Sustainable Cities™

John Whitelegg: Health in the sustainable city

Professor of Sustainable Transportation and Sustainable Development John Whitelegg discusses how changes in transportation systems can lead to a vast improvement in quality of life. We need to move from a world filled with metal and concrete to a world of green spaces and clean air, he explains.

What are the three qualities that should characterize a sustainable city?
"There has to be a democratic element. We need people to express a view about what kind of city they want to live in, and what they want it to look like, and how they think it should develop over the next 10, 20, 30 years. And then a lot of that will then coincide with what experts and professionals call sustainability. So it would be a city, for example, that has a lot less noise, a lot better air quality, a lot less traffic, a lot more potential for people to stand around and talk and meet their neighbors and not be drowned by noise and disturbance and stink. The sustainable city is, first of all, a vast improvement in quality of life that ordinary people can detect and enjoy."

What are the challenges that top the to-do list of cities around the world?
"The challenges tend to be things like how do we actually deal with the development of the city with growing population [and] growing levels of economic activity, things like water shortages and important resource problems that cities are facing. I would say that the main challenges are to actually reduce the amount of resources that we use, metal, concrete, and so on, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions-we have to tackle the climate change problem very significantly."

What are the three most promising initiatives that would make living in cities more sustainable?
"The things that can be done and should be done are still a bit frightening for politicians, really, but they are about reallocating space, so that space is for people-and not for things that weigh a tonne and are made of metal and kill children when they hit them-and things that are green and things that are clean and things that are pleasant. We can look at car-free housing, getting rid of parking places, digging up and closing roads…. And people will have to adjust to that; they will have to adjust to a more pleasant, slower, more agreeable, healthier, friendly lifestyle."

About John Whitelegg

John-Whitelegg_193x193 John Whitelegg is a Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transportation at Liverpool John Moores University and a Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute. His research has focused on transportation and the environment, defining sustainable transportation systems, the relationship between sustainability and human health, and developing and implementing environmental management standards.
In addition, Professor Whitelegg is the Managing Director of Eco-Logica Ltd., a Manchester-based transportation consulting firm. He is also the founder and editor of the Journal of World Transportation Policy and Practice.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014