Carfree Times

      Issue 34

11 March 2004      

Approaching Piazza San Marco
Venice, 2001

News at

Diese Ausgabe auf Deutsch.

City Photographs

About 2000 photographs by J.H. Crawford are on line in the City Photographs section of the reorganized City Design Library. The Terms of Use permit royalty-free use by sympathetic organizations. The library includes postcards and a rough draft of Part 3 of the forthcoming Carfree Design Handbook.

World Carfree Network in Operation

Just twelve months after the network development process began at Towards Carfree Cities III in Prague, World Carfree Network (WCN) is ready for member organizations to join. If your group promotes cycling, walking, or other alternatives to car dependence and automobile-based planning, Carfree Times strongly suggests that you join WCN, get involved, and help build an effective international voice for change. The benefits include assistance with campaign resources, contacts, outreach and fundraising, and collaboration on international projects and organized exchanges. Get details on how to join. Don't wait another minute!

Towards Carfree Cities IV

WCN is hosting Towards Carfree Cities IV, which will bring together people from around the world who are promoting practical alternatives to car dependence and the transformation of cities, towns, and villages into human-scaled, pedestrian environments rich in public space and community life. The focus will be on strategy, collaboration and exchange, and assisting the practical work of conference participants - whether it be organizing carfree days or building the carfree cities of the future. Conference details and registration forms can be found at Hurry, early registration discounts end March 19th!

Conference partners are: BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany), Green City, Autofrei Wohnen, Autofrei Leben!, ITDP Europe, Humboldt University Student Council, UMKEHR, and

International Youth Summit on
Sustainable Urban Transportation

The Canadian Urban Transit Association is hosting the International Youth Summit on Sustainable Urban Transportation in Ottawa, 26-31 May 2004. People aged 17 to 24 are encouraged to apply.

Carfree Cities Availability

Both the paperback and hardcover editions of Carfree Cities are widely available. The paperback edition costs US$17.95 in the USA and the hardcover $29.95. For details, see the Ordering Information page.

Carfree Design Handbook

Two of the four parts of the forthcoming Carfree Design Handbook are now in full draft form. The book is still nearly a year from publication.

"One Less Car" bike sticker for a conference in China.
Available from Car Busters.


What's That Sucking Sound?

After years of occasional mention of the looming problem, Carfree Times is now regularly focusing on the question of oil supplies. Oddly enough, so are a lot of others, and this time the concern is expressed in mainstream media. What once may have seemed a sky-is-falling hysteria about near-term oil supplies is becoming a mainstream concern that, well, the sky really is falling.

As far back as Issue #3 we warned that "Oil Production Might Peak as Early as 1999." Issue #32 focused on looming shortages, excessive US energy consumption, and the recent US invasion of Iraq. We turn once again to the oil question, this time with an emphasis on the general awareness of the problem that developed rather rapidly in the past several months.

Oil prices have been rising steadily for months, and although prices are not terribly high in historical terms, it is 20 years since oil prices last damped the economy.

So, what's going on here?

Oil Supply Shortage Likely After 2007

So soon? The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre analyzed a recent Petroleum Review article [PDF!] outlining existing and planned major oil projects.

A lot of new production is scheduled to come on stream over the next three years, but the volumes expected from new projects thereafter probably will not be sufficient to meet demand. Chris Skrebowski, author of the report and editor of Petroleum Review said, "There are not enough large-scale projects in the development pipeline right now to offset declining production in mature areas and meet global demand growth beyond 2007."

He also said, "Since it takes, on average, six years from first discovery for a mega project to start producing oil, any new project approved today would be unlikely to come on stream until the end of the decade."

The report, "Oil field mega projects 2004," analyzed all known projects with reserves estimated to exceed 500 million barrels and the claimed potential to produce over 100,000 barrels of oil a day. To put this in perspective, world consumption now runs about 75 mbd (million barrels per day).

"Ever-growing demand for oil means there is a ready market for additional supplies so substantial new discoveries tend to go into development in a very limited time," Mr Skrebowski said. "But between a quarter and a third of the world's oil production is already in decline and it appears that giant new discoveries to replace lost capacity are becoming very scarce." We haven't, in fact, found a new super-giant since 1968.

Some key findings from the analysis of the Petroleum Review data:

  • Between 2003 and early 2007, 8 mbd of new capacity is expected, enough to offset production declines of about 3-4 mbd over that period and meet anticipated demand growth of around 3 mbd.
  • The development pace will start to slow in 2006.
  • Only three new mega projects are expected in 2007 and three more in 2008.
  • Some 23 other projects have been identified that might be developed in the future. Of these projects, 21 are in Russia and the Middle East. Political, legal, and technical challenges make it unlikely that any of these project will bring new supplies on line in this decade.
  • After 2007, the volumes of new production will likely fall short of the required new supply.
  • A number of the projected peak flows are high relative to the reported reserve size, suggesting that their peak production will be short-lived.
"The results of this analysis suggest that with a shrinking pool of major new oil-recovery projects available, the world may be entering an era of permanently declining oil supplies in the coming decade," Mr Skrebowski said.

The real kicker is that production from the world's largest field, Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, may be nearing the end of its long run. This, the largest field ever found, is starting to show signs of exhaustion, according to Matthew Simmons. Many had counted on Saudi Arabia to nearly double production over the next 10-15 years, but Simmons's analysis of Ghawar and other Saudi fields seems to indicate that this is unlikely. Worse yet, if the Saudi fields are over-pumped to meet rising demand, the fields may be damaged and large amounts of oil could become unrecoverable. Decline rates of 8% per year have been mentioned for the mature Saudi fields.

Experts at Exxon-Mobil have said that more than 50% of oil and gas consumed in 2010 must come from new fields and reservoirs. Given the six-year lag between discovery and production, all this oil must be identified not later than this year. Finding enough new fields to produce more than 40 mbd seems an impossible task.

Whatever the case may be, it certainly appears that any significant increase in production above today's levels is unlikely. Production in 2003 was a fraction ahead of 2000, after two years of slight declines. We may be at or near the peak this year. We'll know in just a couple of years.

"Oil Supply Shortages Likely After 2007, New Report Shows"
The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre
28 January 2004

The Saudi Arabian Oil Miracle [PDF!]
Presentation by Matthew R. Simmons to
The Center for Strategic & International Studies
Washington, D.C., 24 February 2003

"Forecast of Rising Oil Demand Challenges Tired Saudi Fields "
New York Times
24 February 2004

Demand for Oil Outstripping Supply

This picture on the supply side is bleak. The picture on the demand side may be worse. Consumption is forecast to increase by 60 mbd by 2015. Whatever else may happen, this almost certainly won't come to pass.

We would have to find one new field the size of the North Sea field every year for ten years to bring this within reach. Even the Iraqi fields, if fully developed under a stable regime, would yield only 6 mbd, tops.

New supplies will almost certainly be found in Siberia, Central Asia, and west Africa, but these finds will not be enough to do more than offset declines of 4-5% a year in existing super-giant and giant fields. Tar sands and oil shale in Western Canada and Venezuela might help some, but it takes half a barrel of oil to extract and process one barrel from these difficult formations.

Even Bush, a failed oil man, is aware of the issue. He said, "It's becoming very clear that demand is outstripping supply." (That's undoubtedly why he supports tax breaks for purchasers of the very largest and thirstiest SUVs.)

"Demand for Oil Outstripping Supply"
Toronto Star
28 January 2004


China Needs More

China's economy has been growing by leaps and bounds, but her oil reserves are quite limited. Domestic oil production has crested, but demand continues to soar. China is replacing Japan as the world's number two consumer.

China's increasing appetite for energy is reflected in regular blackouts in parts of the country and traffic jams resulting from rapid increases in the number of cars. Oil imports rose 31% last year alone. China now imports a third of its oil.

This has led China to scour the world for oil, competing with the USA for access to oil (a dangerous circumstance in itself). Chinese leaders are uneasy about their increasing reliance on foreign oil. China's major oil companies are combing Africa, the Middle East, and South America for oil field concessions. Though newcomers to the rough-and-tumble oil business, they are moving fast.

Like the USA and Europe, China has become highly dependent on Middle Eastern oil. China is also courting oil suppliers such as Sudan and Iran, both of which are on the US list of nations sponsoring terrorism. China can expect favorable consideration under the circumstances.

China may ultimately turn to its large coal reserves for energy independence, but air pollution in industrial regions is already so serious that this approach would have terrible environmental consequences.

Fortunately, China is considering the most sensible short-term approach: demand reduction through improved efficiency.

Then There's the Incredible Disappearing Oil

Shell stockholders were recently dismayed to learn that their company was "uncertain" about 20% of its claimed oil reserves. We are talking about 3.9 billion barrels of oil here, with a current market value of about US$140 billion dollars. The oil was moved from the category "proven reserves" to "probable reserves." There remains hope that some of the oil will ultimately be recovered.

A Shell representative declined to say whether or not the downgrading would affect Shell's plans to increase production 3% a year during the period 2000 to 2007, but it was confirmed that the company did not expect to increase production this year.

This Enron-esque denouement later cost Shell's top man his job.

"Reserves van Shell aanzienlijk kleiner"
NRC Handelsblad
9 January 2004

"Oil Giant's Officials Knew of Gaps in Reserves in '02"
New York Times
9 March 2004


Oh, And Sorry About the Hydrogen

The last issue of Carfree Times carried a News Bit headlined "Fool Cells." I hadn't really expected that the problems with fuel cell development would be so quickly confirmed, but the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently said that commercialization of the technology was decades away.

The foolish Bush administration predicts mass production of hydrogen cars by 2020. The Energy Department included $318 million for fuel cells and hydrogen production in its 2005 budget. But the NAS study said that some of the Energy Department's goals were unrealistically aggressive. The plan, of course, never seriously considered the question of where energy to produce the hydrogen might come from.

Power from fuel cells is still hugely expensive compared to power from a gasoline engine. Dr. Antonia V. Herzog, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and one of the report's authors said, "Real revolutions have to occur before this is going to become a large-scale reality." The report said battery-powered or hybrid cars may be better choices.

The Bush administration shifted emphasis from a Clinton-era program to develop hybrid cars in the short term to an ambitious project to commercialize fuel cells in the long term. This, conveniently enough, favored the US auto industry. Japanese manufacturers had invested heavily in producing very low emission vehicles making sparing use of conventional fuels. Toyota may have the last laugh - it just licensed its hybrid technology to Ford.

"Report Questions Bush Plan for Hydrogen-Fueled Cars"
New York Times
6 February 2004

"Toyota to provide hybrid technology to Ford"
Japan Today
9 March 2004

News Bits

Carfree Progress in Germany

Germany continues to lead the world in building new carfree urban areas:
  • The Nippes district in Cologne may become home to a 700-unit project about half of which will be carfree. Investors are interested.
  • Karlsruhe has identified three possible sites for a carfree development, but progress is slow due to local political opposition.
  • Münster has built 184 residential flats on a 3.5 hectare carfree site.
Thanks to Markus Heller for this update.


Europeans are fed up with noise and are starting to do something about it. A comprehensive program to measure noise levels in all EU cities with populations greater than 250,000 is under way. Roads, rail lines, and airports are included.

Maps of noise levels in Paris have already been posted. They look just like road maps, but then you realize: the blue and yellow stripes are traffic noise and the green patches are the quiet zones provided by parks and interior courtyards. The "blue" streets have noise levels above 75 dB, far higher than the WHO's 55 dB "serious annoyance" level. The WHO estimates that 40% of EU residents are exposed to road traffic noise above 55 dB and that more than 30% suffer noise levels that disturb sleep. Chronic noise contributes to hypertension and heart disease, and may impair mental health.

Paris Deputy Mayor Yves Contassot said that noise is "the type of pollution people complain about most." The noise maps are expected to lead to increased public pressure for a solution. The EU has mandated that member states must draft noise-reduction plans by 2008.

Interestingly enough, noise levels are not being measured directly. All you have to do is measure traffic levels and feed the numbers to a computer, which calculates the noise level. Spot checks confirm that the calculated values are accurate within about 1 dB.

"A continental congress against noise"
10 December 2003

"Keep It Down! Euro Noise Assault
7 December 2003

All That Noise. . . for Nothing

The New York City Council is planning to ban car alarms. US Census Bureau statistics show that New Yorkers are irritated by traffic noise, including car alarms, more than by any other aspect of city life.

Here's the rub: car manufacturers, criminologists, and insurers agree that car alarms are ineffective. Cars with alarms are no less likely to be stolen than cars without. People just ignore them. An insurance company study found that fewer than 1% of respondents would call the police upon hearing an alarm. And professional car thieves know how to disable an alarm in seconds.

New York police claim that alarms (which "frequently go off for no apparent reason") can "shatter the sense of civility that makes a community safe." It's just one more sign that nobody cares.

"All That Noise for Nothing"
Transportation Alternatives, quoting the New York Times
11 December 2003

No More Damned Roads!

In a February referendum, 63% of Swiss voters rejected a plan to increase road capacity in an environmentally-sensitive region of the Alps. Transport & Environment has called on European leaders to take note of the result, saying that "when consulted, European citizens opt for sustainable transport modes and do not believe building more roads is the best solution for solving transport problems." The project was regarded as too pro-road by environmental groups because it was expected to lead to a second road tunnel at Gothard. The trucking industry regarded the defeat as a crushing blow.

Citizens are apparently much more inclined than politicians and the EC to make transport pay for its costs. Environmental groups feared that the proposal would undermine the road-rail transfer policy and claimed that the government must make a determined effort to build new railway lines under the Alps. The groups also call for an immediate ban on the most polluting trucks crossing Switzerland, in keeping with Austrian policy.

"Swiss Vote "No" to Road Infrastructure Plan"
World Business Council for Sustainable Development
12 February 2004

MagLev Numbers

At last we have some numbers for maglev trains. It seems that they consume about three times as much energy as Japan's Shinkansen high-speed "Bullet Trains" and cost about three times as much to build.

They are fast. Maglev trains running on a test track reach 500 km/hr in less than 90 seconds. Nearly 40 years and ¥260 billion have been spent on R&D in Japan, but the only maglev train in revenue service connects Shanghai's airport with the city, just 30 km away. This is waste of money. These systems offer little advantage in short-haul operation.

The Chinese have canceled plans to build a line between Shanghai and Beijing, and the German government abandoned a planned Hamburg-Berlin line.

It is claimed that the trains emit only a quarter as much greenhouse gas as an airliner, and that their very fast service could replace air travel on some routes. Note, however, that the French have already demonstrated conventional high-speed rail at 515 km/hr; the record speed for maglev is only 581 km/hr. The ride is bumpy and noisy.

Do we really need this technology?


Nicholas D. Kristof, writing in the New York Times, supported Bush & Co's plan to allow snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. He asked, "should we be trying to save nature for its own sake or for human enjoyment? Forgive my anthropocentrism, but I think humans trump the bison and moose." As if people really do enjoy the shriek of a snowmobile. As if Yellowstone would be very interesting without bison or moose. As if we didn't need this ecosystem.

Kristof continues, "First, in winter Yellowstone is virtually inaccessible except by snowmobile. Cars are banned (except for one small part of the park), and Yellowstone is so big that snowshoeing and cross-country skiing offer access only to the hardiest backpackers, who can camp in snow and brutal cold for days at a time." Strange to say, there are people who do exactly that.

Claiming that new snowmobiles are quieter and less polluting, Kristof praises the plan that would allow "only" 950 per day (compared to 3,000 cars a day in the summer). He continues, "The central problem with the environmentalists' position is that banning snowmobiles would deny almost everyone the opportunity to enjoy Yellowstone in winter - and that can't be green." It's not clear to me why that "can't be green."

"Vrooming Into Yellowstone"
New York Times
18 February 2004

Sustainable Employment?

A study by Good Jobs First finds that smart growth policies are better for construction employment than sprawl.

"Our findings challenge the conventional idea that construction employment suffers when communities seek to curb sprawl and manage growth," said Philip Mattera, primary author of the study. "In fact, our research shows just the opposite, that smart growth fosters job growth."

An AFL-CIO convention resolution in 2001 denounced sprawl. The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council recently endorsed an Urban Growth Boundary ballot initiative, with strong support from its Building Trades affiliates.

The study also found that labor makes up a greater percentage of total costs in compact development (apartment houses and townhouses) as compared to single-family sprawl development.


And Now, the Weather

The Big Thaw

The snows of Kilimanjaro may disappear by 2020. The glaciers from which Montana's Glacier National Park takes its name could disappear by 2030. Glaciers are a critical element in the world's drinking water supply, and their loss is a huge threat to cities in the Andes.

In 50 years, summer sea ice in the Arctic may vanish, with ice cover already shrinking by up to 15% a decade. The loss of Arctic Sea ice could alter ocean circulation patterns and trigger further changes in global climate patterns.

Antarctic ice has shrunk by 20% since 1950. Ancient Antarctic ice shelves are breaking off and melting. The Larsen Ice Shelf mostly disintegrated during the past decade after ages of stability. Since the break-offs, melting of nearby glaciers once supported by the ice shelves has more than doubled.

While the melting of floating ice does not affect sea level, the melting of glaciers does. The estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 21st century sea level rise (currently ranging from 0.1 to 0.9 meters) will require upward revision.

Greenland's previously stable glaciers are melting. Greenland now loses some 51 cubic km of ice a year, enough by itself to raise sea level 0.13 mm. If all ice on Greenland melts, global sea level could rise by 7 meters, inundating the White House.

Most Himalayan glaciers have been retreating for 30 years, and at an increasing rate. On Mount Everest, one glacier has retreated 5 km since 1953. Melting glaciers are rapidly filling glacial lakes, creating a deadly flood risk.

European glaciers have shrunk by up to 40% and glacial mass by more 50% since 1850. Major sections of Alpine and Pyrenean glaciers could disappear in a few decades.

Average temperature in Alaska rose more than 3 degrees C in the last 30 years. Glaciers in all of Alaska's 11 glaciated mountain ranges are shrinking and thinning. The recent rate is three times that of the previous 40 years.

The bad news is that when ice melts to expose land beneath, much more of the sun's energy is absorbed rather than reflected back into space. This, of course, hastens global warming.

Carfree cities, anyone?

"Glaciers and Sea Ice Endangered by Rising Temperatures "
Earth Policy Institute
22 January 2004

The Pentagon's Climate Collapse Nightmare

Strategic planners at the Pentagon are concerned about catastrophic climate change. They fear that global warming may be pushing the climate to a tipping point that would bring rapid climate change, causing the climate to flip into a new, much hotter state in less than a decade. While such sudden change has been mooted before, scientists don't know how close we are to the critical threshold. We do know that abrupt climate change is recorded in polar ice layers, so it is definitely possible.

Terrible droughts may turn farmland into dust bowls and reduce forests to cinders. Paradoxically, massive warming may actually bring Siberian winters to temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.

The Pentagon is worried about a change in the balance of power and prophesies that "nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world."

Carfree cities, anyone?

Global Warming Catastrophe

Climate change is showing up on corporate agendas. Swiss Re, the world's second-largest reinsurer, warned that the costs of natural disasters threatens to spiral out of control as a result of global warming. The economic costs of natural disasters could double within 10 years if human intervention continues to intensify natural climate change

Swiss Re: "The human race can lead itself into this climatic catastrophe - or it can avert it." The company said that greenhouse gases will need to be reduced, the use of fossil fuels cut, and new energy technologies developed.

Carfree cities, anyone?

"Insurer Warns of Global Warming Catastrophe"
Common Dreams
3 March 2004

Protecting Vulnerable Street Users

A Modest Proposal

by J.H. Crawford

body outline

For many years I have sought a solution to a seemingly simple problem: what do you do as a pedestrian when someone threatens, accidentally or deliberately, to kill you with his car? Any approach that has been proposed carries with it some element of danger for someone, with the possible exception of video-taping abuses and trying to get the police to intervene. Anything else is likely to cause a road-rage incident, with all the attendant danger.

I finally realized that I was thinking much too small. The idea comes from Right of Way, which has undertaken a campaign of stenciling body outlines on the pavement at 250 locations where a New York pedestrian or cyclist was killed by a car. This is a moderately effective public-awareness campaign, but it does not permanently reduce the danger at a particular location.

The solution is simple: build a memorial to every innocent pedestrian and cyclist struck and killed on the street. Build it in a traffic lane near where the person was struck. No encroachment on cycle paths, sidewalks, or crosswalks would be permitted. This powerful traffic-calming measure is automatically sited where it is manifestly needed.

People will dismiss this proposal out of hand. When that happens, simply say, "This carnage must end. What do you propose instead?"


New Books

Carfree Times now receives so many books that routine reviews have become impossible. Instead, we will endeavor in this section to mention interesting new titles soon after their release. If you have published a book and would like it to be considered for mention here, please send a copy to: J.H. Crawford, Utrechtsestraat 77-3, 1017 VJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I make no promises, but most received books do earn a mention.

Traffic Life
Passionate Tales and Exit Strategies

Stephan Wehner, Ed.

Wandering Soliton Publications, 2004

254 pages
ISBN 0973402202

According to the publisher: Traffic Life is an anthology on the pains of traffic and the absurdities of the prevailing car culture. Edited by Stephan Wehner, this fast-paced romp through our streets contains short stories, poems, music, cartoons, paintings, and drawings. Forty contributors from around the world put their talents to the task and engage readers for improvements on our roads. By bypassing the well-known facts of the matter, this creative and diverse collection reaches into the hearts of its readers to effect the necessary changes both of individuals and in government policies.


Hot New Links

The links below will open in a new browser window:

Pedestrian Streets, New Colonist

Cars, Culture, Concrete, and Convenience, Living Room

Will The End of Oil Mean The End of America?, Common Dreams

Tholos a public web-cam-in-the-round

Car-free day has cyclists on a roll Cape Argus South Africa

Garbage To Live By, Living Room

A Walk on the Wild Side: Where you're not supposed to walk, Wash. Post

Avidor Studios, home of Road Kill Bill

Scientist gagged by Blair after warning of global warming threat, Independent

Transportation Transformation, Forbes on Amtrak

Wire Wheels, Wired World, Living Room

For Those Trying to Navigate the Lower Manhattan Maze, a New Twist Times

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