Liveable Cities — open for business

I confess to being a Monocle addict. It all started with my enjoyment around following the career of Tyler Brule – the Canadian (Winnipeg) who started Wallpaper, still does write on the back-page of the salmon coloured FT (easy to find if you live with someone who reads many newspapers and has a intricate filing system for what to save and what to recycle) – the column is called: The Fast Lane. Anyway Tyler rants often about urban issues and why our cities don’t meet at least some modest standards of “good experiences” for residents and visitors.

So I wait each month for Monocle – and the July/August 09 issues is all about Monocle’s The Most Liveable Cities Index ( )which is in its second year. They evaluated cities on a number of criteria – this year they added some interesting criteria like chain store pollution (the number of international brand food outlets and retailers vs the total mix (e.g. Starbucks, Zara)), ease of opening a business and major infrastructure improvements.

The top five cities are: Zurich, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Munich and Helsinki. Vancouver is number 14 (slipping – we were number 8 last year) and Montreal is number 19. You might accuse Monocle of being Euro or Asia-centric – Honolulu was the only US city to make the list.

So a few tidbits to tempt you to read Monocle (at least this issue)…

· Melbourne (#9) is the first city outside Italy to gain a Slow Food Designation.

· It takes 15-30 days to start a business in Madrid (#12).

· Munich (#4) has 1,200 km of bike paths and more to come. Deutsche Bahn has a call-a-bike scheme where you can rent a bike for 8 cents a minute or 9 euros a day.

· In Singapore (#18) it only takes minutes to register a new company online.

· Montreal (#19) ranked first in North America for competitive operating costs.

· In Barcelona (#15) solar panels are obligatory now in every new building.

· Vancouver (#14) has 1 Zara and 120 Starbucks (!!) — whereas Paris (#8) has 6 Zara and 34 Starbucks.

What I like about these kinds of surveys (not that they aren’t fairly subjective on a number of fronts) is that they provide pointers to places where we can learn from each other. I picked up quite a bit of information from the little summaries of the Cities that I can use. Especially useful is their info on how “business-friendly” these liveable cities are.

The Editors did pick up on Vancouver’s Greenest City activities – about us claiming to North America’s greenest! So it is out there.

Monocle is pushy and in your face – at the end of each City description, there is a “Monocle fix” – Vancouver’s is: “ignore the border: forge tighter business, cultural and transport links with Seattle and Portland.” I’ll second that and will write more on that in the Fall.

It is a rainy day today – so may have more posts in August – weather dependent. I am supposed to be un-plugged. City, region, design, collaboration discussions to be continued.

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2 Responses to Liveable Cities — open for business

  1. Karen Hurley says:

    Hello Moura,

    Great blog and wonderful to learn about your latest accomplishments. I think that you and Monocle have acknowledged a vital factor in discussions about sustainability and community design — culture — that is being lost in the present focus on technological answers. I look forward to following your blog as you explore this notion, and others, within the business community.

    I think you have also hinted at something important: business friendly yes, but what type of business. Are we creating systems that support franchising of our communities or that support unique, smaller businesses?

    And, maybe there needs to be quality of work life criteria for business like Slow Cities… i.e. are people encouraged to have long, convivial, healthy lunches?


    • Moura Quayle says:

      Hi Karen — thanks for your note. Am in the process of figuring out how to use the blog-twitter-facebook connection effectively. It can see that it will take discipline and focus. I like your idea of “not so fast” in terms of city life — and finding the balance is challenging. Hope you are doing well.

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