We are living in a world of cities. More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. By 2050 more than 70% of us may be living in the cities. What does the future hold for cities around the world? And how can we all play a part in making our city better?

In our recent visit to the UK, we visited Museum of London. They had organized a “City Now City Future”, a year-long season of exhibitions, events, workshops, talks and debates that explore the wide range of initiatives taking place in cities globally, with a particular focus on the lives of London today.

We are pinning down five such ideas which could be useful for Indian cities as well.

  • Skycycle
    1. In London, this scheme to create elevated cycle paths was proposed by world-renowned English architect Norman Foster.
    2. Skycycle would provide 220 km of elevated cycling paths that would reduce traffic congestion in London. The wide deck would be built on pylons above train tracks.
    3. With a capacity of 12,000 rides an hour, the cycling network would also significantly reduce commuting time into the city center.


  • Community Supported Agriculture
    1. The idea started with the Teikei farms in Japan in the 1970s and spread throughout the world: CSA system in Quebec, Reciproco in Portugal, Gruppo di acquisto solidale in Italy, and more.
    2. In this type of agriculture group of consumers pledge to support a farmer’s production for a year. Consumers and producers establish a list of products together. The prepaid subscribers receive regular deliveries of fruits, vegetables, and sometimes also eggs, cheese, or meat.
    3. The purpose is to eat local while protecting producers from the ups and downs of the market by guaranteeing them a regular and fair income.

Read more about the CSA in the UK here.

  • Foot-powered electricity
    1. Paving slab made of recycled tires and concrete will produce energy when it is integrated into the pavement from foot power.
    2. The slabs covered in a material that polarises under the impact of a footstep. The kinetic energy is transformed into endlessly renewable electric power. Each footfall generates 4 to 7 Watts.
    3. 5% of the energy produced powers a diode that illuminates the ground. The rest is available for other uses: 5 to 15 slabs are enough to keep a street lamp it.

Read about the company working on generating this alternative source of electricity.

  • Incredible edible: help yourself vegetable beds
    1. Incredible Edible is a movement started in Todmorden, a small English town (16,000) struck by the economic crisis and the impact of deindustrialization.
    2. Volunteers plant mini-vegetables gardens wherever they can: in planters, on windowsills, or in flower beds. Everywhere are noticed saying: “Help yourself”, “If you see I’m thirsty, water me”, “I’m food for sharing”.
    3. On a citywide scale, Todmorden successfully experimented in self-sufficient food production while strengthening the community, anybody can learn to plant and tending from volunteer gardeners.

Here is the link to the organization that promotes it in UK.

  • Biobus: powered by sewage

    1. In Bristol (population of 50,000), a bus runs on the route that releases 80% less nitrogen oxide and 20% to 30% less CO2 than a diesel engine and practically no particulates.
    2. Fuel source is methane – a renewable energy source produced from all sorts of organic matter. In Bristol, the fermentation cats are supplied with wastewater and faeces from the sewers.
    3. The method used is called anaerobic digestion: in the absence of air, microorganisms break down the organic matter to produce methane.

Read the case study here.

We encounter the city as a series of relationships at different scales – as individual urban dwellers, within our local communities, our wider neighborhood and the city beyond. In London and around the world, ideas and innovations seek to improve cities and the experiences of living for them. From governments and policy-makers to community groups and individual residents, we are all part of making our city.

By reflecting on the present and the past, we can start to imagine how cities could change and how we can all be a part of the shaping the cities of the future.

We hope these ideas take shape for the better.