Carfree in the news today
- Three news articles today in the mainstream press:
Making strides for HRM
Danish urban-planning expert touts benefits of car-free streets
<http://thechronicleherald.ca/Metro/http://oascentral.thechronicleherald.ca/RealMedia/ads/click_lx.ads/thechronicleherald.ca/Metro/front.html/568509875/Middle/HalfaxHer/000_Herald_House_instory/Herald_House_fishing_300x250.html/34386531383238383436333963346530>By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE Staff Reporter
Cities like ours can become more car-free and pedestrian-friendly with careful planning and political will, a public meeting in Halifax heard Wednesday.
And city hall officials could look to Copenhagen as an example of an urban port that has evolved from a car-clogged municipality into an attractive people place.
Danish consultant Lars Gemzoe said "a change of urban culture" in Copenhagen resulted in more and more sites being reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. He said his nations capital, home to about 500,000 in its central district alone, opened its first car-free road in 1962.
Mr. Gemzoe said other streets have since been made off-limits to vehicles, and the result is a sociable downtown thats a welcoming world for walkers.
He said walking "is a simple, cheap and low-noise activity" that doesnt pollute the atmosphere and helps improve pedestrians fitness levels. From an urban design point of view, Mr. Gemzoe said, pedestrian-only streets downtown can provide a portal to improved human relationships.
"We get to know each other better in society" when people are out of our cars and actually meeting each other, said the visiting expert, a lecturer of urban design at an architecture school in Copenhagen. Mr. Gemzoe was speaking to about 45 people who attended his talk at a school in Clayton Park.
Walking is North Americas most popular physical activity. But some cities are much more pedestrian-friendly than others; our municipalitys urban/suburban/rural melange can make improvements challenging for municipal planners.
According to an HRM website, 41 per cent of residents who live in the urban core and work in the capital district walk to work. The capital district includes downtown Halifax, downtown Dartmouth, Gottingen Street, Spring Garden Road and the Quinpool Road area.
Encouraging active living in metro and less reliance on automobiles are elements of the municipalitys 25-year growth plan. Critics say that aside from making the city more walkable, HRM lags behind other Canadian centres in providing proper routes for cyclists and others on wheels.
Mr. Gemzoe said cycling in Copenhagen has doubled since the 1970s.
(Walking) is a simple, cheap and low-noise activity.
Car-Free Zones On Rise In U.S.
More Cities Banning Cars From Parks, Making Pedestrians And Bicyclists Kings Of The Road
SAN FRANCISCO, May 2, 2007 (originally from yesterday's Christian Science Monitor)
Every other Sunday, streets in Quito, Ecuador, are closed to automobile traffic so people can ride safely. More and more U.S. cities are adopting this practice. (CSM)
"Cities across America are increasingly declaring that parks are for people, not cars, ... and closing roads within parks is one result of that."
Every Saturday, starting May 26 through Sept. 30, bicyclists, joggers, and pedestrians will have free rein on almost a mile of John F. Kennedy Drive, the main drag through Golden Gate Park. The usual denizens of the road autos will be banned, detoured elsewhere.
Vehicles are already prohibited in parts of the park on Sundays, and the decision to "go carless" on Saturdays as well concludes a heated seven-year debate. In the end, arguments that such road closures promote family activities, more active lifestyles, and tighter-knit communities carried the day.
The auto's demotion at Golden Gate Park follows dozens of similar moves in at least 20 American cities in the past three years. It's a trend that is gaining ground rapidly in the US, say urban planners.
New York is proposing to shut down perimeter roads of Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park all summer long.
Atlanta plans to transform 53 acres of blighted, unused land into new bike-friendly green space.
Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, and El Paso, Texas, are planning events to promote car-free days in public parks, most in the hope that the idea will become permanent or extend for months.
"Cities across America are increasingly declaring that parks are for people, not cars, ... and closing roads within parks is one result of that," says Ben Welle with The Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence in Washington.
Resistance can be fierce at first, he and others say, because of worries about traffic congestion, parking problems, and loss of visitors for businesses and museums. But studies are showing that traffic problems can be minimized, shops and museums get more visitors, and residents begin to cherish their where-the-action-is location.
Not everyone is convinced, saying the jury is still out on how no-car zones affect neighborhood vitality. In San Francisco, for instance, the de Young Museum has said its delivery schedule must be adjusted because of the new road closure, and it is concerned that patrons with physical disabilities may not be able to get to the museum as readily.
The model city for road closure is Bogotá, Colombia, which in 1983 embarked on a program called ciclovia (bike path), in which designated streets were closed to cars every Sunday but open for jogging, biking, dancing, playing ball, walking pets, strolling with babies anything but driving. One-and-a-half million people now turn out each week for ciclovia. Other cities in Latin America followed suit, closing parts of parks or whole urban districts to cars some intermittently, some permanently. A result: revitalized neighborhoods and an influx of people.
Smaller U.S. cities, from Davenport, Iowa, to Huntington Beach, Calif., are also starting to create car-free zones, according to Mr. Welle's studies. Beginning this month, El Paso will detour cars from seven roads every Sunday from 7 to 11 a.m. so that cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians can use them instead.
"City leaders were faced with a challenge: to get a poor city of overweight, sedentary people moving when there weren't any parks or [bicycle] lanes," says Robin Stallings of the Texas Bicycle Coalition. A national magazine declared the city one of the four fattest in the U.S., he says, "and that really got everyone's attention."
Two years of planning and $100,000 in donations made the program possible.
El Paso is the first ciclovia city in Texas and it needs it more than most, says Beto O'Rourke, the city councilman who championed the idea. It has just 25 percent of the park space of the average U.S. city, a smaller tax base, and few spaces for pedestrians or bicyclists, he says. "This solves a lot of problems at once."
The trend reflects cities' response to residents who, after streaming back to city centers, want more pedestrian amenities.
"The great thing about ciclovia is that cities can do it very inexpensively. All the infrastructure is already there; there is no added capital cost," says Gil Penalosa, former parks and recreation director for Bogotá who helped expand its network of closed roads from 8 miles in 1997 to 70 miles today.
In some ciclovia cities, such as Guadalahara, Mexico, fears that autoless streets would cause economic hardship have dissolved. Some merchants actually had to return to their stores on Sundays because the thousands of visitors wanted everything from food and drink to curios.
"The economic boost to Guadalahara has been tremendous," says Rob Sadowsky, a Chicago bike activist who recently visited the city for a ciclovia symposium. Mr. Sadowsky is organizing an August event in the Windy City that, if successful, would extend next year from May to October.
In the U.S., say observers, the clamoring for car-free park space is intensifying because of two other trends: global warming and obesity rates.
"Climate change and the obesity crisis have [rejuvenated] the movement for car-free space," says Paul White of Transportation Alternatives, which works to reclaim roads from autos. As of last year, he notes, more of Earth's inhabitants live in cities than in rural areas. "Now we have to figure out what urban habitat will sustain ourselves ... it's all about reducing car use."
© 2007 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.
and only peripherally:
You can change the channel, but not much changes
By John M. Crisp
May 02, 2007
Last week was National TV-Turnoff Week, an event promoted by TV-Free America every year since April 1995, when 1 million people decided to abandon TV-watching for a full week. The goal of TV-Free America is the elimination or drastic curtailment of the use of TV and other electronic devices in order to encourage reconnection with the virtues of pre-TV life.
It's hard to imagine a more quixotic quest than asking us to give up television for any length of time. The only one I can think of that comes close is the mission of World Carfree Network, the anti-car crusaders. Not only are cars and TVs our culture's most prominent inventions, but in many ways they invented our culture. It's hard to imagine it without them.
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J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities