Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Wednesday 30th June 10 Towards CarFree Cities IX Conference, day three

Up early again, and set off on the bike at 8.40 in order to get to Priory Street for 9am when the conference was due to resume.

The day started with a way of working called an Open Space, which I think originated within the Transition movement.

Anna Semlyen was the convener of this morning's Open Space, and she started us off with a poem she wrote.

She sent it to me:

Cutting Car Use

I want to cut car use
But what’s the use?
People love mobility and personal facility
As expressed by their motor
They don’t even need a coat or comfortable shoes
If they’ve a car they can abuse

Problems abound with getting around
Like personal safety
And nearly everyone seems hasty
Yet a slower pace brings a human face
And life’s not a race
In any case not driving is living
It’s giving time and space to every place

Painless ways around this maze
Include travelling less
That’s what’s best

Re-education, reorientation of mindsets
Is what lets us improve accessibility
But not remove personal mobility

More buses and trams
Won’t get rid of the jams on their own
Why not work at home?
Use lift share, delivery, increased flexibility?
An attitude change
Be prepared to rearrange
Schedules to timetables
If we’re to be able to stabilise emissions
And raise human conditions
In a world full of problems
Like dwindling petroleum

There are solutions to cars and pollution
If drivers would just think
Traffic really would shrink
Cars and their misuse
Are hearts and minds issues

Anna Semlyen

Open Space working was explained, including 'the law of two feet' which is that if your feet are in the ring of chairs, you can contribute, but if you want to move somewhere else, to a different discussion, you can take yourself there.

Firstly, individuals thought of a topic they'd be happy to have discussed, and wrote it on a post-it note, and then these were put on a table all together. We were told we had got 3 votes, and could place them where we wanted, on any of the suggested topics, put on with a 'five bar gate' method, to make counting easier. There were 6 top scorers but only 5 discussion groups so we had a vote to remove one topic, a simple majority by show of hands. Then people went to the circle of chairs which was discussing the subject they were interested in.
I attended one which was looking at developing a 'carfree association', a voice or representation for people who choose to live without a car. We heard from Dr Beat von Scarpatetti who has been central in the Club der Autofreien in der Schweiz (Swiss Carfree Club or 'CAS') and how that organisation came about.
They started in 2004 and approached two existing organisations, one called the Swiss Green Traffic Association (VCS) (click here for Google's translate this page service) and the more anarchic and militant Umverkehr which translates as 'reduce the traffic by 50%'. (click here to use google translate) This latter group gave CAS some money for setting up a website and for postage, etc. They now have 1300 members.

We debated whether a UK version could do something similar.

Then Joerg Schweizer presented a fascinating topic of Personal Rapid Transit, the future public transport for car free cities?
The problem... a big proportion of the population will not cycle. So what can technology do to help solve this? We need something which can compete with the car but is sustainable
Something Comfortable and easy to use, available at any time, a good image, universally accessible, short door to door travel time.
A particular problem is 'trip chaining' with transfers increasing journey time. Walking has no wait time, the bike a short time to get it out of the garage, car ditto, but the bus you might have to wait for quite a while.
Bikes fast and cheap for less than 5km but issues of luggage and weather.
We need a mode with the characteristics of no interference with existing modes and relatively cheap.
So, examples include:ULTra, rubber tyres on concrete (at Heathrow), 2getthere in Masdar City
and vectus. All these are light, small, 3 to 6 passengers, all electric. The stations are off the main route. A vending machine enables you to communicate your destination, then communicate to the vehicle using a smart card in a swipe slot. Then you press 'start' and away you go!
So, similar to the car in as much as it is private, on demand.
It is better: faster than a car in urban areas, smooth, jerk-free, quiet (or favourite music!), moving office, punctual, no congestion, safer, no parking space to find, can take bike on board, can make a roof over a bike lane in cities, accessible to all who cannot or should not drive! Also, it's NEW!
It could be described as worse than the private car: not door-to-door, no ownership, no personalisation, no complete control (but driver can exit at the next station with one press of a button).
Guideways are small as vehicles are lightweight ie static load 400kg/m, minimum curve radius less than 10m, with a cross section 1m2, so easy to route through the city... smaller than a bus lane, can be above ground level, can run into buildings such as a shopping centre or underground. The carrying capacity for ULTra is currently 600 veh/hr but could double (Vectus), and if you decrease the headway (time distance between two passing vehicles), could be 4000 up to 9000 an hour ie cabintaxi or an Automated Highway System, which might employ 'moving block' conditions.

Power needed 3 to 10 kW (3kW is a kettle, a Toyota Prius has a 33kW electric motor and a 52kW petrol engine)

Investment costs 6 to 14 million euro per double track per km, including 20 vehicles and 2 stations, with 1 to 5 euro charged per vehicle journey, but obviously these costs are very variable.
This system can also transport freight during night, palletised.
Masdar is planning a 60kn PRT network with 106 stations and freight with 2getthere
600 vehicles/h, 40kmh following a virtual track (magnets set in the roadway), using batteries which are recharged off peak or during the night
However, the city is surrounded by park and ride sites, and the daytime pop doubles.
There are problems, partly the whole city project is very expensive and it may be shelved

Citywide PRT in eu cities
Problems and solutions: Remove other modes such as cars and buses, just nice environment for pedestrians and cyclists. Stations have a visual impact. Higher capacities needed if entire motorised traffic shifts to PRT.
Blending into existing cities... above ground level, below with 2.3 m cut and cover trench needed

PRT attracts car lovers!
Complementary to walking and cycling.
Currently not suitable for entire city networks but could be introduced bit by bit.
Small companies cannot afford to introduce it large scale.
PRT network at Heathrow to be opened to all and then extended to a business and hotel area.

Vicki Hill, Sustrans "We Love Our Bikes Getting Children out of Cars and Onto Bikes - For Life!"
The Bike It project - getting children cycling.
We have to get rid if cars.
The quickest way is to get children to cycle, they grow up as cyclists and bring up their children as cyclists.
Sustrans is very political, meeting with ministers and headteachers.
What do they do?
Active Travel (bike hire for students, etc)
National Cycle Network 386 million journeys 120000 miles, volunteers keeping it tidy and clean
Cycling must be enjoyable, so sculptures and art on the network etc
Although global environment is important, Sustrans concentrates on local especially near schools

One of the ways that can be used to show how much pollution is caused by car journeys, and therefore prevented by cycling, is by using balloons. Vicki gives a class of 30 an ordinary balloon each, and asks them to inflate them but just hold them up in the air and not tie them up. She then says that a one and a half mile car journey emits about 60 or 70 balloons worth of carbon dioxide, ie twice what the class is holding up in the air. She then asks them to let them go (fun, 30 balloons shooting all over the place!) This is a very visual way of showing this, and children are often very upset by all this pollution.

Obesity is a massive problem, cycling one way to increase activity levels.
Sustrans also does DIY Streets, Safe Routes to Schools, Safe Routes to Stations just being developed, Personal Travel Plans and helps with School Travel Plans.
1% or 2% children cycle to school... easy to improve and can bring it up in certain schools to 60 or 70%.
Bike It was born out of Safe Routes To School, began in 2004 with 4 officers, now 60 officers, supported by the cycle industry (1penny per bike sold), Lottery, PCTs, LAs and others
700 schools a year approx, but got to keep going with the school year after year. They work with approximately 140000 kids/year.

A school with a good School Travel Plan gets given money from the LA, which can be used to build a bike shelter so, before Bike It, one school had 20 bikes, but after the intervention, now 120 pupils, 25 staff, 3 new bike sheds... you now stand out if you don't cycle... peer pressure.
The Virtual Bike Race concept allows competition with school against school! Very popular.
Some schools have banned kids from cycling in... this is illegal, and sometimes just saying that they could cycle in results in a massive 'modal change'.
Art is really important, such as murals, bike tread marks.
99% of head teachers recommend Bike It.
Kids who cycle to school have higher esteem, and weirdly, are have better results in Science!Attendance levels increase when the Bike It officer is in
'Wall of Fame'... names and pics of kids cycling in, taken down if not cycling in.
Decorating the shelter results in less vandalism.
Stickers and 'snap bands' (bike clips) very popular.
'Beauty and the Bike' is a Sustrans Project, (nothing to do with the film!) started in York with Lush... pink slap bands, pink reflective hi viz, with 'Babe On Board' on the back, vastly increases cycling amongst girls.
No one disagrees with the Bike It concept, press and politicians love it.

Cycling opens up loads of extras... children get a better idea of where they live, distances, etc etc

An excellent case study is Dringhouses Primary School in York, when in 2003 Catherine Heinemeyer did a school travel plan, mainly working just with the children and taking their views. A popular opinion was to have no cars in the streets surrounding the school. So, the headteacher, the wonderful Mrs Julia Elliott, tackled the parents face to face, and arranged with local pub car park a 'park and stride' idea. There was hostility and rebellion, but perseverance worked, and now if a parent parks their car at the school gates, the other parents deal with the problem!
Mrs Elliott organised a walking/cycling card, filled in daily, which rewarded with prizes
Vicki arrived in May 04 and was one of the first six Sustrans officers. She worked with Mrs Elliott and they did a huge number of promotions, projects and activities.
Children who cycled in got a raffle ticket, two if bring a parent! The prize was to win a bike.
Fancy Dress Mum and Bike competition, Most Rubbish Bike competition, Bike it Breakfast, Police Security Tagging, Cycling Paramedics, Poetry competition with the winning haiku going up on a plaque next to the bike sheds.
Cycling related activities fit in with the curriculum.
After school bike maintenance classes, the kids love doing it and the older ones enjoy showing the younger ones what to do. It has even been known for a child to deliberately puncture their tyre just to show how easy it was to repair!
Cycle with Santa... one teacher in the school has a white beard, and towards Christmas, there is a school cycle to the nearby shopping centre which is on the Sustrans network.
Staff are invited to take part in a Choc Challenge, as teachers are models for the kids behaviour, staff can win a bike if they cycle in regularly. Teachers can be shown how to use panniers as previously they said that they needed a car to bring all the books in and out of the school, which of course is not true.
Their School Travel Plan is still being updated, and last year they had a 'Biking Viking' cycle trip and this year, 'Roaming Romans'.
The results are that now 88% not coming by car, 22% cycling.

Bike It is working with 12 schools in York.
Initially, they meet the Head. This will give them a good idea of the general attitude to cycling.
The first contact with the children is an assembly with a dramatic visualisation of how recently we have released all this oil and pollution. A toilet roll is fully unrolled and held around the perimeter of the hall, to represent Earth's time in existence. Vicki pulls a hair from her head and puts this right at end of the long line of paper, this hair represents when oil was taken out of the Earth and burned, increasing the CO2 levels dramatically.
A Bike It Crew is chosen, 4 enthusiastic volunteers. They run lots of the activities.
In the winter, they have a Light and Bright assembly, with everybody wearing hi viz and reflective gear and the lights are turned off and a torch shone around to show the reflective bits.
The City of York Council offers Bikeability levels 1 to 3.
Dr Bike comes into the school, and stunt bikes in playground as reward, bike rides and much much more!

I asked about anything which hadn't worked, and it was just one thing:
Cycle Trains... similar to a walking bus... usually dwindles away after first enthusiasm, as mostly relies on volunteer parent.
Someone else asked about whether the children cycle on the road or pavement, and the answer is absolutely clear, Bike It trainers do not like children cycling on pavements.

I asked about longitudinal studies, does this positive bike behaviour continue into adulthood?
Vicki said there were another couple of years before the first Bike It children to reach 18, and then Sustrans would like to see if the cycling behaviour continues.

We then did a quick workshop... plan an event to encourage children to cycle.
Group A went for a bling my bike, slow cycling competition, who gets to school quickest with different modes, Dr Bike, bike generator, DIY Streets for kids event.
We, group B decided to tack our event onto an existing event, and chose Anna's 'Eco Family Day': Sat 9th Oct, at St Lawrences Family Centre, Nappochino, toy freecycle, composting, bike generator Scalextrix, and much much more!

Steve Melia Carfree UK
CarFree UK has to date mainly been a small group of specialists working at policy level, dialogue with T4L, DoT etc.
noticed that there is no organisation which represents the 25% of people who are carfree,
but it has been done in Switzerland.

The aim of such a group would be to be consulted to give the other side of the argument to all the pro car stuff, and to provide information about living carfree.
Facebook group already up.
Could be a social group like Green Drinks, maybe link it to Transition, other local groups.
For people who live without cars
Promote carfree living
Expose barriers, ie conferences held in inaccessible places, health authorities building new hospitals with only car access etc.
Promoting motor traffic removal from cities.
There are risks, such as a local group being 'ruled' by a dominant person, or a renegade with views which don't chime with the views of the group.
Discussion about structure... or no structure
Discussion about who might do the local group work.

This was the end of the conference day for me and I was again exhausted so I packed up and cycled home.

I spent a half hour outside after tea, dealing with some compostables, and then came in and did all these notes. Bed after 2am.

The evening was punctuated by a knock on the door... a delivery man with a fairly large box and on the ground in front of him, a window-box sized planter with quite a few herb plants in. The box contained a clock/thermometer suitable for outside, and there was a get well card from Rory, my Canadian 'Novaterium' partner. He'd found Wilberfoss Nurseries and ordered these gifts for me. I was left speechless. Thank you Rory, you succeeded where most others have failed!

1 comment:

Anzir Boodoo (Leeds, UK) said...

what was said about PRT is interesting, but it's hardly new (I mentioned it briefly in my presentation on Milton Keynes, where citywide PRT was being considered (with a system possibly more complex and sophisticated than the Masdar one) in 1966...

A small, almost demonstration installation of the staRRcar system proposed for Milton Keynes was built in the US, and it was never extended from its short trial route, and now functions as an on-demand bus... see