Carfree Times

      Issue 65

12 March 2012     

Bicycle policeman, Leidseplein, Amsterdam
Yes, in The Netherlands, the cops ride bikes, just like everyone else.
©2011 J.Crawford



I have continued making videos this winter. One of the newest releases, "Car Trouble: And How to Fix It" is embedded below, and you can watch it in HD if your connection is fast enough:


Car Trouble: And How to Fix It

There are a number of other, shorter videos in the past couple of months. You can watch them all at:

Vimeo (up to 720p)
YouTube (up to 1080p during low-traffic periods)

Thanks to Enrico Canali, "Occupy All Streets" got Portuguese subtitles and drew quite a few viewers from Portugal and Brazil.

If you watch a video, please Like it by mousing over and clicking the Heart icon in the top-right of the video frame (Vimeo) or clicking the Thumbs Up icon below the video (YouTube). Posting to Twitter and Facebook will also help if you can. We need to get the message out to a broader audience.

There is now a video page at It's not always entirely up to date, however. Vimeo is updated before YouTube, so Vimeo is the go-to location for the most recent videos.

Most of the films are released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution license, so you're free to use them as long as you acknowledge the source and the Creative Commons license. I would have simply put the material in the public domain, but I used other Creative Commons licensed material that requires the same terms and conditions.

The Books

Carfree Cities and Carfree Design Manual are widely available in Europe and North America.


Stroget (a 2-km pedestrianized street ) Copenhagen, Denmark
©2011 Karen Sandness

World Carfree Network actively supports World Carfree Network (WCN). The network stands at the point of some degree of renewal and rebirth and could use your help if you have time available. The main news from the network follows.

World Carfree Network Bulletin

Subscribe to and read the monthly WCN Bulletin, now available in Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. It's a great way to keep abreast of important developments affecting the carfree movement. The Bulletin needs new translators for the Italian and Portuguese editions. A web programmer to help improve the Bulletin section of the WCN website is also needed. As always, submissions for the Bulletin are welcome. To volunteer, send mail.

Join the World Carfree Media Team

If you're passionate about the carfree solution to urban gridlock, help make a difference by getting the word out. Join the media team, which will keep an eye out for items in the media that need our attention and response. We'll make some media noise ourselves, too. Send email to WCN Media.


Bergen, Norway, a pedestrianized area three blocks long in the center of the city
©2011 Karen Sandness

News Bits

The articles I consider most important come first. Left-clicking on a link below will open it in a new browser window or tab:

"No [motor]bike riding on footpaths"

    The following precis comes from our colleague Debra Efroymson at Health Bridge in Bangladesh and is based on the linked article above (Daily Star) plus her local knowledge.

    "Using the Courts to Support Pedestrian Rights in Dhaka"

    On 5 March 2012, the High Court in Bangladesh issued a landmark ruling that could lead to major improvements for walking and other non-motorized travel. The ruling came in response to two writ petitions. Among other things, the ruling states that the government must stop vehicles, particularly motorcycles, from getting on footpaths (sidewalks) and walkways; paint zebra crossings on various intersections within 15 days, and provide information on rickshaw bans and on the number of motorized vehicles in the city.

    The government was asked to explain why it should not be directed to provide sufficient segregated paths for pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles and to remove obstacles for people walking on existing footpaths. Among those arguing for the case were Professor Sarwar Jahan of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, who explained that while rickshaws occupy 40% of road space they move almost 54% of passengers; cars take up 39% of road space but transport fewer than 9% of passengers. Similarly, bicycles utilize only 1.7% of road space to move 2.5% of passengers.

    The decision itself would be of little use without people ready to campaign for its enforcement; fortunately there are plenty of individuals and a few organizations ready to take the issue forward. The high level of frustration among pedestrians with motorcycles on the footpaths should also help ensure effective implementation. Already, only two days after the decision, the extensive media coverage it has received means that the general public seems already aware of it; intensive campaigning could set an example for other countries in the region suffering from the same problem, that it is indeed possible to redress this wrong and restore pedestrians their rights.

"Thinking Like a System about Climate Science"

    This is the antidote to the optimism of the techno-fixers and geo-engineers. The analysis is necessarily complex, but the conclusions are simple: economic growth has to end, and soon. Energy consumption must be greatly reduced. We can do this. (A Prosperous Way Down)

"Let's Visit a Car-Free Village, Built from Scratch"

"Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America"

    A review by Rick Risemberg of a new book. "Cotten Seiler presents a compelling case for one answer. In Republic of Drivers, he examines how basically imaginary constructs of 'freedom' were attached to and marketed with the car and car culture to compensate for the loss of control over their lives US workers suffered with the advent of industrialism." (New Colonist)

"Reflections Of An Optimist: A Blog By Debra Efroymson"

    The toll of road injuries, which runs to 3500 deaths a day. Written by our colleague Debra Efroymson. (Health Bridge)

"There is no tomorrow"

    This 35-minute video is well made and accords with the reality about fossil fuels as far as I know it. However, the conclusion that "there is no tomorrow" is unwarranted and destructive. If we start soon to make real changes in our civilization, we can sustain it indefinitely and improve the quality of our lives in the process. We need a rebuttal to the conclusions of this video. I'm working on it. (Available from Free Public Transit Video; produced by others)

"The Pedestrian Loses the Way"

    "In the future, perhaps our time will be known as the first decade of the Bicycle Wars, with righteous armies fighting over traffic lanes, bike paths and sidewalks, indeed over the very purpose of the streets themselves. Like many wars, it’s a question of territory, and the pedestrian has been losing for years." A history of how our streets were taken from us. (NY Times)

"Imagining a City Without Its Public Transportation"

    WMATA took its transportation demand model, used to project ridership on a new line, and instead ran some scenarios with the region's public transport system turned off. The results were not pretty at all. (The Atlantic Cities)

"Direct Fossil Fuel Subsidies Worldwide: Half a Trillion Dollars Annually"

    "It is a public service that Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown, now with his Earth Policy Institute, has helped expose the huge, ongoing financial subsidies to fossil fuels industries. Governments' and corporations' persisting with this policy - legal corruption of the worst order at a time of out-of-control climate change - is nothing short of insane or criminal." (Culture Change)

"The High Cost of Free Parking" [PDF!]

    Donald C. Shoup's groundbreaking study shows why parking should not be free. (Reprint UCTC No. 351.)

"Pay As You Go road pricing report"

    "This report on 'pay as you go' road pricing by Eco-Logica Ltd was commissioned on behalf of Darren Johnson AM to inform his scrutiny of the Mayor's Transport Strategy and the Mayor's budget. (

"Building Sustainable Future Needs More Than Science, Experts Say"

    "At a conference for the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) here in Vancouver, B.C., experts argued that the path to a truly sustainable future is through the muddy waters of emotions, values, ethics, and most importantly, imagination." (Inter Press Service via Common Dreams)

"The Real Reason Why Bicycles are the Key to Better Cities"

    "The most vital element for the future of our cities is that the bicycle is an instrument of experiential understanding. On a bicycle, citizens experience their city with deep intimacy, often for the first time. For a regular motorist to take that two or three mile trip by bicycle instead is to decimate an enormous wall between them and their communities. (Secret Republic)

"Climate change will shake the Earth - literally "

    When I first heard the hypothesis that climate change would affect plate tectonics and the incidence of earthquakes and volcanoes, I was not prepared to believe it. How could something as minor as melting ice affect something as huge as the movement of continents? However, there is accumulating evidence that this is not only possible but actually happening now. It's too early to be sure, but the great Japanese tsunami may indeed have been caused by climate change. (Grist)

"A candid talk about the future of America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods." [PDF!]

    Convincing analysis of the dysfunctional economics of suburban development and why we're not getting out of the financial hole we're in any time soon (if ever). Denser habitation (i.e., cities, not suburbs) is the solution. (Strong Towns)

"Are freeways doomed?"

    "Several cities are tearing down highways, creating bold new public spaces - and building a future without cars. . . . The drive to tear down the huge freeways that many blame for the inner-city blight of the ’60s and ’70s is one of the most dramatic signs of the new urban order. Proponents of such efforts have data to show that freeway removal is not at all bizarre, that we can return to human-size streets without causing a gridlock apocalypse." (

"Most Americans Want a Walkable Neighborhood, Not a Big House"

    According to a new survey, more than three quarters of us consider having sidewalks and places to take a walk one of our top priorities when deciding where to live. Six in 10 people also said they would sacrifice a bigger house to live in a neighborhood that featured a mix of houses, stores, and businesses within an easy walk. (Good)

"Electric Vehicles Pollute More than Gas-Powered"

    "Electric cars, heralded as environmentally friendly, may cause more harm to the environment than their gasoline-burning counterparts, a new study found. The study examined 34 major Chinese cities and found that electric cars caused 19 times more particulate matter pollution, which consists of acids, organic chemicals, metals, and dust, than gasoline cars." The use of coal to generate the electricity is the root cause. (International Business Times)

"Walk, Bike to Work in Salt Lake’s Answer to Suburban Nightmares"

    "The Salt Lake City area is piloting a federal program called Sustainable Communities that could help cities uncover underserved markets and devise developments that serve them." The US EPA and DoT work together for a realistic future. (Business Week)

"You Like Walking in the City? So Do Plenty of Others"

    Since New York began keeping score at 50 busy intersections, its "pedestrian volume index" has climbed appreciably. (NY Times)

"Unearthing the True Cost of Fossil Fuels"

    Fossil fuels are even worse than you know from an economic standpoint. This article is rather long but worth at least a quick skim. Some of the numbers are really scary. (

"Tallinn to Poll Citizens on Free Public Transport"

    Tallinn City Council has decided that the city will hold a referendum on free public transport from March 19 to 25. The residents of the city will be asked one question: "Do you support the introduction of free public transport on the lines operating on a common ticket system in Tallinn starting from 2013?" (Estonian Public Broadcasting)

"Equity and Mobility"

    "Enrique Penalosa explains why inequality is the biggest obstacle to high quality sustainable mobility." The former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, Penalosa is someone to listen to.(New Statesman)

"The important difference between a road and a street" [video]

    How transport affects practically everything. The economics of transport. (Strong Town's Chuck Marohn at TEDx1000Lakes)

"How Do You Wean People Off Cars? By Rebranding Bikes And Buses"

    "The only way to get consumers to choose cheaper, more efficient transportation is to make it the cool option." I'd settle for just having it work again. (Co.Design)

"Money Is All That's Green in Biodiesel"

    "Most biodiesel production is making climate change worse not better, studies show. Biodiesel from palm oil plantations may be the world's dirtiest fuel - far worse than burning diesel made from oil when the entire production life cycle is considered." (IPS News)

"End of the Roads: When Highway Removal Works"

    "The numbers exist to back up claims that the practice can restore a city’s social fabric and facilitate local development, all without severely impacting traffic or commerce." (Next American city)

"The European Cycle Logistics Federation"

    The bike and freight logistics. "The EU Funded Cycle Logistics project states that 'almost 100% of goods transport within cities is done by motorised vehicles, ranging from personal cars to commercial lorries.' It believes 25% of all these trips could be shifted from motorized vehicles towards cycling-related solutions." (European Cyclists' Federation)

"Editorial: Why we need Complete Streets"

    In order to save ourselves from the burgeoning population of old, incompetent drivers, we need complete streets. (

"Seville goes green"

    "Welcome to the new Seville, a cleaner, greener and more breathable metropolis, where bikes, pedestrians and streamlined electric trams roam. This Spanish city has bidden adios to the organized urban chaos found in so many Mediterranean cities and embraced a more sustainable outlook." (BBC)


    This site offers a series of essays on the urban condition and especially urban design. Much of it is derived from the work of Camillo Sitte, whose work had a great influence on Christopher Alexander as well as myself. It's worth planning to spend some time on the site. The essays are here, which is not immediately apparent from the home page.

Do You Like the New Format?

Carfree Times has a new format that has evolved over the past two issues. As of this issue, there are no condensed articles and the former Hot Links section is gone. In their place is the listing just above of all the interesting articles in the media since the last issue. I'm finding that Facebook and Twitter are changing the ways I get news, and I suspect the same is true for many of you. The advantage of a quarterly e-zine is that it provides a permanent record that is easily retrieved, unlike social media. Otherwise, I might consider dropping the media citations entirely. If you have strong feelings about this, please send mail.



Trondheim, Norway
©2011 Karen Sandness

Feature Article

Can Karaoke transform public spaces?

By Rachel Smith

When my colleague Jing suggested Karaoke for a team social there were gasps of despair and our manager hastily booked lanes at the local ten-pin bowling alley. On the other side of the world, in a not-so-pristine park in Berlin, an Irish guy called Joe draws crowds of more than 3,000 people…. and that's before the karaoke has even begun. Which got me thinking, can karaoke transform our public spaces?

It seems an odd thing to say, but yes, I believe it probably can. Councils, government agencies and marketing bureaus across the globe strive to find ways to get people into parks and using public spaces. Some spend millions with extravagant firework spectaculars whilst others import international music acts and others have an almost continual supply of farmer's markets and craft fairs, many of which seem to fail to deliver a certain je ne sais quoi.

When my trusted Lonely Planet guidebook told me that Bearpit Karaoke was a "must see" for a Sunday afternoon in Berlin I couldn't resist investigating! I arrived at Mauerpark amazed at the activity. The Flea market was in full swing with hundreds of people buying and selling old bikes, vintage clothes and "maker movement" crafts. People, young and old, relaxed on the unkempt grass surrounded by complimentary entertainment from skateboard tricksters, circus performers and wannabe rock stars. In the stone amphitheatre a contortionist was pleasing a small but happy audience. As I sat watching and waiting it was apparent that something big was going down. Within minutes the crowd of a hundred or so had swelled to at least a thousand; families, locals, students and tourists, and in less than half an hour it was standing room only. As the contortionist took her final bow, the crowd broke into rapturous applause as a scruffy looking guy in a checked shirt and baseball cap walked across the stage. This was it, Joe Hatchiban was here and my opinion of karaoke was about to be changed.

Since the winter of 2009 Joe has been using portable, battery-powered boxes on a "hacked" cargo bike to help people unleash their inner Rampensau. Weather permitting, Joe fetches up around 3pm and invites anybody who so wishes to take the stage for a few minutes to show those gathered there what they can do with a backing track and a microphone. Joe has shown that with no budget, a very large serve of motivation, Facebook and people's desire to "get involved" you really can transform a public space.

Bottom-up approaches are changing patterns of activity in our cities. The Australian Government's new Urban Design Protocol for Australian cities "Creating places for people" aimed at professionals and the general public, opens with this poignant quote from Jan Gehl "First life, then spaces, then buildings: the other way around never works".

Without a shadow of a doubt Ottery St Mary, a chocolate box village in rural Devon (UK), puts life first. Each and every year on Guy Fawkes Night locals run through their narrow streets brandishing burning barrels. Those who have visited Ottery on November 5th know that perpetuating a tradition is the objective and commercial considerations take second place, as the website says "if you attend it, don't try and change it, just stand back and enjoy". I admit, when you're there, in the crowd, with 20,000 others and a very large ball of fire is coming right toward you it's hard to understand what motivates men, women and children into carrying a full sized lighted tar barrel on their shoulders and then run down the street. But, what I do know is that these brave folks are accepting complete strangers into their public space to enjoy an exhilarating and risky spectacle. Of course it's deemed dangerous, but good organisation, cooperation between the various agencies involved and people using good old-fashioned common sense manages the risk.

Back in Brisbane my Lazy Sunday Cycle co-founder Amy Saunders is passionate about encouraging interactions between people of different generations, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Amy founded Games Night @ King George Square to help break down barriers in society. On the last Thursday of every month, in a public square in Brisbane CBD, board games can be played by anyone and with anyone. Like Joe, Amy doesn't have a big budget but what she does have is proven knowledge that people crave interaction and a desire to be part of something fun. I guess that's why, with the help of social media, more than 300 people attend each and every event.

These stories provide a basis for taking action - but please don't run down your road with a burning barrel! - by demonstrating that low cost activities in the public realm can help to support diverse and resilient communities with positive benefits for individuals.

Creating and maintaining parks and public spaces costs money and the economic merits are regularly called into question. If we really want public spaces to be "places" and a central part of our towns and cities we need to learn from people like Joe, Amy, and the Ottery "barrel rollers," but most of all we need to embrace the new movement of "bottom-up self-organization."

The real reason that people turn up every week for Bearpit Karaoke, isn't because they don't have access to iTunes., It's because they want the buzz of being part of something fun, the supportive applause that comes from peer-to-peer performances, and the serendipitous connections with people they wouldn't normally meet. I guess that's why karaoke really has the potential to transform our public realm.

Rachel Smith is a Principal transport Planner with AECOM in Brisbane.
She is the founder of Cycling Super Highways,
co-founder of Lazy Sunday Cycle,
and part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab (Berlin Lab Team).


Taken for a Ride (DVD)

Film by Jim Klein & Martha Olson
New Day Films, 2010

55 minutes

This excellent documentary is full of wonderful footage of America's city streets before and during the highway industry's successful effort to supplant street cars with buses and automobiles. Even though the film was made in 1996, it's very topical in today's discussion of the corporate control of American government.

There is not a lot here that many readers of Carfree Times didn't already know, but it's a significant film even for those familiar with the events. The culpability of the highway interests in destroying America's public transport system really strikes home when you watch this film. The assembly of all the gritty details in one place will move you, perhaps to tears.

None of it had to be this way. There was nothing inexorable about the rise of the automobile. If the railroads had fought back against the highway interests, we might have had another outcome.

Well worth an hour of your time. This would be an excellent warm-up film for many different gatherings. You can practically smell the acrid stench of diesel buses and the smoke from the burning of our once-beloved street cars.


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Text and illustrations, except for guest articles, placed in the public domain