Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Asked And Answered

New York Times blog wonders if it's possible to go car-free, and what that really means. They ask seven Experts what they think and get a familiar spate of tepid answers.
  • "A more realistic goal for most Americans would be a semi-carless community"
  • "Walkable urban development is not for everyone..."
  • "I love the idea of carless towns or cities. Most of the successful ones I’ve heard about though, are vacation communities."
  • "The goal should not be car-free, but car-appropriate."
And those are the supporters!

I don't necessarily disagree, but I hardly think that's where the heart of the argument lies. Nobody anywhere (even me) is suggesting a ban on cars. But a community can fairly be considered to be car-free if trips by car represent a single-digit minority of overall trips. I live car-free. It's possible.

There was one expert who was unwavering and unapologetic in his advocacy for the car-free, and this quote mentions all the right things about how car-free life works:

Local shops and services are essential. Good public transport is required except in the small cities.

Rail systems offer the best service. Bikes will be important in most cases. Walking is the mainstay, and routine shops and services, including schools, must be within walking distance, say five minutes. -J.H. Crawford
Density is a proxy for walkability. Height is a proxy for density. To some extent these things go hand-in-hand, but not always. San Francisco's One Rincon Hill is the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi River, but not its most car-free. Care should be made when planning new infill urban development to pay attention to the real amenities that allow car-free life, not proxies twice-removed.

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