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  1. #1
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    Starting a Car Free City?

    A while ago one of the relatively anti-car-free members (although I got the impression that his trying to justify his multiple SUVs was because he felt guilty and was possibly even considering a gradual switch to car-free/car-lite) started a thread about building a car-free city. The thread no longer exists, which is why I posted this one. The member suggested that if we all believe in it so strongly, we car-free people should try to buy some land and build a city from scratch. I suppose it would be a city that could show our commitment to being car-free and demonstrate how it could be done.

    On several levels, I think it's a great idea. I'd love to live in a city built around the ideals that most intentionally-car-free people hold, such as conserving resources and the environment, and trying to avoid the incredible inefficiency of using a 3000-pound vehicle to move a 150-pound person plus 10 pounds of the person's stuff. Businesses and homes would of course be built in locations that were accessible without cars, and easy-to-use public transit would be critical.

    There are some major challenges though. Most cities grow somewhat "organically" around some economic need for a city- usually an area needs a place of commerce and possibly manufacturing, and the easy way to do that is for people to start businesses near other complementary businesses. And the city needs to have adequate water and preferably plenty of locally-farmed food. Trying to create a city from scratch would be difficult even if if all of the natural surroundings were near-perfect. (of course, you can start small and see where it goes!) Still, it's an interesting idea.

    Speaking of starting small, I'm thinking if you wanted to try to create a city you might start with one of those relatively self-sustaining eco-commune places. If I remember right, some of the existing ones are already rather large, with maybe 50 people living in them. If one of those communes wanted to try to build itself up into a village and later possibly a city, it could be tried. Or one could start a community/commune with future growth in mind as a possibility, and see how big you can make it. Either way, it's all just dreams, but maybe, just maybe, somebody will act on them at some point.

    Also see the following:
    http://www.carfree.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carfree_Cities
    http://www.worldcarfree.net/conference/
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=car+free+cities

    I tend to believe that in order to effect change, (such as reducing developed countries' dependence on cars) it helps to get little ideas adopted in a widespread way, gradually. But if it's practical to do so, it also helps to demonstrate an "ideal situation" for others to compete to achieve. A comparison that comes to mind is the combination of housing being demonstrated with a few off-the-grid solar/wind powered houses, and then many, many other houses being built with just good insulation and an efficient but affordable heater.
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  2. #2
    gwd
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    Cerewa, you forgot that we can create car free cities one block at a time or even one person at a time. If car free people congregate on a single street they can petition the government to block the street, take over the on street parking for their own use etc. Maybe leave room for emergency vehicles and delivery trucks. By being car free I've made my own psycho geography of car free living- not that I don't react to cars around me. The car free people in my ward could aggregate into 1/3 of the ward and produce make several contiguous blocks car free.

  3. #3
    ... thelung's Avatar
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    With real (long-term) sustainability in mind, which I assume to be a reason behind the desire for car-free life, remember that unsustainable importation of resources on a massive scale is a necessity of city living. Car free towns and villages would be much easier to sustain on local foods and local materials without having to drain resources from far off places like a giant parasite, and just as importantly, without heavy machinery being required to carry all that stuff in to the village, and then carry out all the refuse (cities make a lot of that). I think that cities as we know them will start going down the tubes as the last of the cheap fossil fuels go up in smoke.

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    http://www.garbagewarrior.com/open.htm

    earthships would be a perfect solution.....they dont need an infrastructure to function.....totally sustainable

    with community gardens and fish farms....or a stocked lake

    everyone can have thier own farm animals or a community farm

    id live there

  5. #5
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  6. #6
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    i dont think something can be called sustainable if it doesnt collect its own water, dispose of its own waste, create its own heating cooling and power and have indoor food production

    everything else is the same old thing with a new name

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    Senior Member jcwitte's Avatar
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  8. #8
    rhm
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    multimodal commuter rhm's Avatar
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    I like the idea of creating car-free cities one block at a time. Densely built old neighborhoods, like much of Philadelphia, would be ideal. As for blocking off traffic, there are problems... and solutions... this anecdote got me thinking:

    When I was living in West Philadelphia ca 1993 they repaved the streets in my neighborhood. First step was to remove the asphalt. This brought the street down to its original 1895 cobblestones, which were in amazing condition. For the first couple days it was pretty noisy, with a lot of wheel noise, but one by one all the cars that used to take shortcuts down 48th street suddenly started taking other routes. Within a week all traffic had ceased, with the exception of people who lived right there. It was almost like a car-free neighborhood, and exceptionally pretty too. Unfortunately after a few weeks the city repaved the streets and everything went back to status quo.

  9. #9
    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by thelung View Post
    ...remember that unsustainable importation of resources on a massive scale is a necessity of city living.
    I don't think this is true. Cities existed for centuries without fossil fuels. With our increased knowledge of ecology and engineering we should be able to transform cities to be less resource intensive than they are today yet be more pleasant for residents than say ancient Rome.

  10. #10
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I always thought it was interesting that folks on this forum are so disconnected from the carfree cities movement. I wonder if it's because we see cars as being of some benefit to a bike lifestyle? Cars mean roads, and roads are great for riding bikes. Most of the carfree cities designs are built around rail, and you can't ride a bike on a railroad track.


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  11. #11
    reb
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    But you still need hard paths for people to move around away from rail. As long as these aren't cobbled, there's no reason why they can't be multiuse. Give me a 2m wide ped/bike mixed use over a busy city thoroughfare any day of the week!

  12. #12
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reb View Post
    But you still need hard paths for people to move around away from rail. As long as these aren't cobbled, there's no reason why they can't be multiuse. Give me a 2m wide ped/bike mixed use over a busy city thoroughfare any day of the week!
    Not for me. Mixed use paths (MUPs) are impractical for a lot of the cycling I do. Too slow and too frustrating by far.


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    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Cars mean roads, and roads are great for riding bikes.
    Roads existed long before cars.

  14. #14
    gwd
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    Quote Originally Posted by adgrant View Post
    Roads existed long before cars.
    Bikes existed before cars too.

  15. #15
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Not for me. Mixed use paths (MUPs) are impractical for a lot of the cycling I do. Too slow and too frustrating by far.
    The MUP's here have a 15 mph speed limit. I tend to average 18 mph on them.... compared to about 16 mph on the roads where I have to deal with cars and traffic lights, etc. Obviously, in place where they're very crowded, they're NOT a good choice. Denver fixed one such... put a path on each side of the river, one side for wheels, one side for heels.

    Obviously, the MUP's don't go everywhere, but they are a very nice choice when they are available for my route.
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    I'm in. Where we all moving?

  17. #17
    Arrogant Safety Nanny
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    Some place on the California central coast maybe? Rail connection to LA and SF, temperate weather year round (rarely below freezing, and only then at night, rarely above 80 degrees), lots of good farm land. Only downside is land is so expensive because everybody wants to live here, lol.

    And just a couple of questions...would a car free city also be public transit free? (no buses, etc.). Can everybody agree on what exactly a car free city would be?

  18. #18
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffB502 View Post
    Some place on the California central coast maybe? Rail connection to LA and SF, temperate weather year round (rarely below freezing, and only then at night, rarely above 80 degrees), lots of good farm land. Only downside is land is so expensive because everybody wants to live here, lol.

    And just a couple of questions...would a car free city also be public transit free? (no buses, etc.). Can everybody agree on what exactly a car free city would be?
    Nope

    I think everyone has there own idea of utopia...I had a link to a blog where someone was suggesting complete new cities for the future with minimal oil, but as was pointed out the cost of developing a totally new city would be cost prohibitive. I think conversion is the way to go. Take a small town 8-15k range laid out on a grid. You could have just a few main thoroughfares with mass transit...electric trolley cars come to mind, then the rest would be cycles and pedestrian. You would still have to have heavy draft vehicles of some type, whether horse drawn, electric or ? But you could do like some cities in Italy where the ban all ICE's from the city center during daylight hours. Industry could continue to be served by heavy rail and rail sidings. Just a few of my thoughts on the matter.

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  19. #19
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    And just a couple of questions...would a car free city also be public transit free? (no buses, etc.). Can everybody agree on what exactly a car free city would be?
    I think the schemes for a car-free city that are relatively realistic allow for public transit. Public transit consumes a lot less energy and is also easier to power with renewable electricity than automobiles. Public transit solutions like Philadelphia's on-street trolleys and our commuter train system have been electric for a very long time, and if they hiked fares to cover a switch to renewable energy (and they won't any time soon but they could, just by calling up their electricity supplier) it would raise fares by ~1 cent per trip.
    Some awesome folks who are working to give Haitians the ability to manage their safety and their lives:
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  20. #20
    Capoeirista
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    I would so be there. I remember when I lived in Germany, I was a few blocks from the walking and riding only section of town, and it was fantastic. Easy on the legs and wheels, and everything I needed was nearby.

  21. #21
    Banned. folder fanatic's Avatar
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    There is a-relatively-car free city in California. It is called Avalon and is located on Santa Catalina Island about 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. Cars and other similar motor vehicles are heavily regulated or restricted to a few commerical vehicles. Residents and visitors do ride bikes, use golf carts, and the like to get around.

    The island population is rather small and the children leave the island when they grow up for-guess what!-the huge car orientated mainland of Southern California.

  22. #22
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by folder fanatic View Post
    There is a-relatively-car free city in California. It is called Avalon and is located on Santa Catalina Island about 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. Cars and other similar motor vehicles are heavily regulated or restricted to a few commerical vehicles. Residents and visitors do ride bikes, use golf carts, and the like to get around.

    The island population is rather small and the children leave the island when they grow up for-guess what!-the huge car orientated mainland of Southern California
    .
    Mackinac Island in Michigan is totally carfree and always has been. I had a great uncle who drove a dray on the island, and another great uncle who used to overwinter some of the horses on his farm south of the Soo.


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  23. #23
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    A great idea, but I would be pretty happy just to live in a city that took active steps to discourage personal car use, as opposed to the one I currently live in which seems to want more people to move here and use cars for everything.

  24. #24
    Senior Member social suicide's Avatar
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    Mackinac Island is also a great place for XC skiing. Shhhh.... You can fly from St. Ignace or if the straits are still open you can ride the Arnold line. No boats on Sundays. Shhhh.... The Pontiac Lodge is open as well as the Village Cafe. Don't tell anyone. My goal this summer is to avoid the extra charge for my bike on the ferry by putting my '68 schwinn run-a-bout in a suitcase.

  25. #25
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Here's a link to a thread I posted in Advocacy & Safety:

    UK village designed to facilitate biking and walking

    It's about a village in UK that has been designed and built primary for pedestrians and bicyclists. It's not car-free, but there is a heavy emphasis towards that. It's on a trust-owned plot of land, so the trust is relatively free to impose all kinds of restrictions on how the village is built and how the lay-out looks like. From what I read, the trust also uses this freedom eagerly.

    Dunno, from an individual resident's point of view this kind of arrangement looks promising as long as community development goes in the same direction with one's own ideas. But in the UK village case, the trust pretty much dictates what can and cannot be done. If you don't agree (anymore), you're only option seems to be to leave.

    --J
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

    Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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