CarFree Times
  Issue 5
Published by Crawford Systems
Winter 1998  

The March issue of Scientific American carries a special report:
"The End of Cheap Oil." The simplified graph compares
oil discoveries and production: the end of the oil age looms ahead.
The news is good and bad; you can read a summary below.

World News Notes & Comment

Each issue begins with a current-events section covering the urban automobile around the globe. If you know of interesting developments, please pass them along.

Can You Spell "Carfree"?

"Car-Free Times" is now called "Carfree Times," reflecting the adoption of Eric Britton contributed to this decision when he said that the dropping of a hyphen marks the entrance of a concept into the mainstream. Our adoption is early, but I hope the new spelling will soon be in wide use.

Virtual Conference: Zero Emissions II

Crawford Systems is a sponsor of the Zero Emissions II teleconference run by EcoPlan in Paris. In concert with Eric Britton of EcoPlan, Dan Kennedy at CyberLynx, and Philippe Crist at the OECD Environment Directorate, we developed a new design for the conference web site, which forms an integral part of the conference. This conference is an outgrowth of a 1997 pilot teleconference on Zero Emissions. The conference tracks are:

  • Zero Emissions
  • Telework
  • Photovoltaics
  • Deregulated Energy
  • Remanufacturing
  • Teleconferencing
Join the conference at:

In-the-Flesh Conferences

Moving the Economy: Economic Opportunities in Sustainable Transportation
Toronto, Canada
9-12 July 1998

Organized by Transportation Options (which organized the second international conference on Auto-Free Cities) in partnership with the City of Toronto, the conference will explore the premise that sustainable transportation makes a positive contribution to a healthy economy. See for more information.

Creating Sustainable Community - Here, There and Everywhere
The Findhorn community, Scotland
17-24 October 1998

Speakers include Hazel Henderson (futurist and economist), Satish Kumar (editor of Resurgence), and others from the sustainable community movement. Findhorn is reputed to be a magical place where people are working to create a sustainable community. More information is available at

Suburbia Project

The Suburbia Project is another activity of Richard Risemberg, editor of The Bike People, who is asking for contributions documenting life in American suburbs since World War II. This promises to be an interesting collection of suburban anecdotes. You may want to contribute your experiences.

Car Free Day: 16 June 1998

The objective of this British initiative is to urge society to adopt policies that will undo the damage wrought by cars. ETA urges groups to plan a radical action for 16 June 98 and to let them know about it as soon as possible.

Announcement by Richard Evans, ETA Trust at

Richard Rogers on Cars

When Richard Rogers took his seat in the House of Lords, he gave the following speech by way of introduction:

My Lords. We can ignore the figures about increasing inequality; but it is harder to ignore the huddled figures sleeping in streets and doorways - or trapped in decaying housing estates. We may flee from inner city dereliction and pollution and take to the suburbs - but in so doing we extend the urban sprawl into the countryside. We may bemoan the decline in public transport while we sit in our cars and poison the air - but meanwhile urban air quality continues to decline; one in seven of our inner-city children suffer from asthma. In London, we've built more and more roads, yet they carry almost 50% fewer people than in 1956 - because fewer people take the bus and more and more go by car. As a result, the average speed has dropped to the horse-and-carriage rate of a century ago. This inefficiency is said to cost London £15 billion a year in wasted time and resources.

Lord Rogers' maiden speech at the House of Lords, 20 May 1997
Taken from, which is now off line.

Geneva Motor Show?

Swiss President Flavio Cotti opened the Geneva motor show with praise for railroads. "The car has become one of the most important symbols of modern life." But "we want a transport policy which we can justify to our children." Citing the environmental hazards of car use, he said that freight traffic must be moved from roads to rails in order to improve the quality of life. Switzerland is planning to build new Alpine tunnels to permit increased rail freight transport. The country has also been in difficult talks with the European Union over fees for heavy-weight European lorries that will soon roar through the landlocked nation. The EU recently reached agreement with Bern on a tax of US$220 for each 40-tonne lorry crossing Switzerland.

From the transit-alternatives list

Both Switzerland and Austria have seen their beautiful Alpine environments threatened by heavy-vehicle road traffic.

High-Speed Rail in Switzerland

SwissMetro SA recently applied for a license to construct a pilot high-speed line from Geneva to Lausanne. Some government funding is necessary to provide the 4 billion Swiss francs required. The pilot line is part of a planned network connecting Geneva to Lyon and Munich by high-speed rail. Departures during rush hour will be as frequent as every six minutes. The trains would be three times as fast as conventional trains but use the same amount of energy per passenger-kilometer.

SwissMetro SA press release no.10, Geneva, 27 November 1997

If the energy targets can be met, this would be an extremely energy-efficient way to move people. The Swiss already have one of the world's best train systems.

Seattle Stems Suburban Sprawl

Seattle's 20-year strategy to keep the city thriving and green is working. At a time when some areas are seeing development of huge houses on huge lots, Seattle is seeing a return to the central city. After decades of decline, the city's population is increasing and property values are rising. In the region, nearly 90% of new housing starts are in urban areas. The county drew a boundary between Seattle and rural lands to the east; beyond this line only rural development is permitted. Seattle instead promoted dozens of urban villages, older neighborhoods which gained new life through the construction of dense mid-rise condos, low-income apartments, and townhouses. All this is within easy walking distance to the cafes, shops, and businesses. Alan Durning of Northwest Environment Watch said, "Most people believe the alternative to cars is better transit - in truth, it's better neighborhoods."

Ann Scott Tyson in The Christian Science Monitor, 9 January 1998

In truth, it's better neighborhoods and better public transport.

Real Video in Groningen

An excellent summary of the changes in Groningen, The Netherlands, can be found at the ITN television site, complete with pictures and narration.

In Groningen, you may remember, half of all movements within the inner city are by bicycle.

Son, Can I Borrow the Car Keys?

In Richmond VA, Deborah Perkins, a geriatric nurse practitioner, recently advised a woman in her 80s with severe memory impairment to stop driving. "She burst into tears and said, 'You might as well shoot me,"' Mrs. Perkins said in a telephone interview. "It's like telling a patient they have a terminal illness." Experts say it is the lack of adequate mass transit that makes the nation unprepared for the rising number of older people who have to stop or limit their driving. . . .

Nowhere is this more vividly demonstrated than in sprawling Florida, which has lured millions of people to its suburban retirement communities, but not put in place the public transportation to support them when they reach their 80s and 90s and physical or cognitive impairments force many of them to give up their cars or use them less. "You can't live down here without driving," Bentley Lipscomb, secretary of Florida's Department of Elder Affairs, said. "You can't go to the grocery store, the doctor, the hospital. You can't go anywhere."

New York Times
"Aging Nation Appears Ill-Prepared for Giving Up Keys to the Car"
15 December 1997

Biking Along the Danube

By 2013 a bicycle network will cover Europe with 12 long-haul routes. A pilot project in Austria showed that bicycle tourism can be profitable - cyclists account for 90% of overnight stays at many hotels along the Danube river. Basic requirements for a successful route: safe, flat, and sign-posted. About 200,000 cyclists a year tour the stretch between Passau and Vienna. The system is in the planning stages, but you can view a route map. The European Union has promised 50 percent matching funds for the initial stages, and several bicycle organizations have fronted funds to hire a project manager.

The Bicycle News Agency, 2/98, January 17th, 1998

Death in New York

The number of pedestrians struck and killed by cars in New York increased almost 25 percent in a single year, possibly the result of a yearlong ticketing slowdown by the police. New York Mayor Giuliani's recent experiment with crosswalk barriers in midtown and a crackdown on jaywalking reinforce the idea that drivers have all the rights and pedestrians had better watch out. Deaths dipped below 300 in the early 1990's after running above that figure for years. A low of 245 was reached in 1996. Last year, however, automobiles killed 302 pedestrians and bicyclists. Many or most of the people who died had the right of way. As always, the young and the old were disproportionately represented in the carnage. From 1996 to 1997, police summonses for moving violations such as speeding and running red lights declined 32%. Even in 1996, drivers received summonses in only 20 percent of the nearly 6,400 accidents where cars struck pedestrians and the police found the driver to be at least partly at fault, according to figures from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

New York Times 27 January 1998 Op-Ed page
"Pedestrians In Peril" by Charles Komanoff

Whole New Mall Game

Shoppers have rediscovered shopping streets after years of crawling through the mall. In Los Angeles, shopping on "Main Street" has increased and some major retailers have opened street-front shops that draw good crowds. "It's very competitive [with the malls]," said Marsha Rood, a development administrator for the city of Pasadena. Mall operators across the USA have lost ground in recent years, caught between discount centers and restored urban centers drawing upscale consumers who want a new and interesting place to shop. "There are too many malls," said retail industry consultant Sanford R. Goodkin. "People are looking for more variety in stores and more interesting places to spend time."

Quoted from "Whole New Mall Game"
LA Times, 18 December 1997

Finally. We're lucky there's anything interesting left after 40 years of neglect.

Kyoto Accord Reached Despite Big Oil

Special interest groups dug in their heels before and during the Kyoto summit. The Global Climate Coalition, funded by Exxon, Shell, General Motors, Ford, and others, spent $13 million on advertising aimed at thwarting any legally binding accord. Exxon was prominent in its opposition to US commitments to reduce emissions unless developing countries also made similar commitments. The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Exxon had also urged developing nations to reject the global warming treaty because the restrictions would hinder their growth. Speaking at the World Petroleum Congress in Beijing, Exxon chairman Lee Raymond urged developing countries to use more, not less fossil fuels, and said nature was to blame for most global warming.

This strategy failed and the accords were signed anyway. Greenpeace said, "The fact that a legally binding agreement was reached over the objections of the oil companies shows that industry's grip on governments and stranglehold on the process is finally loosening." Some oil companies are finally starting to make serious investments in renewable energy.

Colin R. Leech and Mobilizing the Region #154
Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Recent action by the US Congress on road bills suggests that the USA does not intend to abide by the commitments it made in Kyoto.

Home Zones

An initiative of the Children's Play Council, Transport 2000, and the Child Accident Prevention Trust calls for the introduction of "Home Zones" in Britain. These residential areas would be designated by local authorities with the support of local residents. Non-motorized street users would take precedence over cars. Presently, local governments can only impose 20 MPH speed limits, and the central government often refuses, in the name of traffic flow, to approve even this measure. The initiative would give local governments broad authority to establish Home Zones. The designation has effects far beyond simple traffic calming. Speed limits would be set at 10 MPH, and techniques such as road pinching, wider sidewalks, and colored pavement would remind motorists that they have no rights in these areas: drivers must give way to all other street users and are held solely responsible for any injuries.

The Times of London
"Home Zones would reclaim our streets for the old, the young and the poor:
Move over, motorists," by Libby Purves 27 Jan 1998

The Dutch have been quite pleased with their several decades of experience with the "woonerf" system, which is the pattern on which the Home Zones concept is based.

Britons No Longer Suffering in Silence

A report issued by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) shows that 66 percent of the outdoor noise heard inside homes is traffic-related. "32 million people in Britain are exposed to noise levels of more than 55 decibels, which the World Health Organization regards as harmful."

The Daily Telegraph, 18 December 1996 by Paul Marston
reported by:

Check out It's an excellent source of information about noise.

More Bikes in Britain

Britain will double the number of bike journeys by the year 2002 and double it again within another 10 years. The goal is to achieve a 20% modal split for bicycles; this compares to the current 1%. Half of all journeys are within two miles of home. Prospective cyclists fear for their lives, and rightly so - in 1995, 213 cyclists were killed and 25,000 injured.

1 March 1998 Sunday Times, "Car drivers to pay for bike revolution"

It has worked in The Netherlands, so no reason it shouldn't work in Britain, too. In some Dutch cities, half of all trips are by bike.

Britons Want Less Traffic

An NOP poll for Friends of the Earth shows that 79% of the British public wants the government to set targets for cutting road traffic.

Friends of the Earth web site: 28 January 1998 press release
"Campaigners Claim Traffic Triumph as Government
Backs Road Traffic Reduction Bill"

The best of this is that the UK government may actually act on these numbers by adopting traffic-cutting measures. Tony Blair's new government really looks like it is taking action here, and Glenda Jackson is stirring up a storm in her capacity as transit czar in London.

Chinese Lawmakers Call for Auto Exhaust Controls

Chinese legislators, worried by the country's worsening air pollution, want tighter controls on car exhaust emissions. "The number of motor vehicles in some large and medium-sized cities has surged in recent years, and air pollution caused by auto emissions is damaging the urban environment and harming people's health," said Cao Youxuan, a deputy to the Ninth National People's Congress. China now has approximately 13 million motor vehicles, and the number is expected to exceed 20 million by 2000. Air quality reports released by the National Environmental Protection Agency show that auto emissions are an important source of urban air pollution. A 1987 air pollution law aimed at limiting pollution from coal burning does not effectively limit car emissions. Mounting public concern has led the government to pay attention to air pollution caused by motor vehicles.

From CNN's Customnews Webpage
quoting the Xinhua News Agency, 8 March 1998

When I was in Shanghai about a year ago, the air quality downtown during the evening rush hour was awful.

Oh, Calcutta

Calcutta announced in October 1996 its intention to ban rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, and hand carts from a large area of downtown Calcutta. Six concrete overpasses will be built in a doubtless futile effort to relieve congestion. Worse yet, tram routes crossing congested streets will be closed. Air pollution in Calcutta is already terrible, and this can only make a bad situation worse.

New Scientist, 1 February 1997, as reported by John Whitelegg

Everywhere, leaders get around in cars, and everywhere, leaders want to improve the flow of car traffic. Not much attention gets paid to other street users, most of whom make fewer demands on the infrastructure and are not contributing much to pollution problems. Time for a wake-up call at city hall.

Capacity Numbers

How many passengers can pass along a 3-4m wide road within one hour?

Mode Persons/hour
Car900 - 2,300
Bus7,000 - 10,000
Tram18,000 - 25,000
Rapid rail40,000
Commuter train50,000

You can move 25 times as many people along a single right-of-way if they are in trains instead of cars.

Density and Driving

Using data from the 1990 National Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS), Robert Dunphy and Kimberly Fisher analyzed annual vehicle miles per capita to determine the effects of density on driving behavior. In a nutshell, each doubling of density reduces driving by 21%. The effect becomes even more pronounced at higher densities, with a 38% decline for each doubling above 12.5 households per hectare (5 per acre).

Robert Dunphy and Kimberly Fisher
"Transportation, Congestion, and Density: New Insights"
Transportation Research Record No. 1552
Transportation Research Board, November 1996, Washington, DC

This does not come as news to New Yorkers, many of whom do not need or own cars.

Evaporating Traffic

A study commissioned by London Transport and the Department of the Environment shows the computer models used by transport planners are misleading. The existing models assume that when a road is closed, traffic simply moves elsewhere, further worsening congestion. But new research shows that much of the displaced traffic simply disappears. Worldwide, 60 cases of road closures and capacity reductions were analyzed. Typically, 20 per cent of the traffic just evaporates; in some instances as much as 60%.

New Scientist, 24 January 1998, "Roadblocks ahead"

The net traffic reduction reduces regional congestion, but this comes at the cost of unmet transport needs. Reducing mobility is a crude solution.

Surprise: Public Transport Is a Winner

American taxpayers earn $62 billion per year from their $15 billion investment in public transport. . . . "This is the first study to disprove the long-standing myth that public transport is a highly subsidized form of social welfare for the needy, while roads and highways pay for themselves," said Hank Dittmar, Executive Director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project. "We need to balance the benefits of transit that this study clearly defines against enormous subsidies for roads and highways, estimated to be as much as $300 billion annually when you take into account external health, safety, and environmental costs." The study also found that, without transit, cities, suburbs, and towns would need 27,000 new miles of freeway.

"Dollars and Sense: The Economic Case for Public Transportation in America"
as announced on the Cons-Spst-Sprawl-Dev list

Now, about that $300 billion subsidy. . . .

High-Tech Solution to Train Noise

New sound damping technology in the testing phase in Switzerland may reduce the noise caused by train wheels. According to the research done by the Bern municipal transport services, Sulzer Metco and the Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have produced a ferric-chromium aluminum alloy spray which, when applied to train wheels and followed by heat treatment, increases the flexibility of certain properties within the metal compound, which in turn allows more energy to be released as heat, thereby increasing the sound damping capacity. The spray is still in the testing phase and may be useful in reducing noise in other industrial sectors.

Financial Times, 17 January 1997 by Vanessa Houlder
as reported by

Neologism: The National Automobile Slum

James Howard Kunstler has coined a new term to describe the current American condition:

I have recently arrived at a fitting description of the human ecology of America, and I urge you to adopt it: the National Automobile Slum. That's the name of what we are living in: The National Automobile Slum. Use this term in your local planning boards and your letters to the newspapers and debates with your friends, and before long there will be a widespread recognition about what we are talking about.
Speech to the 1997 Seaside Property Owners Annual Meeting

Buy This Car and Become... Wicked? Meaner?

Lexus is running a two-page color ad, the full text of which is reproduced below:

Distant thunder, cold as stone,
a V8 screams down from its throne.
one by one, each car succumbs.
Something wicked this way comes.

Naught-to-sixty in 5.7 seconds: Once a figment of the
imagination, now a fixture of intimidation. All courtesy of
the 300-horsepower, 32-valve V8 which seethes within
this, the fiercest automatic sedan in the world.

The new GS
Faster. Sleeker. Meaner.

The New Yorker, 2 February 1998 and other publications

Faster. Sleeker. Meaner.??? The car is shown hurtling through a burned-out forest. Hit the deck - something wicked is seething our way!

Quote of the Month

The Brooklyn Bridge carried 2.5 times as many people in 1907 as it does today. Back then it served mainly transit users; today it carries mostly cars.

From Trans-mission, Transportation Options
427 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ont. M5S 1X7, Canada
Summer 1992 as quoted in The Bike People October 1997

The End of Cheap Oil

A Scientific American Special Report

The March 1998 issue of Scientific American includes a special report on the prospects for a continuing supply of petroleum at prices low enough to use it as a primary energy source. The report comprises four articles.

The End of Cheap Oil

The lead article, by consultants Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrere, paints a grim picture. While the oil industry is implying that we have enough oil for the next 40 years, this is misleading at best. Industry reports claim 1020 giga-barrels of oil (gbo) in proven reserves. At current production of nearly 25 gbo, this is indeed enough oil for the next 40 years. However, consumption continues to rise at 2% per year (a doubling time of 35 years). Even if all 1020 gbo existed, we would be out of oil in much less than 40 years if demand continues to increase.

The situation is much more serious, however. In the first place, reserves are overestimated by about 200 gbo for a variety of complex reasons (mainly statistical misinterpretation and falsification by OPEC countries in order to obtain higher production quotas). Global discoveries peaked in the early 1960s and have declined ever since. New discoveries are now running at 7 gbo/year, so consumption outstrips new discoveries by a factor of more than 3. Despite this, reported reserves are growing, a clear impossibility. An additional 150 gbo of recoverable oil are predicted to be found, and the statistical basis for this prediction is quite sound. Further large discoveries of conventional oil are assessed as "very unlikely."

In 1956, US oil geologist M. King Hubbert forecast that oil production in the lower 48 states would peak in 1969, with an error of +/- 1 year. In fact, production peaked in 1970 and has declined since. Hubbert's method is deceptively simple: once half of the total reserve has been extracted, the peak of production has been reached. There is now ample evidence to prove the accuracy of Hubbert's method. The world will reach the Hubbert peak in about 2002. Even an optimistic estimate by John D. Edwards (2036 gbo remaining) shows production peaking in 2020. Oil shortages are thus nearly certain within 20 years. In 2000, the 6 OPEC nations in the Gulf region will produce more than 30% of the world's oil, rising to 50% by 2010. The authors warn of price shocks ahead, similar to those of the 1970s.

There are, however, large known reserves of "unconventional oil," mainly in the form of heavy oil, tar sands, and oil shale. The extraction of oil from these sources has been difficult, expensive, environmentally dangerous, and highly consumptive of energy. These sources probably amount to 1500 gbo equivalent.

The authors conclude that the transition to an economy not based on conventional oil need not be traumatic. They base this assessment on the probability of cheap liquid fuels made from natural gas as well as safe nuclear power, cheaper renewable energy, and conservation. They urge that nations begin planning now for the decline in oil production. Their concluding statement:

The world is not running out of oil - at least not yet. What our society does face, and soon, is the end of the abundant and cheap oil on which all industrial nations depend.

Mining for Oil

Richard L. George, president of Suncor Energy, has been active in the extraction of oil from the tar sands of Alberta. The company now produces 0.028 gbo/year, an insignificant amount in the face of the 23.6 gbo now consumed each year. George sees potential for considerable expansion, however. This operation is beset by serious environmental concerns, which his company is addressing.

Oil Production in the 21st Century

Roger N. Anderson provided an article on the likelihood of advances in drilling and extraction techniques. While technology continues to forge ahead in this area, it seems unlikely that these incremental improvements will significantly alter the picture.

Liquid Fuels from Natural Gas

Safaa A. Fouda provided an article on the conversion of natural gas to liquid fuels. Incredible as it may seem, the world still "flares off" large amounts of natural gas (methane plus impurities). In many areas, the cost of transporting the gas is prohibitive. Fortunately, gas is now often pumped back underground, where it may at least be available when needed. Experimentation began in the 1970s with the transport of liquefied natural gas by tanker, but the technology has not been widely adopted due to costs and complexities [and safety concerns].

Natural gas has the advantage of being plentiful and clean. It produces the smallest amount of CO2 per unit of usable energy of any fossil fuel. There is enough natural gas available to produce 500 gbo of synthetic liquid fuel, with the possibility of considerably more gas recoverable from coal seams and other sources.

Conversion of natural gas to liquid fuels has been feasible for many years, but until now it has been quite costly and wasteful of energy. New processes on the horizon might provide liquid fuel from natural gas at prices comparable to the current cost of oil. Even if a large amount of liquid fuel can be produced at a reasonable price, this only delays the world peak in petroleum consumption by about a decade.

All articles from Scientific American, March 1998

Conclusions to be drawn: We may not run out of petroleum-based liquid fuels as soon as some projections show. Disaster can be staved off for another 20 or 30 years if we begin a massive program of petroleum production from unconventional sources, especially gas. It does appear, however, that declining petroleum-based energy is inescapable by the middle of the next century.
We have only to look at the great dislocations in the industrialized nations following the 1973 and 1979 oil shocks to see that the consequences of even minor interruptions in the flow of petroleum (or significant price increases) are grave indeed. We would be foolish to ignore this history in the face of the coming shortages.
Because fuel shortages may not arise soon, we should not pin the development of the carfree city solely on the basis of petroleum shortages. Indeed, this but one in a series of compelling reasons to remove cars from our cities.

The Lyon Protocol

As mentioned in Car-Free Times #4, a protocol for the conversion of existing cities to the carfree model was developed and presented during the "Towards Car-Free Cities" conference in Lyon, France, in October 1997. Final revisions to the protocol are now complete, and it can be consulted on line at:

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