Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Tuesday 29th June 10 Towards CarFree Cities IX Conference, day two

Up at 8.30, in order to phone assorted people who need to know about my reduced ability, and I offered to do mostly balloons but not my full Circus Show. Most people seemed sympathetic about my situation.

I set off for the conference sometime after 9am, and got there at 9.40. I'd missed the address from Andrew Waller, the Leader of the Council, and unfortunately most of the presentation from Barbara Schmuki with A History of the Pedestrian: 'The Quick and The Dead'. So my notes begin with the questions that were being asked following her talk.

Were there any pedestrian groups mobilising to present their cause?
The Pedestrian Association (now Living Streets) was founded in 1929, but never had really enough members to have mass rallies etc.
Pedestrian planning started in the 1970s, but is most advanced today in places like the Netherlands.
Reinstatement of speed limits for motor vehicles... cars are being sold which are capable of 100mph, which means that technically they are not fit for purpose, as the speed limit in the UK is 70mph.
Measuring pedestrians difficult, quite often missed and therefore underestimated.
The numbers of pedestrian deaths are going down but this may be linked to reduced numbers of pedestrians, plus drink-drive laws being introduced.
Is part of the problem that road designers tend not to be pedestrians?

Joel Crawford, author of Carfree Cities and Carfree Design Manual, also carfree.com
A Vision of Carfree Cities for the 21st Century
It is only a century since all cities were carfree, so what is proposed is not such a radical idea, especially in relation to current ecological issues and the economic climate.
Carfree cities would improve social cohesion.
Masdar in Abu Dhabi, being built now, will be carfree.
Existing cities will need decades of work, but full of problems.
Compact cities, less energy used, no emissions, although we'll still need electricity. Safety and noise will improve.
Beauty... maybe as an abstract object, the car could be beautiful, but a street minus all the accouterments of the car culture can only be more attractive.
Cities in history...Romans mentioned problems of freight.
Railroads noisy to start off with but now quieter.
Past 100 years the car has come to rule.
Jane Jacobs managed to save many parts of New York City from being bulldozed.
Kids on bikes a good yardstick to a safe area!
Small areas easy to make carfree, but as those areas get larger, this becomes more difficult. (BUT, Cuba went almost carfree overnight, so under duress, it is possible!)

Crawford's design of a new city of 1 million people, looks like a flower with 81 districts all 12000 pop within 5 minutes of the transport hub in the centre.
Every family has own house, backing onto a courtyard.
Narrow streets. Light rail. Metro Areas for utility.
Freight distribution from ends of petals, coming in by rail, road and water, then distributed using cycles and walking.
At the first Towards Carfree Cities conference in Lyon, Crawford developed a 'Lyon Protocol' a future Lyon.
It is really important to look after the needs of freight, deliveries... might be that in existing cities, truck deliveries are between certain hours.
Wireless light rail system.
Crawford's view of York is that buses should be out of the centre, keep them going in a ring outside the walls and then a 'jitney' or running board system to enable people to get into the retail area.
Zoning really important. Green spaces really important.
Would result in spaces far better to live in, far more sustainable, but it will take a while!

Has Crawford considered congestion charging? Yes and is not really wildly in favour.
With the centralised capitalist society be compatible with this type of development? He hadn't considered this in detail.
Will Peak oil force us into changing? How much of the world are we willing to wreck to keep our cars going?
Would living in high rise flats be better? Probably not as living high rise have historically got social problems.

Then it was one of my favourite presenters, John Whitelegg, Professor of Sustainable Transport, Professor of Sustainable Development, Green Party Councillor in Lancaster etc etc and his presentation was called, cryptically, 'Buttering Parsnips'. This is based on an old saying 'fine words butter no parsnips'.
His talks are always choc full of humour and he started by explaining the title of his talk and demonstrating the concept with an anecdote about a planned bypass labelled as 'sustainable' as it has a bicycle path next to it!
Lots of fine words, fine documents ie PPG13 Transport which contains the description 'to reduce the need to travel'.
Westbury Bypass trying to be justified using PPG13
He showed us slides of 'crap cycle lanes'.
Deregulation/privatisation of bus services been disastrous
Comparing Basle and Nottingham, with such different modes of travel.
Cycle counters on the side of cycle paths in the Netherlands.
Bikes can go on the front of Canberra buses.
Space should be reallocated in a similar way to other resources, ie more fairly shared out. Cars are big when they just contain one person and this is an unfiar share of space.
Action: change economics, speeds, minds of politicians, the politicians, the long march through the institutions...(ie the British Standards Institution)
Motoring costs have not risen but income has , bus and rail fares have.
Transport is subsidised, but car transport is subsidised far more (including all the costs) than any other mode.
So many worthy documents say to reduce speeds but still we have high speed limits in cities and urban areas.
York would be great if it were car free within the city walls... so many arguments for this.
SEI Transport Low Carbon Plan to be published in the end of July... easily accomplished! Sydney's 'No Excuse Zone' 750000 people live within this (cycling).
See Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest might be the answer... TAKE ACTION!
Not a 'French Revolution', but putting up own 20mph signs, prevent bypasses being built, anti war in Vietnam demos etc.. Civil disobedience and NVDA works!

Definitions of traffic and sustainable travel... we need to call it 'motor traffic free areas' as pedestrians and cyclists are also traffic. Also, sustainable travel should be renamed low carbon travel as 'sustainability' is overused.
Should looking again at the scale of many things help forward our debate... what are people in York consuming, how much of this can be sourced more locally? Well, yes, the aim IS to have a lower consuming society, with more local goods and services replacing ones from further afield.
Talking about the 'destruction of capitalism' is not a constructive and helpful way of dealing with things! It doesn't go down well with people who have built their whole lives on the back of it...

What about the drug dealers? The underground economy in a car free cities... Well, one theory which drives drug use is unhappiness and maybe in a car free city there would be a better standard of living and increased happiness, so perhaps reduced drug use? It s unreasonable to think that sustainable transport will cure all society's ills. How much is the car involved in criminality? A study was done on lorries (sponsored by a trades union) which found that all lorries broke the law every day. Also that a new motorway opened up a rural area to criminals from Liverpool, so cars are also implicated in crime.
We currently have the possibility of a global economic collapse. Therefore anything which might reduce government revenues could be seen as bad, and anything which increases revenue could be seen as good. So how about a carbon tax? This raises the concept of how we value time, lives etc. So fuel use (which raises funds with taxes) is seen as good when appraising projects.
How do we get rid of the view that the CarFree movement is self serving for Guardian readers? We need to talk the same language as the rest of them, so for instance, data needs to be collected about how an increase in cycling has a positive impact on the revenues on bars and restaurants.
Deliveries... how can this be facilitated? Warehouse near motorway junction, with lorries visiting, and then smaller vehicles using a 'postal' system with one courier delivering to several different destinations (load consolidation outside the cities) Who pays for this change is the more difficult question.
We need to concentrate on 'Resilience' and the current system is incredibly non-resilient ie Hospitals can survive for just 3 days without fuel, drug deliveries, etc etc,
Accessibility issues... in a car free city the public transport would be level access for wheelchair users etc, and roads would be clearer for ambulances and taxis etc. A car free city wouldn't add to the number of disabled people... 3000 people a day killed globally on roads, but many many injured too.
Disabled people might still be able to use their own private transport. Some people depend on local personal services such as the local post office. A car free city wouldn't have 'food deserts' and would be well peppered with local services.
Is the planning structure partly at fault? For instance, people in Sweden recognise that climate change is happening, yet they are planning more motorways. Maybe this is because there is a time lag between understanding and policy. Maybe it is a problem with lack of 'joined up thinking' or integration.
What policy would be best to put into a 2011 manifesto to increase votes and work to the agenda of climate change, unhealthy cities etc? Perhaps put a stop on roadbuilding. Label the air quality problem as a REAL health issue, the fatalities on the roads as a REAL health issue. 'Disappearing Traffic' study in West of England has shown that traffic from a closed road does not reallocate to other roads, it does just disappear.

Lunch was good!

Stephen Stradling: The Psychology of car dependence
In Paris on a conference about electric cars...in French, clean cars 'le voiture propre'
The most important thing about cars is the psychology connected to them. The word 'automobile' is a stroke of genius, as it promises independence, autonomy.
Will technology save us, will the market provide?
Definition of driving includes the functional activity but also an expressive activity, involves spontaneity 'I could jump into the car if I wanted to'.
Despite the average car being stationary most of the time. Driving projects an image, give a feeling of power, being in control, makes me look like an adult.
Different drivers exhibit different attitudes to their car/driving: attachment to their car
Die-hard drivers 25% 'Clarksons'
Car Complacents have no strong like or dislike, the car is just part of their life.
Malcontented Motorists don't enjoy driving any more (and may be ready for change?)
Aspiring Environmentalists: use other modes but still use their car for some trips

Only 19% of drivers say they admit to speeding, so the argument that 'all drivers break the speed limit' is rubbish.
The vast majority of all groups 'enjoy travelling in their car' BUT half of drivers are already cutting car use.
People are very adaptable but very resistant to change
Car drivers may be seen as villains but they see themselves as victims... they may be ready for help!

Karen Sandqvist
People love cars but hate traffic, repelled by asphalt.
Cars have some good and a much bigger sphere of bad influence
There is an initial Romantic stage of car use (US 1900-1940) dreams of cars, then a Transitional phase (cars a necessary evil)
The appeal of cars: dominance and power, sensation of speed, 'freedom', comfort and protection, convenient, status and identity.
This last thing can change such as the status of smoking, used to be hip, now a bad habit.
Freedom concept... romantic adventure, reaching any place, getting away from cars and asphalt 'into the country, into nature', everyday mobility, getting away from social control. (ie taking your sweetheart out in the car).
Unfreedom: stuck in traffic, no entrance, no turning, no stopping, no drinking, no sleeping!Everyday life without the car/car for special occasions.

Gary Haq: Perception, Attitudes and Behaviour, the York Intelligent Travel Project, 5000 individuals in the City, in collaboration with CoYC, and a bus company, and a large employer who offered phones to do the survey
There was a perception amongst those who wanted to change 'we just haven't got around to it yet'.
The public transport system perceived to be old, despite it having been recently renewed.
Free 6 month bus pass offered as a thank you for taking part. Potential cyclists were given a map, pedestrians a pedometer.
6 months later there was a change in behaviour, but a year after that, the majority had reverted back to their old behaviour.
So behavioural change is OK but it is attitude change which is more important.
Change has to be easy and cheap! Report published (I think, still trying to find it!).

Has anyone looked at car dependence and replacing it with our need to belong to a social group, by maybe having wifi access on public transport?
Liz Apt, Australian invented Personal Journey Planning, she succeeded because she was dynamic and enthusiastic
Social Norms and deviant behaviour re smoking ban..how can we move this to driving?... it has worked with seatbelts and drinking, will it work with the 'drive 5 miles less' message?
How to change social norms? Celebrity?

Discussion hosted by Anna Semlyen, author of Cutting Your Car Use
Normalising low carbon lifestyles is something I like to think is a positive thing. Loads of people are feeling guilty about their car behaviour, guilt might be a way of getting some people to change. Actually guilt is just one reason to why you need to change (it makes you feel bad) and the other side is to know how to change.
Teleconferencing is an alternative for academics to avoid travelling, works in some situations but not many at the moment.
How do we deal with people who have not got a car but want one? It really revolves around the quality, cost and reliability of public transport.
Car sharing... more attractive to call it 'offer a seat' in your car. A positive message.

Psychology of Car Dependence: Strategies to Overcome It!
Mind Shift Mode Shift: A Lifestyle Approach to Reducing Car Ownership and Use, Using Behavioural Economics Stephen Young, University of Brighton Business School
He is a senior telecom expert with a special interest in ICT and climate change, as well as his travel and behavioural economics
the four wheel detox
We are the early adopters... we are 'not normal', the normal people are not in the room!
He gave up his car because of Margaret Thatcher and her comment about the great car economy. Owning a car means you are £1000s worse off, more likely to be overweight, more likely to die or be injured in a car crash, breathes more pollution, etc etc
SO, the 4 wheel detox:
Traditional economics has some 'tablets of stone', assumptions
Behavioural economics combines psychology and economics, acknowledges that we behave irrationally, make mistakes etc
People have both situations going on
Compared Spock with Homer Simpson, rational with realistic/emotional
Reframe- how does your car ownership/use affect YOU, your health, time, wealth etc
His website has quotes from 'cool' people who are carfree eg Dave Gorman, Alistair McGowan, Adam Hart-Davis and others.
How are questions framed (should we join the Euro or should we abolish the Pound?)
Change the default position, so make the norm not owning a car.
Salience.. something you notice, it stands out ie the media focusing on a rail ticket which cost £1000 (however, less salient was the news that this ticket was then withdrawn as it became known that an all stations month rover was just £600, apparently)
But when you own a car, the costs are not salient, 'direct debits are semi-invisible'.
Loss aversion... people hate things being taken away from them, so 'carfree' indicates cars being removed.
We are bad at judging risks... after 9/11 more people died than in the planes that hit the Twin Towers as people shifted their mode to cars... Cars are far more dangerous than air travel, and the increase in car use raised the numbers who were killed.
Social Marketing a key area.(Viv Case)
'My time is so valuable that I choose not to drive myself around', 'I'd rather be working/reading/relaxing'

Oyster cards make paying for public transport invisible, thus more popular
Smart Card from Netherlands which enables the user to get on the tram, bus or hire a bike.
When are we most vulnerable to giving up our car? Some people move in and out of car ownership.
US ZipCar on campus gets students to become a member of ZipCar which is a habit might translate into them not becoming car owners, and be low car users (with occasional hire car use).
Youth discounts on public transport could help young people to get the bus habit.
Free is a positive adjective but carfree isn't positive... loss aversion.
We need a better term for carfree... but what?
So, if car use is an addiction how do we do the CBT to move people on... 12 point plan?, your GP? Detox? Make it a lifestyle choice, cf Carbon Detox
How can we give alternatives to cars? We could offer carfree streets as sociable areas, ie places to meet neighbours, and this is really valued, it is seen as a privilege. see Freiburg as an example.
Should sociologists be employed to see if we can achieve behavioural change?
Renting a car is easier if you live near the place where the car is... so, near the airport, it's easy
Home deliveries might help.
Need info for tourists about public transport and taxi services, not just parking and directions to places by the private car.

I came home and had a bit to eat and jumped on the bike again to go back to town.

The film night was at City Screen and was sponsored by my favourite bike shop Cycle Heaven. At 8pm I met up with a new friend Catherine whom I've met through a website called Freeconomy, and whilst I was waiting for her in the foyer I met a nice Cycle Heaven person and others, and then a foraging/abundance friend Clare, who didn't need a lot of persuasion to come to see the CarFree films.

The films started with Das Rad, a German animation about the 'experiences' of two piles of rocks as time goes by and 'civilisation' comes and goes. Very clever.
Then, from the Darlington Media Group, an edited version of a brilliant film called Beauty and the Bike, about a group of British teenage girls being introduced to lovely Dutch bikes and 'discovering' the joys of cycling, then visiting Bremen and meeting up with some local girls and experiencing the much more cycle friendly roads (and cycle paths) there. The German teenagers get a shock when they visit Darlington. This film moved me to tears. I want to see the full 55 minute version. (8 minute version)
Then there was Park(ing) Day from New York, about a day where a whole load of car parking places were made into something else, from parks to art spaces.
Paris Skates was very surprising, 5000 in-line skaters regularly taking over Paris streets on a Friday night, and up to 15000 of them on Sundays for a Rollerblade Parade. It looked like loads of fun!
The next up was a trailer for a film called Auto Mat and it looked quite shocking.
Many of the films were from Street Films which is an excellent resource for inspiration and entertainment. (tbc)

1 comment:

Greg said...

That's an interesting post, thanks John. I'd have liked to attend but Tuesday had lots of other things happening.