Europe’s Vibrant New Low Car(bon) Communities

ITDP wrote up case studies of 8 relatively new car-free (or very car-light) neighborhoods in Europe, with scales ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of people, and how they compare to adjacent, similar communities, in terms of transportation mode share, etc.  It’s great to see developments like this happening outside of the 500 year old city centers where cars really can’t be squeezed in without destroying the district.  The urban density required to do this and make it work really isn’t all that high.  Two developments each in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands, one outside London, and another in Switzerland.

Even The Economist thinks cars are in decline

Don’t Expect Driving Rates to Rise Again, says that eco-leftist rag… The Economist.  People don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes each way commuting, and you just can’t give very many people access to that much opportunity within 30 minutes of travel in a sprawling urban geography.  Certainly not cost-effectively.  Demographically, cars are becoming something that old people like.  Now, if only we could convince China to leapfrog the whole car culture and go straight to Cities for People… lots and lots of people.

Cutting dependence on cars isn’t anti-car, it’s common sense

The problem with cars in an urban context isn’t (just) related to sustainability… It’s a problem of space, and the best way to allocate it in the pursuit of a high quality of life.  Even if you don’t care about oil dependence or climate change, dedicating vast tracts of urban real-estate to car storage doesn’t make sense, because it degrades the functionality of the city.

Cars? Not For Us

The Atlantic recently had a piece looking at the decline in home and car ownership amongst the young, and their migration to urban centers, dubbing this “The Cheapest Generation”  This demographic felt the need to explain the freedom of not owning in their own words, pointing out that cheap and broke are not the same thing, even though they can be similar, behaviorally.

The Case for Separated Bike Lanes

Even just barely physically separated bike lanes command much more deference from motorists than paint on the ground.  Would-be urban cyclists consistently (and Boulder is no exception here) cite fear of traffic and the desire for separated infrastructure as the number one reason they don’t bike at all, or don’t bike more.  And it doesn’t have to be a big infrastructure investment — even just red plastic cups taped to the edge of the bike lane will keep cars at bay!

Paris to return Seine to the people

After 45 years of motorway lining the Seine, Paris is starting to re-pedestrianize the riverside. They’ve been doing it for short periods during the summers with the Paris Plages, but now the plan is to make it permanent. It’s an irresistible destination (all the more so without the motorway), being made inconvenient for or inaccessible to cars. This is, I think, a winning strategy.

The Diverging Diamond

Strong Towns takes on The Diverging Diamond and suburban traffic engineers everywhere.  It’s nice to see someone on the conservative end of the spectrum also arguing passionately for livable density and good urban spaces.  He comes to it from an economic point of view — we don’t have anywhere near the pile of cash required to maintain the infrastructure we’ve built (and we never will, because it’s expensive and does not come close to paying for itself in terms of economic benefits)  so we need to let it crumble or actively remove it, and go back to a network of roads connecting places, which are filled with streets — networks that facilitate local activity, especially economic activity, and which are cheaper to maintain as well.  And better for pedestrians, and kids, and biking, and sidewalk cafes too.

He’s got a good TEDx talk too, up here:

Rethinking the Economics of Traffic Congestion

The Atlantic Cities takes a look at the Economics of Traffic Congestion.  It turns out that congestion is positively correlated with per-capita GDP, and there’s little evidence to suggest that traffic congestion ends up inhibiting economic development significantly.  In their words it’s nothing more than a metric of how convenient it is to drive an automobile.  But many cities still insist on “Level of Service” as a metric of success in their transportation master planning process, under the assumption that congestion must necessarily be bad for the economy.

When shared cars kill

Peer to peer carshare cars are killing people, because cars of any kind kill people… not because they’re shared.  They’re big and heavy and fast, and they get operated in densely populated areas.  Anybody who thought this wouldn’t come up when they started setting up these services was delusional.  The thing I don’t really get is why on earth is the owner of the car liable for an accident involving it?  Assuming the car didn’t spontaneously explode due to poor maintenance, I presume the death and destruction is a consequence of bad driving, texting, drinking, poor road engineering, etc.  Just like all the other 40,000 people who get killed by cars in the US every year.  The problem that needs to be fixed here isn’t intrinsic to car sharing, it’s a problem with the way we assign liability in automobile accidents.