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The hard activist yards vs. the fantasy and vision

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  • Sam Hodgkinson
    It seems to me whilst we can be dreaming of the brighter scheme of things (perhaps it s an American trait?)we re forgetting that cities like Canberra in
    Message 1 of 13 , Apr 30 5:46 AM
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      It seems to me whilst we can be dreaming of the brighter scheme of
      things (perhaps it's an American trait?)we're forgetting that cities
      like Canberra in Australia have had the potential to be relatively
      car free all along. It has the highest bicycle use of any state
      capital in Australia, has a high provision of green space, yet seems
      in some part to have defied the intended outcomes of such planned
      cities.

      The age old phenomenon of people congregating in pretty limited areas
      such as town centres happens in Canberra as well. The interstitial
      green spaces are deserted and people don't walk their dogs or play
      frisbee in these palatial parklands (probably because they're
      surrounded by roads and rather nondescript housing). The bus system
      in Canberra is excellent possibly as there is no other public
      transport option. It is quite frankly the best bus system I've ever
      been on (and yes, I've been to other cities in the world and
      experienced really crap buses). Canberra's buses run on LPG, btw. The
      road system in Canberra works well, for the time being and for the
      pretty low volumes of traffic it carries. Canberra could greatly
      benefit from a tram network connecting its main town centres.

      On another bent, why are we suggesting public transport be free all
      of a sudden, or all at once? I may be playing devil's advocate here,
      but why isn't there a big push first for a huge increase in petrol
      prices for private vehicles (single occupant for starters) and then a
      phase-in of LPG or Natural Gas fuel technologies with a view to a
      final conversion to other, more sustainable energies. I believe Tom
      Hartmann has a point when he recommends we use petrol to power
      existing technologies which produce the hardware of sustainable
      energy collection.

      Then we can work on making public transport free. For now a reduction
      in fares would be a welcome relief, especially for the residents of
      Sydney who (and I mentioned this, but no one seemed shocked by it?)
      have had to absorb in the last 18 months to 1 July this year a near
      25% increase in public transport fares!!! This not only sucks, but
      it's disadvantaging those on the dole, old age pensioners and the
      socio-economically disadvantaged.

      As urban planning/design and transport activists we shouldn't lose
      sight of the fact that first we need to make things affordable and
      accessible to the general public. Some gentrified interpretation of
      what is quality public space and transport provision isn't going to
      propel this push for a car-free environment indefinitely. It has to
      be triggered and spurred-on by academics and activists, but it must
      be _wanted_ by all the ressies and the general public who will
      ultimately inherit these schemes. They need to feel consulted and
      therefore included and have an according sense of ownership in
      this "new urbanism". Inevitably, in the minds of many, a scheme is a
      scheme, or a theory is a theory and there comes the chorus of "we've
      had you lot before". In this country (Australia, if you've already
      forgotten) there's still a healthy scepticism of grand plans dictated
      from on high. This is manifest in a basic distrust of authority. This
      causes the community to bind together and demand what it wants and
      needs and not accept what is being provided (or not as may be the
      case). It was the "visionary" planners and academics of the 50's and
      60's in Sydney who sought to destroy a selection of rather valuable
      heritage precincts and buildings to be replaced with concrete slab
      piazzas topped with Le corbusier-esque tower blocks!
      They never went ahead because of resident and public opposition.
      Sydney is the home of the construction work "green ban".

      It is a matter of degrees - we must start gently and work up to a
      really big bang,e.g. to the point where millions are spent on
      bulldozing motorways or wholesale adapting them to new uses such as
      housing, light rail, cycleways and town squares. That's my pipe
      dream, and I know it's in the wings, but still decades off.

      To conlcude, I feel we here are definitely not lacking in vision -
      that's great. But what about small steps to victory? It fits better
      with me. Right now I'd like to get a section of guttering (kurbing)
      lowered near a pedestrian access ramp of a local supermarket and a
      bike rack put in near the shop entrance so I can ride to and lock up
      my bike at the supermarket on my way home from work. It would be VERY
      convenient for me and several others to start. It's these small
      improvements to amenity and access in our cities and towns that
      encourages a move away from personal motor transport to cycling. A
      small, but significant step.

      Where do I buy the "Car Free Cities" text in Sydney? Is it available
      in a normal bookshop or do I have to have a credit card and order it
      online? (just joking...I hope!)
      Cheers all,

      Sam.
    • J.H. Crawford
      ... Best thing that could happen would be the announcement that fuel prices for cars and trucks would be increased by, say, 5 cents a gallon every month for 25
      Message 2 of 13 , May 1, 2000
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        Sam Hodgkinson said:

        >On another bent, why are we suggesting public transport be free all
        >of a sudden, or all at once? I may be playing devil's advocate here,
        >but why isn't there a big push first for a huge increase in petrol
        >prices for private vehicles (single occupant for starters)......snip

        Best thing that could happen would be the announcement that fuel
        prices for cars and trucks would be increased by, say, 5 cents a gallon
        every month for 25 years. That lets people start to make intelligent
        location decisions and to search for fuel-efficient alternatives.
        It would also provide major funding for public transport, first in
        R&D and system design, and then later, as the real money starts to
        flow from higher gas taxes, actual construction.

        >It is a matter of degrees - we must start gently and work up to a
        >really big bang,e.g. to the point where millions are spent on
        >bulldozing motorways or wholesale adapting them to new uses such as
        >housing, light rail, cycleways and town squares. That's my pipe
        >dream, and I know it's in the wings, but still decades off.

        It's not a dream--they've already spent millions tearing down
        freeways in the USA--first in San Francisco (Embarcadero Freeway),
        Portland (the freeway along the river), and now probably in Milwaukee.

        >Where do I buy the "Car Free Cities" text in Sydney? Is it available
        >in a normal bookshop or do I have to have a credit card and order it
        >online? (just joking...I hope!)

        Ordering information is available at:

        http://www.carfree.com/bok/order_info.html

        Stock will not be available in Australia until some time in July
        or August; if you need the book fast, you can order it directly
        from the publisher by airmail (costs US$13 extra).

        Stock is now available in the USA. Best way to order until we
        get the mess cleaned up is from Amazon.com (sorry, but most other
        booksellers still have the wrong information for the book).


        ###

        J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_
        postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
      • Ronald Dawson
        ... One thing that helped get the ball rolling in San Francisco was that earthquake back in 1989. Dawson
        Message 3 of 13 , May 1, 2000
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          J H Crawford wrote:
          >It's not a dream--they've already spent millions tearing down
          >freeways in the USA--first in San Francisco (Embarcadero Freeway),
          >Portland (the freeway along the river), and now probably in Milwaukee.

          One thing that helped get the ball rolling in San Francisco was that
          earthquake back in 1989. Dawson
        • eyrehead
          MI think San Francisco needs to be held up as an example to all those ... I am glad you posted the list of San Francisco s achievement in preventing and
          Message 4 of 13 , May 2, 2000
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            MI think San Francisco needs to be held up as an example to all those

            > who think changing our existing cities is a pipe dream, and that the
            > only way forward is to ruin virgin land with experimental car-free
            > cities that may or may not work.
            >

            I am glad you posted the list of San Francisco's achievement in preventing and
            undoing mistakes. It is terribly tempting plan from scratch rather than work many
            solutions to the problem. But we must work with what is.

            So, throw this to everyone who has the tiniest hint of a solution -- what would
            you do to de auto Los Angeles?

            I am convinced that small solutions, small accomplishments will raise hope and
            confidence that the problem can be solved.
            Every solution, every effort is worth hearing about.

            For the American Midwest, I think some town councils could be pushed to require as
            part of road improvement that a very wide sidewalk, wide as car lane, suitable for
            both pedestrians and bicycles, be part of the package. If a township widens a
            mile of road, then that mile should have a parallel bike/sidewalk lane built at the
            same time. It would not be as expensive as building road because it would not
            need the weight bearing foundation.

            The point of making safe pedestrian and bike ways is that it would provide an
            alternative that is not present in a lot of sprawl subdivisions. There is no
            certain connection between points except by auto!

            Martha
          • Todd J. Binkley
            Martha wrote: -- what do you do to de-automobilize Los Angeles? I believe the biggest obstacle is the average citizen s complete lack of experience in what
            Message 5 of 13 , May 3, 2000
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              Martha wrote:

              -- what do you do to de-automobilize Los Angeles?

              I believe the biggest obstacle is the average citizen's complete lack of
              experience in what life is like in more densely built-up urban areas.
              People don't have to grow up in real cities to appreciate them, but I
              think it takes at least some first-hand experience visiting them to
              truly understand the high quality of life available in a walkable city.
              The nimby's and the density-phobes are probably never going to let
              anyone build a carfree city in an existing American suburb. At least as
              long as cheap gas remains available. But right now there are many
              places where a single complete carfree test district could be built-up.
              With careful planning and wide participation by all interested parties,
              a carfree district like the one proposed by Crawford could quickly
              become a genuine model of a real, walkable, villiage-like community,
              with sufficient wholeness, completeness and urban amenity to inspire
              suburbanites for miles around.
              There's a large abandoned industrial brownfield site on the edge of
              Ventura that comes to mind. Several architects, planners and city
              officials who sit on the redevelopment agency in charge of figuring out
              what to do with this site will be sitting in an assembly room this
              Friday night, listening to J.H. Crawford speak. Send good vibes.

              T.J.
            • Todd J. Binkley
              Mike Lacey wrote: Yes but most communities then were not planned on mass they grew up in a more organic fashion, and believe are more beautiful places as a
              Message 6 of 13 , May 3, 2000
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                Mike Lacey wrote:

                Yes but most communities then were not planned on mass they grew up in a
                more organic fashion, and believe are more beautiful places as a result.

                It is true that the wonderful organic beauty of great Old-World cities
                cannot be replicated on mass. It requires time, patience, sensitive
                design skills and craftsmanship. It can, however, be planned for (see
                'A Pattern Language', and 'A New Theory of Urban Design', by Christopher
                Alexander) .
                Nobody wants to live in a so-called "planned community". The phrase
                reeks of sterility; of one persuasive idiot's "vision" imposed upon the
                hapless masses. Central Paris would not be the superlative thing of
                beauty it remains today though, if not for the extensive, brilliant
                plans that have been executed and refined there over the years. Many
                small, semi-rural areas of the American midwest have grown up
                "organically", entirely free of the burdens of planning. These 'towns'
                are remarkeable only for their fragmented, disorganized, ugliness.
                The problem with all the planning that's gone on recently is that all
                the planners were/are either Modernists or artless, single-minded
                traffic planners with no clue about how to design human spaces. The
                planners of previous centuries designed spaces and places with only
                human needs in mind, which is why they remain lively, and feel organic.

                Seaside is disappointing, for a number of reasons, especially the fact
                that to most people it represents the sum of everything that New
                Urbanism has to offer. I'm with you in making the densification of
                existing urban areas the priority and opposing the destruction of virgin
                land. But if Seaside didn't exist, that once pristine coastline would
                still be gone. And in its place would probably be something far worse
                than Seaside.

                T.J.
              • Mike Lacey
                Good points Todd. The key, I believe, is to allow for organic and diverse (multi- developer) growth within a strict set of pro-smart-city regulations such as
                Message 7 of 13 , May 3, 2000
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                  Good points Todd.
                  The key, I believe, is to allow for organic and diverse (multi-
                  developer) growth within a strict set of pro-smart-city regulations
                  such as green belts, parking restrictions, transit quotas and minimum
                  sidewalk widths.
                  I once read that 70-80% of new developments lack sidewalks - simply
                  requiring the developer to provide sidewalks would be major step.

                  --- In carfree_cities@egroups.com, "Todd J. Binkley" <tjbink@b...>
                  wrote:
                  > It is true that the wonderful organic beauty of great Old-World
                  cities
                  > cannot be replicated on mass. It requires time, patience, sensitive
                  > design skills and craftsmanship. It can, however, be planned for
                  (see
                  > 'A Pattern Language', and 'A New Theory of Urban Design', by
                  Christopher
                  > Alexander) .
                  > Nobody wants to live in a so-called "planned community". The phrase
                  > reeks of sterility; of one persuasive idiot's "vision" imposed upon
                  the
                  > hapless masses. Central Paris would not be the superlative thing of
                  > beauty it remains today though, if not for the extensive, brilliant
                  > plans that have been executed and refined there over the years.
                  Many
                  > small, semi-rural areas of the American midwest have grown up
                  > "organically", entirely free of the burdens of planning.
                  These 'towns'
                  > are remarkeable only for their fragmented, disorganized, ugliness.
                  > The problem with all the planning that's gone on recently is that
                  all
                  > the planners were/are either Modernists or artless, single-minded
                  > traffic planners with no clue about how to design human spaces. The
                  > planners of previous centuries designed spaces and places with only
                  > human needs in mind, which is why they remain lively, and feel
                  organic.
                  >
                  > Seaside is disappointing, for a number of reasons, especially the
                  fact
                  > that to most people it represents the sum of everything that New
                  > Urbanism has to offer. I'm with you in making the densification of
                  > existing urban areas the priority and opposing the destruction of
                  virgin
                  > land. But if Seaside didn't exist, that once pristine coastline
                  would
                  > still be gone. And in its place would probably be something far
                  worse
                  > than Seaside.
                  >
                  > T.J.
                • Timothy.Cooper@cec.eu.int
                  I greatly admire Joel Crawford s reference design for a car-free city, but it is only a reference design, not the ideal solution for all cities. Joel is
                  Message 8 of 13 , May 4, 2000
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                    I greatly admire Joel Crawford's reference design for a car-free city, but it is only a reference design, not the ideal solution for all cities. Joel is against tree-lined streets, preferring green backyards and a clear distinction between the built city environment and the countryside. He has a point, but many people, like me, love tree-lined avenues and lots of vegetation in the city. There's room for both in different districts of the same city.

                    Living in Brussels (Belgium, Europe), I appreciate the diversity of architecture here. Traditionally, Belgian developers carve up a plot of land into building plots (a process which is subject to planning permission), but instead of building uniform housing on the whole development, they sell each plot individually. The buyer is either free to engage his own architect and builder and build whatever he likes - within the limits of the outline building permit, which limits the part of the plot which can be built on, the height of the roof, etc., and subject to detailed planning permission - or the developer sells a finished house, but the buyer chooses everything, so every house is different. Uniform housing estates also exist in Belgium, but are the exception rather than the rule.

                    However much I love this diversity, I also appreciate the clean lines of classic boulevards in Paris, and the beauty of the English Cotswolds, where every building is in local Cotswold stone, and any other building material would destroy the charm. Again, there is room in our cities for uniformity and diversity.

                    While I would argue for planners to leave as much freedom as possible to individuals to design their own houses, I also think there is room for much more stringent rules to ensure environment-friendly development. Instead of draining the rainwater from our roofs into the sewers, contributing to localised flooding during heavy storms, then pumping our rivers dry to extract drinking water, which we use for a multitude of purposes besides drinking, why not require every house to have a plumbing system collecting rain water from the roof, storing it in an underground tank connected to the taps (faucets) used for watering the garden and washing the car, to toilets and washing machines, with a separate plumbing system supplying mains drinking water to the kitchen and bathroom for drinking, cooking and washing?

                    Our roofs also provide an ideal site for solar collectors. It is already economic, even in temperate rather than tropical climes, to use solar power to produce hot water - the initially greater cost of the installation is recouped during its lifetime - and it would be cheaper still if it were compulsory, producing huge economies of scale as this marginal technology became mainstream. In sunnier climes, solar panels on each rooftop could generate most of the electricity each household needs, reducing the need for dangerous nuclear power, highly polluting thermal power stations burning fossil fuels, and ugly power transmission cables. These solutions are economic for the individual in the long-term, although initially more expensive, and would do wonders for the environment.

                    All housing should also comprise an easily accessible space for storing bicycles. Here in Europe, many people own a car and a bike, but still use their car for short local journeys, which would be ideal for a bike, because the only place in their house or apartment where they can store their bike without it getting in the way is the cellar, and it is difficult to get the bike in and out, whereas the car can be parked on the street in front of the house (when I first moved to Brussels, I kept my bike in the lounge; when my wife joined me she insisted I move it to the cellar). Many car journeys could be avoided by designing housing with convenient and secure bike parking. Other people would like to ride a bike, but their accommodation has nowhere suitable for storing it. Vast spaces are occupied by parked cars, but the authorities will not allow a secure bicycle shed to be built on the public highway, allowing several families to store bikes in the space which would otherwise be!
                    taken up by a single car.

                    Much of the beautiful architecture in Brussels has been destroyed by the grand designs of transport planners. Much of central Brussels was torn down to allow the construction of the rail link between the North and South stations. Despite this devastation, the overground North and South stations are still the main stations, rather than the underground Central station. Tourists and locals alike are unable to walk comfortably from one beautiful spot to another, because they are separated by the wide roads and tunnels of the inner ring road. Long road tunnels link the motorways to the city centre, bringing in huge numbers of cars which simply won't fit into the city centre, provoking horrid congestion and pollution. And vast swathes of the inner suburbs were razed to the ground to build the metro ("cut and cover" is much cheaper than tunnelling). The once extensive tram network has been progressively dismantled, as the busiest sections have been replaced by the metro, and most oth!
                    er sections have been removed because they were perceived to get in the way of cars, and replaced by buses. Only recently have the city planners started to build reserved sites for trams and buses so that public transport can move faster than the congested car traffic, thus providing an incentive to use public transport, which in turn reduces the number of cars on the road and makes the remaining cars move faster.

                    Many of us are convinced that Brussels would have been better off without a metro system, but with trams running everywhere on reserved sites and with systematic priority over cars at intersections. The metro was designed to get public transport out of the way of cars - and because of the prestige which a metro lends to a small city like Brussels, pretending to be a big city like Paris or London - rather than to offer efficient mass transit. There are now plans to build an RER (like in Paris) - a mass transit system linking Brussels to the dormitory suburbs and nearby cities. The reasoning is that only such a prestige system can entice car drivers onto public transport, and the refusal to give trams and buses priority over cars on our crowded roads, because the car lobby opposes any reallocation of road space.

                    Tim Cooper
                  • J.H. Crawford
                    ... My, how low we ve fallen. The notion of accommodating the pedestrian is now seen as unecessary and too costly. How is it that anyone ever permitted
                    Message 9 of 13 , May 5, 2000
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                      Mike Lacey said:


                      >I once read that 70-80% of new developments lack sidewalks - simply
                      >requiring the developer to provide sidewalks would be major step.

                      My, how low we've fallen. The notion of accommodating the
                      pedestrian is now seen as unecessary and too costly.
                      How is it that anyone ever permitted developers to
                      omit sidewalks?

                      When I visited relatives in Ormond Beach FL recently, I
                      noticed that their suburban sprawl, built around 1965,
                      did have sidewalks. However, on a morning walk, I noticed
                      that the sidewalks petered out just a few streets north
                      (i.e., built a few years later). Strange world.


                      ###

                      J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_
                      postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
                    • Ronald Dawson
                      ... Oh, Martha since your in Michigan, I found some URLs that might be of interest to you. Dawson http://www.marp.org/ http://www.marp.org/issues.htm
                      Message 10 of 13 , May 10, 2000
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                        Martha Torell wrote:
                        >> In SF, everytime a parking lot is turned into a four story apartment
                        >> the place fills up before it is built. I'm sure the same applies in
                        >> New York, Chicago, Philly etc. The potential for density increase in
                        >> exsting cities is almost infinite, the demand is enormous.

                        >Very good point about the demand. In Royal Oak, Michigan by no means
                        >an SF, a few blocks of old grid suburb were bought and razed. The
                        >suburb just happened to be be adjacent to a newly widened 696. Luxury
                        >condos were built. The population density was higher than the old
                        >suburb, even with its old fashioned small lots and houses. The condos
                        >not only sold before they were built, but they had increased in value so
                        >much that many of the buyers resold them at a enormous profit before
                        >they even moved in!

                        Oh, Martha since your in Michigan, I found some URLs that might be of
                        interest to you. Dawson
                        http://www.marp.org/
                        http://www.marp.org/issues.htm
                        http://www.marp.org/links.htm
                      • Martha Torell
                        ... Very good point about the demand. In Royal Oak, Michigan by no means an SF, a few blocks of old grid suburb were bought and razed. The suburb just
                        Message 11 of 13 , May 11, 2000
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                          > In SF, everytime a parking lot is turned into a four story apartment
                          > the place fills up before it is built. I'm sure the same applies in
                          > New York, Chicago, Philly etc. The potential for density increase in
                          > exsting cities is almost infinite, the demand is enormous.

                          Very good point about the demand. In Royal Oak, Michigan by no means
                          an SF, a few blocks of old grid suburb were bought and razed. The
                          suburb just happened to be be adjacent to a newly widened 696. Luxury
                          condos were built. The population density was higher than the old
                          suburb, even with its old fashioned small lots and houses. The condos
                          not only sold before they were built, but they had increased in value so
                          much that many of the buyers resold them at a enormous profit before
                          they even moved in!

                          Martha
                        • Martha Torell
                          ... This suggests a really innocuous, non-threatening way to advance car free living. A developer could hardly object to that requirement coming from a city
                          Message 12 of 13 , May 11, 2000
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                            > Mike Lacey said:
                            >
                            > >I once read that 70-80% of new developments lack sidewalks - simply
                            > >requiring the developer to provide sidewalks would be major step.
                            >
                            > My, how low we've fallen. The notion of accommodating the
                            > pedestrian is now seen as unecessary and too costly.
                            > How is it that anyone ever permitted developers to
                            > omit sidewalks?

                            This suggests a really innocuous, non-threatening way to advance car
                            free living. A developer could hardly object to that requirement
                            coming from a city council. Sidewalks. Sidewalks wide enough to allow
                            two people to walk comfortably side by side. World's full of joggers
                            now. Developers around here are beginning to feel the squeeze, no one
                            likes sprawl or the people who build it. Developers promise little
                            parks, and get stoplights put in and power lines moved. Wide sidewalks
                            would be a small concession.

                            When cities are rated as good or bad places to live, is the number of
                            miles of sidewalk part of that consideration? It should be.


                            Martha
                          • Martha Torell
                            ... Thank you.
                            Message 13 of 13 , May 13, 2000
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                              > Oh, Martha since your in Michigan, I found some URLs that might be of
                              > interest to you. Dawson
                              > http://www.marp.org/
                              > http://www.marp.org/issues.htm
                              > http://www.marp.org/links.htm

                              Thank you.
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