Today's Washington Post and International Herald Tribune have got the
Joel Crawford's fine book, Car-Free Cities" has just received a first rate
review and commentary in both, nicely written by our good friend and
successful activist for the environment Neal Peirce (thanks once again
Neal). You can check it out today at http://www.iht.com/articles/10523.html
For those who can't get into it, you have here the purloined text (thanks
All of which should encourage you all to keep thinking about what you are
going to do before, during and after Earth Car Free Day on April 19th...
barely two months away. Check out the latest version of the site at
www.carfreeday.com and join the earth. It's a great place and needs you.
With all good wishes,
ecopl@n___ technology, economy, society ___
Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara, 75006 Paris, France
Day phone: +331 4326 1323 Mobile: +336 80 96 78 79
= = = = = =
Are Car-Free Cities a Non-starter Or a 21st Century Possibility?
Neal Peirce Washington Post Writers Group Wednesday, February 14, 2001
WASHINGTON Could Americans ever have "Car-Free Cities" - the title of a
recent book by J.H. Crawford?
For most Americans, the thought alone is pure heresy. Without a car, how
would they get anywhere, from jobs to school to shopping to entertainment?
They truly believe: Cars are us.
If they waver, there is advertising to hamper deviation. Each year the
automotive industry spends $14 billion on persuasion, conveying images of
shiny vehicles floating through grassy pastures or over mountains, with nary
a traffic jam in sight.
But cities, clogged with vehicles and polluted by their exhaust, might ask
about a car-free or at least a less car-dominated future. Just look down
from a high building and you will see that somewhere between 50 percent and
70 percent of U.S. downtown space is routinely given over to traffic lanes,
parking lanes and lots and garages, gas stations, drive-through banks and
fast food franchises, even car dealerships.
Just imagine, Mr. Crawford suggests, the possibilities for people and
enhanced civic places that could be created if an American city excluded
cars. The pavement markings, the auto-related signs and traffic signals, the
parking meters, the curbs, the vehicles - they would all disappear.
Mr. Crawford is realistic enough to know that Americans need to do a lot to
even reduce vehicle counts in cities. That means radically expanded public
transit, a big push for biking, even specialized ways to get freight into
and around town with less need for diesel-spewing trucks.
Mr. Crawford has written a book the way smart folks should these days - with
a pictorially rich, constantly updated Web site to back it up -
www.carfree.com. Along with Jane Holtz Kay's "Asphalt Nation" and James
Kunstler's "The Geography of Nowhere" and "Home from Nowhere," the Crawford
book enriches the argument for radically different 21st century approaches.
The fact is: Many of America's cities and a high proportion of its suburbs
are among the world's most pedestrian-hostile environments.
One does not need to advocate a car free society, my colleague Curtis
Johnson argues, to want to escape the bondage of zero choices. Example:
Looking out a suburban office window, seeing a short distance to where you
want to meet someone for lunch, "and knowing there is absolutely no safe way
to get there except in your car."
Mr. Crawford says segregate cars to garages at the edge of cities. Mr.
Johnson would let them into town but hold them at bay. He sites the example
of the Lincoln Road Mall, the alluring car-free street in Miami Beach.
People have to park their cars in Lincoln Road perimeter garages and walk.
The road itself is one of America's prime people-watching spots, offering
the zenith of Florida chic, a melange of the sexy young and affluent elderly
mixing with regular folks and coiffured dogs, all a relaxed setting of sleek
shops, restaurants and theaters in Art Deco style.
Technologically, adds Mr. Johnson, cars will get better - quieter, cleaner,
sleeker, more flexible. "That's good. But we need to reverse the
slave-master relationship." Europeans, he notes, love cars, too - they buy
expensive ones, spend what for Americans would be outrageously high sums on
gas. "But they use autos for specialized purposes. They support a government
that balances road and transit investments. They love their cars, but they
are not slaves to them."
There is a fiscal side, too - Americans are spending a constantly increasing
share of their personal incomes on the purchasing, fueling and maintenance
of personal cars and trucks.
The average family's transportation outlay rose 8 percent a year in the
1990s to reach $6,200 in 1998, according to a recent report - "Driven to
$pend," from the Surface Transportation Policy Project and the Center for
Vehicles gobble up $7,000 to $9,000, as much as 22 percent of an average
family's income yearly in such sprawling, auto oriented regions as Houston,
Atlanta or Miami. Families in more compact regions, among them Boston,
Chicago or New York, pay significantly less.
All this is most serious for the poorest fifth of U.S. families. Thirty-six
percent of their average income goes for cars and trucks. Result: diminished
chances to save up for a home to achieve middle-class security. Cars
diminish wealth, homes add. While homes gained 3.2 percent a year in value
in the 1990s, cars depreciated at 8 percent a year.
As a starter, such cities as Amsterdam and Bogota are trying car-free days -
their efforts met by strong public acclaim. No matter how you figure, it is
time for Americans to stop throwing a blizzard of dollars at their auto