It’s Time To Break Up With Cars

Americans didn’t immediately fall in love with cars.  It’s been a Machiavellian relationship for a century, so maybe we can break up now.

The Car Culture That’s Helping Destroy the Planet Was By No Means Inevitable

Jeff Sparrow

On the Relentless Campaign to Force Americans to Accept the Automobile

“In 1995, comedian Denis Leary recorded a track called “Asshole,” a song about an all-American guy who likes “football and porno and books about war.” It concludes with a monologue: 

I’m gonna get myself a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado convertible
Hot pink, with whale skin hubcaps

And all leather cow interior
And big brown baby seal eyes for head lights
And I’m gonna drive in that baby at 115 miles per hour
Gettin’ one mile per gallon
Sucking down Quarter Pounder cheese burgers from McDonald’s
In the old-fashioned, non-biodegradable styrofoam containers
And when I’m done sucking down those greaseball burgers
I’m gonna wipe my mouth with the American flag

And then I’m gonna toss the styrofoam containers right out the side

And there ain’t a goddamn thing anybody can do about it …

Yes, there is. Vote.

For those concerned about the environment, cars are an ecological catastrophe, while the current president celebrates car ownership as a true hallmark of freedom for blue blooded Americans, and the US remains the “spiritual home of car culture”.   Vote.

So are we doomed to live forever in a polarized country where there is a constant war for space on the road between people walking, on bikes, and driving, and over 40 thousand people die in automobile collisions each year?

Maybe there is hope.   Vote.

Cars don’t have to own us.

Here’s something to think about as American cities (and yes, we in Asbury Park) try to figure out how to keep people safe while social distancing by opening streets to people walking, riding bikes, skateboards, scooters…there could be one good thing that comes out of Covid-19.

The spaces between parked cars can be for people, not for car domination. It’s so in cities where drivers don’t rule the roads. As one Face Book commenter in the thread notes, when he drives into one of these streets he “immediately wonders whether he should be there, then sees the benefits to everyone, and drives slowly and cautiously to his destination”. With American car culture could this happen here, or would we continue to see angry, entitled drivers claiming their right to the road, endangering us all?

Here’s the link to Modacitylife FaceBook page, where you can enjoy beautiful city inspiration, listen to the audio book,  Building The Cycling City, and buy the book here.

UK Wants To Ban American SUVs and Trucks As Too Dangerous

Drivers in the US are attracted to huge SUVs and trucks party because fuel prices are so low, and mostly as a result of the brainwashing effect of the automotive industry advertising the feeling of personal empowerment and freedom.  The industry has slowed or stopped production of less-profitable sedans and focused on bigger vehicles with higher margins, so they sell the truck drug to willing consumers. This article from 2005 from The University of Rochester describes ads for SUVs and trucks triggering an emotional response with the promise of liberation and freedom. The names of vehicles like Ford’s Discovery and Freelander, Subaru’s Forester and Outback, Ford’s Excursion, Expedition and Escape evoke the All-American love of wilderness and exploration.  The names of these giant vehicles conjure up the great American outdoors, while disregarding the negative environmental impact, as described in 2006 in this article from The University of Colorado Center Science and Policy.

The SUV Durango Hellcat is marketed in this ad, driving on a completely empty road in the middle of nowhere,  as a “family” SUV (a family vehicle named Hellcat??), with top speed of 180 mph and 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. The reality is that these are death vehicles operating in our cities and suburbs.

Tall front grills will more likely kill a pedestrian by striking at chest level, or crushing an unseen child, than a sedan, which would strike at leg level.

“Landmark studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, and others have correlated a 50-percent increase in U.S. pedestrian fatalities over eight years to the rising popularity of pick-ups, vans, and sport utility vehicles.”

As a result of these statistics, citing “U.S. vehicle safety standards are much lower than those permitted for vehicles sold in the U.K.”, experts in the United Kingdom are urging their government to ban import of American-made SUVs.

The UK is considering banning American SUVs and Trucks deeming them too dangerous,. Will the US follow suit and eliminate them from American streets? Doubt it.

American SUVs are Too Dangerous for UK Roads, UK Safety Experts Say

New cars in the United Kingdom are required to meet advanced vehicle safety standards that mandate pedestrian detection technology, and, eventually, speed limiters. Meanwhile, U.S. vehicle safety standards only require car manufacturers to meet minimum crash safety standards for people inside vehicles in the event of a collision — and say nothing about vulnerable road users who might be on the other end of a crash.

Read more:  https://usa.streetsblog.org/2020/07/22/american-suvs-are-too-dangerous-for-uk-roads-uk-safety-experts-say/

 

 

 

A City Without Cars – Could Asbury Park Do It?

This NYTIMES article, filled with great graphics and data has evoked many responses from readers, and inspired other opinion pieces like this from StreetsBlog.

What are your thoughts about minimizing or eliminating automobiles in Asbury Park? How do you envision our city in 2 years, 5 years, or 10?  We know that real estate has been strong, even during the pandemic, and gradually we will see more condos built on iStar’s lots, meaning more people, and undoubtedly more cars, unless we start now to mitigate car use and parking availability.  Within the past couple of weeks traffic we’ve seen traffic escalate back to pre pandemic congestion in the business district and waterfront. Drivers are speeding in every neighborhood in the city.

APCSC believes in a walkable, bikeable, livable Asbury Park where everyone, especially the most vulnerable can access every part of the city without the dangers associated with motor vehicles.

Read on…

I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing

Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?

By 

NYT Opinion Columnist July 9, 2020

“Automobiles are not just dangerous and bad for the environment; they are also profoundly wasteful of the land around us, taking up way too much physical space to transport too few people. It’s geometry.

In most American cities, wherever you look, you will see a landscape constructed primarily for the movement and storage of automobiles, not for the enjoyment of people: endless wide boulevards and freeways for cars to move swiftly; each road lined with parking spaces for cars at rest; retail establishments ringed with spots for cars…”

What does it take to move 50 people?

 

50 cars: 55 square feet per person.

One bus: 9 square feet per person

50 bicycles: 15 square feet per person

Read it here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/opinion/sunday/ban-cars-manhattan-cities.html?referringSource=articleShare

 

Covid-19 Recovery And Long-Lasting Change

City leaders all over the world are establishing measures to permanently maintain the improvements to the environment by creating ways for people to get around without cars. Asbury Park can do this.

“Action needs to be taken now which will help people move around without the congestion, pollution and ill-health that comes with car use now and after lockdown is lifted.”

“…the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis could be “a catalyst for long-lasting change in the way we live and travel, especially in towns and cities. What Covid-19 has also done is to highlight the crossovers between the quality of our places, public health, economy, transport, education, air quality and social justice.”

City leaders aim to shape green recovery from coronavirus crisis

Mayors coordinating efforts to support a low-carbon, sustainable path out of lockdowns

Cities around the world are already planning for life after Covid-19, with a series of environmental initiatives being rolled out from Bogotá to Barcelona to ensure public safety and bolster the fight against climate breakdown.

Mayors from cities in Europe, the US and Africa held talks this week to coordinate their efforts to support a low-carbon, sustainable recovery from the crisis as national governments begin to implement huge economic stimulus packages.

Many cities have already announced measures, from hundreds of miles of new bike lanes in Milan and Mexico City to widening pavements and pedestrianising neighbourhoods in New York and Seattle.

Here’s a start Asbury Park!

Seven things city leaders can do to drive a green, fair recovery from Covid-19

  • Remove through motor traffic from residential streets and extend pavements near shops, schools and parks to make walking safe and enjoyable for transport and exercise.
  • Introduce safe access routes on foot, bike and scooter from homes to parks and green spaces and introduce automatic pedestrian lights at crossings so people do not have to push buttons and risk infection.
  • Establish safe cycle routes to and from work for key workers, especially hospital staff, by closing roads and carriageways where necessary so people have a safe alternative to private cars and public transport.
  • Create safe walking and cycling routes to and from schools, and close down streets around schools to motor vehicles at drop-off and pickup times.

Read more:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/01/city-leaders-aim-to-shape-green-recovery-from-coronavirus-crisis

This Is Our Future. The Birth Of A Healthy, Resilient City

Asbury Park is looking at a great opportunity to initiate progressive, and permanent change to prioritize people walking and people riding bikes, to offer alternative transportation, and to restrict the use of cars. We owe it to ourselves. This is our future, so let’s plan for it.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been countless articles about cities creating more space for people to protect the environment and to save lives.  I’ve had so many in the queue I can barely keep up.
Read more here in this deep dive into what’s happening all over the world, followed by a great Twitter thread for more illumination.

Are we witnessing the death of the car?

By Francesca Perry29th April 2020
“Cities around the world are seeing dwindling numbers of fossil-fuel powered cars on their streets, and many are planning to keep it that way after
lockdowns ease.”

 

To accommodate streets now busier with bikes, as well as facilitate social distancing, some places have installed temporary cycle lanes or closed streets to cars. Pop-up bike lanes have appeared in cities including Berlin, Budapest, Mexico City, New York, Dublin and Bogotá. Governments from New Zealand to Scotland have made funding available for temporary cycle lanes and walkways amid the pandemic. In Brussels, the entire city core will become a priority zone for cyclists and pedestrians from early May for the forseeable future. Meanwhile, temporary street closures to cars have taken place in Brighton, Bogotá, Cologne, Vancouver and Sydney as well as multiple US cities including Boston, Denver and Oakland. In England, restrictions have been lifted to enable and encourage councils to more quickly close streets to cars.

But these, of course, are temporary measures.  What will happen when lockdowns are lifted?

Cities that seize this moment to make it easier for people to walk, bike and take public transport will prosper after this pandemic and not simply recover from it – Janette Sadik-Khan

This Twitter thread from @modacity, begins with a post from PhD candidate Brett Petzer.

“Cities across the globe are moving quickly and ambitiously to reclaim hundreds of kilometres of streets from the car monopoly and reallocate these public commons to people walking, cycling and rolling. It‘s like seeing decades of activism happen in a month.”
“The Great Reclamation: I am losing track of the number of cities that have moved suddenly and ambitiously to reclaim hundreds of kilometres of streets from the car monopoly and reallocate these public commons for people walking, cycling and using wheelchairs.”
@modacity began with a family’s move in 2010, and was the impetus to educate people and cities about the inherent benefits of moving away from a car-centric transportation model, to a more inclusive one that is accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and economic means.”
“Using writing, photography, film, and the power of social media, we used this revelation to communicate a more human image of multi-modal transportation.”

“It is like watching decades of activism happen in a month. Like watching generations of ‘cycling and walking plans’ or ‘sustainable mobility plans’, which have always been aspirations, turn into facts (literally) overnight. 

It has taken a crisis that is new, sudden, total and full of unknowns to break, albeit briefly, the car monopoly on urban space which has been in place for 70-100 years in the rich West…”

Read the tweet here.

 

 

Life Now And after Lockdown – A Call To Action

We shouldn’t look forward to “back to normal”

From The Editor

Polli Schildge April 26th, 2020

Most of the world was experiencing an environmental and human health crisis before the onslaught of the Corona Virus. Vehicles were spewing pollution, and we were experiencing a human health catastrophe in crash deaths.  Air quality around the world has vastly improved with the reduction of driving, and the crash fatality rate has plummeted. (Unfortunately entitled drivers are currently speeding more.)

Taking glimpses of cities around the world: “The skies are clearing of pollution, wildlife is returning to newly clear waters”… But “how people react to the return of normalcy after the pandemic will help define the crises racking the environment… “A key question will be do we have a green recovery, do we seize the opportunity to create jobs in renewable energy and in making coastlines more resilient to climate change?”

We need to reduce the use of motorized vehicles, and reduce vehicle speeds to protect the environment and human life.  Milan, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and Oakland, CA are beginning now and planning for the future, creating networks of bike lanes, and widening sidewalks to enable more walking.

The plan in Milan, Italy , which will “boldly and beneficially re-imagine our lives, landscapes, and future on the other side is hailed as an “excellent example of #buildbackbetter and activists like Greta Thunberg called for “crafting similar schemes for other major cities like New York, London, and beyond.”

The World Resources Institute cites cities like Bogota, Mexico City, London, Chicago, and Philadelphia which are opening streets to people for walking and biking, and planning permanent infrastructure. “Today’s COVID-19 lockdowns could reveal solutions that have far-reaching benefits for cities long into the future, pointing the way to more resilient, accessible and safe urban transport. A city with more cycling is a city with healthier people, safer streets, cleaner air and better connectivity.”

Asbury Park’s Plan for Walking and Biking, outlines incremental development of a network of bike lanes and walking infrastructure. There are discussions about future re-allocation of road space to provide for walking and biking, and to reduce traffic and parking problems. We believe that this is the perfect time to launch some of these plans and ideas. People are walking and biking more than ever now, and we’re demonstrating the need for more space. As the weather warms there will be more walkers and people biking, and our sidewalks are too narrow, and our streets are too accommodating for cars and trucks.  We can’t immediately build wider sidewalks, or instantaneously create bike infrastructure, but we can open streets to people, and reduce access to motor vehicles. Asbury Park can emulate other cities and countries where they have utilized tactical urbanism to quickly turn streets into places for people: New Zealand makes tactical urbanism a part of its national policy during the pandemic. 

 

This is a call to action. When the pandemic is over, will streets be even more clogged with cars, risking the lives of people walking and on bikes?  It doesn’t have to happen. We can start now to prioritize people, and not vehicles on our city streets. This article in The Atlantic sums it up. The Pandemic Shows What Cars Have Done to Cities.


New York City before the pandemic ERNST HAAS / GETTY

Let’s stay safe and healthy walking and riding bikes now, and let’s work to make streets safe for the most vulnerable users for after this terrible and challenging time has passed. We can learn from life during a pandemic, and work diligently to create a new normal.

 

 

 

 

Creating A Liveable City – Nordic Countries Do It – Can WE?

In Asbury Park we have heard, “Asbury Park is unique” and, “we’re not (fill in name of any liveable, walkable, bikeable city), and “where will the delivery trucks park?”, with the implication that motor vehicles rule, and that walking and biking infrastructure won’t work here. Our Transportation Manager, Mike Manzella recently returned from a visit to Oslo, and other people-centered cities and we can’t wait to learn all about it!

In this BBC The Compass Podcast you can substitute Asbury Park for Oslo. You’ll hear how that city is also expanding, and making a commitment to “reducing carbon use and emissions”, working to  “avoid urban pitfalls that may lead to segregation and inequality.  Some say it might be impossible. Asbury Park is among cities all over the globe working to enable people to be less car-dependent, and to prioritize people in urban planning.

In the article below, you will read that Nordic planners have “prioritised liveability, sustainability, mobility and citizens’ empowerment”, and now there’s an international masters program to teach planners all over the world how to do the same. We have serious work to do in the US.

Oslo is “doing a a rigorous investigation into the city’s plans to grow quickly, but intelligently. They scrutinise the policies aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions and creating a zero-carbon infrastructure, they look at the plans for preventing segregated neighbourhoods… ” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Let’s get to work.

What the Nordic nations can teach us about liveable cities

By Maddy Savage 12th November 2019

Fuelled by rising international interest in why the Nordic countries are doing so well, three of the region’s top universities recently joined forces to launch the world’s first international master’s programme specialising in Nordic urban planning.

“In the Nordics, there has long been an emphasis on people in urban life, and putting them at the centre,” explains David Pinder, a professor of urban studies at Roskilde University in Denmark. Planners have prioritised liveability, sustainability, mobility and citizens’ empowerment – ideals manifest in green parks, well-lit public spaces, strong transport networks and accessible local facilities for children and the elderly.”

Read about it~

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20191112-what-the-nordic-nations-can-teach-us-about-liveable-cities

Want To Save The Planet? Drive Less.

The bottom line is that we ALL need to drive less. Fuel efficient cars will never be enough. The federal government is buying into the hype that we need more and bigger highways to move more vehicles. The advertising biz is in on the plan too, encouraging us to buy cars that establish our identity, that make us feel powerful, sexy, and even environmentally conscious. The influence is coming from the industry of course, with the constant goal of selling more cars, whether gasoline powered or electric.  The recent introduction of electric cars to Asbury Park is to make it possible to live car-free, but still be able to access a vehicle when necessary. Reduce use, and reduce congestion and the use of fossil fuels. That’s the idea Asbury Park!

“Improvements in vehicle efficiency and vehicle electrification are being undermined by the way we design and spend money on our roadways. New highways, roads, and lanes induce more driving (Vehicle Miles Travleled, or VMT), which leads to more emissions and ultimately more congestion. This is called “induced demand.”  In fact, driving increases in exact proportion with lane-mileage—a 10% increase in lane miles will lead to a 10% increase in driving.
Though building more highways increases emissions, federal transportation spending actually encourages more driving and undermines limited investments in biking, walking, and transit.”

Electric cars won’t save the planet without a clean energy overhaul – they could increase pollution

“EVs have great potential to reduce pollution and give people a more sustainable way to get around – but electricity production must also be clean. It’s not wise to rely completely on scarce natural elements required for producing EVs and alternatives have to be explored. More recycling plants are needed to make the most out of rare elements and governments need to explore ways to ensure a smooth transition to cleaner transportation.”

Read about it:

http://theconversation.com/electric-cars-wont-save-the-planet-without-a-clean-energy-overhaul-they-could-increase-pollution-118012

Cars Are Killing Us

Asbury Park is perfectly designed to support alternatives to cars. Bike share, scooter share, electric car share, jitneys, pedicabs, and more.

This article in The New Yorker, in addition to recent articles in The New York Times,  The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other respected and well- known publications tells the history and social, health and environmental impacts of automobiles in this country.  It has become clearer that we need to address the problem of #toomanycars.

“The road has emerged as the setting for our most violent illustrations of systemic racism, combustion engines have helped create a climate crisis, and the quest for oil has led our soldiers into war.”

The “Automobile Era” was ushered in by men who saw a way to make a lot of money hustling Americans into thinking that everyone needed, and everyone could afford a car, and that vehicles represented freedom and our very identity.

This author quotes the stats: “Since 1899, more than 3.6 million people have died in traffic accidents (*Let’s make sure we NEVER say “accident”. They’re CRASHES.*) in the United States, and more than eighty million have been injured; pedestrian fatalities have risen in the past few years.”

“In 2018 alone, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives to car crashes.” Since 1990 1 million people have been killed in car crashes.”

The environment has suffered irreparably from automobile emissions, and from our dependence on gas and oil. Human health has been adversely affected with particulates in the atmosphere.

Let’s keep working toward a car-free Asbury Park.

Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake?

For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.

READ IT:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/29/was-the-automotive-era-a-terrible-mistake

 

Save Asbury’s Waterfront Community Voices – Joyce Grant

Development of the North Beach of Asbury Park is a serious environmental issue as well as a social justice issue. This is the last natural oceanfront resource area in New Jersey, and Joyce Grant, environmental activist, shares her thoughts on the damage that development would cause.

#boardwalkandbeachesforall

PLEASE ATTEND THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING FEB 13th. AP High School Auditorium.  Learn about development of the North Beach and share your thoughts in the public comment period.

NOW IS THE TIME

“We cannot allow our waterfront developers to make anything, even in appearance, on our public land beaches, and boardwalk with its shops and restaurants not inclusive for all members of our and other communities who enjoy our public beaches and boardwalk.” – Joyce Grant

NOW IS THE TIME to preserve the north end oceanfront in Asbury Park with a living shoreline coastal park complete with habitats, nesting areas for our diminishing wildlife and native plant species. Build dune structures to help mitigate flooding, beach erosion. Protect our public people friendly sustainable wide benched boardwalk. Create a public pervious pavement parking lot in order to allow storm water to infiltrate into the soil recharging ground water, support ocean friendly gardens that naturally filter polluted runoff from entering into Deal Lake and our Ocean.

Now is the time to accept the reality that our capitalistic system has failed. It promotes class and extreme economic divisions between capitalists and the working class. Capitalism does not cultivate the needed more equal distribution of wealth in our country, our world.

Now is the time to fight discrimination, homelessness, displacement, and injustice towards peoples of different color, different cultures, religions, and nationalities.

Now is the time for Asbury Park’s Master Waterfront Developers and City to come together to stop the interference and pollution of our precious natural life-giving resources that we need to survive. The air we breathe. The water we drink. The land we live, play and grow food on. Protect our lakes and ocean coastlines with ocean friendly gardens which naturally filter polluted runoff from entering into our lakes and ocean. Provide and keep affordable housing throughout the city for all our residents who need it. Asbury Park’s residents deserve to live in a clean healthy affordable non discriminating environment.

Now is the time to institute an Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) requirement for all new residential and infrastructural development and all future planning laws. The EIA is a process by which anticipated effects on the environment of a proposed development or project are measured. If the likely effects are unacceptable, design measures or other relevant mitigation measures can be taken to reduce or alleviate these effects.

Now is the time to call on our local coastal environment experts such as American Littoral SocietyClean Ocean Action, and the Jersey Shore Surfrider Foundation to help save, bring back living shorelines in Asbury Park through a public, meeting-type forum.

Now is the time to create a better and just world not only for all that inhabit our planet but the planet itself which begs to be nurtured, protected sustained, balanced, healed and loved for all it has given in order for us to survive. There is only one earth for all of us to share, to make fruitful again, with clear, clean waters and air for all who come after us.

Joyce Grant, Environmental and Social Justice Activist