These isochrone maps show how well – or how badly – Europe’s cities are connected by train

An isochrone showing rail travel times from Vienna. Image: Peter Kerpedjiev/Empty Pipes.

The other day we reported on a whizzy new Transport for London tool which allowed you to create isochrone maps: maps which use colour to plot travel times from any point in London. It's really, really cool.

London, though, is not the world, and Peter Kerpedjiev, a PhD student at the University of Vienna has isochrones on a much bigger scale than that. On his blog Empty Pipes, you'll find a tool in which you can plot how long it'll take you to get from various European cities to any other point on the continent, “using only trains and walking at a brisk rate of 5 min / kilometre".

Caveats first. The data is inevitably incomplete. Some rail routes are missing; so are some entire countries (look at Ireland or Spain), simply because the data wasn't available in a useful format. And 5 minutes per kilometre is about 7.5 miles per hour, which is pretty bloody brisk. Oh, also there are things called planes these days.

But, as Kerpedjiev himself puts it:

Everything is an estimate. Rounding errors abound. Don't use this for anything but entertainment and curiosity. But you already know that.

Fair enough. So, with that out of the way, let's see how far you can get, using nothing by a train and the power of your own limbs.

From London, chunks of northern France and the Benelux nations are now more accessible than much of Scotland. Which frankly explains rather a lot:

 

Zoom in, and you can see that it's quicker to commute to London from Lille than from large parts of East Anglia:

 

Paris, perhaps unsurprisingly, is better connected for France and western Germany. Get east of Frankfurt, though, and things don't actually look all that different:

 

From Rome, it'll take you at least six hours just to get out of Italy:

 

Brussels is really well connected for basically anywhere in north western Europe:

 

The Baltics are well connected for basically nowhere. This is Riga:

 

They're not even well-connected to each other. Check out Tallinn:

 

Stockholm is a bit out of the way, too.

 

Even Berlin is surprisingly time-consuming to get to – which is funny, when you remember that that is where so much of the power in Europe lies:

 

Basically, if you're the sort of person who needs to travel but is frightened of planes, you're much better off being somewhere near the English Channel or the Rhine. Like Frankfurt:

Incidentally, if you were wondering why the colours get so tightly bunched around the coastlines, Kerpedjiev's blog explains:

Any points on water were assigned a swimming rate of 100 minutes / kilometre.

Makes sense.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.


 

 
 
 
 

Segregated playgrounds are just the start: inequality is built into the fabric of our cities

Yet more luxury flats. Image: Getty.

Developers in London have come under scrutiny for segregating people who live in social or affordable housing from residents who pay market rates. Prominent cases have included children from social housing being blocked from using a playground in a new development, and “poor doors” providing separate entrances for social housing residents.

Of course, segregation has long been a reality in cities around the world. For example, gated communities have been documented in the US cities since the 1970s, while racially segregated urban areas existed in South Africa under apartheid. Research by myself and other academics has shown that urban spaces which divide and exclude society’s poorer or more vulnerable citizens are still expanding rapidly, even replacing public provision of facilities and services – such as parks and playgrounds – in cities around the world.

Gated developments in Gurgaon, India, have created a patchwork of privatised services; elite developments in Hanoi, Vietnam, offer rich residents cleaner air; and luxury condos in Toronto, Canada, displace local residents in favour of foreign investors. An extreme example is the Eko Atlantic project in Nigeria – a private city being built in Lagos, where the majority of other residents face extreme levels of deprivation and poverty.

A commodity, or a right?

Although these developments come with their own unique context and characteristics, they all have one thing in common: they effectively segregate city dwellers. By providing the sorts of facilities and services which would normally be run by public authorities, but reserving them exclusively for certain residents, such developments threaten the wider public’s access to green spaces, decent housing, playgrounds and even safe sewage systems.

Access to basic services, which was once considered to be the right of all citizens, is at risk of becoming a commodity. Privatisation may start with minor services such as the landscaping or upkeep of neighbourhoods: for example, the maintenance of some new-build estates in the UK are being left to developers in return for a service charge. This might seem insignificant, but it introduces an unregulated cost for the residents.

Privatising the provision of municipal services may be seen by some as a way for wealthier residents to enjoy a better standard of living – as in Hanoi. But in the worst cases, it puts in a paywall in front of fundamental services such as sewage disposal – as happened in Gurgaon. In other words, privatisation may start with insignificant services and expand to more fundamental ones, creating greater segregation and inequality in cities.


A divided city

My own research on branded housing projects in Turkey has highlighted the drastic consequences of the gradual expansion of exclusive services and facilities through segregated developments. These private housing developments – known for their extensive use of branding – have sprung up in Istanbul and other Turkish cities over the past two decades, since the government began to favour a more neoliberal approach.

By 2014, there were more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul alone. They vary in scale from a single high-rise building to developments aiming to accommodate more than 20,000 residents. Today, this development type can be seen in every city in Turkey, from small towns to the largest metropolitan areas.

The branded housing projects are segregated by design, often featuring a single tower or an enclosing cluster of buildings, as well as walls and fences. They provide an extensive array of services and facilities exclusively for their residents, including parks, playgrounds, sports pitches, health clinics and landscaping.

Making the same services and facilities available within each project effectively prevents interaction between residents and people living outside of their development. What’s more, these projects often exist in neighbourhoods which lack publicly accessible open spaces such as parks and playgrounds.

This is a city-wide problem in Istanbul since the amount of publicly accessible green spaces in Istanbul is as low as 2.2 per cent of the total urban area. In London, 33 per cent of the city’s area is made up of parks and gardens open to the public – which shows the severity of the problem in Istanbul.

These branded housing projects do not feature any affordable units or social housing, so there are no opportunities for less privileged city-dwellers to enjoy vital facilities such as green spaces. This has knock-on effects on excluded residents’ mental and physical health, contributing to greater inequality in these respects, too.

Emerging alternatives

To prevent increasing inequality, exclusion and segregation in cities, fundamental urban services must be maintained or improved and kept in public ownership and made accessible for every city-dweller. There are emerging alternatives that show ways to do this and challenge privatisation policies.

For example, in some cities, local governments have “remunicipalised” key services, bringing them back into public ownership. A report by Dutch think-tank the Transnational Institute identified 235 cases where water supplies were remunicipalised across 37 countries between 2000 and 2015. The water remunicipalisation tracker keeps track of successful examples of remunicipalisation cases around the world, as well as ongoing campaigns.

It is vitally important to keep urban services public and reverse subtle forms or privatisation by focusing on delivering a decent standard of living for all residents. Local authorities need to be committed to this goal – but they must also receive adequate funds from local taxes and central governments. Only then, will quality services be available to all people living in cities.

The Conversation

Bilge Serin, Research Associate, University of Glasgow.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.