Forum 2016 - Infrastructure Space - Detroit (Ruby Press)

307 306 address such challenges? Beyond the very visible problem of a lack of “big infrastructure,” there is also a range of less discernible sociopolitical issues, most explicitly revealed by the fact that large portions of populations in places such as these are living in slum condi- tions. While the term “slum” per se is a problematic one, it nonetheless stands for a lack, not only of infrastructure as it’s normally understood, but most importantly a lack of infrastructure fostering common well-being—a lack of schools, housing, medical clinics, communal institutions, and so on, not to mention a lack of the transportation network connecting them. When talking about infrastructure at such a large scale, one must ack- nowledge its effects on social agency in general and individuals in particu- lar—for example, a father taking his two children to school on his bicycle in Bogotá. As straightforward as this ex- ample might be, it nevertheless points to the role that infrastructure can play when trying to improve social condi- tions. Important in this discussion is the relationship between infrastructure and social equity. One way of measu- ring social equity is access to educa- tion. It is a well-accepted fact that if children do not get education early on in life, in a safe environment and in close proximity to their home, they lose out on the benefits that a society might be able to offer. Discussing transport as a means to access education is a proxy for talking about social integrati- on. If one takes education levels of the population in different parts of the city, the quality of education utterly corre- lates with the availability of and ac- cessibility to transit facilities, whether a subway, bus rapid transit system, or bicycle network. In other words, the better the infrastructure, the higher the educational levels. It is fundamental to remember that decisions made about whether to invest in one form of public transport over another have an impact on the way our children and grand- children are educated. The critical relationships between those different aspects have been understood by successive mayors of Bogotá, who introduced a bus transit system as well as a network of bicycle paths in their city, placing bus stops close to bicycle lanes, which can be used by parents to take their children to school. Infra- structure in this case positively affects Fig. 1: Infrastructure has a profound effect on the lives of the increasing number of urban dwellers across the globe, as evidenced by the success of the ciclovías in Bogotá, which have not only reduced commuting times and pollution levels, but have also positively affected the quality of life of individuals and families. Exploring the physical and political impacts of infrastructure on urban life necessitates a different way of thin- king about design as a form of political action in order to effectively solve the problem of using economic means in a positive, inclusive, and equitable way. To pursue such an agenda requires a twofold perspective—on the one hand, a big-picture approach vis-à-vis infra- structure and, on the other, the par- ticular view of affected individuals on the ground. One of the most important things in contemporary discourses concer- ning infrastructure is that academics and practitioners have broadened their view, not exclusively addressing sewers, transportation systems, wa- ter distribution networks, or social institutions as isolated components, but asking how they actually inter- connect . This shift of perspective is particularly important when looking at those parts of the world that are currently urbanizing at an unprece- dented rate, requiring more and more investment in infrastructure in the years to come. Statistics back this up. When it comes to urbanization, the cities that are growing faster— much faster than those we typically think of in China or Latin America—are me- tropolitan regions such as those of Nairobi, Lagos, Kinshasa, Kabul, and Addis Ababa. These agglomerations, at least today, are located in regions of the world with societies marked by relatively low levels of income and energy consumption. What are the appropriate models to follow and what are their consequences when trying to When planning infrastructure at a large scale it can be easy to lose sight of its effects upon the individuals who actually use it, as well as its capacity to act as a multiplier of social equity. Joining up the dots between the data, density and development, Ricky Burdett explains how policy choices have emboldened infrastructure’s social impact in Bogotá and London— and could do so elsewhere. There is a tendency to be negative when it comes to talking about infra- structure. Though I had originally titled my essay “Infrastructures of Inequality,” I would like instead to take a positive approach and focus on infrastructure’s capacity to foster social integrati- on. When one thinks of the negative aspects that are often associated with infrastructure, one should not forget that there is a flip side. Whereas infra- structural systems always benefit those who have access to them, one could also invest in infrastructure in order to improve existing conditions and modes of operation—to do things better and with better results. This is what we should be most interested in learning. Infrastructures of Equality Versus Inequality Ricky Burdett When planning infrastructure at a large scale it can be easy to lose sight of its effects upon the individuals who actually use it, as well as its capacity to act as a multiplier of social equity. Joining up the dots between the data, density and development, Ricky Burdett explains how policy choices have emboldened infrastructure’s social impact in Bogotá and London— and could do so lsewhere.

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