T3.4: Resilience and Mobility

Cities are complex ecosystems that present both, challenges and opportunities to the environment and its population. Resilience in this sense can be seen as a way of persistence, transition, and transformation of the urban area that when it comes to mobility, as it can support the growing population rather than neglecting its social justice or unsustainable development.

In this session, the concept of urban resilience discussed is aligned to what Chelleri, Waters, & Olazabal (2015) describe: “ (…) the framework of urban resilience should be related to wider sustainability challenges, including i) climate change and natural hazard threats, ii) unsustainable urban metabolism patterns and iii) increasing social inequalities in cities. (Chelleri, Waters, & Olazabal, p. 1, 2015). The second point raised -unsustainable urban metabolism patterns- is of particular importance when referred to mobility, as it influences directly the other two points raised. Said in other words, the way we choose -or not- to move and design mobility networks in the city affects our lives in different ways, as we depend more in car infrastructures: from generating less permeable surfaces (streets) that put our environment and lives at risk, to the way they create social and economic imbalances and produce health vulnerability. 

From different perspectives, the four presenters tackled this issues at two different scales of intervention: first two speakers talked about solutions in a micro scale (local scale), while the last two speakers focused on macro solutions (global scale of cities). This is vital when talking about resilience, as explained in Chelleri, Waters, & Olazabal (2015) and Meerow (2016), since interventions need to address multi-scales and temporal aspects -be it from the urban level to the neighborhood level- that create resilience by parts, as a comprehensive kind of resilience that incorporates the sustainability challenges. We need to address resilience towards mobility by designing a more integrated and inclusive approach, not only by improving technology but also changing behaviors. Synergies need to be improved between resilience and sustainability as the SDG11 aims to do, but still in a very theoretical way.

Secondly, as discussed in these presentations, it is important to highlight the fact that nowadays we do not lack of resilience strategies but we do lack a comprehensive vision, since most of the times there is a winner and a loser related to resilience. How many times are people left behind? How is it that the power relationships always affect this? Why is it that the usage of apps to share cars –which is a good thing for sustainability- leaves behind other parts of the population that do not have access to cell phones? “Responding to these sustainability challenges requires, we argue, an integrated framework for urban resilience that incorporates sustainability, and deals with cross-scale implications (trade-offs) among systems, capacities, vulnerabilities and time periods.” (Chelleri, Waters, & Olazabal, p. 1, 2015). We need a more cohesive vision that enables us to change the environment so as to facilitate things to population, not to fragment it. Maybe citizen science can help to mitigate this, since it is becoming more popular and is creating citizen empowerment towards a balanced resilience.   

The resilient cycle network. The case study of Montesilvano
Antonio Alberto Clemente

Montesilvano’s prevention towards floods caused by intense rains is still unsolved, as the sewage system keeps overflowing. This brings critical socio, economic, and environmental consequences that are aggravated during summer when the city becomes a sea side attraction. Despite the fact that the only response to floods is provided by Civil Protection and firemen, nothing is done to prevent it. Clemente introduces the Slow mobility and soil project –created by the Research Convention between the Department of Architecture of Pescara and the Municipality of Montesilvano- as a cycle network project that can solve this issue. He explains numerous successful examples of it, as: Boston, Melbourne, Philadelphia and Copenhagen. In the case of Montesilvano, the main aim is to “Transform water from a potential risk element to a strategic resource for the resilience of the urban system, working on the hypothesis that the cycling network has to contribute to become collection and management of rainwater.” It is about living with water, but there is a need to change practices in all sectors (technical, imperative social, economic and political).

This presents new challenges to Montesilvano city. First, as the research has proved that not in all sectors of the city this can be implemented and it implicates a lot of economic investment. And second, as this is a new field of research in this context, that aims to improve the relationship between resilience, adaptive capacity and its building infrastructures. However, worldwide this has already been researched and implemented positively as it decreases the pressure in existing sewage systems (by using prefabricated channels) and reusing this water for irrigation and evaporation.

Analyzing transit-based heat exposure and behaviors to enhance urban climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in the southwest USA
Yuliya Dzyuban, David Hondula, Charles Redman, Ariane Middel

Phoenix, Arizona presents extreme weather conditions, as the temperature rises over 38 °C for more than 110 days per year. This fact is vital when studying how people flow in this city, as the most vulnerable population towards this climate are the ones using the public system since the average time spent exposed to the heat is 21min per journey and public transport use is unequally distributed in the city. This brings negative consequences for sustainability and resilience goals that need to be addressed in the Phoenix transportation 2050 policy, as people feel more reluctant to use public transport when the infrastructure is not meeting their needs.

Dzyuban identified a gap that needs to be addressed specifically in this policy, but also globally in the resilience field. She acknowledges the importance on researching the psychological, physiological and physical perception of environmental variables (Nikolopoulou & Steemers, 2003; Rupp, Vásquez, & Lamberts, 2015). By the analysis of these three perceptions, people are able to adapt to the environment to minimize discomfort. In the case of Phoenix, thermal discomfort in the bus stops is the main issue when it comes to public transport. Therefore, the research goes through the environmental variables that affect physiological comfort and examine psychological perceptions of heat in way people use the different typologies of bus stops. Several methodologies such as observation and interviews reveal how important the design to achieve thermal comfort is. Some of the findings are related to the materials used (such as steel benches that get hot easily…but, what to prioritize? Vandalism or climate comfort?), the aesthetics (how they look), and the importance of incorporating natural features into the bus stop so that public transport is used frequently.

Resilience and mobility demand. Towards a redefinition of urban polycentricity. Madrid Urban Area analysis, 1996-2004-2014
Gonzalo Sánchez-Toscano, Agustín Hernández Aja

Sánchez-Toscano starts by explaining the definition of resilience he is going to refer to: “The ability of groups and communities to cope with external stresses and disturbances as a result of social, political and environmental changes” (Adger, 2000). Under this conceptual framework, he identifies stresses such as disruptive events and slow-burn events (Coafee & Lee, 2016) that enabled him to focus his work on resilience related to energy consumption and resource scarcity. Nowadays fossil fuel scarcity is explained by the demand for mobility in urban areas combined with the price of fossil fuels rising, which leads to oil vulnerability. Taking into account this, we can recognize that oil vulnerability is not aligned with the definition of resilience presented in the beginning. We cannot have resilient areas if depend on oil, and these are related to functional structures: a decrease in energy consumption, mobility demand, oil vulnerability, and long-distance flow leads to resilience.

In his research, Sánchez-Toscano examines how monocentric structure (classic) and polycentric structure (less resilient) work differently. He identifies that there is a need to redefine polycentrism from a resilience perspective in order to generate a balance of flows between different parts of urban areas.  Policentricity for resilience is based on shorter distance flows (as internal moves are generated). This is explained by the case of Madrid and its evolution 1996-2004-2014 by mapping and graphing the results given by CRTM surveys. To do this, he uses two indicators: the IMI (inner mobility index) and OMI (outer mobility index) that display how in some cases the structure resulted successful for resilience while in others not.   

In conclusion, this idea of polycentrism for resilience should be integrated into urban policies so as to reduce mobility demand in the urban area. In this way, districts and municipalities can work as sub-centers, which decentralize the classic structure and avoid long-distance dependencies in order to become more resilient.

Reframing Urban and Transport Planning: High Stakes for Our Health
Carolyn Daher, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen

We are facing a stage in human life in which most human activities are developed in urban areas. This has direct impacts on the way we live, as 23% of deaths in the world are caused by environmental factors. In this way, Daher sustains that heath is both: a prerequisite to and an indicator of sustainable and resilient urban development and she recognizes that there is a gap between planning interventions and the factors that cause diseases (which come from outside the health sector).

Under this idea, health can be a driver of design. This is why The Urban Planning Environment and Health Initiative was created by ISGlobal, as an organizational model that translates and applies rigorous scientific evidence, tools and indicators to promote sustainable and healthy urban development. Examining the case of Barcelona, Daher explains how evidence can be translated to promote healthy cities, and particularly how mobility can lead to air pollution, noise pollution, less green spaces and sedentary lifestyle if not planned correctly.

Some of the challenges identified in this research are timing, responsibilities, and competencies, funding, aligning political and research cycles, the role of academia, understanding governance mechanisms, and the influence on the usage of private cars. Nevertheless, this research presents itself as a starting point that enables us to generate scenarios with tools (health evidence) in order to create shifts in urban and transport planning. In many cases, health comes last over economic factors when planning, and this needs to change.