City of Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones Reports from the 2017 Eco-Mobility World Congress
Boulder, CO was recently rated “the happiest city in America.” Perhaps related: Boulder is also one of the most bikable U.S. cities and internationally recognized for its alternative transportation solutions. Below are comments from Mayor Suzanne Jones while representing Boulder as one of a few cities invited to present at the October 2017 Eco-Mobility Congress in Taiwan.
“I am so pleased to be representing City of Boulder, along with Natalie Stiffler (Boulder senior transportation planner), at ICLEI’s 2017 Eco-Mobility World Congress in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This gathering was described to me as “the Olympics of city transportation solutions” – being held every two years, with over 42 countries, 53 cities and 1,200 participants in an amazing international city, I now understand the reference.
Boulder is one of only a few United States cities invited (and hosted) to come speak at the conference, and yours truly spoke at one of the opening panels with reps from the host city; Suwon, South Korea; London, England; and Melbourne, New Zealand. I shared about the transportation work that Boulder is undertaking to become a more livable city—like our extensive multi-use path bike/pedestrian network with its 80 underpasses that also doubles for flood management; our collaborative successes with regional bus rapid transit along US36; our investment in Boulder Junction as a transit-oriented development to create a new mixed-use, walkable neighborhood in east Boulder; and our renewed safety focus on “Vision Zero” to reduce serious collisions; and so on.
How reassuring to find that we are not unusual or alone: cities all over the world are undertaking similar experiments and transitions—driven by concerns about increasing congestion, air pollution, growing populations and climate change. It is a gathering of cities that are committed to utilizing the latest smart technologies (e.g., autonomous electric buses) to rethink what mobility looks like and creating state-of-the-art communities that place people back at the top of the hierarchy (e.g., reclaiming public spaces for people).
The theme is “Livable. Shared. Intelligent.” Companies like Tesla and 7StarLake (and a plethora of other companies touting every form of electric and smart mobility from skateboards to buses) are here to explain emerging technologies and how they will make cities better; and old-school concepts like walking and biking are celebrated as essential mechanisms to re-create vibrant downtown city centers. It is a fascinating and inspiring gathering, and making me realize that Boulder will have to run to keep up with these innovating cities.
One element of every Eco-Mobility Congress is that the host city turns a portion of their city into an eco-mobility demonstration district closed to cars for a month. In this case, Kaohsiung chose the historic Hamasan neighborhood to give the streets over to walkers, bikes, electric scooters and busses, as well as an autonomous electric shuttle demonstration. Events are hosted within the district all month, including the conference’s bike parade of mayors and city reps from around the world riding all fashion of e-bikes through waving crowds (the mayor of Kaohsiung is a former political prisoner and beloved celebrity, so she has crowds wherever she goes!).
The three-day Congress concluded with the unveiling and publishing of the Kaohsiung Principles for Shared Mobility (https://www.sharedmobilityprinciples.org ), which are consensus principles from lead global non-profits to serve as a roadmap moving forward. Some of these principles are no-brainers and others certainly provocative — e.g., moving beyond cars (and all of the public real estate devoted to them) as the organizing theme for cities. But having traveled through several major Asian cities on this trip—with the congestion, the incredible air pollution, and the high fatalities—it is clear that a major transformation is needed in urban areas as populations continue to climb. And seeing what has been accomplished in the Netherlands, with state-of-the-art transit technology in addition to their incredible bike mode share, it is certainly worth examining what Boulder’s version of eco-mobility should look like to keep improving our livability and sustainability. At a minimum, shaping this next chapter involving autonomous vehicles to make sure they are both electric and shared when they arrive in Colorado, seems like an important and immediate task.
In closing, it was indeed an honor and privilege to be here—to represent our city, but also our country in a time when our international reputation is taking a beating. It turns out that Boulder is both known and respected here (hats off to the prior work of Matt Appelbaum, Kathleen Bracke and Tracy Winfree!)—I am told that we have participated in every one of these World Congresses in some fashion, and our engagement is both noted and appreciated.”