Carfree Design Manual

Foreword by Stavros Dimas

Imagine a city of a million, completely free of cars and trucks. The longest commute is 35 minutes door-to-door aboard an advanced metro. J.H. Crawford demonstrated the feasibility of this plan in his earlier book, Carfree Cities, and once urban design is no longer constrained by the need for cars, a new and better future becomes possible. In Carfree Design Manual, Crawford sets himself the task of designing a carfree neighbourhood so practical, satisfying, and attractive that "people will clamour for it."

It is clear from this book that we can learn much from ancient city design, starting with the Acropolis, the organic city of Erbil, and the fine design of early public spaces. People also love medieval cities because of their irregular pattern, enclosed spaces, cosy streets, and lively squares. Crawford shows that beneath the superficial disorder lies a deeper organization that people still recognize and value today.

After considering the special requirements of carfree infrastructure at the neighbourhood level, Crawford proposes a democratic process where residents can play a key role in the design of their own neighbourhood. This brings local knowledge to the job of designing urban areas that respect the character of the site and the needs of the people who will use it. This is the real innovation of the book: a design process that can deliver neighbourhoods finely tuned to the needs of their residents and which allows people to follow their own visions to sustainability.

Many visions of a sustainable future have people living in low density rural environments. But today’s reality is that most Europeans and North Americans live in urban areas, so plans for sustainable cities are essential. Crawford’s basic design for carfree cities foresees a sharp boundary between compact city districts with about 15,000 inhabitants and open spaces just beyond, giving city residents rapid access to natural areas. These areas are entirely suitable for local production of food, fibre, timber, and renewable energy, or they can be left in their natural state.

Crawford "thinks outside the box." He offers a new paradigm for the city, one that also opens new vistas for sustainable cities. The Carfree Design Manual sets out a vision but the book also suggests practical ways that today’s cities can be rearranged. It is a book on which to build a sustainable future.

Stavros Dimas is the Member of the European Commission responsible for Environmental Protection.

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Copyright ©2008 J. Crawford