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Ah, to be more European

Old 06-27-11, 03:59 PM
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Ah, to be more European

Read an article about how cities across Europe are instituting practices hostile to cars. I don't see it happening to this extent in the US anytime soon but when our cities implement such policies those areas often come alive. I would love to see more American city centers become like Euro city centers -- vibrant, pedestrian friendly, bike friendly.
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Old 06-27-11, 04:12 PM
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Sadly until there's big money in bicycles I don't see it happening. In this case I wouldn't mind being wrong but..............................
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Old 06-27-11, 08:09 PM
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I read the same article and would love to see more of this around here.

Dayton recently received a bronze level bike friendly designation from the League of American Bicyclists. When they improved the downtown streets they put in bike lanes. They also plan to redo a section of street near the University of Dayton to cut down on car traffic and increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic. I wish they would do it on more streets but at least it's a beginning.
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Old 06-27-11, 08:27 PM
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California state law prevents cities from enforcing sensible speed limits. As recently liberalized, it goes something like this: 1) City must do periodic speed surveys. 2) The 85th percentile speed is rounded upward to the nearest 5mph increment. Since some folks will drive as fast as they legally can, and since exceeding the speed limit by a few mph almost never triggers a citation, we end up with speed creep. If one driver out of every 6 drives 32mph in a 30mph zone, the street gets reposted to 35. Now if one driver out of every 6 drives 37, the limit gets reposted to 40, etc. Speed kills by reducing available reaction time and by increasing the severity of collisions.
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Old 06-27-11, 09:06 PM
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Where's the sense in that? It certainly reduces revenue.
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Old 06-27-11, 09:24 PM
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Wow. Just another reason we should try to be more like Europe. Too bad I can never see this happening... even in Portland, which is supposed to be one of the greenest cities in the US. If Portland is as green as it gets, we are pretty screwed.
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Old 06-27-11, 11:08 PM
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Didn't most or many of our ancesters leave Europe to become less like Europe?
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Old 06-27-11, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
Didn't most or many of our ancesters leave Europe to become less like Europe?
Mine left to avoid being hung in Scotland (something about thievery), to avoid being persecuted for their weird religious leanings in Britain and to avoid revolution fallout in Russia. I don't think Europe's twenty-first century accommodation of humans on a par with motorized couches entered their minds.
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Old 06-27-11, 11:56 PM
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I hold a grudge. My Family never got over the revelutionary war.
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Old 06-28-11, 04:45 AM
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I live in a small town in Yorkshire (England), population about 6,000. The centre of town is very compact and there used to be a couple of very narrow roads running through part of it. The pavements (sidewalks) were narrow and pedestrians often ended up squeezed into the road to do battle with the traffic.

A few years back, our local council decided to pedestrianise those two roads to form a safe refuge in the centre of town for families to walk around and shop in. The uproar that plan created was unbelievable. The local shopkeepers said that they would have to close their businesses. You couldn't expect people to walk 200 yards (over newly pedestrianised streets!) to shop etc. etc.

The plan went ahead anyway. And you know what? The result is great! On sunny weekends, the town centre is full of tourists from the surrounding cities. The small town square is now a focal point rather than a nuisance narrow street blocked by parked vehicles. Cafes have spilled out onto the paved area and people sit in the sunshine reading their newspapers, eating meals and drinking their coffees. Buskers and street artists perform for them. At Christmas, a big Christmas tree is installed in the middle of the square. Charities hold fund-raising events there. I haven't heard any complaints from the people who fought against the original plan. Nobody is calling for the roads to be reinstated!

What people are demanding now is more parking space so that people can get out of their cars and enjoy walking about here!

This is what happened when a UK celebrity chef called in to film a Christmas commercial (in October - fake snow everywhere, but golden brown trees in the background). The word got around and within minutes, the town centre was alive with people.



Yes, cars should serve people, not people serve cars!
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Old 06-28-11, 05:06 AM
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Unfortunately, North American cities are designed around the automobile so we will never be what Europe is. They don't travel distances to shop, work or play like we do. The villages are closer together and self contained so you really can live where you work. Commuting by bicycle is relatively easy. The roads are narrow and are not speed friendly and the bicycle has a much stronger foothold than here.

I was in Cambridge UK and drove to Southampton to meet a friend to pick up some antique aircraft parts, back up to Stanstead and down to a village just East of London to have dinner with relatives. When I told them what I did with my day, the were astounded by the distance travelled. "What? In one day?"
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Old 06-28-11, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by jdon View Post
Unfortunately, North American cities are designed around the automobile so we will never be what Europe is. They don't travel distances to shop, work or play like we do. The villages are closer together and self contained so you really can live where you work. Commuting by bicycle is relatively easy. The roads are narrow and are not speed friendly and the bicycle has a much stronger foothold than here.

I was in Cambridge UK and drove to Southampton to meet a friend to pick up some antique aircraft parts, back up to Stanstead and down to a village just East of London to have dinner with relatives. When I told them what I did with my day, the were astounded by the distance travelled. "What? In one day?"
You know, the modern practical automobile came about in 1885, automobiles didn't become ubiquitous until after the Second World War, so cities designed exclusively around automobile travel, are actually fairly recent, although people have been living in settlements for over 10,000 years. You can often see remnants of pre-car cities, parts of Toronto, Montreal, Quebec city, Boston, Philidelphia, New York that are designed much like European cities. There are no garages, there are no off-street parking areas, buildings are built tall and narrow, to increase density, because many of these places were self contained. For the majority of residents, if you drew a circle around the place where they were born that was 10km in diameter, they were, born, raised, went to school, got married, worked, raised a family, died and were buried, all within that circle. Walking from one side to the other, would take about 1½ hours on foot, so it wasn't a big deal. Of course in the 1950's when the car became ubiquitous, you now needed places for all the cars, and cities started to spread out, not for any reason other then to provide parking for cars. Unfortunately that meant that distances got so far from place to place that you now needed a car to get anywhere. Eventually the car era, much as we think now, that it can't possibly ever end, will end,gas prices on a day to day basis will go up and down, but if you look at them over long periods of time, they only really go one way, UP. Eventually the price of gas, will exceed what people can afford to pay for it, and that will signal the beginning of the end of the automobile era.
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Old 06-28-11, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Wogster View Post
Eventually the price of gas, will exceed what people can afford to pay for it, and that will signal the beginning of the end of the automobile era.
I'd like to believe it. However, I've just come back from UK to Bahrain. UK, if my multiplication and conversion is about ok, maybe $13.50 a gallon. (One pound 38p per litre).

Here in Bahrain, 100 fils per litre, maybe $1.50 a gallon

Both places, jammed with cars. I think gas demand, sadly, is pretty price inflexible. I could foresee that $200 per gallon would have more effect on wage inflation than driving habits.
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Old 06-28-11, 08:11 AM
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There have been several initiatives here to put streets on "diets", reducing the number of motor lanes and lower speed limits while adding bike lanes and bike parking. I can see future leaders taking it to the next step. Our mayor-elect is a bicycle commuter and may be sympathetic to a shift toward more pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile there are pockets of progressive 30- and 40-somethings that are pushing for streetcars (thought we had that wrapped up last year before it was defeated through political wrangling). I expect some of them to become city leaders in the not-to-distant future and they would embrace policies like those in the article.

I can even envision the downtown area resisting such measures. Fine; leave them out of it. The Near Southside and possibly the Westside would probably go for it and we could see which works better. The nature of Fort Worth is that there are about a half-dozen "city centers" that could be developed along different lines- the Downtown area is set up like a classic American city with cars in mind, but several of the other areas could be developed along the lines of "urban villages" that are more bicycle/pedestrian friendly. The Near Southside was a throw-away neighborhood 20 years ago but has revitalized into what is kind of a model of ped- & bike-friendly "throwback development." The Near Westside took a different tack; instead of rehabbing older structures, they cleared several city blocks and built new, high-density mixed-use buildings that on any given night are filled with pedestrians out to get a bite to eat. It's a self-contained housing/entertainment area.

The city has set up several "Tax-Increment Districts" where additional taxes are levied and used for local development, with a high degree of neighborhood influence. Several of these districts have chosen to reinvest the money in different ways; the Near Southside is paying for bike lanes and bike parking while most of the Downtown money goes to subsidize parking to make it free on evenings and weekends because they are all about the car. The districts pretty much get to decide.
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Old 06-28-11, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Wogster View Post
You know, the modern practical automobile came about in 1885, automobiles didn't become ubiquitous until after the Second World War, so cities designed exclusively around automobile travel, are actually fairly recent, although people have been living in settlements for over 10,000 years. You can often see remnants of pre-car cities, parts of Toronto, Montreal, Quebec city, Boston, Philidelphia, New York that are designed much like European cities. There are no garages, there are no off-street parking areas, buildings are built tall and narrow, to increase density, because many of these places were self contained. For the majority of residents, if you drew a circle around the place where they were born that was 10km in diameter, they were, born, raised, went to school, got married, worked, raised a family, died and were buried, all within that circle. Walking from one side to the other, would take about 1½ hours on foot, so it wasn't a big deal. Of course in the 1950's when the car became ubiquitous, you now needed places for all the cars, and cities started to spread out, not for any reason other then to provide parking for cars. Unfortunately that meant that distances got so far from place to place that you now needed a car to get anywhere. Eventually the car era, much as we think now, that it can't possibly ever end, will end,gas prices on a day to day basis will go up and down, but if you look at them over long periods of time, they only really go one way, UP. Eventually the price of gas, will exceed what people can afford to pay for it, and that will signal the beginning of the end of the automobile era.
Pretty much my point as most European towns were designed for defence by the Romans and that structure remains in tact today. They are difficult to transit by design. Our older cities were designed with similar planning or were fortified and kept intentionally compact. Cars however, were a North American phenomenon which combined with a larger landmass created sprawl. As I said, regardless of fuel price, the sprawl is here to stay, as is the automobile and the priority they seemingly enjoy on the roads.
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Old 06-28-11, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Wogster View Post
Eventually the price of gas, will exceed what people can afford to pay for it, and that will signal the beginning of the end of the automobile era.
Perhaps of the gas fueled variety. You think all those huge corporations that profit from the automobile will just close up shop? I'd be willing to bet the day after we run out of oil there will be a synthetic alternative at your local station. Too many make too much to close up shop and walk away.
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Old 06-28-11, 09:49 AM
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American culture is determined by corporate America. The auto and gas interests are among the most powerful. When a more pedestrianized society is in their interests then we will have one. Until then, we're pretty much stuck with the automobile culture. On the bright side, however, many communities have developed pedestrian malls. The opposition to them is purely economic. If a merchant can be convinced he will not lose business or increase business, he will be for the development of a pedestrain mall. In the USA, profit is paramount, quality of life secondary. Many people confuse the two. Money = quality of life is what most people in a consumer society believe. This belief is promulgated by corporate American and their henchmen in congress. People who see the quality of life in terms of the nature of daily experience with an eye to the aesthetic appreciation of their activities and their environment have only a tiny voice, but at least they have a voice that can sometimes be heard. While there is no reason to be optimistic until they way people think changes, one can take comfort in living in such a way that promotes a truly higher quality of life. The more we ride bicycles, the better off we and the society we live in will be.
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Old 06-28-11, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
Didn't most or many of our ancesters leave Europe to become less like Europe?
If by "become less like Europe", you mean avoiding the daily threat of starvation, yeah, that's it.

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Old 06-28-11, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by XR2 View Post
Perhaps of the gas fueled variety. You think all those huge corporations that profit from the automobile will just close up shop? I'd be willing to bet the day after we run out of oil there will be a synthetic alternative at your local station. Too many make too much to close up shop and walk away.
Of course, none of us will be around to see that. Canada has the second largest oil reserve in the world and has an estimated 300+ million barrels that require more expensive production. The government cites we have enough oil available to fuel Canada and the US demands for 100 years. That is enough time to develop alternate fuels or completely evolve the ways we get around. Gulfstream Aerospce recently completes a transatlantic flight in a G450 using alternate fuels (biofuel) so change is happening.
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Old 06-28-11, 10:21 AM
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Population density is much greater in a lot of these places than in the US. That makes a big difference when you make decisions.

Keep in mind, if you all want to move to Davis, Minneapolis, Portland or some other "bicycle-friendly" town you can do it if want to make the change.
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Old 06-28-11, 10:33 AM
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Despite the more car-based society and infrastructure in the US and the entrenched business interest in maintaining the status quo, I am somewhat optimistic that there will be movement back toward more centralized living arrangements and less reliance on individual motorized transportation. There are some signs of it happening here and there already. It will not happen as quickly or as universally as some of us may wish, but it will happen.
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Old 06-28-11, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by bobbycorno View Post
If by "become less like Europe", you mean avoiding the daily threat of starvation, yeah, that's it.

SP
Bend, OR
I guess you didn't notice the emocons? This is one of those I wish I were born in another time thread. With our political system becoming more like Europe will take place about as quickly as the core of the earth cools. There is a better chance of Europe becoming more like the US. Disney world in France anyone?
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Old 06-28-11, 11:46 AM
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Last year I read the book "High Cost of Free Parking" that makes a compelling case for de-automobilizing American cities. It should be mandatory reading for city planners.

http://www.amazon.com/High-Cost-Park...9283036&sr=8-1
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Old 06-28-11, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by bobbycorno View Post
If by "become less like Europe", you mean avoiding the daily threat of starvation, yeah, that's it.

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My ancestors came to North America in 1812 to fight against the Americans.
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Old 06-28-11, 01:01 PM
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The "High" cost of fuel over here is having an effect. Gas guzzlers are cheap on the used market- Hybrid cars are common and lots of 2nd cars of the household in mothballs or sold. That is what I have done with my car. The wife has a small economical car that does less milage now than it has ever done--5,000 miles a year now down to 3,500.

Commute time and a lot of bikes being used for transport. Companies catering for "Secure" bike space at work and the country is getting fitter. My son in law commutes the 10 miles to work and now collects 3 other riders en route. There are now 20 regular commuters at his work--at the start of last year it was only 3.

But the part that really matters is that car drivers now "Seem" to respect cyclists. Police are coming down hard on bike rage- bike lanes are becoming common on most main roads and cars are being hit with high parking charges.

But if you want to see Europe at its best for bikes- look at Holland. Bikes rule over there.
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