring about a shift, even though the great transformation has not yet been completed. These intermediate steps are elementary - and there are more and more of them.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Dr. Franziska Kirschner © Planersocietät

Dr. Franziska Kirschner © Planersocietät

Dr. Franziska Kirschner is a project manager at Planersocietät and the contact person for the topics of parking concepts and reallabs. Previously, she was employed as a consultant at ONE Business & Technology and worked in the DB project "ITonICE", among others. The graduate geographer did her doctorate under Prof. Lanzendorf at Goethe University Frankfurt on the topic of "Mobility and Parking in Urban Neighbourhoods".

Lisa Klopf © Planersocietät

Lisa Klopf © Planersocietät

Lisa Klopf (M. Sc.) has been working at Planersocietät since 2020. The project manager completed her geography studies at the University of Cologne with a focus on "urban and regional development" and is an expert in public transport and accessibility planning. She also worked intensively on mobility in rural areas during her time at the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR).

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David O´Neill