Carfree, The Way to Be

Sometimes it's really a shame that teleporting is not yet a reality. Sometimes, I really wish that jetsetting weren't just an annoying habit of the inordinately wealthy and actually something you could do by say, clicking your heels and wishing. Because sometimes small timers can't really get there when the getting is expensive and the there is far away.

Have I lost you yet? Are you still there? Ahoy! I'm talking about the Towards Carfree Cities conference in PDX a couple weeks ago and how I didn't get to go because I live over here in Philadelphia, directly on the opposite side of the universe, and I'm bummed now that I've gotten a glimpse of the festivities. The website for TCC sports a mission statement that reads thus:
This year’s Towards Carfree Cities conference theme is intended to promote discussion of urban livability, mixed-use development, local agriculture, pedestrianization, strong neighborhoods, accessible public space, and sustainable transportation. The conference program unites diverse interests, from city planners to developers to environmental activists to transportation service providers, around the common goal of reducing communities’ dependence on automobiles.

It seems like representatives of just about everything relevant in urban theory teamed up to talk about carfree living over several days and I didn't even know about it. Boo.

Lucky for us, there is a nice guy named Jon who runs a little podcast out of San Francisco. Usually he only publishes a podcast once a month but in light of his attendance of the aforementioned CarFree conference in Portland, he's been putting up several of the sessions he attended, unabridged! So far I've listened to a discussion about the bike movement in San Francisco entitled "The Battle For San Francisco" including panelists Chris Carlsson, author of Critical Mass: Bicycling’s Defiant Celebration, Dave Snyder of San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum, and CSU professor Jason Henderson. Their session follows SF's biking timeline from the origins of Critical Mass through the success of the SFBC today, highlighting the power of strong membership, the politics of urban mobility and the struggle to influence urban land use. They even touch on the issue of Congestion Pricing, an urban planning idea that has been proposed for the bay area and is already in place in London, which I am eager to know more about.

Just perusing the program schedule, I would have been psyched to see almost every panel offered. And some of the programs are available as slideshows here. Even simply seeing these ideas as topics of discussion renews my excitement for and commitment to the dream of the carfree city. And central to this conference, and the ideas circling through it, is the notion of a united carfree movement. That is--public transit, pedestrian and cyclist routes working threefold to reduce the use of automobiles in urban areas. A crucial detail they stress is that Carfree does not seek to totally eliminate the use of the automobile. Rather, by strengthening alternative means of transit, they hope to reach a more sustainable balance wherein cars are used when they need to be used in a way that is more deliberate and less default. So thanks to Jon for getting this information all the way over here to my ears. In a way, it is a lot like teleporting, only real.

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