Ex­perts preach walk­ing to cure traf­fic headaches

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By HU YONGQI in Kun­ming huy­ongqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Plan­ning and de­sign ex­perts from Port­land, Ore­gon sug­gested Kun­ming pro­mote walk­ing and cycling to lower car­bon emis­sions and al­le­vi­ate traf­fic con­ges­tions dur­ing rush hour, af­ter a four-day visit to the cap­i­tal of South­west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince.

The visit was part of the USChina EcoPart­ner­ship agree­ment signed by the cities in May 2012. The co­op­er­a­tion pact by the Ore­gon city of Port­land and Kun­ming fo­cuses on bi­cy­cling sys­tems, low-car­bon de­vel­op­ment, eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion and tourism de­vel­op­ment around Dianchi Lake, and tran­si­to­ri­ented de­vel­op­ment in the Spring City.

The part­ner­ship orig­i­nated from the US-China Frame­work for 10-Year Co­op­er­a­tion on En­ergy and En­vi­ron­ment signed in 2008.

In Oc­to­ber, Port­land Mayor Char­lie Hales met with vis­it­ing Kun­ming Mayor Li Wen­rong to dis­cuss low-car­bon mea­sures in­clud­ing trails for bikes and bike-shar­ing near sub­way sta­tions.

In the most re­cent meet­ing, the Port­land del­e­ga­tion and project man­agers and Kun­ming’s top ur­ban plan­ning and de­sign au­thor­i­ties aimed to reach a con­sen­sus on the new pol­icy.

Den­ver Igarta, plan­ner of the Port­land Bureau of Trans­porta­tion, said ex­perts and de­sign­ers from Port­land vis­ited a river trail for bi­cy­cles along the Pan­long River and sur­round­ing ar­eas of Dianchi Lake. “The guid­ing prin­ci­ples that we bor­rowed from Europe — safety, com­fort, at­trac­tive­ness, con­nect­ed­ness and di­rect­ness — mean walk­ing and cycling must be within a short dis­tance and safety should be en­sured,” he said.

He called for a com­plete net­work for bi­cy­cles and pedes­tri­ans and urged ex­per­i­ments to find new ways to han­dle the two groups. “We’ll see how the prac­tices in Port­land fit the con­text of Kun­ming and mod­ify driv­ers’ be­hav­ior and habits to en­sure safety,” Igarta said.

Fig­ur­ing out how to cross streets safely has been a headache for many pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists in Kun­ming. The Port­land ex­perts’ sug­ges­tions in­cluded set­ting up yel­low flash­ing lights or but­tons for pedes­tri­ans’ use.

Kun­ming and Port­land are dif­fer­ent in pop­u­la­tion and acreage and the ex­perts sug­gested Kun­ming do mul­ti­ple im­ple­men­ta­tion si­mul­ta­ne­ously. “Even in the US, traf­fic be­hav­iors are dif­fer­ent from one city to the next. Port­land also has some very crazy driv­ers. The con­no­ta­tion of de­sign must be rel­e­vant to the con­text. We need to en­force the law and en­cour­age peo­ple to do things in the le­gal way, not vi­o­late the traf­fic rules,” Igarta said.

Port­land has very dense street grids with many small blocks in down­town ar­eas. To curb in­creas­ing con­ges­tion, Port­land’s core area has a sig­nal sys­tem which con­trols ve­hi­cle speed, ac­cord­ing to Michael Arm­strong, deputy di­rec­tor of the Port­land Bureau of Plan­ning and Sus­tain­abil­ity.

Arm­strong said a higher per­cent­age of peo­ple are used to driv­ing al­ready in Port­land. At the same time, fewer peo­ple are driv­ing and the num­ber of cy­clists is in­creas­ing.

Kun­ming has al­ready started to create more paths on roads for walk­ing or cycling.

Not­ing that Kun­ming is smaller and less densely pop­u­lated than Port­land, Arm­strong said the Chi­nese city should in­vest more in in­fra­struc­ture to make cycling more com­fort­able — es­pe­cially dur­ing rush hour. “Con­ges­tion makes it harder for ev­ery­one,” he said. “If pri­vate cars are less de­sir­able in speed, peo­ple will shift to other ways such as walk­ing or bi­cy­cling.”

Kun­ming is now build­ing six sub­ways con­nect­ing its down­town with the suburbs. Bei­jing has been pro­mot­ing bike-shar­ing near sub­way sta­tions but that ini­tia­tive has largely failed due to the in­con­ve­nience of hav­ing to re­turn bikes.

Port­land has been run­ning its light rail for 30 years and al­lows bikes to be taken into the trains. Igarta sug­gested Kun­ming learn from this prac­tice and the bike­share sys­tem that Port­land will start to op­er­ate later this year. “Peo­ple can swipe a card to rent a bike out­side the sub­way sta­tions and ride to their des­ti­na­tions. How­ever, the key is how to park the bikes when the users ar­rive,” he said. Li Yingqing and Guo An­fei contributed to the story.

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