We often hear that sustainable transportation reform is going to require massive public investments, large construction projects, elaborate technology deployments, and above all and by their very nature are going to take a long time before yielding significant results. This is quite simply not true. This approach, common in the last century and often associated with the “American transportation model”, no longer has its place in a competitive, efficient, democratic city And we can start tomorrow, if we chose to.
To get a feel for this transformative learning reality let’s start with a quick look at a first lot of ideas for Slow Street Architecture as a major means for reducing traffic related nuisances, accident prevention and improving quality of life for all. These approaches are not just “nice ideas”. They have proven their merit and effectiveness in hundreds of cities around the world. There is no good reason that they cannot do the same in your city. Starting tomorrow morning.
(For further background on external sources feeding this listing, see Sources and Clues section below.)
The First Car Free Days Challenge: Toledo Spain, October 1994
Whereas Car Free Days have been organized in cities around the world all over the year for the last two decades, there is inevitably a spate of high activity in the month of September, much of it the result of the European Commission’s continuing commitment to both the concept of Car Free Days and their own European Mobility Week. And each year we here at World Streets dig into our archives and dust off one or two of the classics as a timely reminder of the fact that the Car Free Day concept has been around and doing its bit since the first international announcement and challenge was made in Toledo Spain on 19 October 1994.
Why do we bother to do this year after year? After all, there is copious documentation and background available at a click, as a quick tour of Google of those three little words yields somewhat more than 55,000 entries, including a fair if distinctly uneven introduction in the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car-Free_Days. The problem is that most of this material seriously misses the point, and as a result often handicaps cities and groups wishing to organize a Day (a week or month close) to underestimate potential of this approach. The trick is that all of this is quite a simple as it may at first glance appear.
To this end, here we are once again minding the store with the original 1994 article announcing the concept, along with several others from our archives which would appear here in the coming days. A general reference which the reader may find of use is the general introduction which appears here – https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/car-free-days/. You will find at the end of this reposting, three separate annexes which provide supplemental background on (Annex A) New Mobility – 1988-1994 Program Summary; (B) Other Tools to Get the Job Done; and (C) a listing of more recent references.
Discussion document for policy makers & civic leaders
– Paul Chatterton, School of Geography, University of Leeds, UK. Full text HERE
This climate emergency is also a ‘city emergency’. Most of the world’s population will soon be urban. Cities are locked in to high energy throughputs, are responsible for about three-quarters of global GHGs and energy use, have ecological footprints larger than their city limits, and remain locked in to high-growth, high-consumption lifestyles.
In the context of growing awareness of the severity of climate breakdown, the central role cities play in this, and the lack of rapid action, municipalities around the world are declaring ‘climate Emergencies’. To date 40 municipalities in the UK have signed such a declaration. Worldwide around 50 million now live in cities that have declared emergencies. This is an exciting addition to city level action through, for example, the C40 Leadership Group and the Global Covenant of Mayors.
In the small fishing town of Ísafjörður, Iceland, an exciting development in road safety has just popped up – almost literally. A new pedestrian crossing has been painted that appears to be 3D by way of a cleverly-detailed optical illusion.
World Streets has committed to carry out a series of articles, in cooperation with informed on-the-spot collaborators, looking into various aspects of transport user groups, on the grounds that they are increasingly emerging in many cities around the world as important potential players in the uphill struggle to sustainable transportation, sustainable cities and sustainable lives.
Throughout most of the 20th century transportation decisions were strictly made by government administrations and elected politicians, more often than not in cooperation with interests representing industrial and financial partners supplying infrastructure, vehicles, electronics and services. In most places these were closed loops in which the public was occasionally, at best, invited to approach the table and then asked to share their views on the specifics alternative proposals as prepared and presented by the various administrations and agencies, but for the most part were excluded from the actual planning and decision process. They were at most shadow players.
However this is starting to change, to the extent that in many cities in recent years these groups are increasingly becoming important players in the planning, decision and investment process.