For the COP21 Paris Agreement to Work, Countries Must Watch these Streetfilms

We now have a "historic climate accord" from Paris via the COP21 summit with 195 countries on board. There are many noble goals including stopping climate change warming at no more than 2 degrees Celsius (that's 3.6 F) at which point most scientists have agreed is the point at which the planet will become drastically, catastrophically altered. It's a great achievement after many long decades of trying to get something very concrete in writing.

But there's nothing in the COP21 agreement that penalizes nations for not meeting goals. And that's troubling to many critics. Sure, there's talk about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, transitioning to more efficient technologies and cutting back on pollution. But government leaderships change often. Global economic catastrophes can leave countries crying poverty. In short, we can have hope, but five or ten years from now will this pact remain solid?

For the world to thrive and rely less on energy, we'll need to make our dense cities function better on our streets. (And most of our suburbs too!) Residents of the United States and other countries will need to alter how they get around, using less of the private car. With that, I say, watch this batch of Streetfilms to learn what's working in cities and what is currently an abomination.

The Streetfilm at the top is from Groningen in The Netherlands, where the city has achieved a spectacular 50% bike mode share! Although we know it's asking too much for U.S. cities to easily and quickly that, we need to re-think the way our roads work and how our cities are structured. We can do much better: cities with 5% to 15% for biking trips is certainly not out of the question with the right infrastructure. Thanks to many decisions since the 1970's, Groningen has done far more than that, much like other great world cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

But it goes beyond bikes & walking. It means a solid commitment to transit and using the most efficient ways to get people around on our streets. You can see how Zurich does that with a clean, efficient, and often-running tram system that even people that are rich choose to use over the private car.

We also need to continue to make cities more attractive for people to live. See here what New York City has done over the last five to ten years with some of its public spaces with this incredible before and after montage!

Hundreds of cities all over the world have embraced bike share. We must be more innovative so that people can have multiple options for where they need to get. Bike share is one great tool. All major (and minor) cities need to have one.

As the seas begin to rise, on our streets we must manage storm water runoff. Capture it and use it to become a more green planet. This benefits not only the environment, but makes cities more beautiful and people more happy. In Indianapolis, they have some major green bioswales that are great models.

Frankly, we've got massive problems providing parking and most of it is free. It's an epidemic, most especially in the United States where we eat up large expanses of asphalt that largely sit unused, warm the planet and encourage car use. The average cost of a parking spot is enormous. And in some places you'll see, "parking craters" have decimated what were once lively places.

Similarly, we just keep building highways. Widening roads. Making them no longer function for people to use unless they buy a car.  In cities across the country there are dozens of inner-city highways that no longer function and should come down.

By catering to the car everywhere, we've stopped thinking about children, seniors and anyone who wants to walk. We tell parents psychologically, legally, and thru the built environment that they need to drive their child to school. In many communities it isn't safe to allow your child to walk to school. This has created a sad universe, where our youngest are growing up with less exercise, less independence and being groomed to drive wherever they need to go.

But as you can see, there are still places in the United States that encourage biking and walking. Parents and teachers love it. There are so many reasons why this school district in Lakewood, Ohio should be the norm, not the exception.

In sum, all of these bad decisions in planning and designing our communities are costing our towns, cities, states and country ridiculously large sums of money. No one explains that better than Strong Towns' Charles Marohn in this profile we did a few years back.

We've mortgaged our future by building at an unsustainable pace for the economy, the planet Earth, personal safety and our sanity & freedom! There are hundreds of more Streetfilms to browse thru to help you and your city government make better choices. For the future sake of our children (I have a brand new 5 month old) let's start making the right choices. And let's do it fast!