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Medellín: Colombia’s Sustainable Transport Capital

For many who have heard of Medellín, Colombia, the name brings to mind the drug-related violence of the 1980s and 1990s, when it was often described as the most dangerous city in the world. Over the ...
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Inventing fun transportation hashtags: #freshKermit

By now, fans of Streetfilms probably know about the explosion of the hashtag #sneckdown on Twitter earlier this year. Now we are slowly watching another phenomenon roll out and it is easy enough to contribute.

In what has to make the Green Lane Project team happy, when Streetfilms fans have been seeing freshly painted (or re-painted) protected bike lanes in that bright green color that looks closer to a famous muppet, they're using the tag #freshkermit. Here's a few recent examples. Keep an eye out in your city and tweet away!


These four Streetfilms may help sway Your City into accepting Protected Bike Lanes

I am gonna keep this simple: are you having difficulty convincing your city/town about the merits of protected bike lanes? Streetfilms can help.

The above Streetfilm was put together back when then-New York City Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was under a full-on bikelash assault from the media. It was done to show that protected bike lanes on wide avenues can have a wide range of benefits. From pedestrians to transit riders.

That was nearly four years ago. All those lanes survived and now some of the earliest lanes installed in NYC are becoming greener and making the streets more wonderful. Just see for yourself.

One excerpt I posted from that original video that I have gotten positive feedback was the next video. I interviewed Gary Toth from Project for Public Spaces and we chatted about why you need to have a buffer. So many people have emailed or told me this little clip was very useful.

Finally, hopefully cities in the U.S. will have the courage to do protected bike lanes with true style and safety like Copenhagen and Amsterdam do. One way of encouraging that is to show one place in the U.S. that has done an amazing job. Like they've done along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Yes, this loop was expensive, but you could do them with a little less panache for far cheaper and still make them look good. I hope these Streetfilms help.


A #bikeNYC Weekend Wrap-up!

#bikeNYC is always alive during October. It's a beautiful time to be out riding. It seems of late I've gone on a Streetfilms Shorties tear, which are essentially videos that only take a few hours of shooting & editing for me to publish. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about them and don't anticipate many thousands of plays, but smaller groups of watchers (especially in NYC) will appreciate.

First off, on Saturday got to go on a fun Queens "Zombie Ride" ride with Kidical Mass NYC! About 30 people turned out for their second official ride and they hope to continue the expanding with more rides. Check it out.


Streetfilms University: The “Simple” Art of Editing (YOU can do it!)

The first thing I like to emphasize to folks when they come to see me at conferences to give my Streetfilms University presentation is that if you have a little bit of patience, really anyone can make and edit a decent short film. Even with little or no experience. Sure, perhaps not to a "Streetfilms standard" right off the bat, but believe me: if you put the time in, you can edit and make a successful and perfectly watchable advocacy tool.

One method I like to use is playing videos showing a progression of clips, each step showing the transformation of a talking head interview to its placement within a Streetfilm. First, I play the raw soundbite I was working with. Next, I edit down my taking head and remove extraneous information to make a sleeker, faster answer. Then, I show what it looks like with b-roll (footage), sound and/or graphics edited in to showcase the final Streetfilms product.

This above clip is of Professor Norman Garrick from the University of Connecticut. He's easily become one of my favorite people to interview and this featured edit progression is from my recent Streetfilm "Zurich: Where People are Welcome and Cars Are Not." You'll see how I took a one minute soundbite and edited it down to 27 seconds with five edits. Then what it looks like once music and footage of transit & city life is ladled in.

There are many ways and styles to edit a film. But as a beginner don't get bogged down much on what music you are gonna use or how you are gonna begin the video or fancy animated graphics or kinds of transitions/fonts/titles you want. Just concentrate on your interviews. Edit them down to tell the story you want to. All of the other elements will actually be easier to decide once you have soundbites lined up. Trust me. There's not much sense putting effort into editing a fancy 20 second opening montage to your video and then saying to yourself, "Okay, now what?"

Here's another edit progression I've included, this time featuring three of transportation greatest heroes from the Streetfilm "The Rise of Open Streets". watch how three perfectly wonderful sound bites at a length of 1:12 sound even better at 33 seconds, and then the momentum it picks up by adding the appropriate corresponding footage.

I'm not saying this approach is the best for everybody, but it 's simple and always works. And you can duplicate it. Just be aware that it may take listening to a soundbite dozens of times to find out what to remove. Or better yet: letting the video sit and sleeping on it and coming back with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Just like a college term paper!

This final "riding interview" sequence I am attaching not to recommend you try for yourself (after all I've been doing this for 15 years) but it does illustrate how you can make magic happen. This is a clip of fellow media maker Chris Bruntlett I shot while riding in Montreal's Tour de l'Île. I accidentally had a GoPro recording during our chat and later when I realized I had the two angles, I wanted show what I sometimes endure and navigate while in the midst of my job. Nevertheless, the final product shows how adding in the right video b-roll helps tell the tale. Enjoy!

Talking with Guillermo Dietrich, Buenos Aires’ Head of Transport

A few months ago, I was fortunate to spend a few days observing the tremendous street changes that have occurred in Buenos Aires (documented in our Streetfilm above). I also got to meet and interview Guillermo Dietrich, the architect and force behind shaping a city that has dramatically improved transit (via MetroBus BRT), walking (with 100 blocks of 6 mph shared streets in the downtown) and bicycling by adding miles of bike lanes & a free bike share system (Mejor en Bici). The Streetfilm has been very successful and I thought it'd be good to follow up with some questions to help fill in more of the Dietrich's personal story.

1 - You’ve accomplished a remarkable transformation in Buenos Aires in the last five years. Where did you get your inspiration from to change the streets?  

A lot of our work is based on international experience but always adapting solutions to our own reality.

To build the on- street protected cycle network we took as reference the examples of different cities such as Bogotá, Barcelona and Paris, among others. Those examples were crucial when planning the network, however the design itself is of our own authorship. Every city is different, each place has its own topographic characteristics. Plannification must take in consideration of those qualities.

The improvement and increase of pedestrian areas in order to encourage walking is based on what is called pedestrian “desire lines”. The study of the desire lines is an international tendency adopted by cities like New York, London, San Pablo, Madrid and Tokio, among others.

One of our main aims is the priority of public transport. We had introduced a network of Bus Rapid Transit that was inspired in different experiences around the world, especially in Latino America such as Bogotá or Curitiba. However we came out with our own brand: “Metrobus”. The critical components of a well-planned BRT solution are the importance of political will and support, flexibility (not all BRT corridors are the same) and an open mind in listening to the points of view of all stakeholders involved.


Guillermo Dietrich (center) with Clarence Eckerson Jr. (left, Streetfilms) and Paula Bisiau (right, Director of Healthy Mobility)

2 - Metrobus BRT has dramatically changed the way people get around Buenos Aires and has cut commuting times. Are you seeing evidence of residents switching from driving to transit?

In order to decrease the use of cars we need to offer alternatives. That's why one of our sustainable mobility plan’s objectives is the priority of public transport, which it is the most efficient transport mode.  Over the last six years the percentage of people who use cars as their main transport mode has decreased from 17% in 2008 vs 12% now.

 3 - Speaking of driving, prior to being Head of Transport, you were the CEO of Dietrich, one of Argentina’s largest car dealerships.  When you took this job how did your view of streets change?  

During my time at Dietrich, naturally, my work was framed in the enterprise’s search for profit. We were selling cars, and I worked to accomplish that objective. However, when I decided to be part of the Government, my work shifted in a total different direction. Being in charge of the Transport Department my main aim is to improve citizens way of moving. At the beginning of this journey I understood that public space and streets are for people. When we (myself and Transport Department team) started with the sustainable mobility plan we knew that public transport should be a priority, and that some cars use would be discouraged. Why? Because it’s the way that most people choose to travel around the city (more than 80% of Buenos Aires citizens). Working in public sector involves the pursuit of common good.

4 - Is there advice you can give other cities struggling to more fairly balanced their modes of transportation?  Any advice on what to say to drivers? 

Wherever you go you´ll find congestion. Car drivers must know that traffic increases every year. This is impossible to avoid. There is no city in the world where congestion does not increase. That's why we need to encourage rational use of cars. To accomplish that aim, we must offer citizens less polluting and more efficient transport systems. Metrobus, and our bike sharing system are both part of that work.

Today it's beyond debate whether we should or shouldn’t encourage public transport as a priority. Our policy is to reward people who chooses transport modes that are less polluting, more economic and more efficient than particular cars.DSC08331

 5 - What are a few things we can look forward to in the coming years from Buenos Aires?

In 2015 Buenos Aires will launch four new Metrobus corridors in order to reach 56 km that will connect the main transport hubs of the city. We have already worked on the renovation of two important hubs and we will continue working to transform three new ones.

We will also expand our bike sharing system. In the short term, we will be installing new infrastructure and technology in order to respond the exponential growth of trips and demand for public bicycles. Technology is also being used to optimize our traffic light system. We have six control centers from which we monitor lights. For example, we can expand green light in order to avoid congestion. We will be adding technological tools to improve the whole system.

Regarding urban mobility, we are studing different car sharing systems around the world. We want Buenos Aires to have its own system with electric cars.

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