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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 11-12-08, 03:38 PM   #1
patc
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What does it take? A few cities show forward-thinking, but why not mine/yours?

Why is it that so few cities around the world show leadership in opposing rampant motoring? London, UK has a congestion fee. Toronto now taxes private motor vehicles (PDF. Yet these are few and far between.

In my neck of the woods, we have a draft 2009 budget with:
  • cycling plan cut from $5m to $600,000
  • $7m in cuts to public transit operating funds
  • removed airport link from LRT phase I implementation
  • $100m budget for new/wider roads

Hmm, seems a wee bit car-centric to me. In June 2008 city council decided to accelerate implementation of the cycling plan - what happened to that? What happened to our goal of getting 30% of commuters to use transit? Meanwhile we have city councillors telling the media "not everyone uses transit, so why should we all pay for it on our tax bills?" Ok, I want a refund on my tax bill - I use a smaller share of the road that my neighbours!

So, kids, here is the question - what does it take to get your/my city to see car use as the problem, and actually do something about it?
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Old 11-12-08, 04:05 PM   #2
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Organize, organize, organize. I'm guessing your city thinks cyclists are a small constituency so no one will much notice if there are cuts. I'm guessing if you had several hundred people show up to complain, they figure out another place to cut and restore at least some funding. Democracy is not a spectator sport. If you do not like it, work to organize the cycling community to get the policies you want and vote out the councilmembers who don't listen.
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Old 11-12-08, 04:29 PM   #3
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Just showing up isn't enough. Last night's budget meeting for the city council resulted in several key pedestrian and transit oriented budget amendments failing, despite many voters showing up to complain.

A lot of our council believes that cars are the only thing that works, and that if a portion of the budget doesn't benefit *their* district, they should automatically oppose it. Very short sighted. This affects all funding, including city parks, schools, water... but the only real solution is to vote out the bad ones. And I can't even do that since mine is vaguely decent.
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Old 11-12-08, 04:37 PM   #4
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So, kids, here is the question - what does it take to get your/my city to see car use as the problem, and actually do something about it?
Why is car use the problem?

What should we do about it individually? and collectively?

The simplest and most succinct answer to these questions needs to be broadcast as widely and repeatedly as possible. All the reasons to live car-free can be broken down into simplistic statements and these statements individually broadcast widely. People will begin to look at car use differently. "Don't like traffic? Don't be traffic." "Do you love life? Don't squander time- bike." "Keep your health - bike." "Live well, live car-free." "Relax, you're on a bike." Add cartoonish or very simple illustrations to the simple statements of fact. Save longer expositions for when car people try to challenge the truths behind the simple versions. The people you target are not the thinking people but the unthinking poorly educated majority of people. Save longer explanations for the minority of car people who will actively question the simple facts of transportation.
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Old 11-12-08, 09:46 PM   #5
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A lot of good replies here.

First let me be honest - other than hassling our city council, I'm not making any big advocacy plans here, mostly venting. I'm on the executive for one community event, and may be on the executive for the groups that plans that event soon - so my volunteer plate is full, thanks.

Right now, as city council debates the '09 budget details, we have a HUGE gulf between the "we plan" and "we do". The official vision for the city seems to be completely ignored every time the budget comes up. Not that the plan is perfect - the Transportation Master Plan quotes the 30/70 modal share target - a plan for cycling, walking, transit use, and driving that has targets only for transit (30%) and motoring (70%)! Yikes.
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Old 11-12-08, 10:16 PM   #6
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We're doing well on the bike front here. A number of city bonds were passed last week which will help on a number of fronts, including bike projects. City council is also in the process of reviewing city code related to bikes and working to improve it to match state law. All with input from local cyclists. A lot of this is due to tireless work by local volunteers and advocates who have been working with the city over a number of years. We also have several friends in the mayor's office and city council who are very supportive of cycling and alternative transportation.

On the transit front, we suck. Some great ideas looming but too much is left for the voters to decide. Ignorance is bliss and the hatchet job done on the proposed streetcar plan here set us back. We're hoping to see a state rail system connecting the 4-5 major urban areas and hope to see something rail based here at some point.

Do you have a local cycling advocacy group? Having an umbrella group that can speak with a fairly unified voice seems to be helping a number of cities.
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Old 11-13-08, 12:24 AM   #7
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Do you have a local cycling advocacy group? Having an umbrella group that can speak with a fairly unified voice seems to be helping a number of cities.
In theory yes - in effect, no.
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Old 11-13-08, 02:18 AM   #8
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A lot of good replies here.

First let me be honest - other than hassling our city council, I'm not making any big advocacy plans here, mostly venting. I'm on the executive for one community event, and may be on the executive for the groups that plans that event soon - so my volunteer plate is full, thanks.

Right now, as city council debates the '09 budget details, we have a HUGE gulf between the "we plan" and "we do". The official vision for the city seems to be completely ignored every time the budget comes up. Not that the plan is perfect - the Transportation Master Plan quotes the 30/70 modal share target - a plan for cycling, walking, transit use, and driving that has targets only for transit (30%) and motoring (70%)! Yikes.
Probably looking at service levels. 70/30 appeases 80 percent of the Population?

To be honest I found auto centric has its perks.
Like when the left lane is piled with cars for a mile plus behind you. All the while no one is your lane.
Or how people will pass you and then cut in front of you leaving you that much farther from the red light which slows more people behind you wanting to turn.
Or making a bike box with unique double left turns.
Or right turns on a six lane road using the left most lane to eventually turn left.
Mass transit sucks so bad you want to bike.

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Old 11-13-08, 06:15 AM   #9
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Mass transit sucks so bad you want to bike.
Mass transit doesn't *have* to suck that badly. In most places where it does, it's because people have put in a great deal of time and effort into making it suck.

The more I look at transportation planning, the clearer it becomes that the suck we see was intentional. The average transportation engineer designs things for adults in the 20-50 age range. Kids are a nuisance, and get ignored. The elderly get ignored. The disabled get ignored. If it doesn't serve the "needs" of the driving age adult, they don't want it. They will actively lobby against tools that help anyone who can't or won't use a car.
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Old 11-13-08, 07:37 AM   #10
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When I lived in Bergen, Norway they charged a fee for all vehicles, including busses, entering the city centre. This dedicated toll went to road construction and the creation of quicker routes through the mountains that surrounded the city. I was impressed with their long term vision and ability to try to preserve the city center which is partly a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. I should add that it is one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe and exceptionally pedestrian friendly.

I like the idea of designing car controlled city centres and Ottawa/Hull Sector would be ideal cities to do just that. Ottawa’s Mayor however is a dolt and has shown no leadership whatsoever in regards to public transportation. Also he is not co-operating with the City of Gatineau to create an integrated transportation network. For example, I live in Hull (Gatineau) and work in Ottawa and cycling and walking is faster for me during peek hours than using the two public transportation systems or driving a car!

By having an LRT network that followed a circler route on both sides of the Ottawa River and had stops at all government buildings and connected with the O-Train, the Transit Way and the proposed STO network on the Quebec side would solve a lot of the congestion problems in Ottawa and put off building another bridge.

Pat, I understand your frustration!
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Old 11-13-08, 01:36 PM   #11
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Pat, I understand your frustration!
Thank you!

The most frustrating part for me is that this goes beyond mayor O'Idiot. The original Transitway was a compromise because it had to be squeezed into already developed areas, sometimes at high cost (e.g. the below-grade stretch at Westboro/Tunneys, and the underground station at St. Laurent). But apparently we did not learn from that experience, instead we keep zoning new development first, then widening the roads, and only THEN do we try to figure out how to squeeze in transit.

I think we need some means (e.g. legislation) that requires city councils to follow their own official plans.
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Old 11-13-08, 03:27 PM   #12
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Strikes me that your first job is to get city council out of THEIR cars periodically. Politicians tend to vote for: a. Whatever will get them reelected, and, b. What serves their personal needs best.

Let me guess - all the movers and shakers in your area only use automobiles for personal transit?
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Old 11-13-08, 04:10 PM   #13
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The mayor lives a few hundred metres from the city hall and my former city councillor in Ottawa is a cyclist. Part of the problem is that Ottawa was amalgamated with rural municipalities which have rural needs such as having to drive cars everywhere. Urban centres are very different then sub-urban or ex-urban areas and city councillors/planners can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that urban populations have different priorities then driving cars everywhere. The problem is the cars coming from outside the core area to the jobs that are concentrated along the Ottawa River.
The Ottawa-Gatineau region is a cyclist’s mecca and it is a wonderful place to live. However the problem is with the city plan in general. For example there is a nice green belt that surrounds the city with the sub-urban areas on the outside (which pay much lower taxes). People have to commute by car to get to the city centre hence the need for new rapid transit routes. One solution would be to put up toll booths and charge the sub-urbanites to enter the city centre!

The Ottawa Cycling Plan:
http://www.safecycling.ca/ocp.html
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Old 11-13-08, 10:01 PM   #14
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The simplest and most succinct answer to these questions needs to be broadcast as widely and repeatedly as possible. All the reasons to live car-free can be broken down into simplistic statements and these statements individually broadcast widely. People will begin to look at car use differently. "Don't like traffic? Don't be traffic." "Do you love life? Don't squander time- bike." "Keep your health - bike." "Live well, live car-free." "Relax, you're on a bike." Add cartoonish or very simple illustrations to the simple statements of fact. Save longer expositions for when car people try to challenge the truths behind the simple versions. The people you target are not the thinking people but the unthinking poorly educated majority of people. Save longer explanations for the minority of car people who will actively question the simple facts of transportation.

While this post seems to be the most "out there", it really finds the nut of what needs to happen. I've been visiting relatives in Canda recently and notice how much "green" advertising the government is promoting. I really like the way one ad just throw ideas out there.. Several ordinary citizens talks about how they contribute by taking an 8-minute shower, or taking the bus to work.

There is so much advertising and talk about doing things in a green way, that it's got a lot of people thinking. Too bad we never see this on TV in the US (where Exxon Mobile seems to rule...).

This kind of approach might really work at a city level if some intelligent people could get the message out to ordinary citizens. Of course, a lot of them think they need to commute by car... but only because they haven't reached the stage of being exposed to new idea and being forced to discuss them.

My thought is that ordinary citizens just don't know enough about the alternatives.
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Old 11-13-08, 10:16 PM   #15
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My thought is that ordinary citizens just don't know enough about the alternatives.
Knowledge is power. It wouldn't be possible to keep so many trapped in the status quo if they weren't kept uninformed and misinformed.
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Old 11-14-08, 12:54 AM   #16
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While this post seems to be the most "out there", it really finds the nut of what needs to happen. I've been visiting relatives in Canda recently and notice how much "green" advertising the government is promoting. I really like the way one ad just throw ideas out there.. Several ordinary citizens talks about how they contribute by taking an 8-minute shower, or taking the bus to work.

There is so much advertising and talk about doing things in a green way, that it's got a lot of people thinking. Too bad we never see this on TV in the US (where Exxon Mobile seems to rule...).
It's much cheaper to convince people to conserve than build infrastructure to meet the demand. It's a fundamental shift in economic thinking from raising supply to meet demand, to today's new initiative, curb demand so you don't have raise supply. Supply side economics vs. demand side economics.

The way of looking at this is, it's never a supply problem, it's alway demand. Get people to stop using [insert resource] excessively, you won't have to build/provide new [insert resource], but you have to provide viable alternatives.
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Old 11-14-08, 03:45 AM   #17
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The only thing that i have noticed that reduces the will to drive is increasing the cost of doing so. The congestion charge in London (UK) cut car usage and the summers high fuel prices cut car use on both sides of the Atlantic. Increasing size/number of roads only seems to prove the movie line "build it and they will come".
However, increasing the cost of driving isn't a vote winner...
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Old 11-14-08, 07:32 AM   #18
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The only thing that i have noticed that reduces the will to drive is increasing the cost of doing so. The congestion charge in London (UK) cut car usage and the summers high fuel prices cut car use on both sides of the Atlantic. Increasing size/number of roads only seems to prove the movie line "build it and they will come".
However, increasing the cost of driving isn't a vote winner...
No, I got rid of the car 8 years ago when I learned it was more hassle than it was worth. There are many people driving who would be happier, healthier and wealthier biking but haven't thought about it. I'm not such an odd ball that there aren't many more like me who would enjoy being car free. The price of gas at the pump is just one effective message, maybe the most effective.
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Old 11-14-08, 11:44 AM   #19
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It's much cheaper to convince people to conserve than build infrastructure to meet the demand. It's a fundamental shift in economic thinking from raising supply to meet demand, to today's new initiative, curb demand so you don't have raise supply. Supply side economics vs. demand side economics.

The way of looking at this is, it's never a supply problem, it's alway demand. Get people to stop using [insert resource] excessively, you won't have to build/provide new [insert resource], but you have to provide viable alternatives.
Sometimes providing viable alternatives can be a simple as building up a knowledge based. When I first started cycling 4 years ago, I toyed with the idea of occasionally using my bike to get to work. I had explored routes and figured out to means to get there.

Then I happened upon the Commuting forum on Bf and discovered that it could be possible year 'round... as long as you had the knowledge necessary to make it work. So I found out about clothing and tires and panniers and rain gear... basically everything you need to make it work.

If even a portion of that knowledge could be disseminated on CBS television, a lot of folks might realize that cycling as transportation is viable. It might even be as simple as a 30 second ad goading folks to bike to work...
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Old 11-14-08, 11:42 PM   #20
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The key to big numbers of Utilitarian Cyclists is population density. The key to population density is real estate prices. If it's cheaper to build in the cotton fields, and then get the State to build highways to them, then people will continue to push into exurbia.

Perhaps we mistake effect for cause. One has to look at the context of a city, and work for positive change within what it is, not merely imitate what seems to work in MAINLY university towns. Downtown Portland is a university town. Madison Wisconsin is as well. Boulder Colorado is too. (Almost 50% of the town residents are attached to the university there.)

Climate and terrain are also factors. In Houston and Austin, the hot humid summers have meant that there has been no increase in ridership despite an aggressive facilities build out. Do you expect a large ridership in, say, Vail Colorado?
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