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RE: [carfree_cities] new vs. old

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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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