3 January 2006
Campo Santa Margherita, Venice
New Paper on Urban FormIn December 2005, I published "A Brief History of Urban Form: Street Layout Through the Ages" on Carfree.com. This is material that I thought was too detailed for Carfree Design Manual, so I condensed it in the book and published the original, full version in the Papers section of the web site.
Carfree Design ManualThe first 300 pages of the book are typeset in smooth form. Work on Part IV is far advanced and should be completed this winter. I hope to see it between covers by late spring.
Carfree Cities AvailabilityBoth the paperback and hardcover editions of Carfree Cities are widely available. For details, see the Ordering Information page.
Support for Carfree.comHosting costs are paid up through April 2006. Thanks! Please see the Support Page if you can consider making a contribution.
World Carfree Network
Towards Carfree Cities VIBogotá will host Towards Carfree Cities V 19-23 September 2006. This is the sixth conference in the series organized by World Carfree Network. Four proposals were received for hosting the conference in 2007: Istanbul, Savannah GA, Sfax (Tunisia), and Melbourne. A host is to be chosen by the end of January. View the proposals and comment.
Carfree Network TrainingA Network Training Seminar will be held in Tabor, Czech Republic, in May 2006. View information.
Support World Carfree NetworkWorld Carfree Network is seeking individual supporters at three membership levels from US$30 and up. These include a subscription to Carbusters See details.
Carfree Green PagesMake contacts in the carfree movement through the Carfree Green Pages. Organizations that are not yet listed can register on-line.
At 200 mph, the Bugatti Veyron pounds a beautiful, howling hole in the sweltering haze hanging over the motorway.
253 MPH and Still a Little Late
Carfree Breakthrough in Motor CityOn Friday 23 September 2005, Canada’s automotive capital held its first-ever carfree event. The festival brought together people from Windsor/Detroit metropolitan region. The entangled connections of this region to the auto industry make it not only highly dependent upon cars but also the poster child for the ravages of "car communities." They damage a litany of things we value: economic diversity and equity, public policy and debate, and long-term sustainability.
But hope springs eternal. City Street Celebration (CSC) did happen, which would not have been possible if there had not also been an active base of support. Organizers, participants, festival-goers and supporters coalesced around the issues of auto-dependency and alternative transportation. The festival provided a platform for discovering common ground and building local networks. Many of the participants are currently working on other alternative transportation/pro-carfree projects.
Both personal and practical connections were born from this festival. Though challenges will continue to confront CSC organizers, the first year of such projects is always the most difficult. The knowledge we gained will provide a basis for future activities and events.
People directly experienced two important changes in the daily routine. First, many people commented on how delightful, and strange, it was to use the whole street for walking, bicycling, and other types of non-motorized vehicles, which greatly increases social interaction. Second, traffic on the two arterial roads that fenced in the celebration (Riverside Drive and Wyandotte Street) was backed up for hours, illustrating the effect that such events can have. The usual rush hour backups were worse than usual.
Planning will begin in January for the second annual CSC, with the hope of making it an annual event.
Reported by Maya Ruggles
Cashing in the Family CarIn Flanders, anyone who unregisters a car can get a free, three-year transit pass, as long as the total number of family cars has decreased as a result. In the first two years, 19,500 passes were issued under this program, equivalent to 7% of the total number of passes on the Lijn network. Those who have obtained these passes have become regular transit users. If a family does away with all its cars, they can get passes for the whole family.
No provision appears to have been made for those who never burdened the public by owning a car. This is akin to the American position on these matters: proposals are often made to pay people for buying a less-polluting or more-efficient car, but never for not owning one at all.
"Public Private Partnership in
Flanders’ public transport" [PDF!]
Smashing the O'Toole PaperPerennial transit basher Randall O'Toole is at it again. He claimed that the hurricane deaths in New Orleans were the result of inadequate automobility, when the real cause was inadequate public transport, as was demonstrated by the evacuation fiasco in Houston the following month.
Those who fervently wish for car-free cities should take a closer look at New Orleans. The tragedy of New Orleans isn't primarily due to racism or government incompetence, though both played a role. The real cause is automobility - or more precisely to the lack of it.Of course, the real problem was simply that nobody cared about poor people enough to make evacuation plans for them. Huge fleets of city buses were drowned when the floods struck, and these buses could have evacuated a large part of the population all by themselves (while also preserving the buses). Amtrak offered its services and was declined; a long, empty train with room for thousands departed New Orleans on the eve of the disaster.
O'Toole blathers on:
Numerous commentators have legitimately criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies for failing to foresee the need for evacuation, failing to secure enough buses or other means of evacuation, and failing to get those buses to people who needed evacuation. But people who owned autos didn't need to rely on the competence of government planners to be safe from Katrina and flooding. They were able to save themselves by driving away.Of course, the intensity of the hurricane itself probably owed something to the global warming caused by the very cars O'Toole seems to like so much.
"Lack of Automobility Key to New Orleans Tragedy"
Shhhh! Venice Is ThinkingFrom Wired, that icon of high technology, comes this observation:
. . . Venice is very much a city of the present and the future. The absence of cars could, in itself, be seen as somewhat futuristic; I'm sure many cities will ban cars from their central areas within the next hundred years, and, like Venice, become places where the loudest sound you hear is the sound of happy human voices. Venice lives by charisma, communication and creativity.Enough said!
"Venice Is Deep in Thought"
Don't Even Think About ItStudents heading back to school at Fairfield Senior High School in suburban Cincinnati got a message from the local police: Don’t even think about walking. Cops issued the warning after bus service was eliminated. The school, built in the 90s fashion, stands between busy, multi-lane streets lacking sidewalks. The police feared that teenagers who had been riding the bus would try to thread their way through the cars, on foot.
The mayor attributes the basic problem to the location of the school. It was built on the edge of town, where cheap land could be found for the vast parking lots required by American high schools. And so it was built next to a busy highway.
This is not an isolated situation. In suburban DeKalb County, Georgia, 57% of school principals rated their school's environs as "moderately to extremely dangerous for kids on foot or bicycle."
This isn't the only problem. Evidence increasingly suggests that large, impersonal schools isolated on the edge of town are not good for kids. There is a "small schools" movement brewing, and Smart Growth proponents are supporting it. Lower drop-out rates and higher test scores are observed in smaller schools.
"Sprawl vs. Small: When can Johnny walk to school again?"
Beijing TrafficCar ownership in Beijing has climbed from 564,000 in 1993 to 2,350,000 today. By the year 2010, ownership of private motor vehicles may reach 3,800,000, and possibly 5,000,000 by 2020, reaching a level of 0.8 cars per household. To make matters worse, it seems that newly-motorized Chinese tend to use the car far more than residents of New York or London, and this is a major cause of the terrible traffic in Beijing. A recent proposal to deal with the crisis includes four main points:
"Beijing: four measures to tackle traffic congestion"
Deep GreenOne of Europe's leading greens has said it: we need major policy changes to avoid disaster. We're going to have to change our ways. Michael Camer, MP, said in an address to a transport and urban planning conference in London that we must reorder our priorities and place much more emphasis on biking and public transport. This must also mean lower priority and higher costs for driving.
We need an ecological tax reformI was unable to attend Cramer's presentation at Towards Carfree Cities VI in Budapest this summer, but he said some of these same things there.
"Transport and Urban Planning: Greens in Big Cities"
Tram FreightAmsterdam wants to move half of its goods delivery from trucks to trams. City Cargo Nederland will now conduct a feasibility study. The idea is to use freight trams to carry goods from terminals at the edge of the city to loading docks in the inner city, from which they would be delivered using small electric wagons. It is expected that pollution from fine particulates could be reduced by 20% by this means alone. (Amsterdam is not meeting air quality norms.)
It is expected that the inner city would be safer and more accessible if there were fewer trucks, and wear and tear on the city's rather fragile brick streets would be appreciably reduced. Finally, the plan would yield €125 million through improved efficiency, at the same time that 1200 new jobs would be created (although this may not include the number of truck drivers who would be laid off). The plan might include stringent limitations on the admission of trucks to the city.
"Vrachtvervoer op tram"
Noise and Heart AttacksResearch shows that exposure to chronic noise increases the risk of heart attacks. More than 2,000 heart attack patients were compared to 2,000 controls who had been admitted with other conditions. The correlation between chronic noise and heart attack was studied. Researchers also compared the relative risks from subjective annoyance and objective noise levels.
General environmental noise, such as traffic, increased the risk of heart attack by nearly 50% percent for men and 200% for women. Workplace noise raised heart attack risks for men by nearly a third but did not affect women's risk. The subjective reaction of annoyance to environmental noise correlated only slightly with the incidence of heart attack risk; the increase seems to be associated with actual sound levels.
The current exposure limit of 85 dB is too high, and levels nearer 65 or 75 dB are thought more reasonable (and even this is a lot of noise).
"Noise Exposure Raises Heart Attack Risk"
Passive DrivingThe Guardian's George Monbiot has taken on the cause of health damage from car emissions, which are killing far more people than passive smoking. Britain's recent ban on smoking in pubs is expected to save the lives of some bar staff who die from passive smoking. According to Monbiot, "the moral case is clear: people are being exposed to a risk for which they have not volunteered." The problem of "passive driving" is three orders of magnitude larger than passive smoking in pubs, yet "no one is talking about it."
Every year, some 39,000 deaths in the UK are caused or hastened by air pollution, most from vehicular sources. The greatest risk is to the heart, not to the lungs. While the effect is not understood, a strong correlation between air pollutants and deaths due to cardiovascular causes does exist.
Part of the problem is that catalytic converters are far less effective than usually supposed. In the laboratory, modern converters show an efficiency of 99%, but the real-world value is 72-75%. The EU has not taken a tough stance regarding the fine particulates that are probably the most important cause. Monbiot says,
The government has been arguing that to do something about this would not be "cost effective." But as the National Society for Clean Air points out, if it had acted when it had to, the rules would have cost far less. The idea that laws can be broken when it makes financial sense has interesting implications for the criminal justice system.Well, Tony, what do you have to say for yourself?
"Will they never stand up to the carmakers and save our lungs?"
"Bio-Fuels" Worse Than PetroleumIn another article, George Monbiot confesses:
Like most environmentalists, I have been as blind to the constraints affecting our energy supply as my opponents have been to climate change. I now realise that I have entertained a belief in magic.Biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculates that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter containing 44 x 1018 grams of carbon, more than 400 times the total production of Earth's biosphere. So, we are not simply going to replace fossil fuels with agri-fuels. "There is simply no substitute for cutting back." That notwithstanding, substitutes are being promoted and sought everywhere. Even at the climate conference in Montréal, where people should know better, they were attempting to avoid the tough decisions that any progress on climate will require. Monbiot complains:
And at least one substitute is worse than the fossil-fuel burning it replaces.Monbiot makes it clear that the reuse of deep-frying fat as a fuel is sound, but that it accounts for a tiny amount of energy, considerably less than 1% of the demand for road transport fuel. He then discusses the production of diesel fuel from vegetable oil:
When I wrote about it last year, I thought that the biggest problem caused by bio-diesel was that it set up a competition for land use. Arable land that would otherwise have been used to grow food would instead be used to grow fuel. But now I find that something even worse is happening. The bio-diesel industry has accidentally invented the world's most carbon-intensive fuel.This is oil from palm trees, the cheapest crop source for bio-fuels. Between 1985 and 2000, palm-oil plantations were responsible for 87% of the deforestation in Malaysia. Millions of acres are being cleared, much of it rain forest. The orangutan may become extinct as a result. Thousands of other species are at risk. "Thousands of indigenous people have been evicted from their lands, and some 500 Indonesians have been tortured when they tried to resist." Most of the forest fires in the region are started by palm growers.
Great forests are levelled to plant the palms, releasing huge quantities of CO2 as they are burned. When swamps are converted to plantations, the underlying peat dries and oxidizes, releasing even more CO2 than the felling of forests. "In terms of its impact on both the local and global environments, palm bio-diesel is more destructive than crude oil from Nigeria."
The UK government has decided to go ahead anyway.
It is prepared to sacrifice the south-east Asian rain forests in order to be seen to be doing something, and to allow motorists to feel better about themselves.And now what?
"The most destructive crop on earth is no solution to the energy crisis"
Expensive Oil Jolting the World's PoorFuel prices are jumping around the world, affecting everything from fishing to trucking and urban public transport. Indonesia, a major oil producer, has been hard hit because the government is having difficulty maintaining the subsidized price of fuel. Even though poor people do not have cars, higher oil prices increase their expenses for food and transportation.
"We are all facing a grave situation," Guatemalan Economy Secretary Marcio Cuevas said of the region. "We have to take the appropriate measures. If not, we will have crisis, not just in the short term, but in the long term." Rising oil prices hurt Guatemala because 60% of the nation's electricity is oil-based. Nicaragua generates 85% of its electricity from fuel oil, and President Enrique Bolanos has announced rationing measures.
Luis Gomez, vice president of a large transport cooperative in Guatemala City, ordered a hold on vehicle repairs to reduce costs. The cooperative may hike fares, even though past increases have sparked violent protests. "A country without public transportation is a country that's ungovernable," he said. "Will there be violence? Will people die if fares are increased? Maybe. But without a doubt there will be chaos if things don't change."
"Staggered by fuel prices:
China to Build Eco-CitiesBritish engineers are contracting with Chinese authorities to design and build several eco-cities. The eco-cities are a prototype for urban living in densely-populated and highly-polluted environments. They are expected to become a magnet for foreign investment in China.
The Dongtan development, on an island in the Yangtze River near Shanghai, will build a city nearly as large as Manhattan by 2040. The first phase, home to 50,000 people, is to open for the Shanghai Expo trade fair in 2010.
The agreement signals a new awareness of environmental issues on the part of the Chinese government. China, with its growing population and economy, must start to address pollution and resource consumption. These eco-cities are meant to be self-sufficient in energy, water, and most food. The goal for transport systems is zero emissions of greenhouse gases.
"British to help China build 'eco-cities'"
External CostsLloyd Wright provided the following synopsis of the paper he recently published with Lewis Fulton:
We conducted scenario analyses and found that fuel-based strategies produced emission reduction costs ranging from US$148 per tonne of CO2 (hybrid-electric vehicles) to US$3,570 per tonne of CO2 (fuel-cell vehicles). By contrast, mode switching scenarios produced emission reduction costs ranging from US$14 per tonne of CO2 (mode shift to NMT) to US$66 per tonne of CO2 (mode shift to BRT). The best result in terms of producing large emission reductions at a competitive cost was a package of BRT and NMT measures.(BRT=Bus Rapid Transit; NMT=Non-Motorized Transport)
So, we have approaches that work (and are cheap) and approaches that don't work well and are expensive. (I question whether fuel-cell vehicles actually have any positive impact at all, given the energy-intensity of hydrogen production.)
Faced with this choice, Bush has chosen to subsidize hydrogen (of course).
Personal communication from Lloyd Wright
Climate Chaos?Carfree Times is not really covering climate change now that it's become a mainstream concern, but this snip is worth worrying about:
Abrupt switching mechanisms in the climate system - such as relatively small changes in ocean salinity - are augmented by causal loops that act as amplifiers. Perhaps the most famous example is sea-ice albedo: The vast expanses of white, frozen Arctic Ocean ice reflect heat back into space, thus providing positive feedback for cooling trends; alternatively, shrinking sea-ice increases heat absorption, accelerating both its own further melting and planetary warming.Uh, carfree cities, anyone?
"The Other Hurricane: Has the Age of Chaos Begun?"
Get the Cars OutThe Amsterdam city council has adopted a report from a commission on air quality. The conclusion: cars will have to be tackled if cleaner air is to be achieved. The commission found that health was seriously affected and that only fewer and/or cleaner cars should be allowed into the city. Genuine observance of environmental standards is essential. Vociferous opponents immediately held up the spectre of economic catastrophe.
It appears that the city will reduce traffic and the number of parking spaces in the inner city. Even now, the center is regarded as car-lite, although you might not know it to see it. (It is much better than in US cities, however.) Residents will be required to park in garages near the ring highway, which is likely to discourage car use and encourage rail travel. There will be even less free parking. If the measures are not adopted, Amsterdam is unlikely to meet air quality standards that come into force in 2010.
Big Boxes for HollandThe Dutch have long resisted large shopping centers on the edges of cities. No longer, it seems. Center-city shopping is now disparaged as "old fashioned," and it's time to adopt the American big-box model. The claim is made that if the inner cities are no longer shopping areas, there would be more room for housing and "beautiful parks." The conclusions came in a report entitled "Shopping in Megaland." Further conclusion: "Consumers want to shop where they can easily park." Gone are the days when the Netherlands was governed by thoughtful public policy and the common good. What has destroyed the USA is now good enough for Holland.
"Winkelen in stad uit de tijd"
Carfree Heart for Amsterdam?The Dutch labor party has proposed to close the heart of Amsterdam to cars. This drew immediate shocked reactions. It was claimed that the center would somehow become difficult to reach, this in a city with good public transport and better bike infrastructure (that would be greatly improved by moving cars out of the narrow streets). Implementation of the plan will have to wait for completion of the new metro line. It seems that the proposal is not really carfree, but "cars for residents only," the plan now being implemented in Antwerp and inner Paris. The labor party is apparently sure enough of itself to make this proposal a part of its election program. A real fight is brewing.
"Verbijstering over autovrij gebied"
Henry L. Lennard, 1923-2005
Social Psychologist, Urban PlannerHenry L. Lennard was a pioneer in the field of family psychotherapy and an early critic of treating mental illness with mood-altering drugs.
At UC San Francisco he founded and directed the Family Study Station, which studied family interaction and developed theories of family dynamics. He criticized the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry for excessive promotion of psychotropic drugs as a treatment for depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illness. He showed that the drug Thorazine, widely used to treat schizophrenia and other psychoses in the 1950s and 60s, caused incurable Tardive dyskinesia (resembling Parkinson's disease) after long-term use. He warned that the widespread use of these drugs did nothing to address the underlying causes of misery and, ultimately, made these problems worse. History has certainly justified his concerns.
In his later years, his work on cities came to the fore, and he was instrumental in the founding of International Making Cities Livable. He focused on ways to alter the built environment to foster better human interaction. "His interest was always in the quality of the human interaction in cities," Suzanne Crowhurst Lennard, his second wife said. "Most recently, he was very concerned about children and how growing up in North American suburbs doesn't allow for the social and intellectual development of children the way it does in the best European cities."
He fled his native Austria for New York 1939 following the Nazi invasion. He was a scholar from a young age and published his first academic article at age 19, while still a student. He earned several advanced degrees and eventually published some 14 books.
He died of heart failure during the 20th anniversary of the IMCL conferences in Venice. He wife has vowed to continue the series that they started together, a fitting tribute to a remarkable and productive life.
Editorial: IrritationIt has now been nearly ten years since I began full-time work on carfree cities, a step I took following ten years in which I had worked on the idea from time to time. The first pages on carfree cities appeared on my web site in early 1996.
During the ten years in which I devoted my life to this idea, everything has gone from very bad to much worse. It is becoming apparent that sustainable energy is going to be scarcer and more expensive than we had thought. Climate change may already have passed a threshold, with who-knows-what to come. Millions of people are still dying every year in car collisions, and millions more from the pollutants that cars emit.
It sometimes seems to me that every solution but carfree cities will be tried until everyone finally admits that the carfree city is the only approach that stands even a chance of getting us out of the hole we've dug. So why is this idea so rarely on the table when solutions are considered? Why are we determined to make every possible mistake before considering an approach that not only saves the physical environment but offers a chance to save ourselves as well? Are we really so dumb? I hope not, but I'm getting irritated. And worried.
TransUrban is to be the only English-language magazine focusing on all forms of urban public transport heavy rail, metro, tramways, trolley buses, and buses. The philosophy is to be the same as Railvolution, an important European rail transport and technology magazine. The same high production values are to be maintained in the new magazine. As with Railvolution, about 90% of the contents will focus on Europe, which reflects the geographical area of circulation.
The first regular issue of TransUrban will appear in September at the start of InnoTrans 2006 in Berlin. (An interesting pilot issue has already been released.) From early 2007 TransUrban will be published every two months.
Hot New LinksThe links below will open in a new browser window:
"Twentieth Century Architecture as a Cult" by Nikos A. Salingaros
"Launching a New Tradition of Great Public Squares" in Making Places (PPS)
SMRrTRAM local circulator
"Carparks & Pedestrian Mobility - an Integrated Vision" [PDF!]
"Most Livable and Best Connected?" [PDF!]
About Carfree Times
Next IssueThe next issue of Carfree Times is scheduled for April 2006.
Subscribe to Carfree Times
Carfree Times is published quarterly at Carfree.com. To receive e-mail notices of new issues, please visit the subscription page or send e-mail with the word "Subscribe" in the subject line. We do not share our mailing list.
Write for Carfree TimesInterested in writing for Carfree Times? We welcome articles on a wide variety of subjects, and offer an opportunity to publish letters to the editor and guest editorials. Drop us an e-mail.
Back to Carfree.com
Carfree Times Home
Back to Carfree Times Issue 40
Forward to Carfree Times Issue 42
About the book: Carfree Cities
Copyright ©2006 J.Crawford