Carfree Times

      Issue 73

10 April 2014     
 
 
Brass work at Changu Narayan temple near Bhaktapur
Brass work at Changu Narayan temple near Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Changu Narayan is a delightful town, and the old part is carfree.
2014 J.H. Crawford

Announcements

This issue is rather late due to the complexity of establishing life in Bhaktapur, Nepal. We should be back on schedule for the next issue.  

 

Bhaktapur's Durbar Square near sunset
Bhaktapur's Durbar Square near sunset
2013 J.H. Crawford

Carfree Institute

Carfree.com has relocated to Bhaktapur, Nepal, an ancient city located just 13 kilometers east of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The city's population of about 80,000 is densely housed in streets and buildings that closely resemble the Reference Design for carfree cities. Most houses border on a narrow street and on an interior courtyard of appreciable size. Most of the houses are three or four stories tall.

The Institute is housed in a modern "pillar building" made predominately of reinforced concrete. These buildings are not as attractive as the traditional buildings but are expected to fare much better in the earthquakes that often strike in this region.

We have been very busy with infrastructure, and this issue of Carfree Times is the first significant work since Carfree.com departed from Summit, New Jersey in the USA three months ago.

We are about to turn our focus to the Institute's activities and affiliations, but the buildup of the Institute may take as much as a year. We are looking forward to a productive cooperation with RECPHEC, a Nepali NGO located in Kathmandu that is dedicated to improving public health through a variety of measures, most definitely including a reduction of the health impacts of the transport sector. We will be helping RECPHEC to bring carfreedom to the Thamel area of Kathmandu.

Stay tuned for developments.

The Books

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


Video

The production of new videos will be a primary task of the Carfree Institute, but this will take some time to come to fruition. In the meantime, the existing 30 videos continue to draw views. You can find them all here:

Vimeo (recommended)

YouTube (not all videos are here)

However, the best way to watch is probably to use my new channel at Vimeo:

Carfree

which allows me to present the newest and best videos first.

If you watch a video, please Like it by 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 social media would also help.

 
Taumadhi Square in Bhaktapur during the Tihar festival
Taumadhi Square in Bhaktapur during the Tihar festival
2013 J.H. Crawford

World Carfree Network

Carfree.com actively supports World Carfree Network (WCN), which lacks funding and is currently dormant.

The degrowth movement has some of its roots in the early Towards Carfree Cities (TCFC) conferences organized by what later became World Carfree Network. The Fourth International Degrowth Conference will be held in Leipzig, Germany, September 2-6, 2014.

Elly Blue, one of the organizers of the TCFC conference in Portland, Oregon, a few years back, recently published Bikenomics, an examination of the economics of various transport modes and the place of the bicycle in our transport network. Now the first chapter of her book is available online.

 


 

News Bits

The photographs below were taken in late 2013, all within 30 kilometers of Bhaktapur.

The links below will open in a new browser window (crtl + left-click to open in a new tab instead):

 

Street life in Bhaktapur
Street life in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?"

    A new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows that global industrial civilization could collapse in the coming decades as unsustainable resource exploitation and rising wealth inequality damage the systems we all depend upon for survival. The study points out that the collapse of civilizations is a recurring event in history, and advanced civilizations may be especially susceptible to collapse.

    The project investigated the dynamics of interactions between humans and nature in historical collapses. The principal risk factors are population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy. We are vulnerable on all these fronts. Economic stratification is a further large risk factor that is associated with resource overconsumption. Technology offers no panacea: "Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per-capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction." This phenomenon was first noticed in 1865 by William Stanley Jevons, who observed that the increasing efficiency of steam engines had led to large increases in the consumption of coal.

    Excessive resource exploitation leads to an early decline of the poor, even as the elites are thriving. Eventually the poor collapse completely, followed by the elites.

    The scientists did point out that the worst-case scenarios are not inevitable and suggest that a range of changes could avoid collapse. "Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per-capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion." The study is largely theoretical, but others have warned that the convergence of food, water, and energy crises can result in widespread calamity in just fifteen years. (Economist.com)

 
Fields and hills a few kilometers outside Bhaktapur
Fields and hills a few kilometers outside Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Climate engineering: Minor potential, major risk of side-effects?"

    Climate engineering is a bad idea that refuses to go away. I think we should probably do the research and then plan never to implement the technology. Now the latest research seems to indicate that the proposed methods will have only a minor impact as long as CO2 emissions remain at high levels. There is the further risk that if the systems are not sustained then an abrupt warming would occur.

    As usual, the right thing to do is to bring CO2 emissions down rapidly all around the world except in the poorest areas, where they have always been low and where people's very survival may depend on the burning of small amounts of fossil fuel for cooking. (ScienceDaily.com)

 
Girls playing in the street in Bhaktapur
Girls playing in the street in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Will the Cities of the Future be Car-free Zones?"

    Urban planners in Hamburg, Germany, are developing a plan that would eliminate the need for cars in the city over the next 20 years. The project will turn the city into a unique, integrated system such as might be adopted by other large cities. Hamburg's Green Network Plan will create pedestrian and bike lanes connecting existing green areas using safe, carfree routes. The plan would connect major parks, playgrounds, community gardens, and cemeteries. The resultant network would cover 40% of the urban area and should enable commuters and tourists to move around the city entirely by bike or on foot. Of the many problems caused by cars, one of the most serious is air pollution including greenhouse gases. The carfree plan was created to reduce CO2 emissions and to alleviate flooding during major storms. (Sourceable.net)
 
The Thamel district in Kathmandu, Nepal
The Thamel district in Kathmandu, Nepal
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Europe's Most Congested City Contemplates Going Car-Free"

    The new mayor of Brussels wants to make the city center essentially carfree. The change would turn a lovely but congested boulevard connecting several squares into a long, café-filled promenade that joins existing pedestrian zones near the Grand Place. The core of Brussels would become a spacious outdoor living room. The city has been scorned as a "sewer for cars," and the plan is popular with locals.

    From the 1958 World's Fair up until the early 1970s, Brussels was notorious for leveling entire city quarters for office block construction. The pedestrian plan will also help to reunite the city's touristy but magical medieval core with the hipper areas. A recent survey of 3500 people by Le Soir found 61% favoring the changes. (TheAtlanticCities.com)

 
A boy runs past one of many tractors in Bhaktapur
A boy runs past one of many tractors in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Scientific Proof That Cars and Cities Just Don't Mix"

    Cities aren't meant to be experienced from behind the wheel of a car. Researchers have found that drivers experience things more negatively than those who walk, bike, or take transit. Study participants were asked to judge the traits of people they saw from the perspectives of cars, transit vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians. Those who saw the video from the perspective of a car rated the actors higher on negative characteristics (threatening, unpleasant) than participants using the other three modes. (Planetizen.com)
 
Nepal
Taumadhi Square in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever"

    These are casebook examples of the huge improvements that can be realized simply by tearing down urban freeways. These examples should be about all the proof that's needed. (Gizmodo.com)
 
Knitting and chatting on the street in Bhaktapur
Knitting and chatting on the street in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Shared City"

    "Imagine if you could build a city that is shared. Where people become micro-entrepreneurs, and local mom and pops flourish once again. Imagine a city that fosters community, where space isnít wasted, but shared with others." A nice riff on urbanism with lots of interesting illustrations. (Shared City)
 
Stores spill out into the street in Bhaktapur
Stores spill out into the street in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Warm Arctic, Cold Continents: Changes in the Arctic Are Hitting Closer to Home"

    NOAA scientists may have an answer to the question "How could warmth in the Arctic produce frigid conditions elsewhere?" This winter's hard cold affected millions in North America, even far into southern latitudes where winters are normally quite mild. It seems that the deterioration of the polar vortex is causing some of the extreme winter weather. When the vortex breaks down, cold air spills south. This can cause a warmer-than-average Arctic region and severe winter weather events in North America and Europe. In December 2009, the Arctic was 5° C warmer than normal and mid-latitude continents were 5° cooler than normal. The winter was severe in northern Europe, eastern Asia, and eastern North America.

    Many factors can produce extreme weather events, but the potential impact from Arctic regions is great when solar heat absorbed by newly ice-free regions of the ocean warms the atmosphere during autumn, changing prevailing winds. (NOAA.gov)

 
Kids playing in one of the many interior courtyards, Bhaktapur
Kids playing in one of the many interior courtyards, Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Unclean at Any Speed: Electric cars don't solve the automobile's environmental problems"

    Many governments are now offering drivers inducements to buy electric cars, and many environmental organizations have moved into the electric vehicle camp. Large subsidies are offered for the purchase of electric cars and their high-capacity battery charging stations. In some places, drivers of electrics may use high-occupancy vehicle lanes while driving solo. VIP parking is offered in some places, and free recharging in others.

    Widespread adoption of electric vehicles may have negligible effects on greenhouse gas emissions. Much depends on the source of the electricity used to recharge the batteries. Electricity from nuclear power may have a low direct impact on greenhouse gases, but the secondary energy required to build, fuel, and dismantle nuclear power plants is difficult even to estimate, and the effects of rare accidents are overwhelming, as we are seeing at Fukushima. Even the production of photovoltaic cells involves the use of chemicals with potent greenhouse gas effects, and large amounts of fossil fuel are consumed. The energy embodied in the vehicle is larger than in a conventional fossil-fueled car. The use of exotic materials is a further problem that arises mainly from their energy-intensive extraction and production. One study concluded that "an electric car is likely worse than a car fueled exclusively by gasoline derived from Canadian tar sands!" It doesn't get much worse than that.

    Most academic programs related to electric vehicles are funded by the auto industry. "Indeed, it's very difficult to find researchers who are looking at the environmental merits of electric cars with a disinterested eye." It is a mark of integrity that this article appeared in the principal journal of electrical engineers. Bottom line: there are no green cars. (IEEE Spectrum)

 
Playing chess on the street in Bhaktapur
Playing chess on the street in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Teslas in California Help Bring Dirty Rain to China"

    Electric cars sold in the USA (and elsewhere) are causing pollution in China. The cause came as a surprise to me: it is seemingly-innocent graphite, a ubiquitous allotrope of carbon. It comes mostly from China, where pollution from extraction and mining has damaged air and water quality, with significant effects. This is just one more example of the pollution caused by "clean" cars. The only real solution is less driving. (Bloomberg.com)
 
Durbar Square in Bhaktapur, showing gracious accommodation for people
Durbar Square in Bhaktapur, showing places for people to sit
2013 J.H. Crawford

"The Largest Free Mass Transit Experiment in the World"

    Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, recently did something that no other large city had done before: it made the city's public transport free for residents. Some bold predictions were made: there would be up to 20% more riders, carbon emissions would decline substantially, and low-income residents would gain new access to jobs. A year later, this city of 430,000 people is the leader of the growing free-transit movement. It hosted two conferences for city officials, researchers, and journalists to discuss the arrangement, and promotional materials now proclaim Tallinn the "capital of free public transport."

    Local support has been strong, with 90% saying they like the change. What's not so clear is that commuting behavior has changed very much. Some researchers found just a 3% increase in ridership and that the no-fare system accounted for less than half that gain. There is evidence of social benefits in the form of improved access to the city.

    The real benefits of fare-free transit are often overlooked and in fact do not exist in Tallinn. The simplifications of not having to carry change or a fare card and not having to check in and out are wonderful for riders and save the transit agency quite a lot of money directly, by eliminating the costs of fare collection, and indirectly, by enabling shorter trip times. (TheAtlanticCities.com)

 
People enjoying the streets of Panauti, Nepal
People enjoying the streets of Panauti, Nepal
2013 J.H. Crawford

"You Pays Your Money, and You Takes Your Choice"

    In a recent editorial, Richard Risemberg urged a change in road pricing mechanisms. Many motorists believe that they pay their full road costs with gas and other taxes. This is not even true in Europe, where driving is quite expensive by American standards. One effect is the resentment of cyclists, who are viewed as freeloaders. In fact, gas taxes and car fees pay an ever-shrinking proportion of the direct cost of building and maintaining street infrastructure, and almost none of the external costs of driving. It would take 9600 bikes to cause as much road wear as a single car, which indicates what reality-based road pricing might look like. Some factors that should be considered are:

    • Miles driven per year
    • Weight with a standardized load
    • Footprint (large vehicles force cities to build large lanes)
    • Engine power (more powerful vehicles tear roads up faster)
    • Type of motive power (gasoline, Diesel, electric)  

    This should be applied to commercial motor vehicles as well; trucks are overused in North America, especially for long-distance transport where they are least appropriate. The US strongly favors truck freight over railroads even though trains are four times more energy efficient and many times more spatially efficient. Railroads build their own rights-of-way, on which they pay taxes that are used in part to subsidize their inefficient competitors using trucks. (FlyingPigeon-LA.com)
 
A dispute over cricket in Bhaktapur
A dispute over cricket in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"3 Enormous Benefits to Charging the Right Price for Parking"

    The benefits are: less traffic congestion, higher transit use, and more tax revenue. Then, add less pollution, greater sustainability, more sociability, more freedom for kids, more usable space, safer streets, and so on and on. (TheAtlanticCities.com)
 
Bhaktapur has many spots that invite people to linger.
Bhaktapur has many spots that invite people to linger
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Norman Foster unveils plans for elevated 'SkyCycle' bike routes in London"

    A plan for a 220km network of bike paths built above railway lines has been proposed for London. "Gliding through the air on a bike might so far be confined to the fantasy realms of singing nannies and aliens in baskets, but riding over rooftops could one day form part of your regular commute to work, if Norman Foster has his way." Plans like this usually fail to consider the difficultly for cyclists of pedalling up nearly 10 meters from the street to the cycle path. It's only worth the trouble for long-distance rides. Then there's the fact that overhead transport systems impose a number of secondary costs such as shading, visual intrusion, and loss of privacy.

    The right approach is to get the cars off the streets; then there's plenty of room for cyclists and buses. The cost of the proposed plan would be quite high - a 6.5km trial route would cost around £220 million. Part of the cost relates to the "installation of vertical hydraulic platforms next to existing railway stations," which sounds like some kind of elevator. (Guardian.co.uk)

 
Lounging on Durbar Square, Bhaktapur
Lounging on Durbar Square, Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Murder Machines: Why Cars Will Kill 30,000 Americans This Year"

    We'll just quote the first two paragraphs:

      There's an open secret in America: If you want to kill someone, do it with a car. As long as you're sober, chances are you'll never be charged with any crime, much less manslaughter. Over the past hundred years, as automobiles have been woven into the fabric of our daily lives, our legal system has undermined public safety, and we've been collectively trained to think of these deaths as unavoidable "accidents" or acts of God. Today, despite the efforts of major public-health agencies and grassroots safety campaigns, few are aware that car crashes are the number one cause of death for Americans under 35. But it wasn't always this way. At some point, we decided that somebody on a bike or on foot is not traffic, but an obstruction to traffic.

      "If you look at newspapers from American cities in the 1910s and '20s, you'll find a lot of anger at cars and drivers, really an incredible amount," says Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. "My impression is that you'd find more caricatures of the Grim Reaper driving a car over innocent children than you would images of Uncle Sam."

    This is a serious, in-depth look at a problem we hardly think about today. It's worth spending some time with this. (CollectorsWeekly.com)
 
Playing chess in one of the streetside shelters in Bhaktapur
Playing chess in one of the streetside shelters in Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"Driving to an early grave"

    Rich countries have cut deaths and injuries caused by crashes. But the toll is growing in the developing world. "Every 30 seconds someone, somewhere, dies in a road crash, and ten are seriously injured." The WHO expects road deaths globally to reach nearly two million a year in 2030, up from 1.3 million today. The toll of death and injury from motor vehicles in the poorer parts of the world is rising fast even as it declines slowly in the rich nations. This problem has been known for years, but this article from the Guardian puts the problem into sharper focus. In the poorest nations, the number of deaths is expected to almost triple from today's levels. (TheGuardian.com)
 
Hanging out on Durbar Square, Bhaktapur
Hanging out on Durbar Square, Bhaktapur
2013 J.H. Crawford

"States Reinvest in Once-Abandoned Freight Lines"

    Connecticut was one of a group of states with the foresight in the 1970s and 1980s to buy up abandoned rail lines when railroads nationally were abandoning thousands of miles of right of way during a period of rampant railroad bankruptcies. Now, states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York are paying to improve rail freight service.

    Rail began to decline in the late 1940s, and the industry lost political clout. The decline was accelerated by federal spending on highway construction starting in the 1950s. Stringent regulation of the railroads made it difficult for them to compete with trucking. By the 1960s, thousands of miles of lines were being abandoned by major railroads, many of which went bankrupt in the 1970s.

    Rail began a slow comeback starting in 1980, when freight railroads were allowed to compete not only with each other but with other forms of transportation. Small regional and short-line railroads emerged to pick up ancillary track around the country. Rail service is finally being recognized for the many benefits it offers, including economic efficiency and low emissions per ton-mile. An industry insider says, "The country needs rail transportation perhaps more now than ever. The question is will government support what is a major solution to overcrowded highways and aging infrastructure?" (Governing.com)


 

Venice
Venice
2012 J.H. Crawford

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Editor      J.H. Crawford
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URLhttp://www.carfree.com/


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