Nowtopian

Nowtopian

economy, 'technology', public space, San Francisco past and present, class, books

Nowtopian RSS Feed
 
 
 
 

A Car-Free Future?

After strolling into the city center during a break we came back on a Calandria, a charming horse-drawn carriage still used in Guadalajara but mostly for tourism.

I just finished several days of networking and discussing in Guadalajara at the 10th annual “Towards Car-Free Cities” Conference. It’s not clear where the next one will be, or when, though my great friend Thiago Benicchio of Ciclo Cidade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is planning one for 2013. I had a great time, as I always do at these kinds of confabulations. This is my second one, after my 2008 experience in Portland where I first met some of my Guadalajara friends.

They produced a number of charming promos like the one above, but we learned after the fact how close the whole thing came to being cancelled. Just three months before the Sept. 5 opening, there was no money, no publicity, and a barely functioning group producing the event. Two of the main organizers had dropped out for personal reasons, and a whole new team had to step into their absence and make it happen. Probably this was for the best, since now there are a number of women occupying key roles in the much more horizontal organizing group, and frankly, they did a fantastic job of producing the conference. Dozens of workshops with simultaneous translation, a good deal of media coverage, thousands of attendees during the week, and a real buzz around Guadalajara and even nationally across Mexico, all arose from their fine efforts.

A mural at the Iteso University to support the conference.

The future is the target of this ongoing international effort to move us “towards car-free cities.” How do we consciously redesign cities to move away from the seemingly inevitable domination of the private automobile? What are the alternatives? What are the mechanisms to move us? Do we engage with government and policy-making, or do we build grassroots, direct-action movements, or both? And if both, how do they reinforce each other or not? And can we really talk about mobility and transport in the absence of a more comprehensive critique of how we reproduce life in all its facets? More »

Whose Streets? People vs. Automobiles: The 20th Century Battle over Cities, Streets, and Freeways

February 16, 2003, protesters fill Market Street in San Francisco, opposing the impending attack on Iraq.

(My presentation at the “Towards Car-Free Cities,” Guadalajara, Mexico, September 8, 2011)

“Whose Streets? OUR Streets!” yell rowdy demonstrators when they surge off the sidewalk and into thoroughfares. True enough, the streets are our public commons, what’s left of it, but most of the time these public avenues are dedicated to the movement of vehicles, mostly privately owned autos. Other uses are frowned upon, discouraged by laws and regulations and what has become our “customary expectations.” Ask any driver who is impeded by anything other than a “normal” traffic jam and they’ll be quick to denounce the inappropriate use or blockage of the street.

We meet here at the “Towards Carfree Cities Conference” to address how cities are designed, with an overriding interest in redefining what is proper and customary with respect to how streets are used. Part of the emergence of social movements in cities around the world to contest the car, whether bicycling, pedestrians, or street closures, is in response to the seeming inevitability of cars dominating our public space. But automobiles didn’t always fill our streets.

Bicyclists have been working to make space on the streets of San Francisco for bicycling, and to do that they’ve been trying to reshape public expectations about how streets are used. Predictably there’s been a pushback from motorists and their allies, who imagine that the norms of mid-20th century American life can be extended indefinitely into the future. But cyclists and their natural allies, pedestrians, can take heart from a lost history that has been illuminated by Peter D. Norton in his recent book “Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.” He skillfully excavates the shift that was engineered in public opinion during the 1920s by the organized forces of what called itself “Motordom.” Their efforts turned pedestrians into scofflaws known as “jaywalkers,” shifted the burden of public safety from speeding motorists to their victims, and reorganized American urban design around providing more roads and more space for private cars.

Critical Mass in San Francisco, August 2007.

But before we look at how motor cars took over our thoroughfares and our imaginations, let us go further back into history, to the end of the 19th century. It was an era of horses, wagons, and streetcars, muddy streets and wooden sidewalks. Different kinds of self-propelled velocipedes and bicycles were invented in the 1870s and became massively popular in the 1890s with the invention of the safety bicycle. In San Francisco, and around the United States, a movement emerged primarily among bicyclists demanding “good roads.”

In 1875 these "boneshakers" were all the rage.

Bay City Wheelmen, 1894, in San Francisco's Mission District.

An 1896 newspaper illustration of the notoriously bad road conditions in San Francisco at the time.

On July 25, 1896, thousands of cyclists filled the streets in the largest demonstration seen in San Francisco’s history. In the last decade of the 19th century, San Francisco was a muddy, dirty town, long past its glory years as a boomtown, but still one of the ten largest cities in the U.S. The streets were full of horseshit and between the ubiquitous cable car slots and tangled web of streetcar rails, pedestrians and bicyclists had a hazardous course to traverse en route to their destinations. After months of organizing among the thriving bicycling clubs of the city, a huge parade was organized that drew as many as 100,000 spectators.

The "Good Roads' bike parade-protest of 1896.

More »

“¿Calles de quién?” (Whose Streets? en Español)

February 16, 2003, protesters fill Market Street in San Francisco, opposing the impending attack on Iraq.

“¿Calles de quién? El Pueblo Contra los Automóviles.

 

La Batalla del Siglo 20 Sobre Ciudades, Calles y Vías Rápidas”

traducido por Adriana Camarena (Gracias!)

“¿De quién son las calles? ¡Son nuestras las calles!”, gritan los manifestantes bulliciosos al avanzar en oleada de la acera peatonal a la vía pública. Lo cierto es que las calles son nuestro bien público común, lo que queda de él, pero la mayor parte del tiempo estas avenidas públicas están dedicadas al movimiento de vehículos, la mayoría autos privados. Otros usos de las calles son mal vistos, desincentivados por las leyes y normas y por lo que es ahora nuestra “expectativa acostumbrada.” Pregúntale a cualquier conductor que sea impedido por cualquier otra cosa que no sea una congestión de tráfico “normal” y rápidamente denunciaran el uso o bloqueo inapropiado de la calle.

Nos encontramos aquí en la “Conferencia Hacia Ciudades Libres de Auto” para discutir cómo son diseñadas las ciudades, con un interés primordial en redefinir lo que es propio y tradicional con respecto al uso de las calles. Parte del surgimiento de movimientos sociales en ciudades alrededor del mundo que confrontan al auto, ya sea pedaleando, caminando, o cerrando calles, es en respuesta a la aparente inevitabilidad de la dominancia del auto sobre nuestro espacio público. Pero, los automóviles no siempre llenaron nuestras calles.

Los ciclistas han estado trabajando para abrir espacio para el ciclismo sobre las calles de San Francisco, y para ello han estado tratando de remodelar la expectativa pública sobre cómo son utilizadas las calles. Predeciblemente ha habido resistencia de los automovilistas y sus aliados, quienes imaginan que la vida Norteamericana normalizada en el medio siglo 20 puede extenderse indefinidamente hacia el futuro. Pero los ciclistas y sus aliados naturales, los peatones, deben tomar valor de la historia perdida que ha sido iluminada por Peter D. Norton en su reciente libro “Peleando al Tráfico: Los Albores de la Era del Motor en la Ciudad Norteamericana.” Habilidosamente escava el desplazamiento que fue instrumentado en la opinión pública durante los años 1920s por las fuerzas organizadas de lo que se autodenomino “Motordom” o “Cúpula del Motor”. Sus esfuerzos convirtieron a los peatones en transgresores de las leyes llamándolos “jaywalkers,” – caminantes impertinentes – así desplazando la carga de la seguridad pública del chófer con exceso de velocidad hacia sus víctimas, y reorientando el diseño urbano Norteamericano para proveer más vías y más espacio al auto privado.

Critical Mass in San Francisco, August 2007.

Pero antes de que miremos como el auto-motor tomó control de nuestras vías públicas y nuestras imaginaciones, andemos un poco más atrás en la historia hacia fines del siglo 19. Era un tiempo de caballos, carretas y tranvías, calles enlodadas y aceras de planchas de madera. Diferentes tipos de velocípedos y bicicletas de auto-propulsión fueron inventados en los 1870s y se volvieron masivamente populares en los 1890s con la invención de la bicicleta segura. En San Francisco, y en los Estados Unidos de América, surgió un movimiento de los ciclistas demandando “buenas calles.”

Bay City Wheelmen, 1894, in San Francisco’s Mission District.

An 1896 newspaper illustration of the notoriously bad road conditions in San Francisco at the time.

More »

Page 30 of 169« First...1020...2829303132...405060...Last »
Webdevelopment byPajamadeen.com