United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Major Group: NGOs

Thank you mister co-chair,
Allow me to start on a personal note. Some years ago I visited the United States and stayed with
friends in Orlando, which is a metropolitan area with a population of two million people. Literally, the
only way to get to their home was by car. Any other means of transport was non-existing or
structurally not allowed. As an example, their neighborhood had no walking paths, thereby making
walking illegal. So the city planners in the land of freedom had restricted the choice of transport to
just one ? and one of the most environmentally polluting at that.
Of course, this was not by any means an extraordinary experience, but this is exactly the reason why
it is suitable to highlight the next few points ? which resonate with several earlier interventions, for
example the one of the Major Group Local Authorities.
First of all, spatial planning is crucial. This is clearly a question of travel miles, economic,
environmental and social costs. It is also a question of access. Here in Manhattan, there are almost as
many people living as in greater Orlando, but in less than 1% of the Orlando metropolitan area.
Obviously, high density building allows for more efficient and collective transport, and access equity.
But there?s more to the picture of spatial planning. For example, transport infrastructure has also
major consequences for plant and animal life, biodiversity and ecological functions. Roads can divide
habitats, interfere with migration routes, increase accidents involving wildlife, and potentially
devastate the habitat?s carrying capacity for species.
The second lesson to be learned from my experience is that individual transport is still prioritized
over collective transport, and motorized transport is privileged above non-motorized forms of
transport. All too often, priority still is given to cars, which can easily make using a bicycle too
dangerous to even consider; leading to more people actually needing cars. Last week, I had the
privilege to cycle through Manhattan, but I was a bit doubtful about the safety of my undertaking.
Moreover, and this relates to the third question, what is almost completely forgotten in our
transport conversation is that animals are still an important source of transportation for goods and
people ? and they will likely to continue to be so in the next decades or so, especially in rural areas of
developing countries. To improve these animal-based transport services, provisions should be in
place to provide adequate shelter, water, food and access to veterinary care. Such improvements are
typically relatively very low cost, but can make a substantial difference to achieving development
Finally, my example shows that transport is also all about culture. The total absence of any free
choice in transportation matters was to my American friends the exact opposite, as to have a car was
precisely that: the epitome of freedom. This means that alongside changing planning and changing
modes of transportation we must change the way we think and experience transport, change public
and political perceptions, so that new, sustainable forms of planning and collective and nonmotorized
forms of transport become something to aspire to ? and unsustainable forms will be
discouraged and restricted.
Thank you very much.