Join 3,376 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Moving Beyond the Automobile
April 26, 2011 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Moving Beyond the Automobile is a series of ten short videos by Streetfilms that highlights new directions in urban transportation. It shows how cities in the U.S. are encouraging a shift away from car dependency and making it easier and more pleasant to get around by other means.

For your viewing convenience:
Transit-Oriented Development
Bicycling
Car Sharing
Bus Rapid Transit
Congestion Pricing
Highway Removal
Traffic Calming
Road Diet
The Right Price for Parking
Parking Reform
posted by parudox (36 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huzzah for greener transport!
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 8:36 PM on April 26, 2011


Self-balancing unicycle
posted by leotrotsky at 9:17 PM on April 26, 2011


Bicycle Monorail
posted by leotrotsky at 9:18 PM on April 26, 2011


Power Stilts
posted by leotrotsky at 9:20 PM on April 26, 2011


Mclean Monowheel
posted by leotrotsky at 9:22 PM on April 26, 2011


Freeline Skates
posted by leotrotsky at 9:23 PM on April 26, 2011


Rowing Cycle
posted by leotrotsky at 9:27 PM on April 26, 2011


Aquaskipper
posted by leotrotsky at 9:28 PM on April 26, 2011


Hyperbike
posted by leotrotsky at 9:28 PM on April 26, 2011


It's amazing how much good work is coming out of the USA. Studying Vancouver in relation to Honolulu, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco etc has been very enlightening for me.
posted by mek at 10:14 PM on April 26, 2011


Segway! Er.
posted by maxwelton at 11:01 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


All that lot added up and dipped in candy floss aren't as much fun as my Lotus Elise.
posted by joannemullen at 1:26 AM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


And your Lotus ain't got nothing on my Trek cutting lanes downtown during rush hour.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:02 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to bike to work, back when work was a mere seven miles away. One thing I came to realize about bicycle commuting...Your workplace had better have a locker room and showers, or you had better work in a place where you being in sweaty shorts and a t-shirt all day is perfectly fine. Luckily, I was blessed with both options.

How does bicycle commuting work for others? Does it become an option just for executives (who can afford a membership to a nearby gym) and messengers?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:12 AM on April 27, 2011


My point was that the reason people don't use these alternative methods of transport is that a car is nearly always more practical and more fun..

You are going to be really sad when you're paying more than 7 dollars a gallon for your fun, and I am going to be really happy when I'm paying zero dollars for my fun. zero dollars I said. I built my bicycle from scratch from free salvaged parts. Well, maybe you can afford to pay escalating costs to keep using your world-destroying automobile

Also, I get regular exercise, also for free.

Good luck with your almost-practical sports car in our horrible oil-price future.
posted by fuq at 5:00 AM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I work in a place where parking is basically impossible, but since I live less than two miles away I can bike there without breaking a sweat. I love it - my commuting time is always predictable (7 minutes!), and I get a little bit (ok, a tiny bit) of exercise on the way over. For my situation, biking is both more practical and more fun than driving.

The idea that bikes are just for kids ("I'm a grown up now, so I have a car") is silly, and not helping.
posted by sriracha at 5:27 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I rode to work today! There are a couple of projects in the area that are going to make biking so much easier.

In Cambridge, where the Linear Park intersects Massachusetts Ave., you currently have to dismount at Mass Ave. and walk across two streets to get back on the bike path out to the suburbs. They're in the process of totally redoing the intersection, moving the traffic light, redirecting the side street, and adding a bike crossing so you don't have to walk. Everyone seems really pleased about this.

Next door in Arlington, Mass Ave. loses all its street markings and becomes a giant swath of unmarked asphalt, nominally two lanes in either direction with a center turning lane (plus parking on both sides of the street). Looks like the plan is to reduce traffic to one lane in each direction, keep the center turn lane, and then widen the sidewalks and add bike lanes in each direction. They haven't even started building yet and there are signs all up and down the road in storefronts and houses claiming the project is going to "kill business" and essentially destroy traffic and cause the end of life as we know it.

Boston itself has been on a huge push to increase cycling in the city. The city had less than a mile of bike lanes just a couple years ago and since then they've sprung up all over the place. They even announced a bike share program last week.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:28 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


How does bicycle commuting work for others?

It works really well. My office is about 10 miles (mostly dedicated bike paths (thank you, Madison!)) from my apartment, but we're lucky enough to have a shower in the building, so I can just keep a change of clothes in the office. If I don't want to deal with that, I catch a bus for part of the morning commute so I'm not so sweaty and gross when I get to the office and then just bike home at the end of the day.
posted by Vibrissa at 6:06 AM on April 27, 2011


How does bicycle commuting work for others?

My 2.5km trip to my university takes me 12-15 minutes door-to-door, which is less than it takes to drive, park (and pay!), and walk from the parking lot. There's no shower on the other end, and I doubt I'd like biking anywhere if I needed to take a shower at the end of each trip (nor wear special cycling clothes). But having an upright 8-speed Dutch bike and carrying your stuff in a box and panniers on the bike instead of on your back really changes things.

My point was that the reason people don't use these alternative methods of transport is that a car is nearly always more practical and more fun.

Or, in many dense cities, because the city has been designed and rebuilt for car travel, often at the expense of the competitiveness of other modes of travel. That doesn't say anything about how fun it is to be stuck in traffic in your own car or to find parking. (If you have a car commute that you think is fun, you're probably in the minority.)
posted by parudox at 6:52 AM on April 27, 2011


This stuff works when you are young and healthy, but what about when you are not, and there is 2 feet of snow on the ground? I lived without a car for 5 years and it was a nightmare, think freezing to death, endless walking--often the subway and bus stop's necessitated at least half mile walks from different places, not being able to carry more then a couple of very light bags of groceries, harrassment, being more vulnerable to crime when having to transfer a bus or subway in a more dubious neighborhood, I wish some of the young liberals that praise all this stuff, really understand what it means on a day to day basis, and how just a shopping trip that takes 20 minutes with a car, often can take 2 bus transfers, and 2 hours when you have no car, and that is in a city with a good public transportation system. This isn't Europe, our weather is far colder, more harder to be out in half the year, and there is far more area to cover. If you are young and healthy, and fit, ride your bikes and walk, whatever you want to do, but don't ask it of those older, sicker, and more busy then you are.
posted by Budge at 7:28 AM on April 27, 2011


I don't know what cities are encouraging you to give up your car, but it's certainly not Pittsburgh, where the transit authority recently instituted a 15% service reduction to address budget problems, eliminating 29 routes altogether (including mine) and otherwise cutting service across the board.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:45 AM on April 27, 2011


I wish some of the young liberals that praise all this stuff, really understand what it means on a day to day basis, and how just a shopping trip that takes 20 minutes with a car, often can take 2 bus transfers, and 2 hours when you have no car, and that is in a city with a good public transportation system.

I completely understand what it means on a day to day basis because I have no car in a city with a good public transportation system. It's awesome, and I have actually gotten more healthy and fit from the physical activity necessary. If you are busy, how can you afford to drive? I could never give up being about to get work done during my commute if I'm not bicycling. Let someone else drive and let me read this stuff I need to. Still, what are you going to do when gas reaches EU-level prices?

I am young, but I don't know about liberal though. I'm pretty sure I'm quite to the left of liberal.
posted by fuq at 8:11 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This isn't Europe, our weather is far colder, more harder to be out in half the year, and there is far more area to cover. If you are young and healthy, and fit, ride your bikes and walk, whatever you want to do, but don't ask it of those older, sicker, and more busy then you are.

I'm not asking anything of people older, sicker, or more busy than I am (though honestly, I take a bit of umbrage at the implication that I must not be very busy if I'm able to get by without a car). What I'm asking is that infrastructure be created and cities be built in ways that minimize the problems that you're talking about; the fact that buying groceries is a pain in the ass is at least as much a function of poor planning (in terms of supermarket locations or bus routes) as anything else, and if people don't feel safe on mass transit, the solution is to improve the mass transit, not to give up on it.

For reference, I live carless in Wisconsin, so I understand hard winters (my winter commute either involves waiting outside for 15 minutes for a bus transfer or walking a mile whatever the weather), and yeah, in the winter it sucks. If I weren't young and healthy, would I want a car? It's possible. But maybe I'd just be agitating for better bus service.
posted by Vibrissa at 8:12 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


No guys, cities built exclusively for automobiles are totally better for older people, especially once they can no longer drive and are stuck miles and miles away from a grocery store or pharmacy or restaurant!
posted by entropicamericana at 8:37 AM on April 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


I wish some of the young liberals that praise all this stuff, really understand what it means on a day to day basis, and how just a shopping trip that takes 20 minutes with a car, often can take 2 bus transfers, and 2 hours when you have no car, and that is in a city with a good public transportation system.

The solution to this problem is not to crap on the idea of making cities more bike-friendly. It's to advocate for better public-transit systems. U.S. cities have wretchedly bad public transit, with a handful of exceptions. (And the exceptions aren't always great, either--I live in what's a consensus top-5 city for public transit accessibility, and there are entire swathes of the city (the poorest parts, natch) that are only served by a single bus line)

Seriously, if we had diverted 10% of the money that's been spent on freeways in the last fifty years into light-rail, you wouldn't have to make two bus transfers to get to the grocery store, and the rest of the country wouldn't be paralyzed by the thought of high gas prices.
posted by Mayor West at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know what cities are encouraging you to give up your car, but it's certainly not Pittsburgh...
NJTransit is also cutting train lines for budget reasons. In my part of NJ, those trains are functionally an extension of NYC's mass transit, so that's not so fabulous either.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:28 AM on April 27, 2011


There's another reason to encourage people to get out of their cars: walking, biking, and riding public transit all force people to immerse themselves in their surroundings and interact with their fellow citizens.

Cars insulate drivers from everything, not the just the weather. By going out there and getting into the mix, people see that their fellow citizens are generally pretty decent folks just like themselves. This study in the American Journal of Public Health (abstract; article is paywalled) found that people living in walkable neighborhoods were more socially engaged and trusting of others.

It's not much of a stretch to predict that car-dependent people tend to be more conservative, distrustful and suspicious of The Other, and more likely to see The Other in, well, others. Just look at red/blue political orientation in the US and compare with a map of car dependence and there's a high correlation ... and maybe causation.

(Which is why I think the trend toward socializing more and more online is troubling - no matter how much more comfortable it is to hang out with people who look and think just like you, isolation encourages Othering.)
posted by Quietgal at 9:52 AM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


This stuff works when you are young and healthy, but what about when you are not, and there is 2 feet of snow on the ground?

Well, I'm young and healthy and most of the people I see on the bike paths are much older than me (and kicking my ass, too - I am a slow rider). I see plenty of seniors on the sidewalks pushing their granny carts to the supermarket. We also have a very well established public transit system which includes The Ride, a car service for the elderly and disabled. And to top it all off, there are taxi stands at the major shopping centers near where we live.

So, that's how it works, I guess. Could it be better? Absolutely. However, I think this setup is a lot more conducive for the old and infirm than requiring them to drive half an hour to buy groceries.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:17 AM on April 27, 2011


Finally, a thread where I can air my strongly-worded opinions about bicycles and cars!
posted by en forme de poire at 10:29 AM on April 27, 2011


How does bicycle commuting work for others? Does it become an option just for executives (who can afford a membership to a nearby gym) and messengers?

My husband, a lawyer, bicycle commutes most days. (nine in ten, let's say.) It's a short commute -- about 3 miles -- and, luckily, flat or downhill on the way there. He pedals gently and coasts on the way in, early in the morning when it's cool, and arrives at work pretty fresh and clean smelling. He has a garment bag that hangs over the back rack on his bike like saddle bags that can carry a suit without much of a wrinkling issue. At work he has a toiletries kit, including deodorant, and a big package of babywipes which work well if he does get sweaty. (He also has work shoes, an emergency suit (which he did anyway in case he was called into court on days he was dressed less formally), etc.) His office does NOT have a shower though he continues to agitate for his building to get a "lockerroom." He actually cancelled his gym membership once he started biking regularly, since he gets at least half an hour of aerobic exercise a day biking back and forth AND he sticks with it, whereas he hated going to the gym-gym. I can verify his healthy (and attractive) in-shapeness. :)

But yeah, the flat and downhill is key. When he gets HOME from work he stinks to high heaven if it's hot out because he rides uphill on the way home.

He estimates that he saved $1200 in the first year in gas, paying for downtown parking (partly subsidized by work), and slightly reduced insurance premiums (for having a "low-mileage" insurance deduction). This was slightly offset by being the bicycle in a car-bicycle collision that broke his collarbone when the car ran a stop sign, but that actually wasn't too expensive since they don't do much for broken collarbones. (We still maintain two cars, both econoboxes, because he has to drive out to rural courthouses with fair regularity.)

@Budge, he rode all winter in the midwest, including during Snowmageddon, when he was basically the last guy out of downtown because he could still get around (on foot, if necessary) while the cars had to decamp early or not make it up the hill. And he's from Florida. There's some minor pull on family life (we have a toddler and one on the way, and many community commitments) with his bike commuting, but it's offset by the fact that he doesn't have to set aside time to "work out" now and that it's vastly improved his overall health. Mostly it's aggravating that I can't have him pick up diapers on the way home from work. But even in emergencies he can always call a taxi if he absolutely has to get somewhere too far to bike quickly. And the emergency room is within walking distance of his office.

He actually gets some publicity out of being "the lawyer who bikes even in the crazy weather" and has been on local TV a couple of times being interviewed about bike commuting, so his firm actually likes that they get publicity AND a green reputation off his biking. (AND they don't have to subsidize his parking.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2011


This is the kind of topic where I feel a strange urge to provide an European viewpoint:

This isn't Europe, our weather is far colder, more harder to be out in half the year, and there is far more area to cover. If you are young and healthy, and fit, ride your bikes and walk, whatever you want to do, but don't ask it of those older, sicker, and more busy then you are.

To be honest, I think this is nonsense. I live in a city of ~100,000 in the middle of the Alps; a large part of the town is situated on a slope and we get snowy winters. Yet 13% of all trips are by bike, a total of 42% by car, and the rest is pedestrian traffic and public transit. A significant and increasing number of people cycles year-round (including me), which leads the council to clear more and more of our cycle paths of snow early in the morning to make our commutes more convenient.

I understand perfectly well that the completely different structure and infrastructure of American cities often makes it hard to leave one’s car at home. But the diverse bunch of cyclists I see putting down their feet into the snow to wait for the lights to change tell me that weather, age and fitness are not as important as you might think.
posted by wachhundfisch at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't Europe, our weather is far colder, more harder to be out in half the year, and there is far more area to cover.

Unless you're writing this from lovely Fairbanks, the only part of that sentence that's remotely true is the third part about more area to cover, which is why many bike and transit advocates in North America are actually dense, livable, walkable, complete-street, mixed-use advocates who the "war-on-cars" hysterics keep trying to box in with this bikes-vs.-cars dichotomy.

The city with the highest per capita bike commuting in Europe, for the record, is Copenhagen. As in Denmark. As in Scandinavia. Never mind January, ever been to Copenhagen in October when the wind's coming in strong off the Baltic? Believe me, you'd rather be in Seattle or Chicago in December. Don't have the precise nos. at hand, but the commuting is like 37 percent by bike there. Followed - and this is key - by 30 percent or so public transit, then 25 percent cars.

You can shrug and say I don't live in Copenhagen. I'm not European, I don't plan on being European, so who gives a shit if they're socialists living in dense, multimodal-transit-rich cities? Still doesn't change the fact that you're wholly dependent on your car. Right? That's one approach. I think of it as the Charlton Heston NRA cold-dead-hands approach to car dependency.

Another approach? You could do like Melbourne, Australia, has, turning the corner on sprawl by directly mimicking the Copenhagen philosophy. Not the built environment, mind you - not tearing up highways and laying down medieval lanes, though that'd be kinda cool - but just prioritizing things other than cars in the urban plan for the first time in half a century.

(That's a self-link, BTW; I could go on and on about this from lots of first-person experience.)

Turns out it works really, really well. But hey, you could keep telling yourself it can't work here until the price of oil forces you to reconsider at financial gunpoint if you'd like. Your choice.
posted by gompa at 10:54 AM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's another reason to encourage people to get out of their cars: walking, biking, and riding public transit all force people to immerse themselves in their surroundings and interact with their fellow citizens

This is one of the things I like most about my car. You're not exactly winning me over here.

I love driving, and won't give up my car easily. But I'm still for public transit, if only to reduce the number of other people on the road with me. I have no problem with paying for public transit through taxes. And I'll happily buy an electric car (my current car would be a Tesla if the Model S had come out before my old car died, had to refund my deposit and get something else). But driving is awesome, and while I'm willing to pay a lot for it, I'm not willing to give it up (thankfully I live in LA, where car culture has a pretty firm hold on things).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:10 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - we're at the point where you may need to prove that you're not a troll if you continue to drop in to threads this way.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:22 PM on April 27, 2011


That video is short and sweet. Love the road diet concept. Hope more communities adopt changes to improve bike commuting. Such as more lanes and laws to protect cyclists.


posted by JessJanes at 1:23 PM on April 28, 2011


I was walking downtown yesterday. Saw all these metal boxes sitting at the side of the street. All this space set aside for them by the city. Just sitting there. And so proud-seeming, but they were just boxes. And the street in the middle, so wide and flat. Metal boxes zooming down them. There was some room for the people, all pushed up against the businesses as if they were afraid of the boxes. It was odd, as if my downtown was designed for metal boxes instead of people. I don't like metal boxes.

Try and look at cars as what they are objectively, not what they represent to you as "personal freedom" or whatever. They're really quite obnoxious in how they've invaded our precious living spaces and transformed vibrant cities into slums and suburbs.

It's an anomaly, a blip on the radar of human history. Can't wait for these little metal boxes to be accorded only the space they really deserve -- buried underground in storage facilities, or perhaps decimated in numbers to be shared among those with similar origins and destinations.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:28 AM on April 29, 2011


« Older Despite the federal election focus on BC ridings, ...  |  SETI Institute to shut down al... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments