Carfree Times

      Issue 48

10 November 2007     
 
Venice: Large Square
Piazza Galuppi, Burano, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

Announcements

Carfree Design Manual

The drawings are done, the photographs are ready, some of the text is out for proof-reading, and I still have to fiddle with four chapters.

Carfree Cities Availability

Both the paperback and hardcover editions of Carfree Cities are widely available. For details, see the Ordering Information page.

Support for Carfree.com

Ed Beale paid for October, November & December 2007. Dr. Irving Rudman paid for January 2008. Thanks to all our contributors for their generosity. If you can consider making a contribution, please see the Support Page.

Thanks

Thanks to the many stringers who forward stories to Carfree Times. I have stopped naming people for fear of slighting someone by overlooking a name.


   World Carfree Network

Carfree.com supports World Carfree Network (WCN) by posting the most important network announcements here. Visit the WCN web site for full information regarding the Network's activities.

Towards Carfree Cities VII (Istanbul)

This year's TCFC conference, held in Istanbul had the theme "Building a Livable Future in a Changing Climate." The emphasis was on the quality of urban life and the sustainable use of natural, historical, and built environments. The conference brought together 200 participants from 20 countries.

At the plenary session, Ole Thorson explained how to build a sustainable future based on pedestrian-friendly streets and public spaces. Erhan Öncü showed how we now "make cars free" and why this must change. Haluk Gerçek explained the present traffic situation in Istanbul and proposed how to overcome economic, cultural, and political resistance.

More than 50 presentations, workshops, and discussions, all focusing on various aspects of the carfree concept, were organized. (Many of them can be downloaded from www.worldcarfree.net/conference/). A large parking lot was briefly converted into a park with artificial grass, exercise equipment, art exhibition, and a yoga space. Istanbul was also explored at length.

A special treat was the excursion to Büyükada Island, the largest of the five carfree Prince's Islands. This included a meeting with the mayor, who promised that, no matter how fast the car industry develops, this island will remain carfree.

The next issue of CarBusters will include a detailed account of the conference.

Towards Carfree Cities VIII (Portland, 2008)

TCFC VIII will be held in Portland, Oregon, 16-20 June 2008. Portland leads the USA in innovative transportation and public space strategies. In the 1970s, resistance built to the construction of new highways, which eventually led to the diversion of highway funds to light rail, cycling, and pedestrianization. To propose an activity, visit www.carfreeportland.org/call-for-proposals.

Support WCN

WCN is experiencing financial difficulties. Now would be a great time to support WCN and the International Coordination Centre (ICC) in Prague. Join at any one of various membership levels or make a donation to the ICC. Please visit www.worldcarfree.net/join/ or email Christi Brooks at cbrooks[at]worldcarfree.net.

WCN News in Spanish

The monthly E-Bulletin "World Carfree News" will soon include a Spanish edition. To subscribe, visit www.worldcarfree.net/bulletin/.
 

 
Venice: Large Square
Campo Francesco Morosini, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

The Larger Squares of Venice

This issue carries some photographs of the larger squares in Venice. I plan to run photographs of the smaller squares in the next issue.

Piazza San Marco deserves an issue of its own, which it will get some day. Despite having hundreds of photographs of it, I do not have enough good ones. I have never really come to terms with this huge and wonderful square. I do not know how to represent it properly.


News Bits

Venice: Large Square
Campo S. Vidal, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

World Carfree Day

Some highlights as provided by World Carfree Network:
  • Lisbon: Central areas of Lisbon were designated carfree, for the first time in six years. The streets filled with pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters.
  • China: Gridlock as usual. This is the first year that China has participated officially, with 107 Chinese cities staging a nominal Carfree Day. Participation was voluntary, and traffic was little affected.
  • Israel: Carfree Day and Yom Kippur coincided this year. There was virtually no traffic except for emergency vehicles.
  • Hamilton, Ontario: Free bike repairs, banners, music, chess, triple PARKing space party, bicycle-in movie, Critical Mass ride. More.
  • São Paulo: The largest Critical Mass ever. Zen meditation, music, video exhibitions, and a street party. More.
  • Budapest: Critical Mass had 35,000 riders. Vice mayor Miklós Hagyó promised that the number of bike paths in Budapest would double by 2015. More, in Hungarian
  • Brussels: Carfree Day was taken seriously and the city became a place for people. The only car was a negative-emissions car from Auto-nomie. The engine space and interior were filled with soil and strawberry plants.
  • Cork: The "Rebel Pedal Parade 2007" was promoted as Cork's biggest bicycle parade ever. The event was well received by citizens and partially funded by the Cork City Council.
  • Manila: Cyclists distributed flyers promoting cycling as a mode of transportation.
  • Prague: Over 2500 cyclists gathered in central Prague to celebrate largest-ever Critical Mass in the city. A riverside street was closed to traffic, and concerts were held after the ride. More.
  • Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina: Traffic was closed for four hours on September 22nd. A a round-table discussion was held on "Sustainable Transport for the Future".
  • Germany: The German Green Youth used mobility week to call for free public transport, citing the example of Hasselt, Belgium. They also called for carfree cities. Stakeholders in Erfurt will consider free public transport as a permanent measure in the future.

Venice: Large Square
Campo S. Stin, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

Carfree Games

The 2014 Commonwealth Games may be held in Glasgow. And they may be carfree. Organizers promised carfree Games, with spectators travelling on free public transport. There would be no public parking at the venues. Ticket holders would receive passes for buses and trains. Organizers hope many will bike or walk. Public transport would receive priority at traffic signals.

"Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Car Free Ė
Delegate Impressed With Bid"
Gamesbid.com
9 October 2007


Venice: Large Square
Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

Not on My Roads You Don't. . . Yet

Premier John Brumby of Victoria State in Australia has "vowed to crush a move by Melbourne City Council to host a car-free day in the CBD." The council had decided, at the behest of young environmentalists, to consider a carfree day.

The city's roads are controlled by the state, and the Premier vowed that a carfree day would not be allowed. "I don't think the city would cope," he said.

Nicholas Low, on the faculty of Architecture, Building, and Planning at the University of Melbourne, responded in an article entitled, "A car-free city centre by 2030:"

Cities worldwide are ending their reliance on cars to remake their centres into beautiful environments for living, playing, working and shopping.

September 22 is World Car-free Day, when people around the world reclaim the streets of great cities. Melbourne could become a car-free city by 2030. The question is, how?

Cars kill city life. They make the places they invade unpleasant, noisy, dangerous and smelly. But, of course, they deliver mobility.

Making the city car free does not mean making car access impossible. But it does mean keeping cars out of central areas and making the public transport network more effective.

Cities are taking the car-free challenge not just to save the environment, but to compete with other cities in creating places where people will want to work, live and spend. In this century, economic success comes with environmental quality.

Venice, one of the world's most admired cities, is of course car free. In England, even the city of Birmingham, in the heart of the car industry, has turned its central area over to people on foot. London is taming the car with a congestion charge. Montpellier in the south of France has made its central retail and entertainment district a place for walking. These are examples of a movement that has swept Europe in the past 30 years and is catching on in the US.

The first Australian city to go car free will gain a huge competitive advantage. Melbourne should not be looking for a single iconic building to win fame. Its whole central grid of streets and lanes is its icon.

He goes into considerable detail regarding the practical details. The article ends with links to World Carfree Network and Carfree.com.

Watch out, Mr Brumby. Somebody is gaining on you. He's probably on a bike.

"Premier vows to crush car-free day in city"
AAP
5 September 2007
and
"A car-free city centre by 2030"
The Age
9 September 2007


PARKing
PARK(ing)
Photo by greencitywaba

PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day is a global event that was conceived by REBAR, a San Francisco-based art collective. Artists, activists, and citizens briefly transform parking spots into "PARK(ing)" spaces: temporary public parks. The Trust for Public Land promoted National PARK(ing) Day in a dozen major US cities. PARK(ing) also happened in London, Utrecht, Munich, Vilnius, Barcelona, Valencia, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, and Melbourne, among other places. The mission:
To rethink the way streets are used, call attention to the need for urban parks, and improve the quality of urban human habitat. . . . at least until the meter runs out!
I think this activity really brings home just how much space we give to cars, and how much better our lives could be if we reclaimed at least some of that space. A parking space really isn't all that big, but you can do big things with one.

I find this kind of low-budget, high-imagination project to be just what we need. If this were to be done on a fairly large scale, it would have at least as much impact as carfree days. And it looks like fun!


Venice: Large Square
Campo Santa Margherita, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

Paved Paradise

In Tippecanoe County, Indiana, (population 150,000), there are 250,000 more parking spaces than registered vehicles. The county's parking lots occupy more than two square miles, not even counting the driveways or street-side parking. There are, in fact, 11 parking spaces for every family.

The reaction of locals to this news? "Are you crazy? I can never find parking where I'm going!" The Salon.com article continues:

That's the paradox of parking. No matter how much land we pave for our idle cars, it always seems as if there isn't enough. That's America. We're all about speed and convenience. We don't want to walk more than two blocks, if that. . . .

Despite all the environmental evils blamed on the car and its enablers - General Motors, the Department of Transportation, Porsche, Robert Moses, suburban developers - parking has slipped under the radar. Yet much of America's urban sprawl, its geography of nowhere, stems from the need to provide places for our cars to chill. In the past few years, a host of forward-looking city planners have introduced plans to combat the parking scourge. This year, some are making real progress.

Minimum parking requirements surfaced in the 1920s, and municipalities began requiring businesses to provide parking. In 1946, only 17% of cities had parking requirements, but within five years, 71% had adopted them. The American Planning Association's Parking Standards is 181 pages long and lists minimum parking requirements for "everything from abattoirs to zoos."

To Donald Shoup, of UCLA, parking requirements are a "bane of the country." He said, "Parking requirements create great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment," he wrote in The High Cost of Free Parking. (Read review.) Maybe he never noticed how ugly it was, too.

The costs of free parking are large. The city of Oakland started requiring apartments to have one parking space per apartment in 1961. The cost of an apartment promptly increased by 18%. Urban density declined by 30%. Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, devotes more land to parking than all other land uses combined. Olympia, Washington, discovered that parking and driveways occupied twice as much land as the buildings that they served.

And it's not just the costs or the land take. Patrick Siegman, a transportation planner, said:

Americans love traditional American small towns, main streets and historic districts.

But largely because of minimum parking requirements, it's completely illegal to build anything like that again in most American cities. It's really hard to build anything where anyone would want to walk from one building to the next.

The direct environmental effects are significant. Parking collects pollution, which then washes into streams during rain storm. Storm water runoff may be 25 times as great as from agricultural land, increasing flood risks. Asphalt contributes significantly to the heat island effect and may even affect local weather.

Shoup's preferred solution is market pricing. Demand in congested areas would be reduced by the high price. The good old-fashioned parking meter may enjoy a comeback, but the rates are not going to be a nickel an hour. They will have to be rebuilt to accept dollar coins. Shoup gets the last word:

I think that we've done things wrong for so long that it takes a while to break all our bad habits of wanting to be freeloaders.

We know that land is fabulously valuable and housing is expensive, but somehow we think we can park for free. We can't.

"We paved paradise"
Salon.com
1 October 2007


Venice: Large Square
Campo SS. Apostoli, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

Longer Life in New York City, More Money in Portland

The life expectancy of New Yorkers is now 78.6 years, nine months longer than the US average. But why? Researchers have attributed their longevity to better health than is typical in the rest of the country. They may simply be healthier because they walk so much, unlike the rest of the country, which is trapped inside SUVs. Declining pollution levels probably also play a role.

In Portland, Oregon, residents save $2.6 billion a year because they drive 20% less than other Americans. Most of the savings are thought to be spent locally on housing, entertainment, and food. Portland residents walk more than average and presumably enjoy a similar health benefit to New Yorkers. They live in compact communities, closer to work and home, so commuting, by whatever means, takes less time. They have a reasonably good public transport system.


Venice: Large Square
Campo dei Carmini, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

Health, Energy, and Transport

A recent article in The Lancet considered the health impacts of transport. The study is perhaps most remarkable for the strong thread of socio-economic justice that runs through it - poor people have the least benefit from transport but often suffer the greatest health losses from it. A few highlights:
  • Although emissions from US cars scarcely increased between 1990 and 2003, emissions from light trucks rose 51% and heavier trucks by 57%
  • The number of cars and SUVs in China could increase 15-fold over the next 30 years
  • Flying may already be a greater per-capita cause of emissions than driving in some societies
  • Per vehicle-kilometer, heavy-goods vehicles (trucks) are twice as likely to be involved in fatal crashes as cars
  • 34% of deaths of children in the EU due to injury are caused by road crashes, with wide ranges of variability from country to country
  • Food-energy intake has not decreased as much as physical activity, with an obesity epidemic the result
  • "Harms are created through too much mobility and too little access."
  • Transport infrastructure construction in China will displace 3.7 million farmers between 2004 and 2020
So what is to be done? The article sees four major areas requiring attention:
  • Avoid the need for vehicle trips - access, not mobility
  • Increase energy efficiency and renewable sources
  • Shorten trip lengths and shift to low-impact modes
  • Greater use of "active transport" (mainly walking and biking)
Unfortunately, the article only mentions "car-free" once and in passing.

"Energy and Health 3: Energy and transport"
The Lancet
Vol. 370, 22 September 2007


Venice: Large Square
Campo S. Trovaso, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

There Are No Green Cars

No car is "green," "clean," or "environmentally friendly," according to strict advertising guidelines now in effect in Norway. "Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others," said Bente Øverli, of the state-run Consumer Ombudsman. Many major automakers had used advertising phrases this year that the watchdog judged misleading.

A Toyota advertisement for the Prius had described the gasoline-electric hybrid as "the world's most environmentally friendly car." "If someone says their car is more 'green' or 'environmentally friendly' than others then they would have to be able to document it in every aspect from production, to emissions, to energy use, to recycling," she said. "In practice that can't be done."

Carmakers risk fines if they use the words. They may only give information that can be documented.


Venice: Large Square
Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

Peak Oil, Coming to a Planet Near You, Now

Maximum oil output has been reached, and production will fall by half by 2030, according to a new report. War, economic crises, and disaster are foreseen. The report from the German-based Energy Watch Group says world oil production peaked in 2006 and will begin to drop by around 3% a year. The report also warns that coal, uranium, and other fossil fuels are in decline. Humanitarian disaster is seen as a likely result.

Leo Drollas, who leads oil and gas market analysis at the Center for Global Energy Studies in London, claims that there are plenty of supplies and no looming crisis. He called the report "scaremongering." He admits that production could slow some day, but only because new reserves will be considered too difficult or expensive to extract. "Oil could be left in the ground and we could move on to another fuel in the future, not because we're running out of oil but because, economically speaking, it is not worth extracting the oil."

I am unclear about "another fuel." Close to press time, crude oil was trading near $96/barrel, the highest level in history even when adjusted for inflation, itself largely a result of 35 years of rising oil prices.

"Report: 'World at peak oil output'"
CNN
24 October 2007


Venice: Large Square
Campo Santa Margherita, Venice
©2005 J.Crawford

A Streetcar I Desire

A streetcar powered by a lithium battery that can recharge in under a minute has been developed by the Railway Technical Research Institute in Japan. The vehicle begins testing in Sapporo this month, to verify its capabilities. When powered solely by the onboard battery, the vehicle has a range of 15 km at a top speed of 40 km/hr. Part of the reason for the long range is that 70% of braking energy is converted into electricity and stored in the battery. At recharging stations, where the pantograph contacts an overhead wire, the battery is quickly charged. The streetcar uses about 10% less power than conventional streetcars.

I have been searching for ways to rapidly install street-running rail systems. The greatest barrier, and one of the greatest costs, has been the installation of the overhead power system, which is also a blot on the face of the city. I had earlier proposed fuel-cell trams (Japan is already testing fuel-cell rail vehicles), and short-wire trams, which resemble the battery-powered trams in most respects, except that my proposal called for super-capacitors instead of batteries. I still think that this may be a more efficient solution, as capacitors are well suited to the very high charge and discharge rates needed for short-haul, street-running trams. I am gratified that others think this problem needs a solution, and I am now confident that one will emerge. It will revolutionize urban transport.


Editorial

Carfree in America? Surely You're Joking!

By J.H. Crawford

Since returning to the USA a year ago from long residence in Europe, I have been struck by the differences between here and there.

Americans must find the entire idea of carfree life a near impossibility. Take the example of the Livingston (New Jersey) Town Center. This is a reasonable (if incredibly expensive) New Urbanist project in the center of Livingston. (I use "center" advisedly - the town has no real center; the project is at the intersection of two of the most important streets in the town.) This is a mixed-use development, but mixed only if you need gourmet popcorn or pricey kitchen equipment. There is no grocery store or hardware store, or anything that you might really need. Life there would be exceptionally difficult without a car. A few buses come along now and then, but the town is so spread out and so lacking in focus that to meet one's daily needs using only a bus or by walking would be all but impossible. (Traffic is so heavy and fast that I would fear to cycle, although some people do.)

The situation is much the same across the USA. Single-use zoning, low-density development, and space-hogging automobile infrastructure make life without driving seem a fanciful notion. Everything is far from everything else, so walking is impractical. The infrastructure is so oriented to serving car drivers that cycling is made unreasonably difficult and dangerous, and once again the distances are daunting. Everything is so spread out that decent public transport is essentially impossible to provide.

If we are going to make progress in the USA, we will have to build some demonstration projects, or else take the cars out of New York City, which would actually be a fairly simple task, given New York's density, the penchant of its citizens to walk, and the reasonably good public transport already in place. Americans will have to experience life without cars before they will believe that it is possible. Let's get to work on those demonstration projects.


Books & Films


 
cover
Visualizing Density

Julie Campoli and Alex S. MacLean

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2007

152 pages
Softcover (includes CD-Rom)
US$ 39.95
ISBN 9781558441712

This excellent book measures density using a different approach from the method presented on Carfree.com. While I prefer my own method, it is time consuming to prepare, and I have only ten examples. This book is a very useful extension, although its scope is limited to the USA. It begins with an excellent general discussion of density issues and strategies.

Condensed from the Abstract:

The American Dream of a single-family home on its own expanse of yard still captures the imagination. But with 100 million more people expected in the United States by 2050, rising energy and transportation costs, disappearing farmland and open space, and the clear need for greater energy efficiency and reduced global warming emissions, the future built environment must include more density.

Consumer demand for more walkable, mixed-use, and concentrated neighborhoods is already on the rise among some demographic groups. But for others, density continues to have negative connotations. In many established urban neighborhoods, concerns about traffic congestion and parking, and strains on infrastructure, schools, and parks have led to resistance to more concentrated settlement patterns. Campoli and MacLean have joined with the Lincoln Institute to create a full-color, richly-illustrated book to help planners, designers, public officials, and citizens better understand and communicate the concept of density as it applies to the residential environment.

Visualizing Density includes an essay on the density challenge, an illustrated manual on planning and designing for "good" density, and a catalog of 250 diverse neighborhoods across the country. Density for each neighborhood is given as dwelling units per acre. Photographs of each location are included. Plan views are also included.

Campoli stated at a recent conference, "We donít have a density problem. We have a design problem."


 

cover
The Myths of Biofuels

Sutro Tower Video
San Francisco, 2007

89 minutes
DVD
US$ 7.50 (cost of duplicating & shipping)
Buy here

This is the best single explanation of the problems with biofuels I have seen. The short and simple answer is that biofuels are no answer to our energy and emissions problems. In fact, they generally make things worse. Sorry.

It gets a bit schmaltzy in a couple of places, but you can fast-forward.


Hot New Links

The links below will open in a new browser window:

How to Build a Village by Claude Lewenz

The Humanitarian Impact of Urbanisation

The Task Force for Child Survival and Development

Ideas for 7 October, Radio New Zealand (includes an interview with J.H. Crawford) [ASX file!]

Efficient Vehicles Versus Efficient Transportation: Comparing Transportation Energy Conservation Strategies from VTPI [PDF!]


About Carfree Times

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The next issue of Carfree Times is expected in January or February 2008.

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Statement of Ownership

In this day of corporate-influenced media, it is perhaps incumbent upon Carfree.com to declare its ownership and sources of support.

Carfree.com is wholly owned by Joel Crawford, the legal name of author J.H. Crawford. Its operation is financed by J.H. Crawford, with the help of some generous donors since 2004. It generates no revenues directly but does help support sales of Carfree Cities. Carfree.com accepts review copies of books but makes no commitment to review them. J.H. Crawford receives no commissions from the sale of books mentioned on Carfree.com.

The views expressed at Carfree.com are those of J.H. Crawford, except for articles, letters, and editorials that carry the names of other authors. The inclusion of these signed texts is at the sole discretion of J.H. Crawford, who does not necessarily agree with the views expressed. All other content, except quoted material, is written by J.H. Crawford.

E-mail announcements of new issues of Carfree Times are mailed to approximately 800 subscribers. A rough estimate of first-year circulation for each new issue is 5000. All the issues ever published are still being read.

Contact Information

Editor      J.H. Crawford
E-mailSend e-mail
URLhttp://www.carfree.com/



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