The traffic is often amazingly inhumane. Many of the small towns in Oregon are formed on either side of the major highway which has speed limits within the town but still sees so much traffic as to be very dangerous for pedestrians.
These towns need the commercial visitors brought by the highway to survive — but the design common in Europe for this scenario is so much better. There will be a sign for an exit off the main road for the “city center” exit — there will be a single parking lot for the city center, and then comfortable walking distance to the businesses ... superior design.
Many small, especially old, towns in Europe have ancient road layouts that are too narrow and steep for cars within the town — which resulted in these car free designs for free. It’s beautiful. Parking is easy because there is only one place to do it on the outskirts — and then walk everywhere. There is no improvement for a small town to be designed otherwise in my opinion.
Sadly, I think this is only easy to accomplish in mid-sized densely-populated cities (<= 250000 inhabitants), unless there's a lot of planning and investments done.
Paradoxically, shopping associations were initially strongly opposed to implementing car-less downtown plans. Only to reckon later how wrong they were.
If I recall correctly, car-less policies were imported from Aarhus and Aalborg, where majors were experimenting with turning some main streets into pedestrian only by the late 1980s.
It's also interesting to note that both Aalborg and Oviedo tend to rank very highly in a few quality of life EU metrics . I know both, and they are pretty fantastic places to work and live in. Everything is within short walking distance.
You are right about the "easy" part, but it can definitely be done. In fact that's what Tokyo feels like, and it's the largest city/metro area in the world, with 38 million residents.
Many American and British cities fail in this regard due to excessively sparse housing. But, for example, I found downtown DC & Arlington very walkable and nice.
It's like being in the airport concourse with those electric golf cars racing between the pedestrians with their interminable annoying beeping.
If people don't have cars, parking won't be a problem, and walking from one store to another rather than paying for a taxi would become preferable. Then more people would have the awful experience of walking half a mile through a giant paved parking lot which would motivate people to change it.
A solution is to level the planes of separation between types of traffic in urban areas. With pedestrians closer to cars the cars have to go slower by nature. It's antithetical to the common logic and current policy of building walking paths completely separate from roads and all of the businesses attached to them.
I commuted by bike for two years or so in Portland -- for work from North Portland to downtown across the Broadway bridge, and for fun when visiting friends all over south east -- and that wasn't my experience at all, Portland drivers were incredibly courteous to cyclists. You could take the lane when needed and no one batted an eye, people would correctly negotiate right of way with bikes at four way stops, etc.
Contrast that to Oakland where I live now where I receive death threats on a daily basis for riding in the bike lane. :)
Not that I want to complain -- I'll take this any, any day over the drivers in certain other northern cities named after 70s rock bands. Just a bemused observation.
Paradoxically, in these encounters I prefer the "rude" drivers that get out of the way as quickly as possible.
I was recently in Amsterdam where there are many many bikes and many variations on the scenarios that can cause this to occur. I felt like I started to observe communication on the faces and trajectories around me that tried to convey a message about a kind of conscious morality for influencing the outcomes that results in these scenarios. There seemed to be a kind of social encouragement toward modulating one’s trajectory when possible in advance of where uncertainties could cause delay in order to have the effect of minimizing the required velocity changes — an expression that seemed to say “if you put yourself into a situation where uncertainty about your trajectory is likely to cause a group velocity decrease, you haven’t found the ideal path. Keep an eye out for opportunities to improve the group outcome in the future and have a nice day.” (Edit: Culture in the Netherlands is rather amazing)
I think what you describe just minimizes fuel consumption though.
I had not really considered that people might view it differently but thinking back on my experience in Canada, I remember being surprised at how much people would accelerate when the light turned green and how hard they would have to brake just seconds later at the next red light.
I love riding, but I have been run over. No thank you. I will bike for transportation the day we implement Dutch style separated bike lanes (i.e. by an actual physical barrier, even if only a slightly raised bike lane)
Other than that, I drive my mountain bike to areas where there are no cars.
Edit: in the city I'm in now, we just 'created' a bunch of bike lanes. Which means putting paint on a continuous stretch of asphalt and expect vehicles moving at 10mph that weight 50 pounds to do just fine sharing the road with vehicles weighing 2000+ pounds and going 50+ mph. Ridiculous and a waste of my tax dollars.
Yeah, this kind of thing is really disappointing, but unfortunately predictable. There's a real chicken/egg situation. Few people will bike until there's safe support for it; until lots of people are biking, all the infrastructure just takes space away from the people using cars.
Detriot feels much safer. People mostly leave you alone.
Wear the wrong colors could be an issue. The boards over windows is a little bit scarier but in Detriot you feel more prepared, even expect something to happen so it rarely does. In Oakland/SanF things can be very calm but turn really quickly.
As a bicyclist, I would love to have a dedicated network of bicycle track all over town. But it doesn't exist, yet.
Also, this is way fuzzier than you present. There's little conflict between cars and bikes on lightly traveled, spacious suburban streets or sleepy neighborhood county roads. Even on collectors & minor arterials, on an e-bike I travel about the same speed as a slow car.
Speed delta is not an incorrect observation, but varies in significance. In terms of priorities, highways are certainly top candidates for the first dedicated bike tracks.
Sure, some businesses complain, but overall number of bikes on the road seems to have increased.
Most cyclists are slower than the speed limit on most roads, but this does not occur "virtually always". Don't assume. Check the speed limit and the cyclist's speed!
As a cyclist, I find it really irritating to be dangerously passed by a driver, seemingly as punishment, catch up with them at a stop light, and then have them chew me out for not going the speed limit, when I actually was going the limit or faster. It's not hard for a fit cyclist to go the limit on a 15 or 20 mph road, particularly downhill. The problem here is that many drivers think anyone not going 30+ mph on those roads is being a jerk, and unfortunately some of those drivers believe dangerously passing slow vehicles is an acceptable response to their impatience.
But the reality is this: Going 30+ mph in a 15 mph zone is being a jerk!
Cars can be a great tool for humans to use and they are not yet running around without a human inside.
I think the most intrusive part of cars are when they are moving. That is when they are dangerous, mess with peds and bikers, and occupying roads that break up community space. Look at how much parking structures are as a % of the total building space in downtown SF or Manhattan. Not nothing, but pretty small. Maybe 5%. Probably less.
Problems with bicycle roads:
90% of traffic is much slower than me, which I do 20 km/h in cities (nothing special with some training)
They go up and down sidewalks and turn before intersections. This slows down everybody willing to go faster than 10 km/h
They are bumpier than roads
They are on the side of the road and more dangerous at any intersection, where they are close or before the stop line for cars coming from the side. Furthermore there is less space to look for incoming traffic. Being on the car's road is safer. I like bicycle roads when they are far away from car's roads, for example along rivers. Small low traffic roads are good enough.
On the other side, roundabouts and every other modern road layout that force cars and bikes to get close is dangerous for bikes. I feel safe to say that roads became less dangerous for cars in the last 20 years and more dangerous for bicycles.
I'd like to have the roads of the 70s: long straights, no speed bumps, no roundabouts (cyclists also don't like stop and go),
>> ban cars
> unrealistic statements
You, sir, are funny.
They only want change that doesn't involve money, effort or change, or what?
Banning vehicles has been shown to greatly increase shopping revenue and improve the healthiness of the area, so if a few businesses suffer, poor them... I'll not shed a tear for the strip malls.
I’m going to sorely disappoint you there…
However, if you want to talk about the United States, I would agree with you that it’s going to be expensive to shift the suburban sprawl away from personal vehicles. As much as that particular urbanisation failure is seen as typically American, it’s far from the exclusive option there. You will be surprised to learn that there are dozens of millions of Americans living in cities dense enough to justify not using cars as the default transport mode (“banning” isn’t a very accurate description of what that city did).
Electric scooters or bikes, typically the dockless kind, combined with existing (but re-inforced) public transport sounds doable, especially if you invest the same order of magnitude as local authorities spend on highways. That would require little investment (most of it would be private and from people keen on giving away billions).
it sounds like you assume that (an unnamed) we *has* to be in the United States.
I’m going to sorely disappoint you there…
You will be surprised
I'm joking just as much as the people saying that bikes don't belong on roads are.
If you are interested in a ROI based perspective on town planning, https://www.strongtowns.org/ makes a compelling case that sprawl is not economically sustainable.
DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, the former CEO of the multi-level marketing company Amway, and is the daughter-in-law of Amway's billionaire co-founder, Richard DeVos. Her brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA.
What surprises me here is the fact that Amway has done so well in China yet is connected to Blackwater.
For me, high speed and low speed are both OK. I take longer rides that get me out onto the trunk roads where people drive 55+, but they usually give me plenty of room. What I'm not OK with is congested roads where drivers are not controlling their cars -- if someone stops suddenly, there will be a crash.
The city is gradually adding bike lanes on the more congested main roads when there isn't a good alternative. They're also designating some side roads as "bike boulevards" with "traffic calming" features that effectively discourage cars.
A way of planning for bike paths is if bike traffic gets heavy enough on a road, then set aside a portion of that road for bikes and leave the rest for cars.
Which fits well with dynamic speed limits cropping up in places that get regular bad weather
There is the source for California -- I see it gives exemptions for safety and law (I assume for road works, etc) but generally speed limits are objective based on conditions. It doesn't mean you can drive slow and impede other traffic traveling around you though, which is why there are laws for it. I don't see it enforced as much in San Diego, but when I lived in the Lake Arrowhead area it was enforced quite often on the highway up and down the mountain.
Quick edit -- that law is for highways, I haven't checked whether this also applies for other types of roads.
Note that “highway” in California law has a very broad definition; see https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio....
“Highway” is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street.
Whether or not speed variances between vehicles increase accidents doesn't seem to be clear. With a quick search I found this(1) that indicates that speed variances don't play a role in causing accidents. I also found this (2), which says "that the greater the difference between a driver’s speed and the average speed of traffic—both above and below that average speed—the greater the likelihood of involvement in a crash". And I found this (3) which basically says the speed limit should be set at the 85th percentile of what everyone is driving. Kind of like how you should build sidewalks where people walk ("Don’t make any walkways this year. At the end of the year, look at where the grass is worn away. That shows where the students are walking. Then just pave those paths"), set the speed limit at the speed most people drive.
Everywhere in the US I've lived, the max speed limit laws were written like "whatever speed is safe for current conditions up to a maximum of XX Mph" So you can get a speeding ticket for going slower than the posted limit if conditions are bad. I've actually been pulled over going well under the posted max speed limit during a hard snow storm.
There are exceptions, especially in the US West, where interstates may be the only path for miles and miles through some mountain ranges. Of course, they mostly have wide shoulders where people ride.
Edit: phone auto-"correct"
In America, a city is a place where cars drive to get from business A to business B. People enter the equation only as a necessary side-effect. But fuck you if you're a pedestrian or don't have a car.
In Europe, cities exist for people. Streets are built with people in mind, businesses are placed with people in mind, infrastructure is built with people in mind.
I grew up in Europe, and the entire city was "mine" as a teenager - I could go anywhere, cheaply, quickly, and never needed a driver's license. I shopped for groceries, paid bills, hung out with friends, went to school - everything was within walking distance or a short bus ride away.
Here - I don't know how kids do it. To rely on parents to drive you to - where - shopping malls???? - to "hang out" or be doomed to watch tv/play video games all day - I'm so glad that was not my child-hood - I really think it's one reason I'm not on various anti-depressants, nor obese, nor anti-social.
I really wish someone would do a study that looked at the number of depressed/anti-social/about-to-go-on-a-shooting-spree people in a country whose only interaction with other human beings is to say "good how are you" at the clerk at the grocery aisle check-out lane or to curse at other people behind the wheel of their car while getting there.
I really believe (no evidence, just belief) that if cities in America didn't make you stressed out just for trying to get from place A to place B, or putting your life in danger by having to drive, we'd see a lot fewer problems - a lot fewer.
Check out strongtowns.org, a non-profit that explores this EXACT phenomena and how it happened.
Basically, infrastructure == progress to a LOT of poorly informed communities who don't bother factoring in maintenance costs or look at the actual economics of building huge roads through their main street.
Throw in a dash of pork-barrel spending and lobbying to secure funding to build more roads for the hell of it and you have the US's current mad-max roads-to-fucking-nowhere infrastructure nightmare. It was all a big experiment where everyone but the guys getting paid to build the roads lost.
The first generation of suburbs is already failing as they become choked by the next generation of suburbs. Ferguson, MO was once a rich suburb of St. Louis. The suburbs of Nassau County, one of the richest US counties by median income, have been under state fiscal control since 2000.
It is far less efficient if you have a partner, children, pets, and like having peace and quiet. You know, things that make you happy.
In fact, suburbs can be some of the most limiting places for kids. Every activity needs a driver, so until you get a license you need a chaperone. You mostly can't walk to the shops, or the park, or your friend's house, with limited exceptions. And biking and walking are out of the question if you have to navigate a main suburban arterial to get there. As a parent your choices are to trap them in the house or spend your precious time driving your kids everywhere.
Here's a photo https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2015/09/F141003...
Yet, it was right in front of my house, so I could use the bathroom, get a snack and remained under the watchful eye of my mother, unlike, say, some distant park with a proper baseball field.
That's why I wore shoes or rode a bike when I played in the streets.
I grew up in places with small yards and no parks nearby. The street is where we'd ride our bikes, have water balloon fights, play roller hockey, etc.
"Outside" has become synonymous with car traffic, which is why children playing on the road feels so refreshing
Fun fact: today is Yom Kippur.
Actually, I live in San Francisco and the "downtowns" of each neighborhood do allow kids some freedom away from their parents (e.g. to dart in and out of stores and restaurants without waiting for the parent), but it's limited to a single block unless you want to risk being run over. Hit-and-runs occur here regularly, unfortunately, because the city is just barely pedestrian friendly enough that pedestrians feel comfortable, but not friendly enough that cars are actually forced to slow down (e.g. streets too wide). If car and pedestrian are not both carefully paying attention, accidents happen.
 My wife doesn't like theme parks. But where she's from you never let kids out of sight, regardless, so they offer little respite for her.
This is deep and very quotable. It's one of the things I love the most about living outside the USA, when I'm able to do so-- not relying on my car to get literally everywhere. My happiness and quality of life feel so much higher. I know for sure it affects my waist line.
There's not much housing around the historic area, so nearly everyone drives in and parks in one of the parking lots surrounding it. Then they spend a few hours pretending like they live in this walkable, historic town, maybe they visit the Mission, then it's back into the car and the suburbs.
Suburbs, much reviled here, are the answer to all of the density problems that people are complaining about. Mass transit works with commuter rail. There's no argument except prestige to stay in the city.
They do exist in some places. I've seen them and have visited friends living there. Cul de sacs in subdivisions still on the city periphery, predominately Mormon neighborhoods in Utah where people expect kids to dart into the street, or tony gated communities. But they're just not as common. And in any event, even when they can, kids these days don't spend much time outdoors. In places where I did (and kids still can) spend all day roaming around in the woods or riding their bikes across town, today's kids spend all day playing video games or chatting online. Even if I my kid chose to hang outside, he'd be playing alone much of the time.
As someone else mentioned on HN a couple of years ago, you can optimize for a kids ability to play in the streets when he's < 10 years old. Or you can optimize for a 10+ year old to have the freedom to get around an entire city by himself. These days you can't have both, unfortunately, whereas once upon a time the city offered both (when kids could play in the street because drivers and cars were less threatening).
Times are different. I don't dislike the suburbs, I just don't think they're sustainable. Most often suburbs deteriorate quickly within a decade or two. The qualities that make them livable disappear once they're subsumed by a new ring of suburbs, bringing increased cross traffic and a new generation of childless homeowners.
This doesn't sound like the typical American suburban experience, and I think what you are describing is almost heading in the direction of the best existing solution for non-city living, which is the "village" style denser towns that you see in Europe. The idea basically being that you turn a fairly evenly distributed suburban population into one that clusters around small to medium sized town centers that are walkable and bikable, but contain and are surrounded by large areas of communal countryside and green space.
It necessitates a sacrifice in lot size (and potentially house size), but in return you get a quiet, safe, traversable town with plentiful access to the countryside, and it also helps immensely with things like logistics, infrastructure (electricity/gas/internet in the suburbs is a nightmare), and, potentially most importantly, transportation, since a strong commuter rail system can actually service that sort of layout effectively.
Many if not would still describe this as a suburb. There are definitely places (I'm aware of ones in the North East) that follow this model that are called suburbs. When people complain about suburbs, they are complaining about the model that dominates the US, not the concept of a less dense population area surrounding a metropolis.
This urban-centric thinking is odd to me. I do not want to live so far away from the natural phenomenon of earth, and I think it is unhealthy that so many want to push that lifestyle on everyone. It rings absolutely hollow to me to have effortless transport to a thousand places all manmade, and mostly devoid of non-domesticated plant and animal life.
urban sprawl? What does that commute time look like, particularly for the poor?
*1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadyside,_Houston
No place for busses. Our attempt at public transit was a slow tram that runs up and down main street through dozens of intersections, pushing any hapless motorist not expecting a train on the fucking road it encounters out of the way.
So when rice closes off the gates, it is like a little paradise. I disagree that it's "not unique," I can't think of a single other place in tbe entirety of Houston (a city so wide that it can take two hours to drive across if you go corner to corner, in non-rush-hour) where you get to experience that.
When I say it's "not unique" I'm acknowledging there are other gated communities with low traffic. The closest one I can think of to Rice is in Montrose on Courtland Place. If you ever went to KPFT on Lovett and noticed a big wall where Lovett ends that's the back side of their little community. Look on street view or satellite view of Google maps at Bagby and Courtland Place to see what I mean.
Also the first neighborhood I listed is separate and distinct from the Rice University campus. It shares a border but it's not part of their land holdings: all the homes are privately owned.
People often complain about hostile or "anti-human" architecture , but those are silly details. The sad tragedy is building the whole city around the needs of cars.
The gap between inattentiveness and recklessness has been closed. Even considering improved braking, there was simply more margin for error back when speeds were naturally lower.
I know cars have always been dangerous to pedestrians. But there were other factors at play, like drunk driving being nearly ubiquitous.
 The left A-pillar in my Honda CRV has just the right size and placement that it blocks the far left-hand corner of the intersection from view. A pedestrian about to cross the street is invisible to me unless I physically lean over or have already entered the intersection.
Pedestrian safety is a big consideration with modern cars, as it's a legal requirement in most countries. Most of the homogeneity in modern car design is due to these regulations -- low hoodlines are rare because there needs to be a buffer between the engine and the hood; the hood can't extend all the way to the grill because the edge causes excessive injuries; and the front ends of cars have a weird bulge because pedestrians struck should be tossed to the side of the car to prevent them from being run over.
That's not even getting into automatic braking systems or backup cameras.
In contrast, a 65 Toronado looks designed to cause the maximum amount of damage to any person you run over.
That said, point taken. And those mitigations are based on real-world data, not my anecdotes. And, of course, nothing prevents us from having the best of both worlds--safer cars and safer streets. I was just thinking that streets are so stupidly designed today because, once upon a time, the same configurations may not have been as stupid. (I know that one reason SF streets are so wide, especially in the Western part of the city, is because they were designed to accommodate street cars and cars simultaneously.)
 Automatic braking is a huge deal but its far from pervasive. The last time I went car shopping three years ago, it was still an expensive option for both the Honda CRV and Mercedes GLC we were looking at. My lease is almost up and I think it'll be standard on the same model CRV. Even when it becomes standard industry-wide it'll be many years before I'd factor it into my mental calculus as a pedestrian. Less well-off drivers in older cars spend a disproportionate amount of time on the streets simply because of the economics (e.g. often live far outside the city because of housing costs, and drive into the city because neither their homes nor jobs are conveniently located to mass transit).
To obtain this freedom you must :
1. Get a license and learn to drive
2. Buy or lease a large, rarely utilised machine
3. Keep it maintained
4. Keep it fuelled
5. Ensure your tax dollars are spent on enormous infrastructure projects
6. Continue paying for the maintenance of said infrastructure
7. Undergo the significant risk of getting in a vehicle, and impose higher risks on all those around you
8. Pollute the air around you with fumes
9. Warp the development of all living spaces around you to suit your convenience, regardless of cost or benefit
Your freedom sounds like my tyranny.
2. You can get a good reliable used car for under $1000 easily, and I use mine every day
3. Not a big deal
5. I don't mind paying taxes for infrastructure
7. Acceptable risk for the massive benefit to me
8. Efficiency is constantly improving and there are no emissions from an EV
9. How is that any different from how we shape the landscape for our own benefit in every other way?
That is a ridiculous cost to just throw on poor people. And this is assuming a poor person has a full time job with no dependents, and has no other competing concerns for money.
This is of course, also assuming that they didn't get a subprime auto loan to get that car in the first place. Subprime auto defaults are increasing: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-02/never-min...
I go there quite often and would like to see this for myself. Especially the area where no cars are allowed.
The city reopened it to traffic, however, and "revitalized" the area, resulting in a booming downtown economy:
I love pedestrian districts in cities. Copenhagen comes to mind. However, pedestrian district plans need to be considered carefully, else they backfire.
Why did it work, when Raleigh failed? What needs to be "considered carefully", exactly?
(The large college nearby definitely helps in VT's case. But what else?)
- Burlington is the biggest city in VT, and being on Lake Champlain and relatively close to the best ski areas in the state, it attracts a lot of tourists year round
- A ton of local businesses downtown, urban/residential neighborhoods are also very close
- A fair amount of parking (multiple parking garages, nearby on-street parking and parking lots)
- There's City Hall Park, and the town promotes the 'culture', e.g. allowing street vendors and performers, and with the recentish ban on smoking, it's pushed most of the bums into the alleys/side streets
So I think the key to trying to do this is to encourage small business to minimize the feet/door so that there is a reasonable variety of services available.
This is not the best example but the first to pop to mind- compare to Pearl Street Mall, in Boulder, which seems to be doing well:
Which, just skimming, looks to be laid out similar to Church Street.
Also, let's not overstate the differences. The actual pedestrian mall on Pearl is just a few blocks long. And Fayetteville in Raleigh these days, while not car-free, is part of a very walkable area of downtown Raleigh with lots of restaurants, a few hotels, some shops, new condo construction, some major businesses, the convention center, government offices, etc.
First one was Kärntner Straße / Graben, which is pedestrians only.
I'm looking forward to more streets getting closed off to cars. Way too much space is reserved for cars already.
Proximity to mass transit and having density that already discourages driving helps.
Still, this was a pretty dead place at night. In 2008, I would go to one of the two bars there and it would be a literal ghost town, with stores boarded up with metal gates and such- it looked almost post-apocalyptic. It was a little better from 2011-2014, but still it was a quiet area at night.
After the pedestrian plaza was put in, the amount of foot traffic increased ten fold, particularly during the day when it was a heavily traffic-ed street. This brought in a new wave of bars and restaurants to the area, and its now a destination on its own, filled with people nearly 24/7. In fact it has gotten so popular and become such a destination, the city is now trying to introduce ordinances to reduce noise at night.
The change was instantaneous after the pedestrian plaza was put in place.
People seem to forget these days how much Jersey City was shit on up until 2011 or so. It was "jersey" and it was absolutely not a definite that it would gentrify.
East New York
The city center closed part of the main street to cars when a four story enclosed mall of boutique stores was built. Within five years most of the mall and nearby stores were dying.
This was partly due to the growth of a pair of large enclosed malls 5 miles away which sucked business elsewhere. But I think most of the problem was that shoppers don't wants to walk outdoors in the long Michigan Winter. They needed to somehow enclose the pedestrian piazza to minimize peoples' exposure to the elements, but that wasn't in the budget.
When I go downtown, I usually don’t park on Fayetteville, I usually park a few blocks away and walk.
They later reopened it, but put in roads that let cars through, but very slowly. Seems to be a good compromise.
Closing a road entirely is probably something you should do once you're at such a level of pedestrian traffic that the car lanes are impeding pedestrians, which isn't terribly common in US cities. However, making areas where people don't drive fast is absolutely a win.
All of which is in TFA the person you're replying to linked
I'm not sure if it's what you intended but implying the whole thing is from 1977 is misleading.
However this model just does not work in the US, outside of very few places. US cities are designed for cars, and without major redevelopment everything's just too far apart - even within the context of a single street - for this to make sense. If you had electric scooters or something though...
We have 2 local cities that made themselves bike friendly. Property values are going up in that area.
However, the people living there were already 10%ers.
Its cool to see lots of bike lanes and walkers, but they also managed to price the people that cant afford cars out.
However, it's also likely they will want this nice life in more than just their area and will push for that over time.
Americans tend to live in detached single family homes.
Americans tend to want space between themselves and their neighbors.
Americans do not see their cars as liabilities.
Most people don't live in SF/NYC and/or don't read StrongTowns
Replacing American suburbia would cost $100 Trillion dollars. More suburbia is being created every day, far outpacing investment in "New Urbanism".
In America, when your city/suburb becomes blighted, you can move.
That is nuts.
That means a plumber, electrician, home appliance deliveryman, mover, etc. can only handle one job requiring a vehicle per day. He will have to charge 3-4 times more for his services than someone working in an area where it's feasible to finish 3-4 jobs in a workday. The costs are of course passed on to the customers. Is their car-less life worth living in a pigsty that they can't fix up because laws force contractors to charge exorbitant fees?
That means any business will want a dedicated vehicle to haul what they need in the 6-8 am window. This is not just grossly economically inefficient (no outsourcing delivery to third parties), it results in more vehicles sitting idle during the day, using up parking space!
And that means moving is a nightmare. Moving a two-bedroom apartment worth of stuff into or out of a truck is, realistically, at least a four hour job. That means a cross-town move that could be done in one workday with sane laws will take at least four workdays (two to load the truck, two to unload) in your crazy UK town. Imagine the costs. How is it moral for you to shackle your people to the land by making relocation unaffordable?
"In fact, in most streets there are no physical barriers to keep the cars out. Vehicles making deliveries or locals heading to private garages can still circulate in most places.
“What we did is to create loops to keep people from driving through the city,” Lores explains. “If you enter by the south, you leave by the south.”
The goal of this strategy, which is complemented by severe parking restrictions in all of the central area, is to get rid of what Pontevedra officials call “unnecessary traffic”.
I live in a large apartment development in Manhattan that is pedestrian-friendly and decidedly vehicle-unfriendly. You can't drive a car to the front of my building. And yet it works, very well.
I moved in with my girlfriend recently. You know how that worked? The movers she hired drove as near as possible, and simply pushed her stuff on dollies the rest of the way to the building. No big deal. Yeah, it took a little bit longer, but nowhere near as bad as the 4-day move you're hyperbolically claiming. And that side of the move was actually better than the other side, since she was moving out of a fourth floor walkup. Even though the truck could park almost directly in front of that building, it turns out it's harder to carry stuff down many flights of stairs than it is to push it on wheels across a flat surface and then up an elevator.
I moved from another building within my complex, and I accomplished my entire move simply by pushing my stuff on a dolly, without even having to hire movers. I've never before had a vehicle-less move even be an option, but it was in this situation.
As for repairmen, you know how they work? They get around on bicycles. You can carry a surprising amount of stuff on a bicycle, including all the tools you'd need for >95% of repairs. The plumbers ride around on bikes with a toolbox, plungers, and a snake, for example. For appliance delivery, they use tiny little vehicles that are basically a pick-up truck version of a golf cart. These vehicles don't go fast and the drivers yield to pedestrians, and you see them on pedestrian paths (and don't feel unsafe about it).
Every problem that you're bringing up is already solved in the many different areas that are pedestrianized and prohibit vehicle traffic. It's a failure of imagination to think that these problems are unsolvable. When your city is dense enough, a plumber/electrician can easily support him/herself on just jobs that are within a 10 minute walking radius, with the tools that can be pushed on a handcart or fit on a bicycle. Vehicles aren't necessary. It's actually more efficient for these professions, because in the suburbs it's typical to drive for up to an hour to get to a jobsite! So much wasted time spent just getting somewhere!
The 6-8am window is for large deliveries. There is normally a retractable barrier for emergency usage (police/ambulance etc) and for minimal day access (I don't know how this is managed, but I have seen vehicles have to turn around and leave, where others, normally with a business inside get access).
Another common way is to have a central pedestrian only section, but with vehicle access through the 'back streets' behind. The pedestrian street is normally a great deal larger than the (often one way) back streets, and again has retractable bollards for maintenance, event vehicles and emergency vehicles. These back streets also give access to underground/aboveground parking for residents in flats. I would love to see this model used to some extent in residential areas. Some of my favorite times are when a street is closed to traffic for a street party.
In practice it works very well, at least in a large number of towns and cities in the UK. It's about finding the correct roads and spaces to limit and disallow motor vehicles on.
It's a lot less impressive when you realize that they just banned cars from the area that was optimized for foot traffic anyway. Good on them for not trying to go to far and force people to walk/bike in areas designed for cars.
>"while people claim it as a right, in fact what they want are privileges."
Tangent: This is probably the most European quote ever. Roman senators, medieval lords, members of parliament, Napoleon, the Kaiser, etc, etc. could have all said this.
>And the same shopkeepers who complain are the ones who have survived in spite of the crisis
Surviving in spite of the crisis does not make the crisis fun or necessary. It took a lot of boarded up shops before my city took away the bike lanes and put back the on-street parking (no, the failed businesses did not coincide with the recession if anyone was wondering). You gotta do what works even if it's not what fits your political objectives. If an area of the city was designed for pedestrians that's probably what will work best there. If an area of the city was designed for cars then that's probably what will work best there. It's a disservice to taxpayers to use their money to jam a square peg in a round hole or vise-versa.
>The works were all financed locally and received no aid from regional or central government.
Good on them for not asking for a handout.
There's nothing European about it, despite the fantasy of Europe being comfortable with dictatorships. Driving a car is also a privilege in the US - try driving one without your state-sanctioned license to do so and you will discover that.
By the way, Members of Parliament are democratically elected so I am not sure how they fit in with the rest of the motley crew.
Visiting LA this summer, I knew I was in for a car heavy metropolis but this... I can't understand why people waste so much time of their precious life (usually alone which also greatly worsen the problem) - locked in a car.
Coming to the topic of the autonomous car revolution, which I frankly do not understand. Sometimes it feels like the ambition is to end up as the humans in WALL-E. What kind of life is that?
Ps. Coming from Europe, I crossed US by bicycle a few years ago, from NY to US. People say it's a country to be seen through a car, but I argue it's to be seen on a bike.
I also recently visited LA.....
Most people I know from smaller cities in Poland own cars or would love to own a car but simply cannot afford it as gas is really expensive, so are cars compared to incomes. When I visited I rented a car which allowed me to see so many things all over the country. I would not able to visit so many locations without a car.
Same goes for LA, renting a car allowed me to travel from LA to San Diego on a relatively short trip.
In NY over 50% households are car-free. In Chicago about 30% of households are car-free. People travel to cities for various reasons, often they don't do it daily.
My wife traveled to school by train in city of chicago for one year, then she switched to driving her car, she saved a lot of time on her commute, and didn't have to deal with weirdos on the trains at night.
Cars are here to stay. Some people drive less by utilizing services like amazon but then amazon needs to deliver packages, but, I guess that still minimizes fuel consumption as things are delivered in a more efficient way.
But even dense populated cities like SF dont have a pedestrian zone. It is one of the rare things I miss quality of life wise.
The other week I walked around my neighborhood in Guadalajara to do some errands. I got my knives sharpened, picked up my repaired shoes from the cobbler, some fried pumpkin seeds from the seed guy, some meat from the butcher, and then some tacos of course. All within two blocks.
In a capital, I didn't do a detour on my way home to get a good bread, as it would add 15 minutes to a way home. Here it's a pleasant walk behind a corner.
This strikes me as the fundamental issue.
In a healthy civil society legally enshrined rights are less important because you can trust that everybody's freedom will be maximized, at least to a first-order approximation. In unhealthy societies legal rights are often cold comfort.
I take slight issue with that - for example, what prohibition on males was there when women were given the right to vote? I suppose one could argue the male vote was diluted but realistically no pain would be felt.
I say this because oftentimes for social services arguments, conservatives will ask me "well who's gonna pay for it," which I can often answer with "literally nobody. You are generating property value for yourself by housing homeless / increasing the value of your currency by educating disenfranchised youth / whatever."
In college a professor told us "You can't grant a right without taking one away." In recent decades, the US trend seems to have been toward more individual rights and fewer community/state rights.
Not only do they want to drive wherever they want but they seem to feel entitled to take out their frustration on anyone they want. The noise pollution that invariably accompanies traffic seems to really only penalize pedestrians, the very people who aren't contributing to the traffic problems.
In reality, it's scary to walk to whole foods to get lunch at times. Cars NEVER yield to crosswalks or pedestrians. It's so bad they have flashing LED's on the stop signs in some areas.
The domain would be beautiful if parking garages were on the exterior and everyone had to walk in. Imagine being able to walk to shops, work and dining without worrying about getting plowed down by an F150 with a "thank god for our snipers" sticker on the back.
In fact, the best couple of days at this area are the art walk days but its been a while since I've seen those. For the artwalk days, they close the streets and it's like a magic little city of everyone breathing easier, enjoying some quiet serenity and kids walking around without parents needing 100% attention.
For the price they demand to live and lease space here, it would seem serenity and peacefulness would be the best thing they could do! (and there was plenty of land at one point for exterior garages... now its just a mad dash for people to find spots across the different garages which are all too small for the big trucks texans love)
Meanwhile, law enforcement is quick to sit on the highway catching those going with the flow of traffic over the speed limit, or quick to over-police non-violent drug offenses. So sad to see enforcement of the rules of the road take a back seat, especially when it comes to pedestrians, whose chosen mode of transport is beneficial and should be encouraged.
This seems to be the key point why it works.
you can walk from side to side of Paris in a tad more than one hour with a good rhythm, and two hours if you take it normally.
So, this city is about 2 km across, which is very small, a village, considering smaller cities are more sparsely populated than an European metropolis.
Drop into street view in the city centre and have a look around. It's not a village.
Additionally, Paris is not exactly a demonstration of how larger cities need cars considering that about 70% of its inhabitants commute without using a car at all.
In my country villages are very often https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_settlement , going on for kilometers along some road, with farming land on both sides.
Small to medium cities (< 100 000 people) are often very dense because they're mostly made out of commieblocks or old tenament houses.
It's much easier to live without a car in a city.
BTW: this village goes on for 20 km. It has 6000 people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zawoja
For comparison https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legionowo is the most densely populated city in Poland, it has about 50 000 people, and is about 3x5 km of low buildings. And still about 10% of the city is a forest :)
Cars waste so much space that people are used to bloated cities.
Interestingly, while Amsterdam's historic inner city is fully open to cars, you don't really see much of them - in part because it's just not practical, in part because parking is very expensive.
1) that lifestyle is vastly subsidized by economic activity generated in the cities
2) the biggest reason cities are unpleasant is (surprise) the high density of car traffic and noise!
The mass distribution of personal cars is going to go down as the greatest mistake in societal development.
I'm living in one of the closes villages around Pontevedra, I'm heabilly use the city, and I'm doing some remote job for an SF startup.
If you have questions, I'm happy to help and provide feedback.
What do you do when you have to buy a few boxes of beer for a party that are too heavy to carry?
How do emergency services work?
The city that has banned the cars is the city centre, but is a round island, so in 10-25 min walk, there are parking slots, where you can drive from.
2) Shopping trolley, instead of buying a lot one day, you ended that each day you pick up a few things. (And this is great, 15 min day walking)
3) All the emergency services can go to the city centre, so cars are banned, but if you have an event or emergency cars can get into, here is the common sense rule.
And there is a benefit here, kids are in the street, and due a lot of kids in the street, that moves the street from unsafe, to full of #know people, that make things super safe.
I think Rewe (a supermarket chain) is doing something like this in (parts of) Germany; but I believe they use gas-driven cars.
Is there something like that in your city?
It's an interesting contrast to banning cars and essentially banning walking
For larger cities I think it would still be possible to have many "no-car" isles, paired with good public
transportation available for anyone at "any" place (which can be done today by e.g. using this small and _slow_ self-driving mini buses to connect the home/side streets with the underground trains, regular trains and potentially normal sized buses,
you just need to deploy enough of them with a good
rout planing algorithm and a smartphone app, through it might be slightly expensive).
Van and trucks can enter the city the first time in the morning, so things are ok, and there are no problems for that.
The city itself is a "round island", so cars can go close to the estuary and be close to the city, so get into city center takes less than 15 minutes.
Forcing all deliveries to happen in the early morning sounds like a massive pain in the butt.
For example: Forcing a lunch/dinner restaurant to have people there early to deal with inventory or delivering inventory to a diner during breakfast rush are both far from ideal.
Any industry that routinely has to get materials (e.g. skilled trades) delivered will be inconvenienced by not being able to take delivery during mid-morning or after lunch, this can unnecessarily stretch out jobs (and cost more $$).
I guess if the only industries in your city are white collar or tourism it's fine.
Better to just not allow noncommercial vehicles during certain times.
>For example: Forcing a lunch/dinner restaurant to have people there early to deal with inventory or delivering inventory to a diner during breakfast rush are both far from idea
TBH,restaurants the most happier with this changes. More people in the streets means more customers. If the van can get into the door, there is an entry zones, where delivery can be done with less than 5 min walk.
Disclaimer, my father is a deliveryman for restaurants.
> Any industry that routinely has to get materials (e.g. skilled trades) delivered will be inconvenienced by not being able to take delivery during mid-morning or after lunch, this can unnecessarily stretch out jobs (and cost more $$).
Nope, those industries are not in the pedestrian zone, in Galicia, there is a lot of industrial areas for that matter.
For white-collar, these entry areas, allow delivers to walk less than 5 min, so it's ok.
Is not walk/no-walk, the city did awesome to allow entry zones and make the walking culture for all of us.
I should have said industrial foodservice. Are there no schools, hotels, etc. in the city center? Do catering services not deliver lunches to the city center?
>Nope, those industries are not in the pedestrian zone, in Galicia, there is a lot of industrial areas for that matter.
Um, yes, you still have skilled trades. These are the people installing new light fixtures in office buildings and replacing the blower motor for a building's HVAC. Not being able to do diagnostic work and then send someone around later in the day to actually perform repairs is like getting shot in the foot to any business that does repair work.
I support not allowing commuter traffic in city centers but not allowing commercial vehicle traffic seems like needlessly cutting the clock cycle of every part of the economy that deals with physical goods by a factor two or three.
I've always imagined a modern city with no cars, but I never knew that anyone actually had the balls to make this a reality. Kudos to this Spanish city! You can try to argue that the specifics of this city make it more amenable to being car-free, but I think that if there was enough desire, it would work anywhere. Just think if everyone paid their monthly car loan/lease into the public transportation system how incredibly functional it could be.
I base a lot of my existence around avoiding cars and living in places where I can have a pleasant walk without having to deal with traffic. To the point where I recently moved from Chicago, Illinois to Portland, Oregon because Portland is a much more pedestrian friendly city. And it shows. You walk around the city and it's actually alive and working.
In Portland, people don't have to have their children on leashes because every street isn't a 4 lane highway with constant traffic that is disrespectful to people's space. People are strolling down the streets and wandering into businesses. In Portland drivers slow down and wave you across the street instead of swerving around you at 40 miles an hour.
In Chicago a common occurrence was for a car to decide to make a red light, so they would make a turn into a crowd of pedestrians who are crossing the street and "shoot the gap" without slowing down, with maybe 3 feet of clearance on either side. People would open doors without a second thought and door bikers. Trucks would make dangerous turns into bikers and frequently kill them ( A young woman was recently killed this way, and I once had to jump off of my bike and drag it onto the sidewalk to avoid being run over ).
Cars drivers seem to enter this "magic circle" where it's fine to do dumb and extremely dangerous things because you are driving. When you are in a car, all behavior is acceptable.
Decide to teach the biker a lesson by turning into them? They won't charge you with anything.
Swerve into a crowd of pedestrians? It's fine normal behavior.
Make a blind turn into an alley and have to slam on the breaks to avoid running into a pedestrian? Totally A-OK chief! Great work!
As has been pointed out elsewhere, a lot of European cities do not have this problem. When visiting France, I went to the city of Strasbourg where they have a very nice little "park and ride" system where you park your fume-spewing, space-taking machine and park it in the PARKING AREA, instead of letting you drag it into their beautiful city.
strongtowns.org has a lot of great information about how the US road infrastructure is, to put it bluntly, a dumb and bad experiment that has failed.
I guess you are not alone. Given a certain location, the singlemost important indicator of your house price is the amount of cars driving by each day.
A factor of 3 in my immediate neighborhood:
$15k per m^2 in a cul de sac vs. only a 100 meters apart $5k per m^2 next to a 4-lane road with quite some traffic.
I spend a good chunk of the year in Bologna, Italy. The city centre there is a roughly ~4km^2 Zona Traffico Limitato - an area in which only certain vehicles are allowed during certain hours. Pretty much every city in Italy has such a zone and 4km^2 to me seems to be the ideal size for it.
That being said I know a few people who live in the centre and judging by their experiences, I wouldn't want to move there. It's so densely packed that noise bounces off the walls effectively amplifying itself. Also there are no residential waste bins so if you miss trash day during the summer your organic waste turns into an unholy bag of stink.
Walkable cities are a nice concept, but one has to watch out for one perverse incentive that is created along the way: pack everything as densely as possible.
First time I visit there made me wonder why not all towns aren't pedestrian like this. I mean most towns have nice sidewalks and are walkable but why not just banning cars. In addition to having less noise I can imagine plenty of other benefits.
> [La Cumbrecita] is completely pedestrian and reminiscent of the small German towns of the fifteenth century. One can hike up through the town (and then down) to the waterfall, a truly paradisiacal experience.
I've always loved the idea of being able to live in a car-free city, but never quite understood how certain things would work, including garbage collection, deliveries, and emergency services, without vehicular traffic.
Or do they make exceptions for all of those? Does anyone know?
The Atlanta belt-line is mostly being built on top of old light rail line around the city. The idea, as I understand it, is to provide a pedestrian and (unfortunately) cyclists only pathway that connects many of the notable places around the city. On this pathway, there already exists a large amount of beltline and road accessible shopping/restaurants/bars. There are plans to build a large amount similarly accessible housing on the beltline as well.
I assert that this strategy is a better alternative than closing off convex sections for cities similar to Atlanta.
What would define a city similar to Atlanta? One that is not very dense, with some undeveloped or neglected land in urban areas, and whose centers of social activity are decentralized. By saying the centers of social activity are decentralized, I mean to say that the major parks, stadiums, shopping developments, chic neighborhoods, and so on, are dispersed around a few mile radius of downtown. Shutting of any two square mile area to car traffic would fail to capture more than a few of these places, and cause worse traffic problems elsewhere, which is costly regardless of how you approach it.
There are some downsides to the beltline of course, mainly its cost, but you get the same opportunity for a pedestrian urban experience, without overtly turning it into a political battle.