Archive for the 'Carfree' Category

09
Dec
11

Occupy All Streets: The Role of Carfree Cities in a More Sustainable World

A film by Joel Crawford

Occupy All Streets: The Role of Carfree Cities in a More Sustainable World from J.H. Crawford on Vimeo.

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26
Aug
11

Cycles for a richer society

When it comes to promoting cycling Sweden ranks fourth best in the world. Is this something to be proud of? Maybe, but its not very ambitious. Fourth best might be OK. I mean we’re not the worst, yet.

The annoying thing is that the knowledge base needed to be the best or as good as the best exists in Sweden, both among some politicians and many planners. Examples of how the urban environment can be improved for both pedestrians and cyclists is close at hand in those countries that are better than us. Investments to promote walking and cycling are not expensive. They provide great value for money when compared with other infrastructure investments. The missing ingredient, the one that means that Sweden doesn’t quite achieve the same high standards as lets say Holland for cyclists is lack of political will. The right noises are made but not implemented.

The main difference between cycling policy in Sweden and the Netherlands is quite simple. In Sweden you can easily and safely cycle around the cities. In Holland urban planning in recent decades, has made the bicycle quite simply the easiest way to get around in cities. Although it is easy to get around by bike in Sweden the easiest way to get about is often by car. For some reason, people choose to travel by car more often than necessary probably just because it is so simple. In Holland city planners have worked actively for years to give cycling a comparative advantage.

Why is this important? Is not it enough with the attitude we have now? The answer is no. for several reasons, but here there is only place to name a few of them. Each journey by bike gives an economic gain to society. Where as every trip by car is subsidized, heavily subsidized if it occurs within an urban area. Congestion charging at the levels presently discussed hardly affects this. If we want people to use one mode of transport over another, subsidies are a policy tool that demonstrably work. Although its important to subsidize the modes that you want to promote. Climate change, poor urban air, noise and insecurity are all external costs that are wholly or partially incurred by car traffic in cities. It is through taking care of the car’s victims that society subsidizes cars.

Most of the problems facing cyclists in Sweden are caused by cars. Cars travelling at unacceptably high speeds in urban areas and cars parked on narrow streets. On urban streets where people live and go about there business, the maximum speed should never exceed 30 kilometres per hour. Today many of our streets are empty, so why reduce the speed on a deserted street? Simple, when the speed of the traffic is lower, people start using street spaces again.

There is a much livelier street life in Holland than there is in Sweden. The Dutch initiative where cyclists are given a comparative advantage over motorists have benefited everyone, including the small minority who do not cycle. Dutch cities are pleasanter places to be in. And because it’s pleasant, people spend more on the street. They’ve managed to put life back into the cities, which among other thing increases personal security. Dutch cycling policy has had a variety of positive social feedback.

This said Holland has not declared war on motorists. The number of cars per thousand inhabitants is only marginally lower in the Netherlands than in Sweden (457/475). The difference is that in Holland motorists are also cyclists. Dutch motorists take the bike in the city because it is the fastest and easiest way to travel. All places are still accessible by car if you have to unload something. But its not that simple. Cyclists and pedestrians have the space they need in Dutch cities, cars get the space that’s over, and not vice versa as in Sweden.

Fourth best is pretty good but not good enough.

Ian Fiddies
Friends of the Earth, Transport Committee

This is a translation of the original article first published in Swedish in Göteborgs Fria Tidning

15
May
11

Västsvenska paketet är ett svekpaket

Jag vet inte vem jag ska rösta på i omvalet den 15 maj. Mitt problem är att jag är orolig för klimatförändringar. Lyssnar man på de olika partierna så är de grönare än gräset på andra sidan allihopa. Ser man på de planer som de stora partierna enas om, verkar alla partier vara lika svarta. Det hade på något sätt varit uppfriskande om ett av partierna hade gått till val under rubriken ”Det är viktigare att de som redan är rika tjänar mer pengar nu än att vi bevarar planeten för kommande generationer.” Men ärligheten i politiken verkar vara utrotningshotad.

Det som gör mig förbannad är det så kallade ”Västsvenska paket”, svekpaketen som jag föredrar att kalla det för. Svekpaketets tre huvudingredienser är: Västlänken, en tågtunnel under centrala Göteborg; Marieholmstunneln, den mycket omtalade Älvförbindelsen; samt trängselskatter.

Enligt Annelie Hultén:
Det Västsvenska paketet …ska bidra till att skapa en större arbetsmarknad och främja sysselsättning, tillväxt och minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön .” (Göteborgs stad, Årsredovisning 2010, s. 5)

Hon börjar rätt, folk kommer att tvingas pendla ännu längre sträckor om paketet genomförs. Paketet kommer att möjliggöra en ökad exploatering av tidigare ointressanta ytor för småhus, som är i för sig tillväxt och dessutom en sysselsättning. Men att påstå att paketet skulle ”minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön ” har jag mycket svårt att svälja.

Västlänken är den del av paketet som jag har en försiktigt positiv inställning till. Om vi ska kunna minska personbilismen måste kollektivtrafikens kapacitet utökas, men om man bara ökar kollektivtrafiken kapacitet kommer fler att resa oftare och längre vilket är negativt ur miljösynpunkt. En miljövinst får man endast om de nya kollektivresorna görs av någon som annars hade kört bil. Västlänken kunde ha en mycket positiv effekt på miljön om vägkapacitet i regionen samtidigt minskades.

Paketets andra ben, och det är här sveken kommer, är Marieholmstunneln. Den är en gammalmodig ”betongsosse”, vägkapacitetsökning av det absolut sämsta slaget, en stadsnära motorväg. Det är en försök att bygga bort trängsel med mer väg. Varje försök hittills, och jag menar varje, att bygga bort trängsel med mer väg har lett till en kraftig trafikökning och försämrad framkomlighet. Vist kan den möjliggöra en utökning av kollektivtrafiken, men till vilken miljönytta om personbilstrafiken också ökas? Vist är det bra om överviktiga människor börjar äta råa grönsaker men de kommer inte att gå ned i vikt om de samtidigt äter ännu mer skräpmat än tidigare.

Och slutligen den stora heta potatisen, trängselskatter. Trängselskatter skulle kunna användas för att ”minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön” men de kan lika gärna användas för att försämra läget, vilket är fallet här när de ska finansiera svekpaketet.

Påståendet att det Västsvenska paketet ska ”minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön” är helt enkelt falskt.

Som sagt, jag vet inte vem jag ska rösta på. Är miljön en viktig fråga för dig kan jag som miljöaktivist inte ge dig något råd utöver att använda personröstsmöjligheten och rösta in individer som är beredda att trotsa partilinjen. Just nu är det min bedömning att alla partier i regionvalet är lika vidriga i trafikrelaterade miljöfrågor. Fast förbannad är jag bara på de partier som jag själv tycker borde veta bättre.

Ian Fiddies

Göteborg 6 maj 2011

Först publicerad i Göteborgs Friatidning, 14 maj 2011

27
Aug
10

“Sustainable” Swedish city bans Mobility Week cycle demo

It seems a bit strange to be commenting on a Swedish newspaper article in English but here goes just because I find this in some weird way comically fascinating. If you can’t read the article let google do the job for you but for the lazy reader I’ll summarise.

In April, talk about being out in good time, a group comprising of a broad coalition of Gothenburgs NGOs notified the police of a planned cycle demonstration on the 18th of September. The planned protest has just been refused permission (I hate the word permission, do I need permission to get angry?) on the grounds that it would disrupt the traffic.

This gets a place in the local paper, as it should, but what strikes me is that nobody involved seems to remember that what has just happened is that a peaceful organised cycle parade with bands playing along the route during “The European Mobility Week” has been banned by the police.

European Mobility Week happens every year between the 16th and 23rd of September. It coincides with the international Car Free Day on the 22nd. Cities all around the world turn off the cars for a day and rediscover themselves. Gothenburg plays lip-service to Mobility Week but have stopped doing anything to give us a chance to see what a difference the cars make when they’re not there.

In Brussels the city will close all it’s roads for all cars. In Budapest we can expect a new world record for most riders in a Critical Mass. In Gothenburg a fluffy cycle demonstration up and down one street. The famous Avenue has been banned by the local police. Makes my blood boil!

But lets remember that every cloud has a silver lining. Gothenburg’s willingness to hang themselves out on the international stage for repressing the European Mobility Week might just draw attention to the plans in the city for a nice new urban motorway next to the other urban motorway that gets a bit full sometimes. This international recognition might just have more effect than a fluffy cycle demo. One never knows.

Ian Fiddies

Gothenburg

27th September 2010

10
Jul
10

Regrets; I’ve had a few…

Sitting on the train back from the year’s political high point, (in Sweden at least) Almedal- politician week in the nice city of Visby I can’t help admitting to a feeling of regret. One of the few regrets I feel the need to mention.

On Tuesday we, that is Friends of the Earth Sweden, gave Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish environment minister, our Greenwash prize. With 60% of the vote Andreas left the rest of the field miles behind. And the competition was stiff I tell you, I mean BP was also nominated, but remained an also ran. Andreas is without any doubt the Swedish Master of Greenwash.

Why pick on the poor minister, he does his best you might think. And it is true, if you can be bothered to listen to what he says, his environmental rhetoric is first class. This is the man who at one time was a most vocal opponent of a western bypass round Stockholm, now, years later, after his radical youthful views have been well proven to be true, he is suggesting, no not just suggesting but telling us that the same project he was so opposed to before is now good for the environment.

All Stockholm needs is a nice new urban motorway to clean up the environment, yeah right. Come on Andreas tell us about the “lots of money” new suburban development is going to help make a few people rich but give the poor environment a break, please.

When we announced the award on Tuesday Andreas was for some reason not disposed to turn up and accept the honour. That is why on Wednesday when opportunity knocked we made the effort to personally hand his prize over and ask him for a chance to discuss these motorway things he is so keen on. We tried to talk to him.

This brings me back to my regrets, I have one major regret after my week on Gotland. My regret is that I didn’t pour a coffee cup full of green slime over the reverend minister when I had the chance. I might be sat in jail now, instead of the train home to Göteborg. But at least I would have too few regrets to mention.

On the train back from Stockholm, 10 July 2010

03
Jul
10

Strung out and on a train

I don’t really have a point with this post, as usual I have nothing to say, but I’ve just got back from the “Towards Carfree Cities IX” conference in York and it might be worthwhile writing a few lines about my experiences. This has been one of the most intensive weeks in my life and I arrive back in Sweden with at least twice as many unanswered questions as I left with. This, if nothing else, is proof that I must have learnt something.

Psycho geography is probably the hook that got me really hooked, how do we experience the world around us? And can a better understanding of how people experience their/our built environment be useful when thinking about the built environment. Expect more on this subject when I’ve had time to digest it a bit.

But strung out after all the conference sessions is wot I am and although I’m back in good old Sverige I am also sitting on another train. On my way to the next jippo, Almedalen on the island of Gotland. Every year at the beginning of July Sweden’s political elite, politicians, lobbyists and NGOs gather for a bit of a mingle in the medieval Hansa town of Visby. A small reassurance is that there is probably chance to rest later. Ha Ha! At least there should be a bit of fancy and free food kicking about, freeganism rules!

Just to round off my latest mad project has got funding, this means that I am now officially “a bit of a MONGO*”

*MONGO- My Own Non-Government Organisation

On the train to Stockholm 3 July 2010

17
Jun
10

Destination Earth

This is an old clip I stumbled upon. Somehow it seems fitting today, I mean it’s now that we need reminding that oil companies only want to make our lives better.




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