17 November 2000
Why not build more small courtyards like this one?
News at Carfree.com
Humble CrowMany of you have received multiple notices of this issue, for which I apologize. I'll try not to let it happen again.
Carfree Times Goes Bi-MonthlyThe volume of material in Carfree Times has increased sufficiently that the time has arrived to publish a new issue every two months instead of quarterly.
Carfree Cities DistributionThe best place to order Carfree Cities on the Internet is still D.A. Salzmann - Books of Special Interest, where the book is in stock for prompt shipment ($29.95 plus $3.00 for surface shipment in the USA, plus California sales tax where applicable). For detailed information, see the Ordering Information page.
In Canada, Detour Publications now has the book available for secure online ordering.
The book is not in short supply, notwithstanding several used-and-rare booksellers who offer used copies at prices as high as $49.00. Don't pay more than $29.95 (plus tax and shipping) for the book in the USA.
Host for Carfree InstituteCarfree.com and the Carfree Institute of California (a recently-chartered 501c3 non-profit organization) are seeking a host city for the Carfree Institute. Virtually any city would be considered, although the available site would need to be in a carfree area near public transportation. Funds are also sought to build and operate the Institute. Send e-mail.
CalendarEvents are now listed on their own page.
Quotes of the Quarter
They're stressed out sometimes. They're mad when they get home because they've been driving so much and the traffic's been so bad. And also it's also tiring for them, I think, because sometimes when they get home, they'll go straight up to bed and start sleeping.
12-year-old Ben Punch of Atlanta
World News Notes & CommentCurrent events related to urban automobiles during the previous season.
Success in BogotáBased on a report from Eric Britton
On 29 October 2000, Bogotá, the capital of Colombia and one of the largest cities in South America, voted on two propositions that had major implications for reductions in car usage in the city. Both propositions were adopted.
The first proposition called for an annual carfree day, in the wake of the highly successful carfree day held earlier this year.
The second proposition, however, was considerably more radical: within 15 years, private cars will no longer be permitted on the city's streets during peak weekday traffic hours. Between now and then, a series of progressively deeper cuts will be made in rush-hour traffic. All cars except taxis will be off the streets from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on work days. The proposal received 51% of the voters’ support, against 34% negative votes (the rest cast blank ballots).
Mayor Peñalosa believes that the city's mild climate, high population density (210 inhabitants per hectare), and as-yet low car ownership make it easier to build a new model of city life. With 800,000 cars already on the city's streets, traffic would already be at a total standstill were it not for the existing traffic reduction program "Pico & Placa" (Peak & License Plate) and new transport projects. The city simply cannot accommodate the 40,000-60,000 cars that are being added to the fleet each year without destroying the architectural and historic traditions of the city and damaging its safety and livability.
Eric Britton commented on the victory as follows:
To my way of thinking, it is hard from an international policy perspective to give too much stress to the importance of these accomplishments. This is, we must appreciate, not just some isolated sui generis development in some far away and very different city, but rather the opening shot in the war to move by a deep-seated democratic process to better, cleaner, and more equitable transport in cities around the world. A major pattern break! The accomplishments of these embattled planners, politicians, and citizens of that one war-strafed city have managed to do more on the city streets and in their active partnerships with their fellow citizens in the last several years and with this one vote, than all of the international conferences, pious statements of intent, theoretical recommendations, thick reports, and other forms of arm-chair rhetoric put together. The mayor and the people of Bogotá are pointing their way to the city transport system of the 21st century, a radically different and far better model to the one that has dominated policy circles and practice of the last century.
This truly is a breakthrough. Bogotá is a big city, and 15 years is a relatively short time scale for such sweeping changes. While it does not yield a completely carfree city, the change will dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone in the city. We wish Bogotá every success with this daring action.
Carfree City Centers in the NetherlandsA recent study of all 52 Dutch cities with populations of 50,000 or more showed that all of these cities have carfree downtown shopping areas. The size of the area varies from just a single shopping street to large parts of downtown. Recent new towns were all designed with carfree centers from the beginning.
Of the 52 cities studied, 25 are considering extensions of the carfree area. No city is considering doing away with its carfree center, and 39 cities plan to further discourage car use through increased parking costs, more parking spaces reserved solely for residents, and changes in traffic circulation. Eight cities may reduce the number of parking spaces in downtown areas.
The only significant problem has been that those visting the center are parking in adjacent areas, resulting in a parking crunch for residents of these areas. The solution to this problem is complex, but one effective solution is permit-only parking, so that only residents may park in these areas. This gives a strong impetus to those visiting the center to leave the car at home and bike or take public transport. Many would regard this as the best solution, as it dispenses with car use for trips to the city center.
"Importance of Public Involvement:
Groningen probably has the largest carfree area as a percentage of total area. It is also perhaps the most pleasant of Dutch cities.
A Consensus: Cities Deserve Better CareThe US Conference of Mayors and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America have proposed a five-point plan to encourage city reinvestment. In support of their agenda, they released a nationwide poll showing that both city and suburban residents support public spending to revitalize central cities. The poll showed that 68% of city residents and 66% of suburban dwellers said rebuilding cities and relying more on public transport are the most effective ways to reduce sprawl and traffic congestion.
Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles, President of the US Conference of Mayors, said, "We must focus on the well-being of families and the livability of our neighborhoods in both cities and suburbs. We are in this together, and this poll shows there is common ground between the two. Upon this ground, we must build policies and strategies that will benefit all, making housing affordable, reducing commute times, and managing development."
Christopher J. Sumner, President of the Mortgage Bankers Association, remarked, "For the first time, suburban and city residents are agreeing on issues that have blocked consensus building in the past. This is good news for policy makers looking at ways to deal with affordable housing, traffic, and sprawl. This presents an opportunity to stimulate private investment in cities throughout the nation to build strong local economies and healthy communities."
The group called for a Washington summit early next year as well as regional summits to help develop a national policy proposal on city reinvestment. The proposal will include strategies to help develop public transportation, solve traffic congestion, manage development in suburban areas, and provide housing affordable for both low- and middle-income families.
Some other interesting findings of the poll:
Nation's Mayors & Financial Leaders Join Together
This is very encouraging news. It also supports Neal Peirce's contention that regions in which cities and suburbs cooperate fare better than those that operate in isolation. See his Citystates: How Urban America Can Prosper in a Competitive World (Washington: Seven Locks Press, 1993) for a comparison of several US metropolitan regions.
King CarEveryone knows who's king in Los Angeles: the car. But there's a palace revolt in progress. Throughout metropolitan Los Angeles, officials are siding with pedestrians, instead of the reigning king car.
In Santa Monica, Santa Ana, Glendale, and Redondo Beach, traffic engineers are taking steps to protect pedestrians:
"Cities Flash Walk Sign: Officials Seek Ways
It may be in a good cause, but the public doesn't seem to like sting operations.
Trucks Cost the Earth
The European Union has calculated that the external costs of transport – accidents, pollution, climate change, congestion and noise – amount to nearly 10% of gross domestic product, and over 90% of these costs are attributable to road transport.
Hidden Cost of the Freight Trade:
Remember, that's only the external costs of transport.
Sustainable TransportAt the recent OECD International Conference on Environmentally Sustainable Transport, these hallmarks of sustainable transport were enunciated:
OECD EST Project
One comment on these points was that they would, ipso facto, lead to non-motorized transport.
Global Warming, Yet AgainAhead of the COP6 conference in The Hague in November, someone leaked the executive summary of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Panel is an arm of the World Meteorological Organization and the U.N. Environment Program and included not only academics and government scientists but also scientists from industry. The New York Times reported, "Many panel members said that the summary represents the closest thing to a consensus possible in science...." The report is based on better data, more sophisticated computer models, a better understanding of the effects of sulfur aerosols, and a better understanding of the role played by secondary greenhouse gases.
The conclusions of this study are grim indeed. "More and more people working in atmospheric science or on climate or ecology have had to come to grips with the fact that climate change is affecting what they're looking at," according to Kevin E. Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. The report was reviewed and revised by hundreds of scientists over a period of months. Even skeptic Richard S. Lindzen at MIT was forced to admit that "there has to be a human component to the change that's under way."
The most alarming element of the new report is a large increase in the upper limit of the range of climate change - a rise of as much as 6 degrees Celsius from 1990 to 2100. To put this in perspective, the warming since the end of the last ice age is only 5 degrees C. Better understanding of the role of sulfur aerosols is important to the study conclusions. Aerosols are being removed from smokestack emissions in order to reduce acid rain and smog. Sulfur aerosols reflect sunlight back into space, thereby increasing the albedo, until the aerosols wash out of the atmosphere. Until recently, these aerosols masked the true level of warming that was occurring. Another alarming note is that even if greenhouse gas emissions were stopped today, sea levels would continue to rise for hundreds of years as a consequence of thermal expansion as the oceans continue to warm up.
"A Shift in Stance on Global Warming Theory"
It will be interesting to see the full report when it appears. Already, however, it seems that the conclusions of the report will be difficult to ignore. The question is, as always, what is to be done. Carfree cities, anyone?
Haggling Over Climate Change MeasuresThe "Conference of the Parties 6" (COP6) is being held in The Hague this month, with the outcome about as uncertain as the US election. This is regarded as the critical meeting - either workable measures will be agreed by the parties and reductions in CO2 output can be expected to follow, or the entire Kyoto process will devolve into disagreement over methods.
Three years ago in Kyoto, leaders committed to a 5% cut in greenhouse gas emissions with respect to 1990 levels, even though scientists think that the reduction needs to be of the order of 60-80% to have a real impact. Despite the agreements, however, emissions have since actually increased at the rate of 1.3% a year.
Environmentalists are upset with the USA, which they see as blocking meaningful progress. With just 5 % of the world's population, the USA accounts for over 20% of carbon emissions, and emissions have increased by 10.7% since 1990. The USA admits that it will not meet its Kyoto target. If George W Bush wins the election, things look even worse - as a former oilman, he rejects even the existence of global warming.
Confronting the Perils of Global Warming
This is all occurring against a backdrop of mounting certainty regarding the severity of global warming. And it's worth remembering that Bush lost a bunch of money in the oil patch, unlike his father before him, who made the family fortune in oil. Could it be that oil is getting harder and more expensive to find? It may ultimately be scarcity that saves our bacon.
The Last Oil ShockBBC's venerable Money Programme recently devoted an entire half-hour show to the coming oil shortage. The timing of the program was especially significant, coming as it did just before a planned large-scale protest by truckers for fuel-tax rollbacks (the protests, unlike those of September, turned out to be a tempest in a teapot). Especially significant was the editorial tone, which amounted to, "you'd better believe that oil shortages lie ahead."
Oil geologist Colin Campbell, whose work I cited extensively in Carfree Cities, was the dominant figure in the program. Campbell studied data from the world's 18,000 oil fields and concluded that oil will soon begin to run short. He has recalculated the Hubbert curve on the basis of modern data, and predicts that "From 2005 onwards, we see the beginning of the long term decline in conventional oil production. I think it will probably fall roughly 3% a year. Demand, on the other hand is growing at 2% a year. That means there's a shortfall, and by about 2020, there will be a shortfall of something like 40%." The decline will begin outside the Persian Gulf areas, meaning an increased dependence of Gulf oil lies ahead. But even Gulf oil production will begin to decline soon.
Richard Hardman, vice president for exploration for Amerada Hess (speaking only on his own behalf), said, "I think there will be a real crunch. There will be a competition for this scarce resource - the oil. It means that there could be famines and wars." He continued, "People have cried wolf in the past many times. I believe that this time the wolf really is at the door.... [F]or the first time, we have a systematic survey of all the major sedimentary basins in the world. And we've got a calculation of what reserves they can contain." As to the role of OPEC, he said, "Why should OPEC help us? In order to increase capacity, they have to increase investment. But increasing investment would paradoxically lower the price, so they're getting a high price for the maximum production."
One of the most telling aspects of the situation is that we've nearly stopped finding really large new fields. The largest new oil province found since World War II is the North Sea field, which contained about 60 billion barrels of oil (about three years' supply at current consumption).
Putting the optimistic case was Ged Davis, a Shell vice president. He believes that oil depletion won't become an issue for 20 years. Davies believes better technology will enable the industry to extract a greater proportion of existing known reserves. He also believes that the industry will discover more oil fields. "I think you can make a very clear case that if one looks for example over the next twenty years, that most of the additional oil that will be needed in the marketplace will be met either from exploration and equally from improved recovery." American oilmen, however, believe that, with oil as with much else, what happens there first then happens all over the world. And the annual rate of oil production in America has been in decline since 1970, falling by a third.
Texan oilman Jim Henry said: "I've seen it decline. Elsewhere they've seen production increase and they don't realize that some time it peaks. And when it peaks then it starts declining. Production goes down because the large fields are declining, the smaller fields are on stream but they don't produce nearly as much as a larger field. And overall the production declines. High technology in my opinion can never stop the decline. It might at some time arrest it for a year or two, but the decline is inevitable."
The Last Oil Shock
According to Colin Campbell, tapes of the program are available from the BBC for £25
According to Colin Campbell, tapes of the program are available from the BBC for £25
It was heartening to see Campbell's work heralded as mainstream. This was as good a discussion of the issue as I have ever seen on television.
Whither OPEC?After a year in which OPEC four times raised production quotas for member nations, the oil cartel decided recently not to increase production, to avoid flooding the market with oil and precipitating a price crash like the one a couple of years ago. At this point, the supply cuts that were implemented in the face of $10/barrel oil in 1998 have been reversed. OPEC ministers expect that crude oil, now trading near $35, will soon fall within the target range of $22-$28.
OPEC President Ali Rodriguez of Venezuela recently said, "We can only conclude that OPEC has more than fulfilled its role as a reliable oil supplier and that the true reasons for currently high prices lie behind a series of other factors." Rodriguez expressed concern about shrinking refining capacity in the United States.
OPEC Freezes Oil Output, Sees Prices Easing
This is going to be a very nervous winter. According to some reports, US natural gas supplies are also in a critical condition. There is also the unanswered question: could OPEC increase production? The best guess is that OPEC has only about 500,000 barrels/day in surplus capacity. That's a reserve capacity of less than 1% of global consumption.
A Different Kind of Ford?"His great-grandfather invented the Model T; now Bill Ford says any colour you like so long as it's green." So begins a recent Observer article about William Clay Ford, Jr., current Chairman of Ford Motor Company. Speaking at a recent Greenpeace conference, he said, "What's needed this century is a 'clean' revolution. I believe very strongly that corporations could and should be a major force for resolving social and environmental concerns in the 21st century."
He continued, "I'm in this for my children and my grandchildren. I want them to inherit a legacy they're proud of. I don't want anybody, whether it's my grandchildren or any of our employees' grandchildren, to have to apologize for working for Ford Motor Company." Ford is a self-described life-long environmentalist whose interest in the environment dates back to his student days at Princeton and MIT.
Ford pulled his company out of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group that opposes action to halt global warming. At the Greenpeace conference, he went so far as to accept climate change as reality. "Anyone who disagrees is, in my view, still in denial. We at Ford Motor Company have moved on." He pointed out that what's good for the planet can also be good for Ford, citing the company's implementation of ISO 14001. "It's saving us millions of dollars a year in energy, water, materials, and waste-handling costs." Apparently, the company is repositioning itself as a provider of mobility (i.e., car-sharing and renting). "The day will come when the notion of car ownership becomes antiquated. If you live in a city, you don't need to own a car."
Ford has committed $1 billion to put a hydrogen-fueled car on the by 2004. Ford also promises a hybrid-electric SUV by 2003. However, the company will continue production of gas-guzzlers like the Excursion, which gets 10 miles to the gallon. "As long as gas is cheaper than bottled water, we can't be in a position of dictating to the consumer what to buy."
The Motown Missionary
OK, consumers: Stop buying SUVs. You heard it here.
Steps Towards a Carfree Brussels
By Bernard Delloye
Three associations in Brussels (Inter-Environnement Bruxelles, Nomo, and Piétons à Bruxelles) have proposed a plan for a carfree center of Brussels. This project was released to the press and prominent politicians in the city (which is the capital of Europe) two days before the local elections on 8 October 2000. (Only the mayor was totally opposed to the plan; after elections, it became apparent that he had lost his majority and, to his great surprise, he has been dismissed as mayor.)
The center of Brussels is called the Pentagone, a reflection of its five-sided geometry. Some statistics will give an overview of the Pentagone:
Much of the public space in the Pentagone is occupied by cars: 75 to 85% on the big boulevards. Some important spaces (such as the Sablon) have been turned into parking lots. Every morning between 7 and 9 o'clock, 35,000 commuters drive some 30,000 cars into the Pentagone. In total there are 85,000 commuters, with 58% of them already using public transport.
A surprising 75% of store customers use some other means of transport than the car, but most of the area of the streets and boulevards in the Pentagone serves primarily to move cars and vans crossing through the heart of Brussels. As a result, streets are jammed (permanently in some places), buses and trams are delayed, and, in many areas, levels of pollution and noise exceed permitted standards.
In total, it is estimated that 41,000 parking places are available (12,000 on the street, at an average of 12 square meters per space). If we count 12,000 parking spaces in the streets of the center of Brussels, that amounts to 15 hectares!
One characteristic of the Brussels downtown is the large number of public parking lots, the total capacity of which exceeds that of on-street parking. Strangely enough, these public parking lots are under used (50% occupancy), while the streets are crammed with parked cars. Around Place de Brouckère (the main public square in the Pentagone), one of every two parked cars is illegally parked.
Public transport is provided by trains, metros, buses, and trams (although there are many fewer trams than in the past). Several train stations still exist but have been taken out of use.
Towards a Carfree PentagoneTo solve a problem, tackle its roots! The most radical solution is merely to close the streets to road traffic, except for public transport, ambulances, and fire vehicles. The street is given back to inhabitants, pedestrians, and children. This solution is inspired from J.H. Crawford's book, Carfree Cities. The solution must take into account some difficult problems, among which:
Passenger transport: tram, metro, and taxis already exist and can be improved once the streets are emptied of cars. It must be permitted to bring bicycles or small two-wheeled carts aboard trams and metros. With frequent service, every 2-3 minutes, there is no need to consult a schedule. The transit halt is never farther than a 5-minute walk.
Freight transport: three modes provide freight access: train, boat, and truck. From avenue de Vilvorde (just to the outside of the Pentagone), freight can be moved into the Pentagone in standard containers placed aboard modified trams. Inside the Pentagone, freight can be conveyed by light freight trailers towed by bicycles or moved by battery-powered freight vehicles. One possible problem is that the tram tracks are too closely spaced to permit containers to be carried aboard freight trams. This point requires further investigation.
Since many parking lots, both private and public, are no longer required by cars, the land can be reallocated to distribution centers, swimming-pools, public libraries, etc.
Inhabitants who own a car would not be allowed to park their cars near their home. Those who absolutely must have a car would park in parking lots outside the Pentagone. While some people would probably move out of the Pentagon, they would be replaced by those who are attracted by a carfree downtown Brussels.
Intermediate Plan: The Pentagon with 50% Fewer CarsA carfree Pentagone is the goal, but that could take some time to achieve. That is why Piétons à Bruxelles, Nomo, and Inter-Environnement Bruxelles propose to adopt an intermediate plan that would reduce the number of cars by 50%. Two means are put forward:
Concretely, the parking space in the streets would be reserved exclusively for inhabitants; the public and private parking lots in office buildings would be reduced in size, to provide only one parking space per 500 square meters of floor area.
Access to cars would not be prohibited, but cars would be channeled along streets marked with arrows that lead to parking lots (such a system is already used in Gent). Inhabitants would enjoy better conditions to park their cars in the areas just outside the Pentagone.
Through routes crossing the Pentagone would be closed off by cutting all the big boulevards in the middle and a establishing a completely carfree area at the center. There would also be many one-way streets (with cyclists exempted), looping local streets, and so on.
Five types of streets would be designated:
Bernard Delloye is the founder and president of Piétons à Bruxelles
A map of the Pentagone proposal can be found at
This revised and expanded edition of Jane Holtz Kay's 1980 book is a treasure. Filled with historic photographs of remarkable quality, this big book offers a richly-detailed examination of the architectural history of what is perhaps America's best city. The history of the city is woven through the accounts of the buildings that were spawned and often soon burned or demolished.
For centuries, this was a town rich in commerce, rich in architecture, and rich in culture. Much of the grandeur of this city has disappeared, to be replaced by the standard glass-and-steel skyscrapers of the late 20th century, or by parking lots and garages to serve those who work in them. The terrible fire of 1872 deserved and received a chapter of its own; this was, until World War II, perhaps the most devastating fire in history. It destroyed much of the heart of the city and countless fine buildings.
This book should find a wide audience, not only among Bostonians, but in the ranks of students of architecture, urban planning, and history. Kay's love of this great city flows across every page.
I read Suburban Nation with great interest, in part because the similarities to my own book are striking - they are the same size, use a nearly identical form of layout, are rich in drawings and photographs, were published in March of this year, and cost the same. Both books are concerned about how to deal with the urban automobile. Both books seek a return to a richer, more complimentary architecture, in which the importance of individual buildings is reduced in favor of a more coherent whole. Mixed-use neighborhoods on a human scale are seen as essential.
So far as all of this goes, we are in full agreement. From that point on, however, we diverge. Duany and Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) are the leading proponents of the New Urbanism (NU), which still holds that cars can be accommodated in urban areas. While I have no doubt that a good NU development is far superior to conventional suburban sprawl and strip malls, I don't believe that we should continue to design our cities around cars. However, for those who are not prepared to adopt the rather radical measure of banning cars from cities, the NU is the best alternative approach, and this book is a clear and compelling statement of the problems caused by cars in contemporary sprawl development. The NU remedy is clearly presented.
Katie Alvord has written a useful guide for North Americans who want to reduce or eliminate their car usage. However, the book is more than just a practical guide to living without regular car use.
The first section of the book delves into the history of our "love affair" with the car, why public transport declined so precipitously in North America, the role of image shapers in the ascendancy of the car, and an examination of the car as an addiction rather than a love affair.
The second section of the book examines both the damage that cars do to our civilization and the costs, both public and private, of excessive car use; a full chapter is devoted to the carnage wrought by cars.
The third and final section considers the practical alternatives to driving everywhere for everything, from the very practical standpoint of the alternatives available today - walking, biking, public transport, telecommuting. Finally, larger political considerations are discussed.
This well-written and nicely produced paperback belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in bringing an end to the reign of king car.
This trim little volume was written for a UK audience. It is a practical guide to reducing car usage; it doesn't waste much time getting down to the brass tacks of here's-how-you-do-it. This is not a book for those looking for a theoretical treatment of mobility, urban planning, or ecology; nor is it a book that will be much use for those living outside Britain. However, for its intended audience, it is a useful, thorough guide filled with practical advice and case examples of people who succeeded in cutting car usage. Best of all, it won't strain the pocketbook, and it's easy to carry with you on the train or bus, where you can further consider how to reduce or eliminate car usage.
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