Friday, September 04, 2009

A real car-free city

Tommy pointed to this mini-docu about a German town, Vauban, without cars.
An interesting point brought up is that the lack of the constant background noise of cars make stress levels fall. I have felt this myself for years. Cars make a lot of noise. I've noticed it especially at night when it's relatively quiet, and a big car or truck go by you, it's just such an impact of noise.
And then of course there's the dramatic lowering of air polution and the heightening of everybody's health when they use bicycles. And the drop in car-related deaths and injuries.
I guess some people need a car for purposes of their work or otherwise, but I think the example of this German town without any cars shows that maybe most people's "need" is more of a "want" or a habit.

Update: here's a NYT article about Vauban, it has more info.

posted by Eolake Stobblehouse @ Friday, September 04, 2009   24 comments links to this post


At 4 Sep 2009, 17:56:00, Blogger Tommy said...

EO said "Cars make a lot of noise. I've noticed it especially at night when it's relatively quiet, and a big car or truck go by you, it's just such an impact of noise.

It's interesting that its what you get used to, like living next to an airport. My mother lives on a busy city street and the noise is constant, even all night long. It's hard to sleep at times.

I wonder how this German town is able to do business. Even a simple delivery of milk to the store. How do they get it there? I wouldn't think by bycicle...

But, I did find it extrememly interesting.

At 4 Sep 2009, 18:11:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yes, there's a lot of info missing. But like you said, just its existence is very interesting.

At 4 Sep 2009, 18:12:00, Blogger eolake said...

Maybe I'll move there one day. I love to bicycle. In DK you have bike paths. Here in UK, I have to ride between the cars, and it really takes a lot of the pleasure out of it.

At 4 Sep 2009, 18:20:00, Blogger eolake said...

At 4 Sep 2009, 18:39:00, Blogger Monsieur Beep! said...

Cars were really noisy and stank back in the 1970s. Modern cars (and also airplanes) are so much quieter. (Mopeds are a still a big nuisance though. They´re noisy like chain saws and they stink).

What the cities need is a balance between what is acceptable, necessary, and healthy for a town. My town in Germany (Soest) has a few places where cars were banned, with good results, you can feel at home in these places, you can enjoy the beautiful buildings and surroundings undisturbed by cars. And it´s still true what Eo says: it´s quiet! Even if modern cars are quiet, they produce some hassle anyway.

Deliveries are allowed though, the milk is always fresh haha.

I need to add that driving is one of my passions.

A balance.

At 4 Sep 2009, 18:52:00, Blogger Kent McManigal said...

I mostly bicycle around town. However, this small town is missing a lot of what I need. The next town, where everything else can be found, is about 15 miles away. Too far to casually bike over. I have a 2 year-old daughter and she rides in a trailer behind my bike. I also use the trailer for hauling food home from the local stores.

I see technology filling the gaps in what is available locally and what can be conveniently purchased online for those of us who do not live in urban areas.

As long as everyone in town agreed to the "no cars" rule it might be interesting. I wouldn't like seeing it imposed upon the unwilling, however.

At 4 Sep 2009, 20:46:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

And the drop in car-related deaths and injuries.

Not to mention that it makes it safer for bicyclists. I don't feel comfortable riding my bike to work. Even though I enjoy riding.

It's funny, the Chinese are going in for cars more and more and giving up their bikes and we're trying to go the other way. Well, some of us are. Hard to say if anyone else will want to try it.

In DK you have bike paths.

In Europe you can also get away with riding those really nerdy bikes but everyone rides them, so it's normal. (I'm joking about them being nerdy, but a lot of people in the U.S. would see them that way simply because they are unfamiliar.)

Maybe I'll move there one day.

I'd consider it but I don't speak a word of German.

Although you do get used to the background sound of traffic, when that sound is not there anymore it's great. I can definitely agree with what you said about less stress.

At 6 Sep 2009, 07:58:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Where I live, it's a remote area... but with LOTS of building going on nowadays. In the summer, countless trucks pass by, right in front of my window, always overloaded of course, their tired old engines rumbling uphill in first gear something ferocious, stinking the high heavens with their black diesel smoke. (Many trucks in Lebanon are older than the 1975 war!) Like some rusty iron giant struggling with his digestion. I welcome winter for the peace and quiet.
Also, among the MANY vacationing summer residents, who go about a lot, several just enjoy speeding by in their big cars, or even in their quad bikes again and again and again and... Phoquing vanity! Some people are really pathetic, they just CAN'T exist by their own merit, only by showing off and feeling they're "putting down the lesser people". (tsk!) And in fact, in Lebanon it's the NORM.
Not just in Lebanon, judging by the worldwide boom in the SUV market.

But... my grandmother in France had to stop using a bicycle after she started falling too often. What about those who honestly have difficulty moving around? Biking is healthy, but physical.
Ideally, cars, ambulances, fire trucks, PUBLIC TRANSPORT, etc... when reasonably necessary. And, yes, thoroughly thinking over what IS truly necessary and what's just accustomed luxury. Better design is also essential. Half of all the planet's CO2 comes from individual cars, that's by no means a small contribution to ransacking our planet's health... and ultimately compromising our own future survival and well-being. (Recommended viewing: The Age of Stupid.)
In the rural area where my grandmother lives, they canceled the one weekly bus service on market day. "For budget reasons." Not profitable enough...
Urban exodus, anyone? ):-P

I say, proper public services are a basic human right. We are a species that lives in organized communities, dagnabbit!

Now for the irony: the same village where my granny lives, saw its main street converted into an express road for trucks, now speeding by in high numbers. Was cheaper than to just go around it! So... no more buses, but trucks galore?
Somebody has no business being in the seat of a decision maker...

Myself, I practically don't use a car. Public bus services in Lebanon (from private initiatives!) work properly enough for my needs. If I ever buy my own, it'll probably be a nice, compact, green, Smart Fortwo. I want a car to move around, not to announce to the world how dissatisfied I am with my penis size! (Besides, I'm not. :-)
I also don't use a cellphone. For outside the house, I'm well enough with a public phone card, and with my use of it, it lasts me the whole year. For a price of about $6.67. YEARLY. Unbeatable price! This lazy chatter ain't gonna dump no cadmium batteries in the wild, baby!

Besides, like cars, cellphones are a major source of stress. Upon careful thinking, this modern chain-and-ball I don't REALLY need. :-)

At 6 Sep 2009, 10:04:00, Blogger eolake said...

"But... my grandmother in France had to stop using a bicycle after she started falling too often. What about those who honestly have difficulty moving around?"

Yeah, like you say, problems and solutions are complex.
She could go to a trike. And when she can't pull that, one of the small motorized scooters that some handicapped and elderly use, at least around here.

And small electric cars for deliveries locally.
A whole range of solutions.

At 6 Sep 2009, 12:41:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

What about those who honestly have difficulty moving around?

They're fucked! ...Just kidding. It's hard to say. There's always this:

When you've got a town virtually car-free, I bet there will be people who will take this up. Or there's the rickshaw. Either way, the cab driver's would no longer be overweight! ;-)

At 6 Sep 2009, 12:42:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

Oop, little typo there. Drivers not driver's.

At 6 Sep 2009, 12:45:00, Blogger eolake said...

Heheh, no shit, pedaling for two people eight hours a day, that's real work!

At 6 Sep 2009, 20:24:00, Blogger Kent McManigal said...

Pascal- I am 6'3" tall and have a 40" inseam. I drive an SUV, not because I want to show off my surrogate penis, but because any smaller car is misery for me. I can squeeze myself into a smaller car, but it would be wrong for anyone to force that on me. As far as pulic services being a "human right"- A "right" never imposes an obligation on others.

My first car was electric, and very small, but was tall with a lot of head and leg room. However, for what I usually use my car to do, such a car is no longer a sensible option. My car rarely carries only me.

In my opinion, cars and cell phones are not a source of stress as long as you master them, instead of letting them master you. Because of a cell phone I do not feel the need to wait around the house if I am expecting an important call. My kids live in a different state and I like being available for them no matter what else I am doing. It frees me to forget about it.

I don't mind technology at all, yet I know I can live just fine without it. I have done so before and it makes me appreciate its liberating qualities more than I otherwise would, I suppose.

At 7 Sep 2009, 00:26:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

I can squeeze myself into a smaller car, but it would be wrong for anyone to force that on me.

This I don't buy at all. Why? I'm 6'5" and have driven some pretty small cars. Test drove a Smart Car. I wouldn't want to sit in one for a long cross country Stephen Fry Does America kind of trip, but then even more average-sized people would find long trips like that hard on the legs (and ass).

I've also never had a problem finding a bike that fit, and have no problems riding. Most of my friends in fact are over six feet tall, and this guy at my gym (the only dude there taller than me) at 6'7" has agreed with me on this.

Maybe it is something peculiar to people 6'3" as an uncle of mine at that height makes the same complaint you do, his excuse for diring a huge Ford pickup truck. Anyone over or under 6'3", no problem, those exactly at 6'3"...they have trouble.

At 7 Sep 2009, 04:47:00, Blogger Kent McManigal said...

I don't drive a huge SUV; rather a smallish one (1995 S10 4-door Chevy Blazer). I have also driven some pretty small cars. Not comfortably, though. Perhaps my average trip is longer than yours.

My bike (which I wasn't complaining about at all) is adjustable to ride comfortably, but just barely. I would probably need custom items to make it more suitable. Once again, the length of my legs, not my total height, is the real problem.

But, my point is, why is it not wrong to make other people uncomfortable just because of your preference? What if someone decided it was "green" to sleep on only rock hard (or pudding soft) matresses? Would you think it is a good thing to allow the "majority" to control that choice for you?

Anthropogenic climate change is thoroughly discredited (no, I am not a right-winger) and should not be used as an excuse to control people and their non-aggressive behaviors.

I would never consider forcing my preferences upon others. Drive what you like. Eat what you like. Do whatever gives you joy as long as you do not attack or steal from others. If I believed in supernatural beings and places I would think there is a special Hell for meddlers.

At 9 Sep 2009, 03:07:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your stupidity wiht us Kent. No one is forcing you to move to that town. Society decides these things. If the majority in the world decided to do the same thing, the minority would have to go along. That's the way it's always been, it's the way it always will be. Your "philosophy" shows a gross ignorance of many subjects, including history and politics.

Add Science to that, as you've been fooled into thinking that anthropogenic climate change has been discredited. Were you capable of understanding the science, you'd know that this is not the case. I wouldn't expect a Willie Nelson lookalike to be able to wrap his little pea brain around that, though.

You tried one tactic, to use your alleged height as a reason/excuse. Backfired. So you tried again, but embarrassed yourself further (I didn't think that possible). Well done. You're probably too embarrassed to try again. You'll crawl back here after a couple weeks, pretending like nothing happened.

At 9 Sep 2009, 03:09:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Btw, it could just be possible that some people would favor this car-free existence not because it's "green" but because of the reduced noise, stress, expense, and for the health benefits. But I guess that's just crazy talk or something.

At 9 Sep 2009, 05:17:00, Blogger Kent McManigal said...

I never said no one should do it, for whatever reason they might wish; just that it is wrong to force it on others. If everyone in town agreed to it, who am I to say they can't go carless? Yet, the reverse is also true.

I only speak the truth. Getting hostile and trying to insult me doesn't change anything.

At 9 Sep 2009, 19:18:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

I know I wouldn't be doing it to be "green" but because of the peace and quiet and it's healthier.

At 9 Sep 2009, 20:25:00, Blogger eolake said...

I know, me too.

"For the environment" is not really a personal motivator, it's something to feel guilty about or make others feel guilty about. Like when a hotel asks you to indicate when you want your towels washed so they don't do it every day, "for the environment". Obviously their motivator is to save money. Which is absolutely fine.

At 10 Sep 2009, 13:54:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every society limits the freedom of its citizens in different ways for their own good. These things are decided collectively.

This German town was built to be car free, and no one is being forced to do it. They are leading by example, and it would be up to other people to decide if it's for them.

The NY Times article also says that there are no city bylaws saying you can't own a car.

At 10 Sep 2009, 21:17:00, Anonymous neeraj said...

I know "Quartier Vauban" - it's a part of the Southgerman town Freiburg, surrounded by the Black Forest.

I don't know it in depth, but I love Freiburg and the Black Forest, so I'm quite often there visiting friends, and sometimes I'v also been in Vauban. The people I know are happy to live there.

At 15 Sep 2009, 00:12:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Never suggested ALL SUV drivers were tiny in the pants. :-)
And judging by your figures, it's highly unlikely in your case...
SUVs DO have their uses. They're just vastly mis-used today because of vanity. Especially in societies practically BUILT on vanity, like Lebanon, and globally all of the Third World.
My personal life choices are, obviously, adequate for my own needs, but not for everybody's. If you drive around off-road to count kangaroos with a 5-people team, for instance, you definitely can't content with a Mini Cooper.
But if you drive a big car solely because ordinary cars are too tiny for you, then there's something wrong with the car industry. (Well, d'uh!)
It's not by technology that we've seriously compromised our planet. It's by abusing what possibilities it gave us. What we need is some sense.
But failing that utopic hope, we need sensible laws and government regulations. Because a stupid minority is already enough to ruin it for everybody.
And I'm not sure it's always a minority being senseless...

"Anyone over or under 6'3", no problem, those exactly at 6'3"...they have trouble."
Hmm, there might be something serious there, you know.
I'm a humble 183cm myself, but leg room in many places, among which cars and buses, can be a real problem sometimes.

"Anthropogenic climate change is thoroughly discredited (no, I am not a right-winger) and should not be used as an excuse to control people and their non-aggressive behaviors."
I disagree with THE FIRST PART of that statement. Only.
Some behaviors can be unwillingly and unwittingly aggressive. Among these are pollution, and wasting because of abundance.
Do you know what is the contribution of individual cars to the worldwide CO2 emissions? 50%. This is by no means trivial. We're devouring our gingerbread ship, mateys.

"If I believed in supernatural beings and places I would think there is a special Hell for meddlers."
LOL! I heartily agree with you there!
Meddlers everywhere... my own conception of Hell.
No, wait. Actually, that's a summary of my childhood!
Same difference... :-\

"Thanks for sharing your stupidity wiht us Kent."
Aah, dear R.A.F., always the subtle, sensitive one.
Where were you? We almost missed you.

"I know I wouldn't be doing it to be "green" but because of the peace and quiet and it's healthier."
I'd do it for ALL the reasons, since they're all good reasons.
But that's just me. :-)
"Just do it." And let's all be friends in a happy world filled with pretty flowers, singing birds and naked hippie babes.

At 15 Sep 2009, 00:17:00, Anonymous Another Anonymous said...

"Where were you? We almost missed you."

You need to work on your aim, Pascal.

"So you tried again, but embarrassed yourself further (I didn't think that possible)."

Your problem, RAF, is that your imagination is severely limited.

"I'm no pretender."


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