This paper focusses on one central aspect of urban development: transport and urban form and how the two shape the provision of access to people, goods and services, and information in cities. The paper suggests that more compact urban growth, aligned with the increased provision of public transport infrastructure and services and pro-active support for non-motorised transport use, is likely to deliver substantial net economic and social benefits. Despite this, current urban development trajectories across much of the world diverge considerably from more efficient urban accessibility pathways. This paper provides an overview of current global patterns and trends in the physical development of cities and related urban mobility behaviour. Overall, cities continue to sprawl excessively, with some estimates suggesting that total urban land area could triple between 2000 and 2030. Similarly, in many key emerging economies (such as China and India), private motorised vehicle use and modal share is expanding rapidly, with a range of negative economic and social implications. At the same time, however, evidence on tipping points towards more sustainable development trajectories is emerging in cities across different wealth levels. As a result of socio-demographic change, shifting public opinion, strong political leadership and technological innovation, some cities are moving towards a more compact and public-transport oriented urban development model with increasing shares of non-motorised transport.
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