Way back in 2006 CarFreeUK, formed by ‘a group of researchers, transport planners and environmentalists’ put forward a proposal for with the support of other green campaign groups including Friends of the Earth and the Campaign to Protection of Rural England for a car-free London 2012 Olympics which would create “a lasting legacy of sustainability after the Games”.
By October 2007 it was clear that ‘cars were not invited’ to the proposed games (apart from 3,000 vehicles were to be made available to visiting dignitaries, officials and sponsors) and many improvements have since been made both to London’s to the public transport network and also to it’s cycling and pedestrian facilities.
Result? According to Locog usage of the Docklands Light Rail is currently up by 65%, public transport by 7.5% and national rail by 5% and Additional express coach services created for the occasion which operate from 76 departure points across the country have also clocked up 500,000km so far. By contrast road traffic in London is down 17%, a decrease which comes on the back of steady falls in road traffic in the city over the past years.
As a result the media have bounced from reporting of Traffic delays of two hours and ‘London traffic jams reach Olympic proportions‘ to ‘Olympics: London calling, where are you?‘.
However, this is not the first time that predictions of major traffic chaos have actually led to reductions both in traffic and congestion. Los Angeles experienced lower congestion than normal when the 405 freeway through the city was part-closed in 2011 with the media switching from ‘Los Angeles braces for weekend of “Carmageddon“‘ and ‘Carmageddon: Tempers flare as 405 Freeway shuts down‘ before the closure to reporting that road traffic actually decreased by some 20% across a wide area with the Los Angeles Times musing: “L.A. city and county officials are asking whether drivers can be persuaded to leave their cars parked more often”, and that “People discovered something about themselves and Los Angeles auto culture that shocked them. Why can’t we take some chunk of L.A. and shut it down to traffic on certain days or weekends, as they do in Italy?”.
A few weeks ago I spotted a poster in a local museum encouraging people to use Shanks’ pony and to ‘walk short distances’ back during WW2 and had been waiting for some excuse to post it on this blog, so here goes:
Walk short distances
So… well done to CarFreeUK and lets get on with ensuring that there is a great legacy from these games!
Here is an encouraging story about what can be achieved by a community that works together to make changes in their street.
DIY traffic calming
Here is a report on the BBC about it.
And bizarre a visit by Richard Hammond of Top Gear in the mix. I am told that Richard Hammond had no idea what was in store for him and that the residents had no idea who the presenter was going to be.
You can read more about the project on their blog, on the associated ‘road witch’ blog and also in a report by Oxford city Council. The project was the first of a number of schemes supported by the Sustrans DIY Streets project.
Incidentally… here is a great story with loads of pictures about the terrible sate the street was in for pedestrians some time back. (added following comment below – thanks).
Beech Croft Road some time earlier
Check out Parking Douche and watch their video here which explains how it all works:
Policy makers around the world have been paying a lot of attention to the transport changes that have taken place in Bogotá, Columbia over the past decade or so, many of which were initiated by their remarkable Mayor from 1998-2001, Enrique Peñalosa who managed to reorient the city away from the car and towards public transport, cycling and walking. Here are some my favorite quotes from the man:
- “Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
- “We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.”
- “A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important as a citizen on a $30,000 car.”
- “If we’re going to talk about transport, I would say that the great city is not the one that has highways, but one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can go safely everywhere.”
- “One symbol of lack of democracy is to have cars parked on the sidewalk.”
And here he is explaining what he did and why:
This Streetfilm documentary explains how the bike free days work:
And this piece from the New York Times explains their clever bus rapid transit system work:
Simple really, almost child’s play, but it seems to be far out of reach for ‘developed’ countries. What exactly do we mean by the word ‘developed’ I wonder? I am reminded of how Gandhi responded when asked what he though about ‘Western Civilisation’, saying that he thought that ‘it would be a good idea’.
Nottinghamshire Police in the Broughton Astley & Walton area have put out a warning that they are going to get tough on pavement parking. here as a screen-grab from their website. I just wish other police forces would take such a clear stand in support of vulnerable road users!
Notts police get tough
There are rules in parking which are,
1. Drivers must leave enough room for a double buggy pushchair or mobility cart to get through
2. Must NOT park on dropped kerbs for wheel chair access!
3. Must not park blocking driveways!
Inspiration from around on world from Park(ing) day 2011 which took place yesterday when people all over the world reclaim parking meters for social and convivial purposes. Here are a few photos and a great piece of artwork from the people who created the event a few years ago. Great to see a neat little park hitting London’s streets with help from ibuyeco and the Woodland Trust.
Parking day hits London's streets (copyright image)
Parking day 2011 - barber's shop
Enjoy the day! (copyright image)
Save the day - Rebar
Waterloo, Ontario had its first Car Free Sunday a few weeks ago. The 2011 Paris Plage came to a close a week ago and New York Summer Streets worked great. Brussels has one on the 18th September and London also had one (err. that is London, Ontario actually). London, England will of course get a taster on the 4th September when the Mayor hopes to get more than last years 85,000 cyclists out for the 2011 London Skyride. Our very own public health minister, Anne Milton suggested that streets in the UK should be closed on sundays so children could play after learning about how they close streets in Bogota, Columbia every Sunday. Unfortunately the health ministry said that ‘would be something for local councils to consider’ (sounds like a ‘no’ to me!) Maybe next year
Here are some tasters for this summer’s events. I love the kid in the first picture and the total silence in the New York video – when is New York ever that quiet? I love the jazz and the I am hopeful that there is some very serious unstoppable energy building around this idea and that it will be coming to more and more places more often until it becomes as normal as smoke-free restaurants have become over the past few years.
Waterloo, Ontario. First car free Sunday (copyright image)