CarFree Times
      Issue 6
Published by Crawford Systems
Spring 1998     

The PCC streetcar dates from 1935 and has now
provided more than 60 years of fast, reliable,
comfortable public transport service in cities
around the world. Most new trams would do
well to reach the standards set by the PCC car.
Photo © 1998 the archive of light

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Quote of the Quarter

"You can't keep spreading out. The cost to make roads and sewers gets to the point where it doesn't work."

Mike Burton, executive director of the
metropolitan Portland, Oregon, government
"Paved Paradise," Newsweek, 15 May 1995

In-the-Flesh Conferences

Creating Links to the Community, hosted by the Society for Applied Sociology at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Denver, Colorado, USA, 22-25 October 1998. There is a possibility that I will attend this conference and participate in a panel discussion on carfree cities being organized by Yung-mei Tsai. See: for more information on the conference.

Moving the Economy: Economic Opportunities in Sustainable Transportation is an international conference in Toronto, Canada, between 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, at the Findhorn community in northern Scotland, 17-24 October 1998. Speakers include Hazel Henderson (futurist and economist), Satish Kumar (editor of Resurgence), and others from the sustainable community movement. Residents of Findhorn have been working since 1962 to create a sustainable community. More information is available at:

World News Notes & Comment

Progress notes on carfree cities for the season just ending.

Car Busters Magazine Launched

In late June, an activist-editorial team in Lyon, France, will release the second issue of Car Busters, a 32-page magazine critiquing our society's "car culture" and exploring positive alternatives.

Serving both as an information source and call to action, Car Busters is a quarterly journal with a global reach. Reports range from direct action to cutting-edge research to cartoons poking fun at the car manufacturing and oil industries. The goals: to maintain and build the international car-free movement, publicize campaigns, facilitate international cooperation, inspire new activists--and share information, ideas and resources within the movement.

The Car Busters Magazine & Resource Centre was launched at the October, 1997, "Towards Car-Free Cities" conference in Lyon. Contributions are requested in the form of articles, artwork, letters, subscriptions, and distribution help. For subscription information or to offer assistance, contact:

Car Busters Magazine & Resource Centre
44 rue Burdeau, 69001
Lyon, France
tel.: +(33) 4 72 00 23 57
fax: +(33) 4 78 28 57 78

Try it, you'll like it!

Autofrei Leben! Conference

With over one hundred participants from all over the country, the first German autofrei leben! (carfree life) conference took place in Bonn on 6 June 1998. The conference was intended as a complementary event to a contemporaneous UN meeting to prepare for the next UN climate summit. Well-known German authorities gave lectures on sociological and infrastructure questions relating to car-dependence and carfreedom. Short lectures and workshops were held on such topics as: comprehensive electronic mobility information systems, car-sharing, carfree cities, ethical questions, etc. Organizer Nikolaus Huhn (who arranged a similar conference in London last year) said, "Determined carfreedom can be established as a means of civil disobedience in a society which is addicted to economic growth." A follow-up event will be held next winter in Weimar, Germany.

Personal communication from Nikolaus Huhn (+49 36428 41091)

Prince Charles of... Italy?

Britain's Prince Charles, long known for his interest in architecture and his stinging criticism of modernism, is redeveloping the Italian town of Viterbo. Calling his vision an "architecture of the heart," Charles and his London-based Institute of Architecture are redeveloping the medieval quarter of Viterbo along traditional lines. "The Prince first presented the Viterbo plans to the city on a visit to the institute's summer school at the Renaissance Villa Lante in nearby Bagnaia. They have been hailed as a glorious expression of the spiritual values that the Prince says are lacking in contemporary architecture and civic design--and make modern cities acceptable places to live."

"Italy takes architect prince to heart" Electronic Telegraph
14 June 1998

We wish Principe Carlo more success in his adopted homeland than he has so far found in Britain.

Sprawling America

"In the two decades from 1970 to 1990, the New York region had a modest population increase of 8%, but it had an explosive growth of 65% in its built-up urbanized land. While Chicago grew 4% in population, its urbanized land increased 46%. Even places that were declining in their population were simultaneously growing in their urban area; Cleveland, for example, had a population decline of 8%, while it expanded geographically by 33%."

If suburban growth continues at this rate, then around the year 2150, the metropolitan areas of Chicago and New York will bump into each other, somewhere near Cleveland. I expect, however, that something will change before then. Hopefully long before then. The full article is available at the site given above--it's a good read.

Danes Winning the Fight

Traffic in Copenhagen has hardly increased at all during the past 25 years, yet social and recreational use of the center city have tripled in 20 years. "Our goal is to make sure there is no new traffic," according to director of public works Jens Rorbech. To achieve this goal, the commuter rail system is being expanded, new bikeways are being built, more streets are becoming carfree, parking fees are going up, traffic calming measures are being installed, and there is even talk of charging drivers a toll to enter the city. Copenhagen is also busy with the construction of a metro. On a national level, Denmark is working to stop car-friendly suburban sprawl by requiring new stores to locate in existing commercial centers. New workplaces must be within reach of public transport.

The Nation, 26 January 1998

Copenhagen is a wonderful city. The Strøget is one of the nicest carfree areas outside Venice. And Tivoli Gardens is magical on a summer evening.

EU Turning to Railroads?

Environment and transport ministers of the EU met recently to discuss ways of maintaining good mobility without destroying the environment. Not surprisingly, the talk quickly turned to railroads. In recent decades, rail freight has lost much ground to heavy trucks (which are subsidized by reduced fuel taxes). Rising CO2 emission from the transport sector is a big problem. Trains, of course, are much more efficient than trucks, and so contribute less to global warming. Britain's Neil Kinnock raised the sensitive issue of reducing car use. EU governments were urged to accept the commission's proposals for new fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

Various news reports

Coordinated action by the environment and transport ministries is a very hopeful sign.

Swiss Transit Scores Again

For about $1500 you can buy a one-year ticket good on all public transport in Switzerland, including intercity trains. The Swiss like the idea too--they buy 200,000 of these tickets a year.

Personal communication from Benoit Lambert

The Swiss got it right: convenience is the cornerstone of workable public transport. It's got to be easy to use, and buying tickets is a big aggravation. If you only have to do it once a year, and you've always got a ticket in your pocket, you just might take the train instead of driving.

Moscow Neglects Crown Jewel

The Moscow subway has long been one of the world's finest, decorated with chandeliers and art. In fact, the metro has become so successful that it's now packed at rush-hour, and planners say that the existing 261-kilometer system needs to be extended by at least 100 kilometers. Despite the congestion in the metro, cash is going into highways. There is a plan to convert a rail freight line ringing Moscow into a highway. Worse yet is a plan to build a 27-kilometre, four-lane highway to a settlement in the Odintsovo region west of Moscow where high-ranking government officials and the rich have their country houses.

Everyone seems doomed to repeat the American mistakes.

A Delicate Issue: Traffic Calming for Bikes

Richard Risemberg's The Bike People recently carried an interesting and controversial article on traffic calming for bicyclists. Himself a dedicated bicyclist, Risemberg is pleading for more consideration by bicyclists of other street users, pedestrians in particular. This is a point of friction among environmentalists: there is a prevailing notion that anything you do on your bike is all right, but it's not.

Something has happened here in Amsterdam in the past year: bicyclists now routinely ride on the very narrow sidewalks, endangering both themselves and pedestrians. The bikers get angry if you suggest that they should dismount and walk. It's made the street a lot less pleasant. I understand the reason for it: insufficient room in the street for safe biking, but I still don't like it. Bicycles are certainly part of the solution, but they can also be a problem in themselves.

Bicycle Mileage Allowance

Members of the British House of Commons can now claim mileage reimbursements for using either cars or bikes on official business. Car drivers get $0.80 a mile; bike riders get $0.10 per mile.

From a posting to the cons-spst-sprawl-trans list

I suspect they're more interested in the number of votes per mile. With any luck, Tony Blair's reform-minded Labor government will pedal to even greater heights. British transport policy is getting a much-needed make-over. Early signs are good.

Bikes in Germany

"Bicycling has increased dramatically in German cities over the past two decades, not only absolutely but even as a proportion of total travel. Overall, the bicycle share of urban trips in western Germany rose by 50% from 1972 to 1995. In many large cities, bicycling doubled or tripled, while the modal split share of auto travel fell, thus mitigating roadway congestion and pollution problems. The resurgence of bicycling as a practical mode of daily urban travel is due almost entirely to public policies that have greatly enhanced the safety, speed and convenience of bicycling while making auto use more difficult and expensive. The bicycle has triumphed in Germany in spite of rapid suburbanization, rising auto ownership, increasing trip lengths, and rising per capita incomes. This article shows that, with the right set of policies, bicycling can be increased almost anywhere."

Abstract: of John Pucher's
"Bicycling Boom in Germany: A Revival Engineered by Public Policy,"
Transportation Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 4, Fall 1997, pp. 31-46.

N.B.: It's public policy that made this change possible.

Balanced Risk Assessment: Biking

A recent study conducted for the British Medical Association compared the risk of death in bike accidents with the risk of death from lack of exercise. The extension of life span through thrice-weekly cycling exceeded the years of life lost in bike accidents by a factor of 20:1.

"How we misread hazards," Electronic Telegraph
23 April 1998

This, mind you, in an environment that is distinctly bicycle-unfriendly.

Biking to School in Britain

Children at Dundonald School in Merton, England, went into action together with their local Minister of Parliament to introduce 20 MPH (32 km/hr) speed limits. Traffic near the schools is so heavy that many parents drive their kids to school, making a bad situation worse. Head Teacher Maureen Mudie said: "Our road is particularly busy in the mornings as commuter traffic competes with cars bringing children to school. It would be a lot safer if the speed limit were 20 MPH and the number of cars were reduced. Any move to make our roads safer and encourage people to walk is a worthwhile aim to support. We are asking the 300 families with children at Dundonald to think very carefully about whether they really need to use the car to ferry them to and from school."

From a press release from the Merton Cycling Campaign

It's not so long ago that all those kids would have walked or biked to school, and been the healthier for it. Even 20 MPH traffic is a threat to a little kid wobbling along on a bike.

Wild in Amsterdam

One recent Friday evening a sports car shot through the T-intersection of Amstel and Keizersgracht, quite near my home. Driven, according to police, at a high rate of speed by a drunk, the car crashed into a massive cast-iron light pole, knocking it over. The car sheered off the light pole and struck the back of the park bench, on which a woman was sitting. She received only minor injuries.

Personal observation


Kids Think the Streets Are Dangerous

No, it's not kidnappers they're afraid of. It's cars.

    Two out of every five children between 7 and 9 years old think the street where they live is dangerous to play in. Almost one third say they have trouble with cars that drive too fast. This comes from a survey by the Children First Foundation, which interviewed 555 children between 7 and 12 years old. Especially among the youngest are many who are scared to go out on the street. Ten percent of the 7- to 9-year-olds think that playing outdoors isn't fun, mainly because it is dangerous. According to Children First, ever-increasing traffic is limiting children's freedom of movement.

NRC Handelsblad, "Kinderen vinden straat gevaarlijk," 4 June 1998

If I were a kid, I wouldn't want to play on the streets, either. As it is, I don't like walking in Amsterdam because some drivers are plain and simply reckless. The government seems powerless to do anything. And for city kids, the street is an important part of their limited play area.

More Bad News on Oil

Almost the entire world has now been intensively explored for oil using technologies that didn't exist a few decades ago. "The 30 biggest companies invested US$417 billion in oil and gas exploration and development from 1982 - 1992, but only found oil and gas worth US$170 billion. 75% of all oil has been found in giant fields." A giant field is one larger than 500 million barrels, and we have discovered very few giants since the 1980s. "We are consuming oil at about 23 billion barrels per year and rising, and discovering it at about 7 billion barrels per year and falling. This is not looking good."

Posted to the SusTrans list by Charlie Richardson
in Sydney, e-mail:

No, this is not looking good at all. It is worth remembering that considerable amounts of energy were consumed in this search for energy. As oil becomes scarcer, the energy consumed to find it, drill for it, and pump it out will become an ever-larger percentage of the total energy recovered. Once this figure reaches 100%, the oil age is over, and it's only a matter of pumping existing wells dry.

Time to Buy a Pair of Waders?

The prestigious journal Nature recently reported that greenhouse gas emission in the next century may be enough to cause the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to disintegrate, resulting in a 13-20 foot sea-level rise over a period of as little as 250 years. This would flood portions of coastal cities around the world.

As reported in an EDF News Release

My front door step is about 3 feet above sea level. I'm buying waders.

Bye-Bye Gulf Stream?

"Non-linear response" is the new buzzword in climatology. An example is the melting of glaciers in West Greenland. Glacial melt water forms pools hundreds of kilometers long and tens of kilometers wide, and these pools have a far lower reflectance than snow and ice, so solar warming further accelerates the warming. This is not a theory: it is a current event.

With a single exception, all climate models which include the effects of "thermo-haline circulation" (THC) now predict a weakening of the Gulf Stream after 2000. What is not yet clear is whether this will simply be a reduction in flow or a large-scale collapse of North Atlantic circulation. Circulation in the North Atlantic is a delicate balance of warm and cold water plus salinity gradations, all of which affect the water density and thereby vertical flow. The present circulation system appears to depend on small regions where huge volumes of surface water sink to the ocean floor and flow slowly towards the tropics, perhaps to places as far away as the Indian Ocean. (This circulation is not well understood, although it has been known since German explorations in the 1920s.) If the salinity in these regions of sinking water is reduced (through melting of Greenland glaciers, for instance), then surface water may no longer be dense enough to sink, with grave consequences for the Gulf Stream. It appears that such changes are self-reinforcing, and that once the process begins it may go to rapidly to completion. It has been hypothesized since 1961 that relatively small disturbances could lead to circulatory collapse. A cessation of Gulf Stream flow would have catastrophic climatic effects for Western Europe. Temperatures would fall by 5 degrees C (9 degrees F).

Cores from the Greenland ice cap are now providing a year-by-year history of the world's climate. The ratio of oxygen isotopes in the samples gives an accurate indication of global temperatures at the time the snow fell. This data shows that extremely abrupt climate changes have occurred frequently during the last 250,000 years. Sediments from the ocean floor have confirmed this finding: major climate changes are now known to occur in the span of just a few years. It appears that the only plausible explanation for such rapid shifts is a sudden change in ocean circulation.

NRC Handelsblad, "Stagnerende zeeën," 4 April 1998

Europe is now roughly self-sufficient in food. If the Gulf Stream stops flowing, Europe will have to import most of its food. Where from?

Muzzling Mopeds in China

The government of Guangzhou in southern China is imposing strict limits on moped exhausts. Some 400,000 of the two-wheelers will have to be fitted with emission controls.

Xinhua News Agency, 8 June 1998

A friend of mine once proposed that the tail pipe on a moped ought to spew directly into the face of the rider, giving him the full benefit of both the racket and the stink. As it is, the cloying smell of a moped often lingers long enough for the thing to get out of earshot. Given how noisy it is, that's quite a while. The rider, of course, leaves all of the stink and much of the noise behind him.

Car Emissions Are Getting Worse, Not Better

Many people think cars are getting much cleaner. While it is true that newer cars are cleaner per vehicle-mile traveled, total US highway emissions during the period 1960-1995 have increased 73% for NOx and 1% for CO. VOC (volatile organic compounds) fell by 41%.

As posted by John Holtzclaw
to the cons-spst-sprawl-trans list

Thirty years of efforts to clean up auto emissions have basically come to naught. Even though cars are much cleaner than they were, extra vehicle miles traveled have absorbed the gains.

Please Pass the Gas Mask

Air pollution in Santiago, Chile, recently reached crisis levels. More than half a million cars and trucks were ordered off the streets.

"Santiago tackles pollution increase," Electronic Telegraph
Tuesday 19 May 1998

This isn't just a third-world problem. Last summer, Paris experienced a terrible air pollution crisis. It's the shape of things to come, unless....

75% Rise in US Asthma Cases

Asthma cases in the USA rose by 75% in the period 1980-1994. Air pollution is part of the cause, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From an EDF Dispatch

The American Automobile Association Chokes

Long a defender of unbridled automobility, the AAA has recognized that "quality of life depends upon clean air." The Association says it now supports "reasonable, fair, and effective means of preserving the environment" including steps to reduce air pollution from cars.

AAA News Release

When the AAA starts to admit that something needs to be done, the possibility exists that something might actually get done.

Austrians Blockade Alpine Pass

Thousands of environmentalists concerned about heavy truck traffic through the trans-Alpine passes connecting Austria (and Germany) with Italy blockaded Brenner Pass for two days. They were careful to warn vacationers of the action in order to minimize public inconvenience and opposition. More than 1.2 million trucks cross the Brenner every year, and this is projected to increase to 2.8 million by 2010. Austria is already involved in a court battle with the European Commission involving the country's attempts to protect the environment by restricting trucking.

Personal communication

Switzerland is also unpopular with the EU government for its attempts to limit truck traffic. The Swiss tried to force more through-freight to travel by rail, but had to yield to overwhelming pressure from the EU. As far as Brussels is concerned, it's growth-at-any-price.

US Senate May Reject Kyoto Treaty

The US Congress is probably not going to give President Clinton the money he needs to implement the greenhouse-gas cuts to which the US agreed in Kyoto. A recent spending bill expressly forbids the President from using the money to implement any part of the Kyoto Accords by means of Executive Orders. It now appears that the Kyoto pact does not have enough support in the Senate to secure ratification.

Based on a Fox News report, 11 June 1998, as posted to the
Sierra Club Forum on Transportation Issues

The USA may not, after all, be a party to this treaty--notwithstanding special treatment secured by American negotiators in Kyoto. The Dutch are also making noises about not sticking to their Kyoto agreements--other EU nations should make the cuts, not the Dutch. At least that's how Dutch thinking now runs.

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