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new vs. old

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  • Neil Gall
    I ve been mostly lurking for a few weeks now and some of the discussion, especially the recent financing thread has me worried. A lot of talk seems to be of
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 4, 2000
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      I've been mostly lurking for a few weeks now and some of
      the discussion, especially the recent "financing" thread
      has me worried.

      A lot of talk seems to be of building a new city - new
      districts, new streets, new buildings - but more than half
      of the world's population now live in existing cities, most
      of them dominated by cars. Surely if the carfree idea is to
      benefit a great number of people, these existing districts,
      streets and buildings in the existing cities must be
      transformed rather than supplemented or even, heaven forbid,
      supplanted. Additionally, outside of North America there is
      scant space in which to build - one of the attractions of
      the carfree concept to me as a European is the ending not
      just of sprawl but of the continual encroachment of urban
      "development" into the countryside. Moreover, most European
      cities were largely built before the car appeared and could
      be returned to their former splendour without drastic
      rebuilding. Haussmann's Paris is but one fine example that
      would barely need a cobble lifted.

      A new city - almost certainly in North America - would be
      a fantastic benchmark and flagship project for the concept
      of carfree and is a worthy goal, but would in fact be a
      lesser challenge. For the masses to benefit, our existing
      cities must be revived, rejuvenated and liberated from the
      oppression of the car.

      Neil Gall
      Edinburgh, Scotland
    • J.H. Crawford
      ... Yes. I haven t said a great deal about this on the site (although there is some stuff, in particular the plan for Lyon, buried somewhere in Carfree Times)
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 4, 2000
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        Neil Gall said:

        >A new city - almost certainly in North America - would be
        >a fantastic benchmark and flagship project for the concept
        >of carfree and is a worthy goal, but would in fact be a
        >lesser challenge. For the masses to benefit, our existing
        >cities must be revived, rejuvenated and liberated from the
        >oppression of the car.

        Yes. I haven't said a great deal about this on the site
        (although there is some stuff, in particular the plan for
        Lyon, buried somewhere in Carfree Times) that does deal
        with this issue. However, the book goes into some detail
        about the need and means for converting existing cities
        to the carfree model. However, I'd propose that the first
        large-scale projects be new or redeveloped areas--the
        problems of reaching agreement among existing residents
        will be very difficult until the concept has been generally
        proven and accepted. Thus, when in Toronto, I suggested
        that the huge redevelopment project being discussed be
        considered for carfree design. It's next

        On sebbatical until September. Please expect slow responses to e-mail.

        J.H. Crawford _Carfree Cities_ ISBN 9057270374
        postmaster@... http://www.carfree.com
      • Louis-Luc Le Guerrier
        ... I don t find it will be too difficult to remove cars from existing North-American cities. Sidewalks should be widened to allow some outdoor shop displays.
        Message 3 of 5 , Jul 4, 2000
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          > A new city - almost certainly in North America - would be
          > a fantastic benchmark and flagship project for the concept
          > of carfree and is a worthy goal, but would in fact be a
          > lesser challenge. For the masses to benefit, our existing
          > cities must be revived, rejuvenated and liberated from the
          > oppression of the car.
          >
          > Neil Gall
          > Edinburgh, Scotland
          >
          I don't find it will be too difficult to remove cars from existing
          North-American cities. Sidewalks should be widened to allow some outdoor
          shop displays. 3-car line boulevards can be divided as follows:
          1st line (right) is for pedestrians
          2nd is for cyclists and other human vehicles.
          3rd is for streetcar.

          I know of a city with streetcars where the tram is on the left lane, and
          the traffic stops on the 2 right lanes to let people get on and off the
          tram. However when in motion, the right lane has right-of-way over vehicles
          on other lanes who turn. Same rules as usual, but conflicts are much less
          troublesome when there is no car involved.

          Smaller 1 or 2-lane streets can be easily shared with pedestrians and
          cyclists. And imagine the extra space saved when going from car parking to
          bike parking.

          Of course we'll have to say bye bye to mega stores like WalMart and al, and
          redistribute all the resources and services more evenly so they are more
          accessible from anywhere.

          Louis-Luc
        • Doug Salzmann
          ... Hello, Neil, and welcome. As Joel Crawford has indicated in his response, the necessity of transformation of existing cities has not been overlooked.
          Message 4 of 5 , Jul 4, 2000
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            Neil wrote (in part):

            > Surely if the carfree idea is to
            > benefit a great number of people, these existing districts,
            > streets and buildings in the existing cities must be
            > transformed rather than supplemented or even, heaven forbid,
            > supplanted.

            Hello, Neil, and welcome.

            As Joel Crawford has indicated in his response, the necessity of
            transformation of existing cities has not been overlooked. However, such
            transformation presents special problems and extra hurdles not faced by, for
            instance, projects in blighted brownfields.

            As you note, many European cities have retained, at least at the centers, a
            pre-autocentric infrastructure that will lend itself reasonably well to
            conversion. A few of the older North American cities (including Montreal,
            as Louis-Luc observes) also have salvageable cores.

            For most cities, parts of cities and suburbs developed since WWII (to
            greater or lesser degrees, on both continents), however, the demands and
            pressures of automobility have resulted in built environments that will be
            very difficult to re-shape. Making them over into workable carfree cities
            and neighborhoods will require what one designer friend refers to,
            technically, as "scraping away all that crap, including many of the
            streets." Transformation of these places will not, certainly, be
            impossible, but it will be costly and painful, and the process will be
            fraught with political peril.

            I think that, for the near term, carfree development will be most
            practicable and effective in blighted districts near existing city centers,
            where we can take advantage of relatively "clean canvases," extensible
            transit systems, existing amenities, etc.

            As for the awful mess of sprawlburbia, spreading its ugly tentacles into
            every nook and cranny of the countryside, its day will also come, indeed,
            isn't so very far away. In the not-so-distant future, the emerging
            permanent energy shortage will make low density sprawl extremely uneconomic.
            At that point, there will be much less resistance to re-working the inner
            suburbs into more functional and livable forms. What about the outer
            suburbs and edge cities? Maybe we'll mine them for recyclables and let the
            fields and forests reclaim them.

            > A new city - almost certainly in North America - would be
            > a fantastic benchmark and flagship project for the concept
            > of carfree and is a worthy goal, but would in fact be a
            > lesser challenge.

            That's true. And, much as we all wish to avoid greenfield development,
            cooking up a few carfree cities "from scratch" will be essential to
            demonstrating the benefits and workability of the form. People will need to
            experience "pure carfree."

            > For the masses to benefit, our existing
            > cities must be revived, rejuvenated and liberated from the
            > oppression of the car.

            Exactly right. One step at a time.

            -Doug
          • Karen Sandness
            Hello, everybody. I m Karen Sandness, a free-lance Japanese-English translator, car-free in Portland, Oregon since 1993. ... Despite Portland s reputation for
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 5, 2000
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              Hello, everybody. I'm Karen Sandness, a free-lance Japanese-English
              translator, car-free in Portland, Oregon since 1993.

              > For most cities, parts of cities and suburbs developed since WWII (to
              > greater or lesser degrees, on both continents), however, the demands and
              > pressures of automobility have resulted in built environments that will be
              > very difficult to re-shape. Making them over into workable carfree cities
              > and neighborhoods will require what one designer friend refers to,
              > technically, as "scraping away all that crap, including many of the
              > streets." Transformation of these places will not, certainly, be
              > impossible, but it will be costly and painful, and the process will be
              > fraught with political peril.

              Despite Portland's reputation for new urbanism, we have our share of
              sloburbs, and I've often thought of what could be done with them. Here
              are a few interim steps:

              1) Levy a tax on surface parking spaces. This would inspire even the
              megastores to move their parking to underground garages or (as one of
              our urban megastores has done) to rooftops. People could still drive to
              the store, but the space no longer devoted to surface parking could be
              re-landscaped to contain housing (perhaps for elderly people who need
              convenient access to shopping) and green spaces.

              2) Require that each housing tract above a certain size have a little
              commercial district at its connection to the arterial street or highway.
              Each such district could contain a transit stop, a bike parking lot, a
              convenience store, a postal station with a coffee stand (the
              availability of coffee in my apartment's mail room has done wonders to
              increase the sense of community in a 12-story high rise), a dry
              cleaner's, and a day care center.

              3) Build bike paths connecting the more isolated housing developments
              with schools and recreation centers, so that kids can take themselves to
              school and after-school activities. That way, families won't feel forced
              to buy a car for everyone over the age of sixteen, and younger kids will
              have the kind of independence that I had growing up in a city until age 11.

              > As for the awful mess of sprawlburbia, spreading its ugly tentacles into
              > every nook and cranny of the countryside, its day will also come, indeed,
              > isn't so very far away.
              One of the local radio commentators here calls these areas "the slums of
              the future." Indeed, some of the older suburbs in my home city of
              Minneapolis are looking pretty slummy already.

              Japan was once a transit-lover's paradise, and in many ways, it still is
              (hot and cold running trains in all directions from the pre-dawn hours
              till midnight), but they're starting to build car-oriented developments.

              Yet even the most car-oriented developments seem to have access to
              transit facilities. In May, I visited an American friend who lives in a
              new suburb of Tokyo, and she said that many families owned cars, mostly
              to visit the newly trendy megastores that the U.S. has forced on Japan
              in the interests of "free trade." She and her husband do not own a car,
              however, and in the morning, I could see men in gray flannel suits
              riding bicycles to catch the train into the city.

              Meanwhile, the city of Tokyo proper is working on its 12th subway line
              and plotting routes for a 13th, because transit usage is up.

              The current mayor of Tokyo is xenophobic and racist, but I did have to
              admire one thing he said. A group of citizens came to him complaining
              that traffic congestion in the city made it difficult for them to drive
              where they wanted to drive. He told them to take the subway.

              Well, I could go on and on, but that's enough for now.

              Idea hoppingly yours,
              Karen Sandness
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