[sustran] Sustran/India Streets: An invitation and reflection

eric britton eric.britton at ecoplan.org
Mon Oct 25 15:08:20 JST 2010

Executive Summary:

Announcing a new collaborative journal. India Streets, due to go on line  on
1 November which we should like to draw to the attention of Sustran's
readers in advance - for your information and eventual comments, suggestions
and perhaps even in time participation in some form. The address is
www.IndiaStreets.org.  And we think of it as in some way a voice (or at
least another pair of lungs) for Sustran to, in and of the great and needy
Subcontinent.  If you wish to receive efficient notices daily or weekly of
articles and comments, you will see a Subscribe button top right which you
can use to sign in and indicate your delivery choice.  Come visit, it
belongs to you.



Now a paean to Sustran:


To SUSTRAN: The Sustainable Transport Action Network for Asia and the


Dear Sustran colleagues and friends of many years,


1999-2010: Since we first got started here in this most agreeable
collaborative forum back in the autumn of 1999 eleven long years have passed
(or almost  seven generations according  to Moore's Law, which I believe has
yet to  be repealed) - and here we still are, 144 of us strong on this late
October day in the year 2010, still ready to go with our ideas, ideals,
commitment to and enthusiasm for better mobility, better cities and better
lives for all. We have seen a lot of water flow under the bridge of old and
bad habits and dubious decisions over this decade: projects, proposals,
mindsets, traditions, values, people and groups charging in, seizing the
stage for a while, and then all too often to disappearing with a twitch or a
trace. But Sustran? -- as Sujit
Patwardhan put it so memorably back in 2005: "Eric, we are in this for the
long slog".


Media: Over this period we have as of today exchanged between us via this
address no less than 6,306 messages (yes, I counted them). And thanks to the
careful eye and stewardship of Paul Barter the entire stash of all that past
correspondence is still available for any and all at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sustran-discuss/.    And what is more, it is
fully searchable.  A rich database right at hand. 


Geography: If memory serves me, more than 95% of these exchanges come from
or concern our original target region, Asia/Pacific -- with the lion's share
either coming from or concerning transport and environment issues in India.
Well I can think of several likely explanations for this, including the fact
of more than one billion Indians who have to get around in their day to day
lives, together with a gradually rising groundswell of dissatisfaction with
government policy and practices in the sector have steadily brought in new
players and groups with new ideas. And of course the use of English as the
secondary official language in India makes Sustran a natural channel of


Thrust: By and large - if I may and please protest if you do not agree -
there are a few strong central themes that keep coming up. The high
importance of providing for safe walking, safe cycling, and safe streets is
probably at the top of our shared agenda. Affordable public transport that
has priority over private cars.  But also a realistic attitude about the
importance of showing a lot more imagination and inventiveness when it comes
to getting the most our of private, traditional motorized transport forms
such as shared taxis, small private buses, and motorized two and three
wheelers. (They may not be pretty but they work, so it is our job to get the
most out of them for all concerned.)


An understanding that streets are above all for people, including the people
who are already out there using them in their various and to them important
way. Concerns with social justice and fairness as bedrock values constantly
shape our debates.  I also detect a strongly felt shared respect for the
idea of working with what we have as a strategic priority -- instead of
emphasizing costly proposals for ambitious mega-projects which require new
construction, disruption and greater separation of the public space into
specialized functions and zones (of which namely the prevailing practice of
favoring faster vehicles).  There are other themes that have come up in
these 6,306 messages of course, but these are among the strong central
trends or tendencies that come to mind today.  


Frustration:  Now I am not sure if I am the only one who has felt this, but
from a purely functional point of view I have always found it quite
thwarting  that while many excellent or at least challenging ideas are
voiced in these pages and often commented usefully, rarely are they  brought
here into a thoughtful synopsis which looks at the agreement and
disagreements, and tries to help us understand what it is that we are
learning together as we swap these views and challenge each other.  We thus
have such promising raw materials but all too often they get a bit lost in
the rush to new exchanges and new topics.  This seems like a waste of brains
in a needy world.


 Proposal: So with a certain number of starts and stops over the last couple
of years as I have tried to work my way through this, as a result of my
contacts with a number of you an idea has been born for a possible way to
give Sustran a greater public voice, and this is a proposal which a group of
us are presently working hard on under the name, India Streets.  The goal of
India Streets, in a few words, is to plan and produce an independent
collaborative journal in the form of a group blog which will serve as a
voice for sustainable transport in India and in the surrounding countries,
including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, possibly among others.


To this end, we are working on the project that you can now visit at
www.IndiaStreets.org and which we are announcing for the first time in these
pages because it is our hope that some of you may wish to be part of this:
as a reader, a reviewer, a commenter and perhaps eventually as an occasional
contributor. As you will note when you get to the site, we are still in a
Beta test stage, but our goal is to be ready, no matter how rough still, to
open the doors of the publication on the first of November.  This would be a
great time then to have the benefit of your critical comments and


Come to India Streets. Make it your own. 


Eric Britton

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