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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 02-18-14, 08:15 PM   #1
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Can a city really ban cars from its streets?

I wouldn't have thought so.

But after reading this BBC article on Hamburg... well.. hat's off!

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The German city of Hamburg has announced plans to become car-free within the next two decades. It is an ambitious idea, but city officials obviously feel that the personal motorcar does not fulfill a function that walking, biking and taking public transport cannot.

The goal of Hamburg’s project is to replace roads with a “gruenes netz” or a green network of interconnected open areas covering 40% of the city. According to the official website, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, allotments and cemeteries will be connected to form a network, which will allow people to navigate through the city without the use of cars.
source: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/2014...ly-go-car-free
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Old 02-18-14, 08:28 PM   #2
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It's impressive that the city has declared 'car-free' to be its goal, I can only imagine that would lead to riots and record-turnout recall elections if any city in the US tried that. But on the other hand, from the map and story I think the headline is a bit of an exaggeration:
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Old 02-18-14, 08:46 PM   #3
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not in the USA…
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Old 02-18-14, 09:33 PM   #4
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not in the USA…
Maybe not politically at this time (well, certainly not), but the state of Oregon gives local jurisdictions the legal right to restrict any vehicle type it chooses from any road.

I've often wondered what would happen if a city left it up to the residents of each street whether they want to allow motor vehicles or not, with simple majority rules. Would there be any car-free streets?
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Old 02-18-14, 09:37 PM   #5
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I've seen pictures from a German city where they enclosed a freeway and built a park on top of it. You can't even tell there is a freeway there. My city chooses to elevate the freeways and put parks underneath them. Not surprisingly, the only users of such parks are homeless people who are trying to stay out of the rain. They are currently spending a couple million dollars putting a skate park under a freeway. I wonder how many homeless people own skateboards.
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Old 02-18-14, 10:21 PM   #6
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Isn't Germany about as big on cars as the US?
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Old 02-18-14, 11:30 PM   #7
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I've seen pictures from a German city where they enclosed a freeway and built a park on top of it. You can't even tell there is a freeway there. My city chooses to elevate the freeways and put parks underneath them. Not surprisingly, the only users of such parks are homeless people who are trying to stay out of the rain. They are currently spending a couple million dollars putting a skate park under a freeway. I wonder how many homeless people own skateboards.
My first thought when I read that was that they are doing it wrong. An elevated walkway/MUP with a scattering of benches and flower beds would be cheaper to build/maintain due to the fact people on bikes/blades/boards/foot don't have the sheer mass as vehicular traffic does.

But then I thought that maybe the roadway was elevated to prevent pranksters from dropping stuff onto passing cars. Then I remembered that you are in the PNW and I recall that you tend to have less sunshine and more people suffer from S.A.D. (and I may be wrong on this) but doesn't the number of suicides climb during the worst of the S.A.D. 'season'? Perhaps they didn't elevate the "parks" in the hopes of less people jumping? Imagine what kind of chaos that would cause to the traffic below if someone fell from above.
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Old 02-19-14, 02:07 PM   #8
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Maybe not politically at this time (well, certainly not), but the state of Oregon gives local jurisdictions the legal right to restrict any vehicle type it chooses from any road.
I didn't know that. Does that give Polk County the right to ban bikes on county roads?
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Old 02-19-14, 06:19 PM   #9
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Maybe not politically at this time (well, certainly not), but the state of Oregon gives local jurisdictions the legal right to restrict any vehicle type it chooses from any road.

I've often wondered what would happen if a city left it up to the residents of each street whether they want to allow motor vehicles or not, with simple majority rules. Would there be any car-free streets?
It's probably going to come out of municipal jurisdiction rather than by country. so New York may at some time be much more restrictive while rural Iowa... not so much. So it's not really valid to say this will never happen in the US or that Germany is pretty car centric. All that may be true, but what Hamburg does may not fly at all in Stuttgart.

My take is that many of the decisions that affect us closely come from jurisdictions close to home.
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Old 02-19-14, 07:45 PM   #10
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I could see a US city (New York, Fort Collins, Davis, Portland, San Fran) announcing long term plans to move towards becoming car free, but that announcement would be at least 10 years away. By that time, the culture of 'driving' and cars will be changed so dramatically by self driving cars that the desire may be obsolete.

San Francisco is looking into seriously starting the first congestion based pricing plan in the next couple years. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. I think they'll go through with it, since they've already shown their willingness to try new things with SFPark.
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Old 02-19-14, 08:40 PM   #11
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the state of Oregon gives local jurisdictions the legal right to restrict any vehicle type it chooses from any road.

?
If there was any amount of (fungible) federal money used to construct or maintain the road, they can't ban motorcycles, no matter what the state law says.
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Old 02-19-14, 08:57 PM   #12
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mackinac_Island,_Michigan

So there is a car-free (with exceptions for emergency and construction vehicles) municipality in the US. To the point that the only brown on the UPS vehicles on the island is the horses pulling them: http://www.flickr.com/photos/87519500@N00/457814112/

Of course, it's basically a resort town, not exactly a model for a modern city. And, they instituted their ban on cars in 1898, before cars were even really accessible to the populace, let alone the conditions for a car culture starting. But, it is a municipality in the US that has banned cars from its streets.
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Old 02-19-14, 09:07 PM   #13
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I could see a US city (New York, Fort Collins, Davis, Portland, San Fran) announcing long term plans to move towards becoming car free, but that announcement would be at least 10 years away. By that time, the culture of 'driving' and cars will be changed so dramatically by self driving cars that the desire may be obsolete.
Good point. I see those 'driverless' cars as being a real impediment to people get attached to driving. If you stop to think about it, they are really closer to buses than cars...
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Old 02-19-14, 11:33 PM   #14
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I didn't know that. Does that give Polk County the right to ban bikes on county roads?
That would get interesting. You'd have a state law that permits such an action pitted against the common-law right to travel with lots of issues over whether riding a bike is on a par with the non-vehicular forms of travel or not. Clearly, any attempt to keep bikes off a road would make for some legal theater and enrich some lawyers.

In the end, I doubt if any jurisdiction would give it a go since it would likely result in a moratorium of state funds for that county's transportation budget because our legislators like to pretend Oregon is pro-bike (and relative to most states, it is).
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Old 02-20-14, 10:11 PM   #15
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Isn't Germany about as big on cars as the US?
Roody. Google Hamburg Germany at the street level. What a nice city to live in if I must say. The buildings are beautiful and I didn't see what you often find in most American cities, a slum 5 miles away. The streets are clean and public transit options are in abundance. They did make a mistake and removed their street cars but other than that, I can't really say much bad about Hamburg.

I don't know what it would be to ride a bicycle because the streets are narrow forcing you to take the lane. I wonder how the average cyclist is treated on a business work day?

I will tell you one thing. That city would be incredible if it ever became carfree.
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Old 02-20-14, 11:51 PM   #16
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Didn't some city ban bikes in town in Colorado at one time? I remember reading some other cities had looked into it as well. I believe it took a few years to overturn the ban in Colorado.l
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Old 02-21-14, 06:59 AM   #17
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Didn't some city ban bikes in town in Colorado at one time? I remember reading some other cities had looked into it as well. I believe it took a few years to overturn the ban in Colorado.l
Black Hawk, CO banned the riding of bikes in town in early 2010- CO Supreme Court overturned the ban in 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Hawk,_Colorado. I'm sure there are threads about it in A & S.
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Old 02-21-14, 01:12 PM   #18
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Hamberg rebuilt their historic city as it was , after the WW2 bombing .. and rebuilt the trolleys and rail.

USA took its un-bombed citys down to make more room for cars and burned the trollies
to privatize transportation .. for well connected private profits.

GM, Standard Oil and Firestone , colluded.

Europe Car free Shopping districts are not uncommon,
they didn't tear down the old city built before cars existed,
and the streets were too narrow ..

when in Eugene Oregon they reopened a previously car free area , after
the merchants complained .. thought their businesses were not getting enough traffic .

from people who had to walk a couple blocks from the parking lot ..

but they had a Shopping Mall to compete with ,

where there was a further walk from that parking lot.

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Old 02-21-14, 09:37 PM   #19
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I wonder how the average cyclist is treated on a business work day?
This commute video might give you an idea... lot of bike trails/

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Old 02-21-14, 11:17 PM   #20
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This commute video might give you an idea... lot of bike trails/
The rivers and canals are cool. The cycle paths look kinda dicey.
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Old 03-17-14, 02:35 PM   #21
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not in the USA…
I recall from reading I did years ago, a city can regulate its own public roads other than major roads which are considered inter-city routes or state designated highways. Those are the exclusive jurisdiction of the state, even though the roads pass through the city limits. Small neighborhood roads, which some call feeder streets, can have their speed limits reduced or be closed to traffic completely and made into walking malls or bike-only routes. However, the homeowners whose access is on those streets may object. Even closing half of the road width and making that into a bike thoroughfare would bring objections.

Where the road is wide enough though, the city could put up a barrier or raised curb along one side, narrowing the driving width and make the road a 1-way road with a 2-way bike lane, a parking lane, car lane, and another parking lane or not. The City of Santa Cruz, on one road which I drive and bike, installed plastic bumper strips along one side of a 1-way road to separate off a bike lane going opposite to the 1-way traffic, with parking next to the strip, then the car lane, then another small bike lane going the traffic direction. I've never been confronted with a driver opening the driver's door on this road, I suspect because the parked cars face toward the oncoming bikes on that side, so they can see ahead. Stupid drivers (almost all of them) don't look in their side mirror before throwing their door open into the bike lane on ordinary roads, but looking straight ahead on this road the parked cars can see the bikes. (I've been "doored" twice on regular roads with a class 2 bike lane next to the parked car lane.)

I think this is a good arrangement where the city wants to accommodate more bikes safely without building a separate class 1 bike path. If you want to check it out at maps.google.com, look for High Street, Santa Cruz, California, and go to the east end of the road.

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Old 03-17-14, 11:37 PM   #22
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Small neighborhood roads, which some call feeder streets, can have their speed limits reduced or be closed to traffic completely and made into walking malls or bike-only routes. However, the homeowners whose access is on those streets may object.
Ya think? Can you think of a single neighborhood location anywhere in the U.S. where the homeowners allowed the street in front of their own homes to be permanently closed to traffic completely and made into walking malls or bike-only routes?

Please don't bring up touristy island locations or similar seasonal vacation spots and expect to be taken seriously.
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Old 03-18-14, 12:32 AM   #23
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Ya think? Can you think of a single neighborhood location anywhere in the U.S. where the homeowners allowed the street in front of their own homes to be permanently closed to traffic completely and made into walking malls or bike-only routes?

Please don't bring up touristy island locations or similar seasonal vacation spots and expect to be taken seriously.
There are three homes in the Village Homes development (its claim to fame is that the Queen of England came to town just to visit this development a few decades back) in Davis, CA that don't have car access to the door. The nearest street that allows cars is 100-200 feet away (whoop dee doo). These three homes have had the most difficulty selling when they come onto the market, although part of that could have been the fact that they used to be built half-underground (berm on the north side that ran up and onto the roof, leaving only the southern-facing wall exposed). They have since been remodelled to lose the berm.

Years ago, we were about to buy one of them, but the timing didn't quite work out for us. Needless to say, the lack of car access would not have been a problem for us.

Even though that is the only almost-example that I have ever seen, I suspect there will be many more popping up over the next decade as more of the Millennials come of age. I could be wrong (again), but I'm hopeful.
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Old 03-18-14, 12:37 AM   #24
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Can you think of a single neighborhood location anywhere in the U.S. where the homeowners allowed the street in front of their own homes to be permanently closed to traffic completely and made into walking malls or bike-only routes?
No, of course not. I was just gently understating the situation when I said "may object". Surely they would object and probably would sue the city if it tried to cut off their access by car, based on property rights. But the city can do what I said in my example -- create a bike lane, even if it requires prohibiting on-street parking along that side of the street. And it probably would win a lawsuit if it removed a traffic lane and made the street 1-way so the empty lane could be used for a class 1 bike path. Cities must have changed 2-way streets into 1-way to re-route traffic patterns in some cases. There has to be a political will and rational basis to justify it.
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Old 03-18-14, 12:58 AM   #25
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There are three homes in the Village Homes development (its claim to fame is that the Queen of England came to town just to visit this development a few decades back) in Davis, CA that don't have car access to the door. The nearest street that allows cars is 100-200 feet away (whoop dee doo).
I'm familiar with Village Homes. One of my daughters lives there. Village Homes is an unusual planned-unit development which was designed to buck the trend for suburban sprawl and a lot of hardscape in the streets. It has narrow streets shaded by a lot of trees to cool the pavement in this hot central valley town of California. Walking/biking paths meander through lots of green open spaces and the homes are closer together than in the surrounding typical suburb developments. Rain runoff meanders through the green spaces between homes in drainage streams for groundwater recharge rather than being trapped in stormdrain pipes and carried away somewhere. It won awards at its introduction. But it's not the only unusual development in Davis. The UC Davis campus has some hippie domes built by students many decades ago, with no streets within the development, just paths and trees and grassy fields. The university keeps them around as low-cost housing for students. But these examples are just islands among the typical developments with streets and parking. However, Davis also provided many class 1 paths and bike lane class 2 paths through the city. People can ride bikes from Village Homes, which is off campus and across a freeway, to the campus on a class 1 bike path. Village Homes shows that once in a while, a developer comes along with a better vision than just to stamp out the typical suburban pattern of streets and houses with little consideration for community and natural habitats.

Also see http://bmcdb.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/davis_bicycles/ and watch the video there about how the Dutch transformed their country into a bicycling haven. The key was public outrage, high gasoline prices, and child deaths in bike-car accidents. They banned cars from some streets in major cities to transform them into safe bicycling lanes.

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