Monday, 28 June 2010

Monday 28th June 10 Towards CarFree Cities IX Conference, day one

Yesterday I privately planned to go on my bike to today's conference, despite assorted people saying 'that broken ankle will surely stop you cycling' and 'make sure you do nothing for a week' and similar opinions. Gill suggested that I go on the No.10 bus, but I knew that this choice would involve a walk with crutches from home to the bus stop, only 3 minutes walk away, but a 5 min walk at the other end from the Bar Convent... and I've found walking with the crutches very difficult. If I cycled, I would have a 30 second walk to the garage and a 30 second walk at Priory St. I feel more at home on my bicycle than any other form of transport, so it was a no brainer.

I took my laptop in the pannier as I'd planned to take a few notes at the conference and then put them into this blog when back at home in the evening. My crutches went into my trailer. I found cycling in a plaster cast not too difficult, and I just had really slow acceleration as I usually push off with my right foot and I didn't use this much at all, just letting my left do all the work and letting the right follow it round.

I got to the Priory St Centre really easily and crutched my way in, registration was outside with Ivana, and I was happy to pick up a goodly pile of Carbusters magazines.

So, I got myself settled in the Denham Room for the morning's presentations. Here follow my impressions of the presentations. I may have made mistakes or missed stuff, but it's an overview, the best I could do.

Beyond the Car - Streets as Places with David Murphy and Daniel Mourek from the Czech Environmental Partnership.
People were asked to introduce themselves, and where they are from...which included Australia, Oregon USA, Mexico, Brazil, Vienna Austria, S. Africa, Switzerland, California USA, Croatia, Oxford UK, Lancaster UK, Italy, Sweden, Sydney Australia, Germany, Belgium and others.

There are several regional programmes, including Greenways, which are corridors for non-motorised transport. But, people are the real capital, despite the Czech Environmental Partnership being a grant making organisation.
History... Central and Eastern European Greenways Program, started in 1996.
Aiming to reduce exclusion, Sustainable Cities....What are the preconditions for a Sustainable City? Some degree of democracy, 'Social, Environmental and Social Justice', and some other factors... much of the World is just emerging into this, or is weak, or these are not present.
Over 70% of people in Central and Eastern Europe live in cities. Many of these countries are big exporters of cars, but also massive producer of bikes!
Very high fatality rates on the roads, especially Poland and Czechoslovakia.
So what makes a great street? People first, recreation, safety, farmers markets with connections to the countryside. A community designed around cars and traffic results in cars and traffic. Land use planning and traffic engineering closely interconnected.
Small scale solutions for neighbourhoods, needs a paradigm shift.
Cars, seen as fast, are actually slow in cities. Bikes, seen as slow, are actually quicker in cities...

'Mental Speed Bumps' was mentioned as a resource.

Streets themselves can be destinations, should be connected to the nearby land use. Street life is at 'ground floor level'. Amenities should be for all people... such as benches to sit on. But the responsibility shouldn't be just with the local authority, it needs local input. Streets should be able to have a change of use, such a Paris Beaches, Broadway petanque. Seasonal use.
The street is the only place where you can meet all other groups in society

Other projects:Mobility Plan Manuals; Clustering; Safe Routes to School (based on Sustrans) cylobus; Traffic Calming; competitions to choose diverse methods which work.
Small steps make a difference!

Richard Smith, Living Streets (used to be the Pedestrian's Association) based in Newcastle.
Putting People First! Safe, attractive enjoyable streets where people want to live, shop, enjoy life, play, relax.
Walking is really important... health, social, getting places, available to all.
Living Streets is mentioned in the Department for Transport's Manual For Streets
Important issues: Clean and well maintained, attractive design, well lit and safe, local amenities within walking distance.
Fitter for Walking Projects (Doncaster/Rotherham, many other places) - local residents can nominate themselves to participate.
How to achieve? Engage with communities, suporting tools and actions, community street audit, Fitter for Walking Standard, walking map, 'walk doctors', Step Up (secondary school programme) Station Travel Plans, Joining up with employers and of course Celebrate success!

The next presentation was DIY Streets- creating people friendly streets, affordably, facilitated by Katherine Rooney and Liz Smith from Sustrans
Sustrans has had quite a bit of success, such as a street in Bristol which was redesigned by the residents
Used straw bales to test the new layout.
Clapton Terrace Hackney, used to be a 'rat run', with wheelie bins on pavements, is now a shared surface with communal bins;
Elacombe Rd Torquay, created a chicane which slows the traffic, one way system;
Beechcroft Rd Oxford, currently in process of calming this street with just £7k... however, has needed 18 months negotiating with LA to put planters on the road!

Then it was time for the workshop! Street design toolkits... a 'street in a box'
Workshops in groups... our group found it difficult to agree because at least one person wanted to do away with all parking entirely. I, (and maybe others?) thought this was a bit unrealistic, and we spent the whole 10 minutes 'discussing' how to deal with the differing needs of car owners, disabled people etc, and we didn't come up with a street layout.
The groups then moved onto different tables and thought about and discussed how their own scenario might fit the next table's road layout. I stayed with our unresolved street and it was singled out as being the most realistic by the leaders of the workshop which I was pleased with.
Other groups had decided to do away with parking, or made it underground. Most groups had dealt with speeding traffic as it is relatively easy to deal with using 'gates' at the end, obstructions such as trees, planters, nips and chicanes. As this was a fantasy scenario, some groups did what they'd REALLY like to do in real life, which is to ban all or most motorised traffic. So, play areas were popular, trees, social spaces. There was mention of trying to persuade people to car share, although the person who offered this idea said it was a 'pipedream'.
In real life, the process usually starts with a strong existing community, and planning starts with a 'DIY street in a box' workshop very similar to what we had just done. Sustrans is usually invited in by residents involved in, for instance, Transition Towns. Getting people to the meeting involves offering food and childcare, and sometimes closing the street and having a street party. It's good to have professionals there who know about the placement of the sub-soil services/utilities, and who knew about the results of closing a street on the surrounding roads. The process is not quick, sometimes several years.

Someone mentioned the Future Cities Game.

LUNCH was very nice!

After lunch in the main hall... a welcome from Randall, who introduced the rest of the team: Richard Lane, Ivana Jacobkova, Simon Field, Anzir Boodoo.
Activities later in the conference to include: cycling tour of York on Wednesday, a boat trip on Wednesday evening, two excursions, one for a meal, one with music and bar, National Railway Museum visit, Visualising a Car Free Quarter (in a park)
Then, from the World Carefree Network, Cigdem Cevrim announced next year's conference which is to be in Mexico.
Then Steve Melia, from CarFreeUK told us a little bit about this organisation, which started in 2005. He suggested that there needs to be an organisation to represent people who live without cars! There is an 'Activists Meeting', on Wednesday which will hopefully launch this.

Cycling City York with Graham Titchener, the Programme Manager.
Intro to York... very flat... but this results in flooding.
Pop 193000
105 square miles
160km cycle routes
The aim of the Cycling City York Programme is to encourage more people to cycle, safely.
There is a priority of works:
Soft measures (social change) (lowest cost)
Improvements to infrastructure (higher cost)
New Infrastructure (highest cost)
The main audience is lapsed cyclists, ie 32% of respondents in questionnaire (2008) This questionnaire showed that 57% already cycled, 11% never cycled and 32 % used to cycle but don't now...
Barriers to cycling: weather, health, safety, dark, lack of confidence, lack of awareness of routes, increased speed of journey
Working with Nestle, 15% more people cycling
Accurate statistics for people cycling and walking in UK difficult to get,but, from the 2001 census, 13% cycle to work, 7% cycle to school, and overall 13 to 15% cycle. This is now likely to be a bit higher.
Wanting to achieve 25% increase in cycling levels, 100% increase in children cycling to school, 10% increase in cycling to work.
Current work, Orbital Route (includes the Clifton Green, a junction where two car-lanes have been reduced to one for motor vehicles and one for cycles)
Major infrastructure, minor infrastructure, work place initiatives (can be the most impact) Schools, Participation initiatives (such as bike purchases through work, and loans from North Yorkshire Credit Union) events, marketing and communications. Disabled cycle riding, over 50s rides, Parent/Carer cycle route, guided rides, cycle maintenance, cycle try out sessions, competitions, police liaison such as stopping light jumping, pavement riding, riding with no lights ie antisocial behaviour, disrespect on the roads. (this has been with motorists too)
Looking ahead, LTP3, LDF vision, CCAAP and foot streets review.
Business advisory service.

Graham spoke very quickly and at times must have lost some of the visitors for whom English is a second language, as I didn't catch everything he said. He did pack in a lot of information though, in a fairly short time.

Then there was much discussion about dangerous/antisocial driving and cycling, and how to deal with it.!

Next up was my friend Gary Haq, from the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York.He presented information on a project he's working on, called Tackling Transport in Africa, the TEST Network (Transport and Environmental Science Technology)
SEI is the leader of the partnership of Southern African countries: South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania.
Driving Forces: economic growth, urbanisation.
Pressure: motor vehicles, poor air quality.
State: air quality, crashes, congestion.
Impact: ill health, death and injury, ecosystem.
Response: better infrastructure, public transport, regulation, management, enforcement.

Africa's population and economic growth growing faster than many other places, and often their cities exceed WHO guidelines for air pollution.
Motor traffic is a serious source of air pollution, and growing rapidly. Africa's growth is faster than what many places experienced in the previous century.
So the aim of the network is to share knowledge
Road Safety In the EU, 17 people die per 100,000 due to roads (I think these are the figures), but in Africa, 28 per 100,000
Cause, human error, speed, vehicle maintenance, infrastructure.
Congestion is a problem too for several reasons.
Research into what the levels of the problems are, sharing this knowledge ie best practice case studies, training programmes and seminars, scientific publishing
www.afritest.net coming soon!

The discussion commenced: someone suggested looking up the African Bicycle Network and comments included learning from OUR mistakes so African development doesn't repeat our path (should that be road?)

Then it was Bernie Cullen, the Director and Project Manager from Bikerescue in York, which is a Community Interest Company which began in August 2006
Bernie is qualified as a bike mechanic, and a founder member of Cycleworks, a bike shop Cooperative on Lawrence St. Then she met Andy Scaife who was wanting to rescue bikes and send them to Africa.
She showed us photos of 'Art Bikes' and told us that the project had rescued about 4,500 bikes in 3 years.
Bernie is keen on 'being the change you wish to see in the World' so she is especially keen to work with girls to get them skilled in bike maintenance, but she's also proud to work with lots of volunteers, in fact the project couldn't work without them, stripping bikes down for refurbishment.
They had grant of £2500 to buy tools and a bit of money from Cycling City York, plus specific funding for things like training for girls.
They now collect bikes from all over Yorkshire, but want to set up more local initiatives, such as in East Yorkshire.
Also in the future there will be a 'hub station' (ex electricity sub station in the centre of York) with 100 secure cycle spaces, cafe, showers, lockers, repairs, community repair workshop, bike hire... starting work on the building starts next week! (to open in 5 months, hopefully!)
Bernie would also like to do something on the lines of 'Fix my street' website so a forum or portal at the hubstation for cyclists to communicate with planners.
Also, apprentice training scheme to teach people to become mechanics.
Although the project is called 'recycling', it is in fact repair and reuse, which is better than recycling. They currently sell 20 bikes a week and had a turnover of £100,000 last year.

Then there was discussion, which included talk about the culture of buying new but poor quality and inappropriate bikes (such as off road bikes which children are expected to cycle to school on, with big fat tyres slowing them down, or jump bikes which break when used for jumps.
There was a question about the other bike shops attitude to Bikerescue. They do work with other cycle shops to take their unwanted throw outs... but there is one bike shop (part of a chain) which won't work with them and cuts their old waste frames in half to prevent reuse.

Re-Cycle sends bikes to Africa.

The next presentation was 'The arguments against car use and how to win them!' with Simon Field.
Common pro-car myths number one: car use is good for the economy with fuel tax, building roads boosts productivity, more traffic means more wealth
Responses:
Reappraise road schemes to include external costs
Traffic is an effect of economic growth not a cause
Time is conserved not saved.
Roads do not reduce traffic, see the Newbury and their Bypass... traffic levels now higher in the town AND on the bypass!
Pedestrianisation is successful... more footfall in pedestrianised streets and more spending in shops (20 case studies in Britain and Germany)

Myth two: there is no alternative to the car... too far to walk/cycle, public transport poor.
Responses: 25% of car trips under 2 miles 60% under 5 miles, yet a car or van is used for 21% of trips under 1 mile!
German data: people often overestimate public transport costs by 21% and journey time by 45%

Myth three: it's what we want/the people want
Responses: people actually want access to jobs, goods, recreation, so the private car is a derived demand.
Lobbying for high quality alternatives
Where choice, people respond positively such as pedestrianisation

Greenwashing: for instance, 'green/low carbon/zero emissions cars'
We must consider net emissions, not just tailpipe emissions;
is there enough renewable generation capacity for the national /global fleet;
biofuels;
land take, visual intrusion, tyre noise, human error/accidents ALL THE SAME (in fact quiet cars might increase accidents so there's even been talk of giving them noise generators!)
Target group: public
demonstrating public interest in car restraint
carfree UK's carfree associations
How? develop vision
promotion through media, newspapers etc
study tours (ie Friebourg)
innovative urban transport planning such as certain towns in the Netherlands
cartoons and films, humour

Challenges:
reaching people who matter... politicians and economists and planners
making the subject 'sexy'... how to do this?

Next was Mari Jussi from Estonia (SEI Tallinn and FoE Estonia)
No country, nation or city is lost to car culture, it is a matter of choice.
Tallinn's modal split is 26% car, 41% public transport, 30% Walking, 3% bike. 50% households own a car. Cycling is increasing.
See Freiburg for a good example, car use has reduced. Stockholm has also shown decreased car use, and public transport and cycling has increased.
Predict and provide for cycle use... for instance, 200 cycle spaces provided at the Song Fest 09, but 600 turned up... a surprise!
Find bad examples of transport issues from your city, ie pedestrians not provided for.
There is scepticism about the causes of climate change so these may not be used by planners.
Joel Crawford designed a carfree city based on walking and cycling and public transport... Kulli

Then it was Milan Boric from the Yugo Cycling Campaign in Belgrade:
Cannot recommend public transport in his country, as dirty and polluting!
Many people afraid of cycling in traffic.
Pedestrian crossings only allow 10 seconds to cross, not enough

Matt Wilson Bicycology UK
Our political and economic situation (capitalism) is not amenable to our arguments.

Questions/discussions: Use the peak oil argument (although some people still think there is a technological 'fix' to this!)
'Choice' hard to take that away? How do we argue against that?We need to offer the eco-option as a real reason, and keep it appealing and exciting, not a doom and gloom.
Certain ethnic communities in Leicester are pro cycling and walking, for health/obesity reasons. But in Lancaster, the same modes are popular for eco reasons. In Leeds, the reasons are different again.
Reframe the question 'How do we best use our collective power to push for change?' What argument convinces people best?
25% of households in UK live without cars. Who is offering them choice? Who is giving them a voice? Who is the 'Jeremy Clarkson' of the non car-using percentage of the population? Need to develop a grouping for this.
Another issue is that walking and cycling doesn't bring in any income for governments, so there is not a lot of immediate financial reasons to reduce parking, car use etc.
Disasters and horrors like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Canadian Tar Sands do tend to play into our court, but we need to encourage people to make the link between their use of oil and these events.
'Public transport' is not really that... it is now privately owned. So the aim is to make profit for the shareholders NOT to provide a service
Why is public transport not free? It can be financed in other ways than from fares (apparently)...and privatised bus services are still subsidised by the LAs and some of the costs to the company/local authority are in fact all the ticketing stuff.
The argument that there is a 'right' to use a car is similar to the American 'right' to bear arms, which here in the UK, we deem too dangerous to allow.
The current system, based on increasing economic growth year on year is one of the reasons we are in the current mess. However, with spending cuts due, some of our arguments may be better received as they require no capital expenditure.
The UK was facing fines for air pollution in many cities, but recently the EU has backed off and is only getting shirty about the Heathrow area pollution.
The UK's road building programme collapsed following a significant uprising from people opposed to the continued building of new roads... so one way to change the situation might be direct action.

It was now 5.30pm and people fairly quickly dispersed, and I was tired too so I put my crutches in the trailer and cycled home. But I popped in to Country Fresh and they offered me a sack of biodegradable resources, and as I cannot now deal with these at home so easily, I went to St Nicks to add to their composting system. And I got home after 6pm. I spent a short while dealing with emails and relaxing with Scrabble on facebook, and then worked through my notes from the conference and put my blog together. I hope it is interesting and useful to delegates who didn't see the presentations I did, to refresh memories for those who saw the same ones as me, to provide easy links to websites, and to open up the conference content to anyone who's interested.

Bed shortly before 2am.

3 comments:

Murphyfish said...

Hello John,
Excellent post with a hell of a lot of information to absorb (shall be reading more over a cider this evening). Quick question though reading swiftly through i gleaned that you possess a cycle trailer, is this home made or bought and if homemade do you have pictures or a plan sketch?
Regards,
John

Compost John said...

Cheers John Murphfish, I'll post a photo for you. I've had it well over 10 years and it was made for me by a friend who is an engineer and worked in an office and made them kinda for fun. I couldn't live without it (well, that's what it feels like!)
John

oddny said...

Oh dear I am so sorry to hear about your broken ankle,you have my sympathy. My arhritis has flared up in my toe joints and I find walking really painful, wonder if I could still cycle? This makes intersting reading, just catching up after a trip to my sisters.
Best wishes to you and your family.