car free days redux ("In truth a name without a number is merely a fetish")
Dear Intransigent Friends of Sustainable Development And Social Justice ,
There are a number of “car free days” brewing in cities around the world in the month ahead, and I would like to draw your attention to a good ‘front door’ on all activity this which you will find in our sister site http://WorldCarFreeDay.com at http://WorldCarFreeDay.com.
The truth is that while a growing number of cities are ‘playing’ with this concept (I think the word is just about right), the fact is that in most of them these are truly non-events. And if the sponsors will all generally report them as “success stories’ (dreadful little expression) if you talk to the media or many of the people on the street in most of those places, you will find rather different views. There are of course a certain number of people who think (b) they’re a great idea, and that’s of course wonderful. There are even, but here the number is far smaller, (b) those who have a deeper understanding of what it is all about, and are ready to see how they can help in edging their city and the various groups involved toward longer term and more permanent remedial actions to start to get things moving in the right direction (call it the “New Mobility Agenda” for wont of a better phrase). But when you talk to the people in that place far more common reactions include: (c) I never knew it was taking place, or (d) It may have but so what? or (e) Yeah and it was a real pain and finally (f) This kind of unprofessional wildness is undermining the economy and the transportation system of our city.
That’s the harsh reality of the Car/Free Day movement in 2004, but all is not lost. As you will see if you travel over to World Car/Free Days there is in fact a learning process going on in at least some places, and I think it is good for us to have a mature vision of what this is and what we may be able to do with it as part of the massive remedial and rethinking process that needs to be engaged (a process which, incidentally, way outstrips the thinking or intentions of most of the more official sponsors to such events). And indeed, all is not lost because – and let’s not forget this, administrations may be pretty dumb but there are a lot of smart and responsible people out there in city after city – some of this learning is talking hold here and there, and in these places you can see a very interesting evolution of the thinking and the projects and their follow-up.
So, if I may invite you all to have a look and if it suits you to share with us your thoughts and perspective on this. Real learning cannot as we continue to see in situation after situation take place if the only sources of reaction and views are those from people working inside the box in question. Which is definitely not your case. So it will be very very useful to hear from you on this.
And should you know of a Car/Free Day or two, you will see there is even a handy gizmo for reporting to the group about it. That too will be useful.
Finally, I would draw your attention again to what is going on later this month in Toronto with their New Mobility Week and action program for the year ahead. You will find the latest on that if you click into the Toronto Link on the New Mobility Agenda at http://newmobility.org.
Thanks if your time and taste permits you to have a look at this,
PS. In closing let me share with you a phrase otherwise hidden in a note I received in the last days from (Dr.) Rana Roy whom many of you know. Rana wrote: “In truth a name without a number is merely a fetish”. And I can think of few ways to better describe what we should be doing now to advance the sustainability agenda in cities. Short term programs with real visible measurable targets put our there in the public view for all to see and work toward. No more mumbling. No more hiding. No more ‘success stories’. Only success or failure. Which is the only way we can progress.