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.

Do It In The Road: Asbury Park ReOPEN and Slow Streets Pilots

Everyone deserves to have safe streets to access work, businesses, and recreation, especially now when we need more space to move about our cities with appropriate social distance without risk of vehicular traffic.

Asbury Park ReOPEN, a pilot which currently runs Thursdays through Monday mornings, is helping businesses to generate revenue with restriction of capacity, mask requirements, distancing, and limited hours. Separately, “Slow Streets” will be set up on various streets in the city, where vehicular traffic will be limited to local only, allowing residents to move about safely on the street playing, bicycling, walking, and rolling without risk from cars and trucks.

Many cities across the US and the world have implemented these measures, including in CATXKY, OHMA, and many more.  Jersey City’s Slow Streets pilot program is 24/7, described here:

Due to the Covid-19 safety measures, the City of Jersey City is working to provide residents additional open space that supports safe physical activity by designating certain streets throughout the City as “Slow Streets”. These streets will be closed to through traffic so that people can more comfortably use them for physically distant walking, wheelchair rolling, jogging, biking and exercising all across the City.

Enjoy the following blog post and photos from a visitor to Asbury Park’s Business District.

Stay tuned for continued adaptations to the program in neighborhoods all over the city, and upcoming implementation and photos from Slow Streets in Asbury Park. We welcome your thoughts and constructive comments.

WESTWORDS

TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2020

Asbury Park Says Be All You Can Be

ReOpen Asbury Park: Cookman Ave Business District.

Restaurant seating set up on the street.

 

A “Streaterie”, in this case resembling a Parklet

 

Businesses selling wares on the street.

The Book Co-Op set up on the sidewalk for passersby to browse.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The World Without Cars – Let’s Keep It This Way

Do we really want to go “back to normal”?  Every city in America struggles with parking issues and traffic congestion. But now, in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, streets are free of traffic and air is remarkably cleaner. Let’s learn from this.  We can seriously consider who needs to drive in our city – do we really need to allow large delivery trucks on Main Street and Cookman?  The proposed parking garage should ease parking issues to a degree, and we’ve been discussing car-free zones, a network of connected bike lanes, and restricting deliveries to small vehicles and cargo bikes.

A quote from the article could easily describe Asbury Park or any city, “The same way we will have to reimagine so many elements in our city, we must do the same with our streets,” said Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group. “We can’t go back to streets that are littered with traffic and parking.”

The downside of open roads is that driver entitlement is more evident in an increase of speeding.

N.Y.’s Changed Streets: In One Spot, Traffic Speeds Are Up 288%

Faster buses. Plentiful parking. Cleaner air. A shift in habits offers a glimpse of what the city could be like without so much congestion.

 

Read about it:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/nyregion/nyc-coronavirus-empty-streets.html

Cars Gone – Air Pollution Drops Globally

Take a look at these photos of the astonishing improvements in air quality in cities all over the world. But what will happen when the COVID-19 pandemic is over? Some politicians are trumpeting that the goal is to “get back to normal”. But not if normal means that people are dying due to poor air quality. The EPA just declined to change air quality standards despite health risks, so when companies are back in production and and cars again choke our roads, is “normal” the goal we want to strive for?  Automotive traffic is responsible for most air pollution. After the pandemic will cities have the will to make changes to provide for alternative transportation, improved transit, wider sidewalks for pedestrians, and infrastructure for micro-mobility?

‘It’s positively alpine!’: Disbelief in big cities as air pollution falls

It is the absence of cars on some of the world’s most congested roads that seems to be making the most crucial differences.

BUT-

Indeed, the fear among environmentalists and residents is that, rather than attempting to maintain the low levels of pollution in the world’s biggest capitals, when industry and cars kick back into action post-lockdown, the situation will go back to square one, and perhaps even worsen, as people and industry attempt to make up for the lost months.

While India’s powerful car lobby has long disputed that cars are a major cause of Delhi’s pollution, Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, said the lockdown and resulting rapid drop in pollution showed once and for all just what a polluting role vehicles had in the city.

Read it:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/11/positively-alpine-disbelief-air-pollution-falls-lockdown-coronavirus

Let’s Close Some Streets To Cars And Allow More Space For People

There’s less traffic everywhere in the world right now. More people are staying close to home, and many are walking and riding bikes. At the same time drivers are speeding more. Maybe it’s an increased sense of driver entitlement with more open roads, or the knowledge that police are less likely to engage with speeders, and in some cities even refusing to respond to calls for non-injury crashes, all making streets even more dangerous.

As always, but especially now we need to be more aware of the most vulnerable moving about in our cities: people walking, biking, and using other forms of micro-transit.  To maintain 6′ distance during the viral outbreak, people walking must move off too-narrow sidewalks into the street. Those who ride bikes must also maintain 6′ distance.  But bike riders fearful of speeding and distracted drivers may feel safer on sidewalks, even if there are bike lanes. Paint doesn’t protect.

The problem isn’t walkers or people on bikes. It’s #toomanycars, and #slowthecars.

Let’s consider closing some Asbury Park streets to automotive traffic to allow more space for people.  If we envision the successful street closures during the Sea. Hear. Now Festival, we can see that Ocean Avenue could  be closed to cars, at least temporarily while the boardwalk is closed (and probably soon the beach).  Cookman Avenue would make a great walking plaza, especially now while businesses are mostly closed, and maybe it could remain permanently a place for people.  It’s becoming evident all over the world that cities are more vibrant where there are fewer cars. This would be a great time to try it out.

How to Open Streets Right During Social Distancing

“The first place we should start, the advocates we spoke to argued, is with closing off as many streets as possible that run through our parks to motor vehicles — not just a handful of them, as may cities are doing now. And it’d be even better to close off roads adjacent to parks, too: Mike Lydon and Tony Garcia, tactical urbanism superstars and co-principals of Street Plans, offered particular applause to Minneapolis’ decision to allow limited road closures near its river front.

Next stop: the cul-de-sacs. Streets that are already pretty quiet have absolutely no reason to allow non-resident traffic right now, when the risk of killing new crowds of of walker vastly outweighs the risk of holding up a traffic pattern that has largely come to a standstill. And that goes for through-streets that don’t connect major essential services, too.

Third stop: those small, walkable shopping districts where all the businesses are closed anyway. Jason Roberts of Better Block thinks it’s particularly important to give residents safe, contactless access to window shopping, street vendors, and even shuttered restaurants, which can be converted into open-air markets through Better Block’s free downloadable shelf plans.”

Read all about it:

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2020/04/08/how-to-open-streets-right-during-social-distancing/

Drop In Private Car Trips To Less Than Half – Can It Happen by 2030?

“Private car trips will drop by 10% on average by 2030 to make up less than half of all city journeys, while public transport, walking and bicycle will all increase in popularity, the Mobility Futures study found.”

This is good news, but the automotive industry won’t give up without a fight. The result of steadily slumping sales of mid-size vehicles has led to the rise in manufacture and sales of huge vehicles (higher margin per vehicle). These larger vehicles, SUVs and trucks are responsible for the rise in death-by-automobile: 40 thousand deaths a year in the US last year.  This figure is a pubic health crisis globally, but it’s been accepted since the 20s and 30s as a natural consequence of owning and driving vehicles, while blaming people walking and riding bikes for being inattentive, not wearing bright colored clothing, or the invention of “jaywalking”.

We can see change starting to happen but can do more as citizens –  work with city leaders to help create better systems of mass transport, build more infrastructure for walking and bicycling, and offer other micro-mobility options. We can work to lower speed limits, calm traffic, create spaces for people instead of for cars, raise the cost and lower the availability of parking. THEN we’ll see the change we need to happen, hopefully within the next 10 years. Our lives depend upon it.

Green transport set to overtake cars in world’s major cities by 2030

by Sonia Elks Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 10 February 2020
Many authorities are looking to discourage private car journeys, while a boom in bike-sharing schemes and electric-powered small vehicles are giving residents new ways to get around.

“It’s a job for every mayor, for every city government to do something,” said Rolf Kullen, mobility director at research consultancy firm Kantar, which produced the study, based on surveys in 31 cities.

“Cities are beginning to understand that you do not build your city around a certain means of transport … You should build your city around the people.”

Read about it:

https://news.trust.org/item/20200210112518-99bdu/

Don’t Blame The Scooter Riders

As Mike Manzella, AP transportation manager reported at the Homeowners’ meeting, scooter use has massively surpassed the use of bike share since the September 2019 launch.  This is the case in cities all over the world where scooters have been introduced.  With the huge increase in scooter usage there is a rise in injuries, but not because of the scooters themselves, or the people riding them.  We’re overlooking the real problem, which is too much space for cars.

People have been brainwashed by the auto industry that roads belong to drivers since cars started to become ubiquitous beginning in the 20’s. Roads quickly became the domain of drivers, to the exclusion of all other users, as the industry subtly and not subtly used ad campaigns and articles to influence the populace. Walkers and bike riders were designated to move within narrow painted lines, people walking outside lines are called jaywalkers, and they’re blamed for being hit by drivers.  The number of people killed by drivers is growing. “More pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year in the United States than in any year since 1990.”

Now scooter riders share the narrow painted spaces allocated to bike riders, and as the newcomers to streets, they’re the new focus of culpability and safety concerns.  #toomanycars #slowthecars

“The rise of the e-scooter has been meteoric, eclipsing bike share usage nationally in 2018, just a year after gaining widespread availability, according to a recent report by NACTO, a national association of city officials. But that doesn’t mean the scooters had anywhere to go — except onto roadways where drivers believe they are the sole legitimate user.”

The Real Reasons Scooter Injuries Are Exploding

It’s not time to quash the micromobility revolution. It’s time to build a world where micromobility riders stand a chance on our streets.

By Kea Wilson 

Photo: Nathan Rupert/Flickr

Scooter injuries are up more than 200 percent over the last four years — but everyone is blaming the wrong people.

The Jan. 8 report from JAMA Surgery does not offer much context for the 222-percent increase in scooter fatalities between 2014 and 2018, which has allowed news outlets to fill the gap with alarmist articles decrying the lack of scooter regulation, lack of helmet usage, and more.

Here’s what’s really going on…

Read more…

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2020/01/09/e-scooter-injuries/

On The Road This Thanksgiving?

Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition wishes everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and we hope your traffic woes are at a minimum in this holiday season!

We’re at critical mass with #toomanycars. Buses, trains, electric ride sharing, bikes, and even scooters will need to become more realistic options for day-to-day travel, whether we’re going home from work or home for the holidays. Thanksgiving is a good time to start trying to promote that message.

The Lessons of Holiday Traffic Congestion

ANDREW SMALL

Automobiles drive in heavy traffic along the Long Island Expressway in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton – RC189962B510

Read about it~

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/11/thanksgiving-traffic-congestion-cars-flights-transit-data/602650/

Can We Break Up With Our Cars?

The automotive industry has co-opted our language, and our brains. 

Cities all over the world are becoming aware of the damage of cars on human health and the environment, and we’re designing infrastructure to stem the horrific numbers of car crash deaths. Asbury Park is on it’s way to becoming a city where residents and visitors will be able to get around without cars. Our lives literally depend upon it.

This is a global issue.

Nordic countries are years ahead of the US.  We have serious work to do, and it starts with advocacy for a people-centered city.  We must all commit to less driving, and we must insist on infrastructure for bikes and walking, plus alternative transportation, mass transit, and micro mobility. The answer isn’t subsidizing low emission or electric cars (even though electric vehicles create less emissions, fossil fuels are required to power EV ), or ride share, or promoting autonomous vehicles. The answer is to globally reduce or eliminate vehicle dependency. #toomanycars

Cities Worldwide Are Re-imagining Their Relationship With Cars