City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Urban traffic in the Global South

Written in


YouTube isn’t just Darth Vader spoofs, dogs and old pop videos. Oh no.

Today I chanced across a fascinating series of short videos of urban traffic patterns in southern hemisphere cities, called ‘Global South’. They could be seen as the result of camcorder-carrying westerners in search of the exotic – here in the form of apparently negligent, if not bonkers, ‘traffic un-calming’ schemes – yet they actually constitute examples for serious research into different urban transport problems and solutions.

"This “Global South Mobility” section of the New Mobility Agenda video collection provides a collection of private views of both the problems (most of which based on the results of the imported car-based, “old mobility” model from the North) and the Global South’s search for new and often original and surprising solutions. And as with the other sub-sets here (including till now: Old Mobility, New Mobility, and World Carshare) part of our challenge is not only to seek striking examples of both problems and solutions, but also to lay the whole thing out in a way that makes it easy to navigate, view and learn from." [Global South on YouTube]

One school of thought suggests that the sheer density of these urban centres means that traffic rarely gets fast enough to do serious damage in accidents, enabling the kind of free-flowing, negotiated situations you see below. Paul Barter, a Singapore-based academic, has written about the ‘safe chaos’ aspects of these cultural patterns, as well as contributing an interesting series of documentaries from 2000, entitled Moving Forward.

"Moving forward : towards better urban transport" looks at solutions to urban transport problems. This documentary gives a brief introduction to some of the isssues related to modern urban transport in the ‘global South’, with a focus on Southeast Asia. With footage from Burma, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, this documentary outlines problems associated with transport in cities. It also introduces some of the key tools to tackle these challenges, and make urban transport safer, cleaner, healthier and more people-friendly."

Below, a few embedded examples from the Global South group on YouTube (you’ll have to visit the site, RSS-readers):

[Found via John Thackara]


One response to “Urban traffic in the Global South”

  1. cocoricamo Avatar

    sobering, for sure. have you seen this mashup yet? they’re tracking heat patterns from traffic using google maps —


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: