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Re: [carfree_cities] The hard activist yards vs. the fantasy and vision

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  • Mike Lacey
    ... I 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
    Message 1 of 10 , May 2, 2000
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      --- In carfree_cities@egroups.com, jym@e... wrote:
      > >> It's not a dream--they've already spent millions tearing down
      > >> freeways in the USA--first in San Francisco (Embarcadero
      > >> Freeway) ...

      I 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.

      Achievements in SF
      1) In 1950s and 60s, stopped the interstate system in its tracks,
      overturning plans to web SF with elevated and subterranean freeways.
      2) 1970s, inaugartated BART, at the time the world's most advanced
      rapid transit system, which now carries a record number of passengers
      beneath the bay at 1/3 to 1/2 the time for driving.
      3) 1970s, inaugarated golden Gate transit, a system of luxury buses
      and boats. Result: today the same number of vehicles use GG bridge as
      in 1970. (Not progress - but significant)
      4) 1989 Pulled down the frightful double decker Emabarcadero freeway
      and replaced with metro rail tracks, ferry building plaza and
      beautifully landscaped waterfront.
      5) 1985 Restored streetcar service to Market street after original
      streetcars were re-ruted into subway.
      6) 1998 and 1999 voted to tear down section of (elevated) central
      freeway and replace with landscaped boulevard
      7) 1999 Replcaed 2 lanes of busy Valencia Street with wide bike
      lanes.
      8) 2000 Opened new Pacific Bell Baseball park, most transit friendly
      ballpark in USA. On opening day, 70% used public transit, bike, or
      foot. This despite predictions 10 years ago that the (then) target of
      20% non-car usage would fail miserably.
      9) 2000 Extended Market Street cars around embarcadero to fisherman's
      wharf.

      I'm sure Jym would agree that things are far from perfect in SF, and
      the car is still dominant. But I think this illustrates what can be
      done when one doesn't abandon hope for our older cities.

      Mike
    • J.H. Crawford
      ... In the first instance, there s nothing experimental about carfree cities. That s the way everybody lived just 100 years ago. In the seccond instance, we re
      Message 2 of 10 , May 3, 2000
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        Mike Lacey said:

        >I 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.

        In the first instance, there's nothing experimental about carfree
        cities. That's the way everybody lived just 100 years ago.

        In the seccond instance, we're continuing to tear up virgin land
        at a terrific rate by building sprawl. If these sprawl developments
        were replaced by carfree cities, the amount of land consumed would
        decline by about 80% and the new areas could be served by
        much more efficient rail transport and would be built as mixed-use
        cities in which far less travel is required to meet life's
        daily needs.

        In the final instance, the concepts of the reference design ARE
        applicable to existing cities. I see the redevelopment of the
        world's auto-centric cities as carfree cities as one of the
        most important tasks of the 21st century. We are, however,
        going to need more room to house our growing population,
        until we actually achieve ZPG, so, unless we rebuild at higher
        densities, we're going to have to occupy more land for urban
        uses. I believe that we will need to rebuild at higher densities
        in order to achieve carfree cities, but it's a big, slow job.


        ###

        J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_
        postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
      • Mike Lacey
        ... Yes but most communities then were not planned on mass they grew up in a more organic fashion, and I believe are more beautiful places as a result. ... But
        Message 3 of 10 , May 3, 2000
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          --- In carfree_cities@egroups.com, "J.H. Crawford" <postmaster@c...>
          wrote:
          > In the first instance, there's nothing experimental about carfree
          > cities. That's the way everybody lived just 100 years ago.

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

          > In the seccond instance, we're continuing to tear up virgin land
          > at a terrific rate by building sprawl. If these sprawl developments
          > were replaced by carfree cities, the amount of land consumed would
          > decline by about 80% and the new areas could be served by
          > much more efficient rail transport and would be built as mixed-use
          > cities in which far less travel is required to meet life's
          > daily needs.

          But there is more than enough room within our existing city limits
          for such development. It breaks my heart to see so-called "New
          Urbanist" communities like Seaside, where once was pristine
          coastline, now there is a soul-less legoland.

          >
          > In the final instance, the concepts of the reference design ARE
          > applicable to existing cities. I see the redevelopment of the
          > world's auto-centric cities as carfree cities as one of the
          > most important tasks of the 21st century. We are, however,
          > going to need more room to house our growing population,
          > until we actually achieve ZPG, so, unless we rebuild at higher
          > densities, we're going to have to occupy more land for urban
          > uses. I believe that we will need to rebuild at higher densities
          > in order to achieve carfree cities, but it's a big, slow job.

          Population growth is one of the most bogus argumunents for churning
          up virgin land. In the US, urban density is so light. SF is the
          second most densely populated City in the US, its population density
          is 15,000 / sq mile,
          Denver is 3,000 / sq mile
          Oklahoma City is 750/ sq mile
          Comapare to
          Paris 53,000 / sq mile
          Netherlands (the whole country!!) 750/ sq mile.

          Population density is not a problem in the US. In fact our cities are
          too lightly populated - they need to fill out from the inside. The
          last thing we need is yet more cities.
          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.

          Mike
        • J.H. Crawford
          ... Christopher Alexander proposed in _A New Theory of Urban Design_ a methodology for achieving the qualities that are common to areas that grew organically,
          Message 4 of 10 , May 4, 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 I believe are more beautiful places as
            >a result.

            Christopher Alexander proposed in _A New Theory of Urban Design_ a
            methodology for achieving the qualities that are common to areas
            that grew organically, over a period of centuries. I agree that in
            general these areas are the most beautiful of all urban environments,
            but it is worth remembering that Amsterdam's famed 16th-century
            "Grachtengordel" (canal belt) was perhaps the world's first
            PUD (Planned Unit Development). This area was masterplanned, on
            paper, in about 1600 and built out, in close accord with the plan,
            over the following 75 or so years. I think that this shows that
            modern planning failures are not the result of all-at-once planning
            so much as a lack of understanding about how to make nice urban
            areas. While gridirons are very easy to design and lay down, they
            do not, IMHO, make for especially nice cities, although they can
            be pretty good, as in the Baixa area of Lisbon, a master-planned
            redevelopment following the devastating 1755(?) earthquake. From
            the drawings I have seen, the earlier, medieval development must
            have been even nicer.

            >But there is more than enough room within our existing city limits
            >for such development. It breaks my heart to see so-called "New
            >Urbanist" communities like Seaside, where once was pristine
            >coastline, now there is a soul-less legoland.

            There's plenty of room within most existing American cities
            for redevelopment at higher density (Warning: don't try this
            in Manhattan!). Most European city centers do not have much in the
            way of brownfield sites, however. I've not seen Seaside, but
            I think the characterization as soul-less is probably a little
            harsh. Remember also: some of the most beautiful landscapes in
            the world are man-made. Take, for example, the rice terraces
            of Bali. 100% human-transformed landscape, beautiful beyond
            description. We don't have to make ugly places. It's just a
            bad habit, left over from the 20th C.

            >Population growth is one of the most bogus argumunents for churning
            >up virgin land.

            It's a very real argument in many parts of the world. I agree that
            most US cities could simply draw a line around the city, somewhat
            INSIDE the outer limit of existing development, and say: "no more
            development outside this line." Most cities in the USA, when seen
            from the air, have huge patches that are ripe for development, many
            of them in or near downtown.

            >Population density is not a problem in the US.

            Please remember that we're not talking only about the USA on this list.
            The issue, however, is also that in places like China, people would
            prefer to have more than the current 50 or 100 square feet per
            person. Given that Chinese cities are already pretty dense, this
            can't really be achieved without using up some non-urban land.
            China has to minimize this becuase most of the land under
            consideration is agricultural, a commodity in short supply there.
            When China was considering the adoption of American auto-centric
            development patterns, the prospects for China continuing to feed
            itself were very grim. It appears that China has stepped back from
            this decision, although this has not been formally announced as
            far as I know.

            >The potential for density increase in
            >exsting [US] cities is almost infinite, the demand is enormous.

            Agreed.

            Latest statistic from Europe (I think) is that for every parking
            space removed from a city, THREE new pedestrians appear.


            ###

            J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_
            postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
          • Mike Lacey
            ... Yes, I agree. Much of Paris was planned too (Hausman). ... And many other cases: Barcelona, San Francisco, Edinburgh NewTown district. Gridirons are not
            Message 5 of 10 , May 4, 2000
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              --- In carfree_cities@egroups.com, "J.H. Crawford" <postmaster@c...>
              wrote:
              > I think that this shows that
              > modern planning failures are not the result of all-at-once planning
              > so much as a lack of understanding about how to make nice urban
              > areas.

              Yes, I agree. Much of Paris was planned too (Hausman).

              > While gridirons are very easy to design and lay down, they
              > do not, IMHO, make for especially nice cities, although they can
              > be pretty good, as in the Baixa area of Lisbon

              And many other cases: Barcelona, San Francisco, Edinburgh "NewTown"
              district. Gridirons are not in themselves problematic, and in my
              experience can often be pedestrian friendly.

              > There's plenty of room within most existing American cities
              > for redevelopment at higher density (Warning: don't try this
              > in Manhattan!). Most European city centers do not have much in the
              > way of brownfield sites, however.

              But outside of the City Centres they often do.
              I apologize for speaking US-centrically. I should no better, I am
              British (lived my entire childhood there). Its just that America is
              such a great case study, the belly-of-the-beast as it were. I tend to
              think of Europe as the solution not the problem. (Though I,m sure
              you'll put me right!)

              > I've not seen Seaside, but
              > I think the characterization as soul-less is probably a little
              > harsh.

              I stand by that characterisation. And Celebration (the Disney-
              owned "new-urbanist" community near Orlando) is worse. If this is new-
              urbanism then I'm not a new urbanist.

              > Remember also: some of the most beautiful landscapes in
              > the world are man-made. Take, for example, the rice terraces
              > of Bali. 100% human-transformed landscape, beautiful beyond
              > description. We don't have to make ugly places. It's just a
              > bad habit, left over from the 20th C.

              True. I suppose I just think we should get our existing cities right
              before we create new ones. I think humans need to be much more humble
              about the consequences of imposing their order on nature.

              > Latest statistic from Europe (I think) is that for every parking
              > space removed from a city, THREE new pedestrians appear.

              I'm very intersted in that last statistic. If you (or anyone) can
              expand on it I would be very interested. There are a lot of urban
              planners in America (and the world!) who could learn from that.

              Mike
            • jym@econet.org
              ... =v= Aiiee!! While better thant he suburban hell that surrounds the city, that s not the best part of Paris. Those big wide boulevards are wall-to-wall
              Message 6 of 10 , May 4, 2000
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                >> I think that this shows that modern planning failures are not
                >> the result of all-at-once planning so much as a lack of
                >> understanding about how to make nice urban areas.
                > Yes, I agree. Much of Paris was planned too (Hausman).

                =v= Aiiee!! While better thant he suburban hell that surrounds
                the city, that's not the best part of Paris. Those big wide
                boulevards are wall-to-wall with speeding cars, and they put up
                thousands of bollards just to keep them off the sidewalks. The
                Arc de Triomphe is nothing so much as an Arc de Triomphe des
                Voitures!

                =v= The best part of Paris is the very center, the old medieval
                city, with its narrow, winding roads and cobblestones. Indeed,
                your best bet in most French cities is just to head for the
                old medieval center of town.
                <_Jym_>
              • J.H. Crawford
                ... Sorry, don t have the source. Anyone? ### J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_ postmaster@carfree.com
                Message 7 of 10 , May 5, 2000
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                  >> Latest statistic from Europe (I think) is that for every parking
                  >> space removed from a city, THREE new pedestrians appear.
                  >
                  >I'm very intersted in that last statistic. If you (or anyone) can
                  >expand on it I would be very interested. There are a lot of urban
                  >planners in America (and the world!) who could learn from that.

                  Sorry, don't have the source. Anyone?


                  ###

                  J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_
                  postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
                • J.H. Crawford
                  ... I have to say that I have a strong personal preference for the medieval areas, too. When I was in Lyon a couple of years ago, I found that the district
                  Message 8 of 10 , May 5, 2000
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                    Jym said:

                    >=v= The best part of Paris is the very center, the old medieval
                    >city, with its narrow, winding roads and cobblestones. Indeed,
                    >your best bet in most French cities is just to head for the
                    >old medieval center of town.

                    I have to say that I have a strong personal preference for the
                    medieval areas, too.

                    When I was in Lyon a couple of years ago, I found that the
                    district west of the rivers was the nicest part, with narrow,
                    crooked streets and the oldest buildings. The peninsula between
                    the rivers is 17th C (or so), and while it's nice, I don't find
                    its gridiron layout as enticing as the earlier parts.


                    ###

                    J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_
                    postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
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