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  1. #1
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    " For Second-Tier European Cities, It's a Race to Go Greener, Faster" Atlantic Cities

    Some "second tier" European cities see green infrastructure, including fewer cars, as the key to post-industrial prosperity and growth, according to Anthony Flint in the Atlantic Cities website:

    "Far and away, the key feature of being green for Nantes has been to discourage car use. The message is clear on the wide streets coming into town: the transport hierarchy has been flipped around. Seventy-five percent of the street is devoted to spacious rights-of-way for bus rapid transit. There are prim new stations every several blocks. Cars are relegated to narrow lanes on either side.

    "Drivers yield to pedestrians, and those on foot boldly step into crosswalks. Parking spaces have been minimized, and space for cars has been redirected as public space, similar to Times Square. Residents and visitors hop on nearly 1,000 bike-share bicycles at over a hundred stations, navigating via hundreds of kilometers of bike paths."


    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/com...r-faster/7101/
    Last edited by Roody; 12-31-13 at 05:20 PM.


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    I am not going to argue with the author's sentiments, but I do wonder how long he spent in Nantes and what he did there. Much of that article is, I would suggest, lifted from the media material that was part of the awards presentation promotion.

    FWIW, a number of the cities that we visited in France have created moderately or entirely car-free zones in certain parts of their city centres. One of the reasons, as far as I could see, was that the streets were too narrow to adequately accommodate much vehicular traffic and parking anyway.

    I found the comment in the article about preservation on the river interseting; if as has happened in other French cities, the "preservation" is putting down paved boulevardes (admittedly for pedestrian and bicycle use), then that is a very interesting use of the term, in my opinion. The riverbanks will never be returned to their original states, and really all that is happening is that the factories are being replaced with another form of hard structures.

    From what I saw last year, the French governments also combatted the global financial crisis by spending up big on public infrastructure development, and particularly around ocean and riverfront areas. Cycling and pedestrian facilities, as well as train stations were on the list to benefit from that spending, but infrastructure such as freeway development also seemed to receive a fair share of funding.
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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    I am not going to argue with the author's sentiments, but I do wonder how long he spent in Nantes and what he did there. Much of that article is, I would suggest, lifted from the media material that was part of the awards presentation promotion.
    ....
    .
    That's a serious allegation. Do you have any evidence to back it up? Anything at all?


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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    That's a serious allegation. Do you have any evidence to back it up? Anything at all?
    It's hardly an allegation. It's just a suggestion, and people who write do that sort of thing all the time. After all, why recreate the wheel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    That's a serious allegation. Do you have any evidence to back it up? Anything at all?
    Because I have been in the business of writing media releases for hacks like this one, Roody. And having them publish what I have written under their names with nary a change.

    The guy quotes the taxi driver for his one negative take on the whole thing. And he comments about what things were like on the way into the city, but little else. And his hotel most likely overlooked the riverfront preservation he comments on.

    Then he talks about the presentation in Paris. I suppose his saving grace is that he visited Nantes, but I have a very, very strong feeling that the trip was paid for, by the organisers of the award, and likely in conjunction with the Nantes municipal authorities. How would I know? Because that is standard MO for promoting awards like this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    That's a serious allegation. Do you have any evidence to back it up? Anything at all?
    Did you read the comments after the article ? Someone from the area spoke of the city center and the narrow streets were there long before the automobile. Not much new here. It wasn't designed for car traffic.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Many European cities (with the narrow streets which have been there for hundreds of years) create malls out of those streets. Cars would have trouble negotiating the streets, and they are lined with shops, so they close the street off, and it's all pedestrian traffic.

    Bordeaux was probably one of the best examples of that with quite a long mall.



    Even Hobart has created a European-style mall out of one of their streets.

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Because I have been in the business of writing media releases for hacks like this one, Roody. And having them publish what I have written under their names with nary a change.

    The guy quotes the taxi driver for his one negative take on the whole thing. And he comments about what things were like on the way into the city, but little else. And his hotel most likely overlooked the riverfront preservation he comments on.

    Then he talks about the presentation in Paris. I suppose his saving grace is that he visited Nantes, but I have a very, very strong feeling that the trip was paid for, by the organisers of the award, and likely in conjunction with the Nantes municipal authorities. How would I know? Because that is standard MO for promoting awards like this.
    Am I reading the same article? The guy actually visited Nantes, wrote from his own observations and also included some links to secondary material. I wouldn't call this a hack.

    I do note that Atlantic Cities often writes article about other articles, but they aren't the only ones.

    However, this particularly article isn't one of those.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    Am I reading the same article? The guy actually visited Nantes, wrote from his own observations and also included some links to secondary material. I wouldn't call this a hack.

    I do note that Atlantic Cities often writes article about other articles, but they aren't the only ones.

    However, this particularly article isn't one of those.
    Read my post again. I don't deny the guy visited Nantes. He also included observations, some of which were his own.

    The article, on the whole, is very superficial. It doesn't discuss the issues as to how the traffic was moved out, what opposition it met (other than the taxi driver and the harsh parking penalties), what provisions were made for parking outside the serviced area, what benefits and drawbacks, if any, there were for traders in the area, what was done to rehabilitate the shorelines, their usage, and how much all this cost.

    Doing that sort of research would have taken time, and a fair bit of quoting from public officials.

    The superificiality, in my extensive experience in public and media relations (read also manipulating the media, mostly lazy hacks, to write what a corporation wants them to write) means the trip likely was paid for (I mean, you would take a lot to convince me that the Atlantic Cities had the cash to splash on a jaunting journo)... and the author toed the line.

    The green corporations are no purer than any others, in my opinion.
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  10. #10
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    The article, on the whole, is very superficial. It doesn't discuss the issues as to how the traffic was moved out, what opposition it met (other than the taxi driver and the harsh parking penalties), what provisions were made for parking outside the serviced area, what benefits and drawbacks, if any, there were for traders in the area, what was done to rehabilitate the shorelines, their usage, and how much all this cost.
    It's a 500 word article, not an extensive tome. I'm sure you've written articles on press releases and ended up adding brief verbiage to cover the other side of the article. I don't see how this is a "hack". I think the correct word is "journalism".

    The author also provides additional resources if you are interested to follow up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    The green corporations are no purer than any others, in my opinion.
    What's this about?

  11. #11
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    A lot of French cities have encouraged alternatives to the car. One reason is that there is very little oil produced in France and they are vulnerable to disruptions in the supply; plus this imported oil increases the external deficit of France. If you've driven in France you know how expensive gas is compared to the U.S..

    It is possible that the article about a "green Nantes" is a PR exercise because Nantes and the region nearby is the center of a great .controversy surrounding the construction of a new airport, the aéroport des Notre Dame des Landes. Maybe Nantes wants to burnish its image
    Last edited by ironwood; 01-01-14 at 09:35 AM. Reason: punctuation

  12. #12
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Read my post again. I don't deny the guy visited Nantes. He also included observations, some of which were his own.

    The article, on the whole, is very superficial. It doesn't discuss the issues as to how the traffic was moved out, what opposition it met (other than the taxi driver and the harsh parking penalties), what provisions were made for parking outside the serviced area, what benefits and drawbacks, if any, there were for traders in the area, what was done to rehabilitate the shorelines, their usage, and how much all this cost.

    Doing that sort of research would have taken time, and a fair bit of quoting from public officials.

    The superificiality, in my extensive experience in public and media relations (read also manipulating the media, mostly lazy hacks, to write what a corporation wants them to write) means the trip likely was paid for (I mean, you would take a lot to convince me that the Atlantic Cities had the cash to splash on a jaunting journo)... and the author toed the line.

    The green corporations are no purer than any others, in my opinion.
    Again, very serious allegations to make of a very highly respected magazine, one of the longest running publications in the world. It's too bad you had no comments on the subject matter. If you have read better pieces about the restriction of cars in Nantes, links would be appreciated. This OP link is just a blog post, not a major article. It was probably one part of ongoing reporting that the writer was doing for the magazine.

    The Atlantic Cities site published another interesting blog piece about Nantes:

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/job...lity-hub/4186/

    This article made the point that green measures in Nantes are comprehensive and popular with citizens, in contrast with your "suspicions" that they are unpopular: "The locals like what they see in their city: over 80 percent of those who answered the questionnaire believe that the Nantes metro region is 'developing well in economic and cultural terms,' according to Nantes Metropole."

    The conclusion of this article has to do with the general accord regarding green initiatives in Europe: "...most of all, there may be something to be learned from the very concept of having a European Green Capital. Sadly, much of America remains suspicious of government, suspicious of cities, and suspicious of bold green initiatives. Someone in our group mentioned in our closing session how striking it was that there seemed to be so much more of a social and political consensus around these issues in France. "Consensus” is not a word that applies much to current American public affairs."


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  13. #13
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slowhead View Post
    Did you read the comments after the article ? Someone from the area spoke of the city center and the narrow streets were there long before the automobile. Not much new here. It wasn't designed for car traffic.
    But that hasn't kept many European cities from allowing cars to jam their city centers, pollute their air and make walking or cycling a dangerous proposition. Fortunately, some cities are trying to change that situation, and it looks like Nantes is one of them. I hardly think the European Union would have chosen them as European Green Capital if they hadn't taken some bold steps in the right direction.
    Smug, car-bashing cyclist and public transport user.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    But that hasn't kept many European cities from allowing cars to jam their city centers, pollute their air and make walking or cycling a dangerous proposition. Fortunately, some cities are trying to change that situation, and it looks like Nantes is one of them. I hardly think the European Union would have chosen them as European Green Capital if they hadn't taken some bold steps in the right direction.
    They have done a lot in Nantes, with a lot more planned. Here is a description of one project, located on a large island in the Loire River, by the city center:

    Quote Originally Posted by The Atlantic Cities
    This project is big. Already completed or currently being constructed are 3.4 million square feet of projects including 3,450 apartments, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, 452,000 square feet of community facilities, and 94 acres of public open space. Of the housing, 25 percent will be subsidized to be affordable, another 25 percent moderately priced, and the rest left to the market. And it’s going to get bigger: the work already committed and scheduled but not yet begun will roughly double those numbers.
    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/job...lity-hub/4186/

    Nantes was what we would call a post-industrial or "rust belt" city. Now the city is thriving as an Eco-Capital of Europe, along with Copenhagen. The publicly funded sustainability initiatives evidently attracted a lot of innovative people to the area, with big increases in private sector jobs and affordable housing. It sounds a little like Pittsburgh a few years ago, or what people in Detroit are thinking about right now.
    Last edited by Roody; 01-01-14 at 06:39 PM.


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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slowhead View Post
    Did you read the comments after the article ? Someone from the area spoke of the city center and the narrow streets were there long before the automobile. Not much new here. It wasn't designed for car traffic.
    You get nothing positive from the reports of an amazing transformation of a city?

    This city has followed a vision to transform itself from post-industrial wasteland to a center of creativity, prosperity, and sustainability. Nantes lost their main industry (ship building) much as Detroit lost cars and Pittsburgh lost steel.

    And you are saying "Not much new here"!


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    Senior Member GodsBassist's Avatar
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    Every once in a while when there's a picture or article about new bike lanes in a city there are inevitably comments about, "that's really nice but it would never work where I live… we just can't make the roads any wider for bikes," or, "there's no room because of cars."

    I think what's cool about the Nantes story is that they've said there isn't enough room for cars and they can't make the streets any wider, so alternate methods have to be utilized instead. There are cities in the East Coast that haven't had room for cars for decades and have tried everything they can to try and make them fit, only to run into induced traffic anyway. Only recently have people begun say things like "obviously they had to make it car free, there was no space!" ... LCF notwithstanding.

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    Whoa. Why travel by bike when you can travel by elephant?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNDRAMkMWlM

    --

    On a more germane note, I'm always a little skeptical of stories like this. The sidenote that Stockholm is "mostly car free at the center" is playing loose and free with "at the center". Most European cities have sections that are pedestrian-only, but it still pretty easy to get around by car if you want (parking can be a different matter, however).

    What do I see is a shift away from accommodating cars at the expense of other forms of transportation. That is different than trying to squeeze everything in, as noted by the previous poster. It's a pleasure to be able to get around cities like this with convenient public transport and considerations for bicycles. Many big European cities have good alternative transport, as do several American cities. What you don't see in America, and what is being highlighted in the article, is the mid-sized European city that makes it a priority: Dresden, with a great tram network, comes to mind; many Danish cities (Odense, from experience) have good bus service and lots of cycling infrastructure; many Dutch cities.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedaleur View Post
    Whoa. Why travel by bike when you can travel by elephant?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNDRAMkMWlM

    --

    On a more germane note, I'm always a little skeptical of stories like this. The sidenote that Stockholm is "mostly car free at the center" is playing loose and free with "at the center". Most European cities have sections that are pedestrian-only, but it still pretty easy to get around by car if you want (parking can be a different matter, however).

    What do I see is a shift away from accommodating cars at the expense of other forms of transportation. That is different than trying to squeeze everything in, as noted by the previous poster. It's a pleasure to be able to get around cities like this with convenient public transport and considerations for bicycles. Many big European cities have good alternative transport, as do several American cities. What you don't see in America, and what is being highlighted in the article, is the mid-sized European city that makes it a priority: Dresden, with a great tram network, comes to mind; many Danish cities (Odense, from experience) have good bus service and lots of cycling infrastructure; many Dutch cities.
    Yes, what's different is making sustainable urban living a plan, a goal, a mission. Nantes and a few other cities are starting to understand the things that make city living enjoyable and prosperous. One problem is that in the US, Manhattan and San Francisco for example, livable cities become unaffordable for the average person. Nantes is addressing this issue by making 25% of housing low income, 25% middle income! and 50% with market driven pricing.


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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    One thing to note is that Nantes is also a bit of a "leading-edge" city.

    The city's Tramway system the Nantes Tramway, opened in 1985 and re-introduced today's modern tramways in France and in Europe, reversing the trend of tramway closures that had been going on since the middle of the 20th century and becoming the first in a wave of tramways built from scratch. The Nantes tramway system is one of the largest and busiest in France. The city also has a Busway line, an innovative and notable Bus Rapid Transit. Nantes is served by an international airport, Nantes Atlantique Airport and a major French railway station, the Gare de Nantes.
    source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nantes

    Not bad for a city of 280,000.

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    Since 1994, France has a national policy of encouraging cycling and public transportation in cities. Cities receive subsidies to create bike routes and other cycling infrastructure improvements. France has come a long way in the last 15 or so years, but it has lot to do to get back to what it was or to equal The Netherlands, Denmark or Japan in bicycle usage for transportation.

    The Netherlands and denmark have long had national policies to encourage cycling

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    Quote Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
    A lot of French cities have encouraged alternatives to the car. One reason is that there is very little oil produced in France and they are vulnerable to disruptions in the supply; plus this imported oil increases the external deficit of France. If you've driven in France you know how expensive gas is compared to the U.S..

    It is possible that the article about a "green Nantes" is a PR exercise because Nantes and the region nearby is the center of a great .controversy surrounding the construction of a new airport, the aéroport des Notre Dame des Landes. Maybe Nantes wants to burnish its image
    I don't think oil prices and supplies can explain it. Cities are faced with competing pressures: the first is to develop greater oil-dependency while the second is to reduce oil dependency for greener living. Oil-dependency pressure is caused for the most part by a high ratio of GDP to oil prices. Developing land generates revenues/GDP and the more land is developed, the more it becomes necessary to drive from place to place, hence greater oil-dependency. Obviously there are various economic interests behind this kind of development and growing dependency.

    There is competing pressure to reduce dependency and facilitate greener living, though, because of rising awareness that the unsustainability of oil-dependency growth causes recessions and other social-economic problems. So while oil-dependency growth is a vicious cycle of growth-feeding-dependency-which-creates-more-growth-and-thus-even-more-dependency, the awareness of the harmfulness of this form of growth prompts the choice to seek alternative forms of development.

    It's not just about oil-prices anymore. Now that we know that oil-prices are just a symptom of broader economic problems, even if oil-prices become more affordable, there will still be resistance to returning to dependency-growth. Of course, the cheaper fuel gets relative to personal income, the more people get tempted to go back to the easy life of everyone-drives, but that can only go so far before it evokes sufficient memory of past consequences of unsustainable growth, which engenders resistance to giving up sustainable pursuits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    One problem is that in the US, Manhattan and San Francisco for example, livable cities become unaffordable for the average person. Nantes is addressing this issue by making 25% of housing low income, 25% middle income! and 50% with market driven pricing.
    That is a nice gesture but I think the underlying economic causes of the unaffordability have to do with the huge profits generated by unsustainable economic activities. Specifically what I mean is that the global economy generates huge profits by serving a consumer economy that has sprawl-waste built into it. Prices, wages, and even taxes and fees are all designed to generate not only sprawl and ubiquitous auto-consumption, but to keep these costs as a relatively small fraction of overall economic activities.

    So when these cities offer premium livability, a bidding war ensues for who gets to live there, which turns them into paradises for the privileged and others get relegated to move to other areas that haven't reformed (yet). It's really a strange economic pattern because car-free living is actually more affordable than everyone-drives economics of sprawl-growth, yet people who can't afford the more livable areas are pushed to go make money in areas where sprawl-growth development is the source of revenue and income generally.

    So even if Nantes provides for a certain number of 'privileged underprivileged' residents, it just means that unsubsidized housing will grow that much more costly and there will be more competition for income in that area. The problem of unaffordability of livable areas won't disappear; it will just shift to competition at multiple levels. Some people will compete for high-paying positions to pay for high-priced housing while other people will compete according to whatever criteria emerge for allocating the rent-controlled housing.

    The only real solution would be to reform the economy so people would spend conservatively enough to prevent prohibitive pricing from occurring, but of course such reform is no easier than transit-reform and other kinds of reform that make other areas more livable as well.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    That is a nice gesture but I think the underlying economic causes of the unaffordability have to do with the huge profits generated by unsustainable economic activities. Specifically what I mean is that the global economy generates huge profits by serving a consumer economy that has sprawl-waste built into it. Prices, wages, and even taxes and fees are all designed to generate not only sprawl and ubiquitous auto-consumption, but to keep these costs as a relatively small fraction of overall economic activities.

    So when these cities offer premium livability, a bidding war ensues for who gets to live there, which turns them into paradises for the privileged and others get relegated to move to other areas that haven't reformed (yet). It's really a strange economic pattern because car-free living is actually more affordable than everyone-drives economics of sprawl-growth, yet people who can't afford the more livable areas are pushed to go make money in areas where sprawl-growth development is the source of revenue and income generally.

    So even if Nantes provides for a certain number of 'privileged underprivileged' residents, it just means that unsubsidized housing will grow that much more costly and there will be more competition for income in that area. The problem of unaffordability of livable areas won't disappear; it will just shift to competition at multiple levels. Some people will compete for high-paying positions to pay for high-priced housing while other people will compete according to whatever criteria emerge for allocating the rent-controlled housing.

    The only real solution would be to reform the economy so people would spend conservatively enough to prevent prohibitive pricing from occurring, but of course such reform is no easier than transit-reform and other kinds of reform that make other areas more livable as well.
    One reason housing costs go up in some desirable cities pertains to the scarcity of housing. One solution is to increase residential density in order to reduce scarcity, thus lowering prices to rent or buy shelter. This can sometimes be done by removing restrictions on the height of buildings. Taller buildings hold more people in the same space. To some extent this will result in more lower income housing, provided that real estate prices are already high.

    Actually, this whole problem may be somewhat exaggerated, according to an article about median incomes and rents in different parts of New York City:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/busine..._than_you.html


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