Kaid Benfield Archive


Reflections from Eric Britton on how art, walkability, transportation, and shared experience nourish us

Kaid Benfield

Posted March 29, 2010 at 1:38PM

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      Place des Vosges, Paris (by: Pete Reed, creative commons license)     Chopin monument, Warsaw (by: s3k, creative commons license)

Eric Britton, the founder of the New Mobility Agenda and editor of the World Streets online newspaper covering international sustainable transportation recently posted a really nice étude while, fittingly, listening to one of Chopin’s nocturnes.  Although we have never met in person, I’ve enjoyed a number of conversations with Eric over the years on nuts-and-bolts transport issues and was very pleased to read something more personal and reflective that suggests why we do this (in addition to, you know, saving the planet and all that).

Eric was kind enough to post one of my pieces on his site some time back (hey, I was even translated into Italian), and I hope he will allow me the indulgence of quoting from his recent article, “Musing: Chopin, sustainable transport and sustainable lives”:

“Chopin reminds us -- you can hear it right here, can't you? -- of the importance of quiet and reflection in our daily lives. Quiet and reflection yes but with plenty of ideas, drive and passion -- not at all a "sit back and wait for it to happen to you" life. 

“Here in this spirit are three quiet and to me really quite thrilling moments in the life of sustainable ways of getting around (which of course and exactly is why we are all here and what I want for you and all our children).

  • On any day in any city in the world, being able to walk quietly and safely on an ordinary street holding the hand of someone you love.
  • On a visit to Ludwigsburg in southern Germany, on a chilly autumn afternoon as school is just getting out, hearing a distant flutter of almost bird like noises which soon materialize into a gaggle of chaotically peddling schoolchildren, girls and boys, large and small, chatting and laughing as they safely and joyfully make their way home on a reserved bike path. (Shouldn't those be your children?)
  • Warmly ensconced in a seat on a clean train getting where we wish to go while comfortably reading a big fat book as the wheels turn beneath us.

“Then, and finally for this end of a long week musing, there is the concept of shared space, so important to the composer, writer, painter, playwright and film maker – the vital shared space they seek and create by means of our eyes, ears and minds. No one can listen to Chopin, or Chekov or Molière or or . . . without being drawn into the special space they first create and then draw us in.

“We now know this. This concept of shared space is critical for us as well. It's an indisputable fact. There can be no sustainable development, no sustainable cities, nor real well-being for all without deeper and wiser sharing. We have a lot to learn about this.”

I love it.  Go here for Eric’s full article and for a neat YouTube link to Chopin’s Nocturne (Opus 15, No. 1, in F).

A bit about New Mobility:

“Unconstrained by bureaucracy, economic interests or schedules, the New Mobility Agenda was launched in 1988 as a wide open international platform for critical discussion and diverse forms of cross-border collaboration on the challenging, necessarily conflicted topic of "sustainable transportation and social justice". There are no easy answers - but there are answers . . . if that is you are willing to take off the fetters and get to work.”