More colours in car adverts?

On the streets just outside the EU Parliament in Brussels we’ve asked people about the information in car adverts, showing two versions of our imaginary MOTOKA car advert.

In the first ad the info is very similar to the way it is currently displayed on car ads. In the second ad the info is more prominently displayed with a colour code label.

Which one is more clear? Do you understand the figures?

Video by Friends of the Earth Europe : http://www.drivingthechange.eu

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Brand new Carbusters 39 issue is out now!

What’s the view from your window? Do you like what you see? Do you want to change it?
So now’s about time we change the outlook – of our cities, towns and streets – let this issue be a source of inspiration for you and others: take a walk, spread the word with others on two wheels, or simply take pleasure in the artwork of carfree cartoonists.

So what does new issue offer us? Karl Fjellstrom guides us through Guangzhou, a carfree oasis and a leading model for changing cityscapes in China.
We talk to Chris Carlsson, co-founder of Critical Mass, and get a glimpse into the success of the monthly movement and how it can help alter attitudes.
Someone who clearly recognises the benefits of cycling is Kim Nguyen; his two-wheeled world tour is a source of inspiration for others – helping change the environment we live and the lifestyles we lead. Read an interview with him!
Then we escape the city and take a scenic walk with Tim Woods, who shows us that taking a sustainable step outside of the city is an important move toward preserving and improving public transportation services.

And much more in a new issue of Carbusters 39 “Changing the Outlook”!

Check more on Carbusters website

Still a long way to go in Buenos Aires

In my last post I tried to reflect my views as a bike commuter here in Buenos Aires. I made just a brief comment on public transport but in this post I’d like to picture the scene in a broader way.

Biking is relatively comfortable and safe in Moreno, my hometown. The situation changes if you want to cycle beyond Moreno: on working days and especially at rush hours, travelling on the train with your bikes is almost a torture as companies seem unable to realise the one and only carriage they provide for bike commuters is not enough. Yes, they only provide one carriage for bike commuters. I don’t use the train to go to work because I work in the suburbs of my hometown but lots of people do use the train to commute and it’s chaotic. Below I’ll show you a shot of a carriage for bike commuters.

The picture shown is a carriage meant for bikes in my train line. Believe it or not, this carriage is packed with bike commuters during working days. I’d like this railway company to do something for us. We need it..

September 22 is World Carfree Day!

World Carfree Day Wiki

World Carfree Day Wiki

As you know, every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets and neighbourhoods to celebrate World Carfree Day and to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated societies.

World Carfree Day, promoted and supported by the World Carfree Network, is intended to advance the economic, social and environmental benefits of self-propelled or mass transportation. It is meant to promote more sustainable ways of transportation and new ways of building and thinking the urbanism of our cities, allowing streets to be a living space, rather than only a transit space.

With the global economy in freefall, carmakers are facing turbulent times and people around the world are re-evaluating their relationship with the car. So now is the perfect timing to try out the alternatives, spread the carfree word, join or start a World Carfree Day in your area! It is also time to push for a new use of car factories that could be used to build public transportation, providing employment and allowing us to build a better urban environment.

Before the 10th anniversary of World Carfree Day next year, let the 2009 edition be a showcase for how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars 365 days a year!

World Carfree Network invites organisations and individuals everywhere to share information. You can add your event online at: http://editthis.info/wcd/Main_Page

And join the World Carfree Day Page on Facebook

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Cycling in Buenos Aires

Keep on cycling! © Alex Berry

Keep on cycling! © Alex Berry

Hi friends from World Car Free,

I’m Walter, a bike commuter from Buenos Aires in Argentina. This is my first post and to be honest, I feel delighted to be able to contribute to the blog giving you my views.

How does it feel to be a bike commuter in Argentina? Feels good but the trend has not already already spread massively. I work as a teacher, leaving home at 7 and still you can see lots of bike commuters using their bikes to make it to work. In my case, I started cycling seriously early this year. Reasons? Mainly two: as I was leading a sedentary life (as many of us do in this fast society) i thought biking could make it up. As a matter of fact, after 9 months as a bike commuter I have to say the aim has been accomplished: I’ve lost 7 kilos and what’s better, just for free. The other point to consider is transport dependency: I felt a bit uneasy depending on transport timetables. So, once day I said, no more buses nor minivans. I’d rather cycle instead.

Sometimes you need a bit of enthusiasm and encouragement, especially at first. I remember that in my case it was hard indeed. During the first two weeks of my trips were a real nightmare. I felt worn-out day after day for four or five days. Then my body got used to it and here I’m.. ready to go. In my next posts I’ll share some of my views after the hard winter we have battled here in Buenos Aires.

Keep on cycling!

Walter from Argentina

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An Open Letter to your Representatives

A good way to spread the carfree word: Send an open letter to your represntatives. It is what did Willie Weir (http://www.willieweir.com/) in Seattle, USA.

According to Weir, “We are a long way off in Seattle, WA to being carfree. But you have to dream.” We can share the same feeling in many other cities…

It is also nice to know that he already get some answers: http://www.yellowtentadventures.com/2009/07/30/give-it-up-responses/

"Now I’m asking you all to give up your car"

"Now I’m asking you all to give up your car"

Mayor Nichols–give it up. Seattle City Council members. You too. As well as King County Council members, Governor Gregoire, State representatives and ALL candidates for the above offices.

I’m talking about your car. For a week. Just a week.

You see, my wife and I answered the call to help the region and the planet by giving up our car over four years ago. With climate change upon us, it was imperative that we transition out of our auto-centric society. Get on the bus. Get on our bikes. Get out and walk.

There were plenty of incentive programs offered by our city and county governments, including the Way to Go Seattle–One Less Car Challenge. We took advantage of the Washington State Vehicle Redistribution Program … our car was stolen. We opted not to replace it.

We were in a good position to give up our car. We don’t have kids. We live on Beacon Hill with frequent bus service (and now Light Rail). We have stores, restaurants, a library, and a park all within a ten minute walking distance of our house. We both do most of our work from home.

Easy.

OK. Walking up the hill from the grocery store with a 20lb Thanksgiving turkey in an excursion-size backpack wasn’t easy. Waiting outside in a 40 degree drizzle for a bus that never came wasn’t fun. And taking 4 buses and a ferry to get to Sequim wasn’t convenient.

It didn’t take long to understand that for someone who owns a private vehicle, our city and region’s public transportation, bike paths and pedestrian corridors are top notch. Because when it isn’t easy, fun or convenient … you take your car.

When I joined the ranks of the carless, I began an education in how auto-centric our green little region is, and how far we have to go to get to be a truly livable place … for everyone.

How many of my neighbors park their cars across the sidewalk. How cracked and poorly maintained those sidewalks are. How fast the cars fly by on our residential streets. How few cars yield to me in a cross walk. How few bike racks there are outside the businesses I frequent. How poorly signed (or not at all) the bike routes are throughout the city. How terrifying biking can be in downtown Seattle. How little park space we have downtown and how much space we devote to parking.

So many issues and problems invisible to me while driving in my own personal vehicle.

Now I’m asking you all to give up your car. Not for four years. Just seven days.

For seven days live the life that few have chosen and many have no choice but to live.

Believe me, no matter how long you have lived in or served this region, you’ll learn things that will surprise you.

I know I did. And I’ve lived here for 25 years.

The best decisions about transit and neighborhood planning will be made by government officials who have taken the time to live a life without a car as an option.

Give it up.

We’ll all be glad you did.

Sincerely,

Willie Weir
Beacon Hill, Seattle

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Book Review: Sleeping Naked is Green

© Kelly Nelson

One green lifestyle change every day for a year. That’s the eco-challenge Vanessa Farquharson, a 27-year-old arts reporter in Toronto, set for herself in March 2007. She switched to more eco-friendly versions of common products: biodegradable pens, paraben-free lip balm, organic cotton blankets, corn-based cat litter. She cut back on using energy, water and paper by taking shorter, cooler showers in the dark and replacing paper napkins with cloth ones. She stopped using some things (styrofoam, toothpicks, tape) and reused or recycled other things (envelopes, running shoes, corks). Each day she did something to reduce her carbon footprint and blogged about it.

Her book, Sleeping Naked is Green, strings together blog entries for about a third of the environmentally-friendly changes she made. Fifteen of the changes involved transportation.

She started by making sure her car tires were fully inflated. Then she turned off the air conditioning in her car and stopped driving on weekends (although she continued to commute alone by car).

Two months into her green experiment she confessed, “As I get hyperaware of every little detail in my life and how green or un-green it is, I’m starting to feel like a bigger and bigger fraud for owning a car.” Still, she couldn’t bring herself to sell her VW Beetle right then. As the owner of a pink cell phone and a fan of the TV show America’s Next Top Model, she feared it would be unfashionable to not drive, that she’d have to wear Gore-Tex and hiking boots. Owning a car, she said, is “one of those things where—a bit like tasting real champagne—once you get it, it’s hard to give up.”

But give up her car she did two months later. “Not even 365 eco-friendly changes are going to make up for all the driving I do,” she concluded. Throughout the year she also resolved to rent only hybrid or fuel-efficient cars, drive them no faster than the speed limit and get exact directions ahead of time so she wouldn’t drive around lost. When she needed a courier, she’d only hire bike or transit-riding messengers. She started taking her bike to a green-minded repair shop and stopped taking recreational rides on motorcycles.

Farquharson loved the financial benefits of not owning a car (more money for bamboo dresses!) and even found a glamorous side to bike riding. While she was interviewing American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, he pointed to the grease mark on her right shin and asked, “Is that a rookie mark on your leg?” He reached over and ran his finger across her leg and said: “It totally is. Cool.” She had never imagined that riding a bike could get a movie star to touch you! “Ride safe,” he said with a wink as they parted.

At the end of her green year, Farquharson went back to doing about a quarter of the things she had given up: shaving her legs, flushing every time, using a hair dryer, dishwasher and vacuum cleaner. And the car? “I’m definitely not buying a car,” she wrote.

Kelly Nelson
Tempe, Arizona USA

Review of:
Sleeping Naked is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days
Vanessa Farquharson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
http://www.greenasathistle.com

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Space Bikes

Maybe some of you heard about the Walkmobile from the Professor Hermann Knoflacher.

The Walkmobile was invented in the 70′s as a smart way to address the issue of public space usage. It is a simple frame made from light wood which, when whorn, occupies the same amount of space as the average car. It exposes that behind the metal and glass of a car is a human being – while it is a direct criticism on how our systeme allocates so much land for just one person.  Several actions have been organised in Austria, featuring walkmobiles, with people parking and walking on the road.

This concept has been used by several collectives, inspiring new creations like the “manif spaciale” – developed by the Montreal group Le Monde a Bicyclette (the world by bicycle). It is simply a group of cyclists riding around downtown with giant “space frames” attached to their bikes, making them take up the same amount of space as a car.

The idea is inspiring and here is the draft version of a space bike from Roanoke, USA. The final version will have balloons, graphics etc on it, for fun and to increase visibility of the frame. A workshop was organised to help people to make their bike frame in preparation of a ride Friday.

For more information about the event in Roanoke, please visit: http://carlessbrit.tumblr.com/tagged/space_frame

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Dining on the Move

Rheinbahn Bistro Tram © Simon field

Rheinbahn Bistro Tram © Simon field

I like searching out interesting and quirky public transport operations on my travels around Europe, the kinds of things that add some style and class to otherwise mundane buses, trams and trains.

Germany is well known for its extensive metropolitan rail-based public transport networks and innovative ‘tram-trains’ in Karlsruhe, Kassel and Zwickau, an idea which has spread to France and is shortly to be trialled in England (on the wrong kind of route, but never mind).

But did you know it’s possible to arrive at your destination refreshed, having been fed and watered en route? Yes, there are a handful of ‘bistro trams’ in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany! As far as I know – and please send in any information you have – Rheinbahn line U76 between Duesseldorf and Krefeld is the only remaining tram or light rail route offering food and drink on normal scheduled services. For the technical, this uses standard Duewag high-floor Stadtbahn B-cars dating from the 1970s. The route is about 30 km in length, with an end to end journey time of 45 minutes. That’s enough of the boring stuff…

A soup on the way to work! © Simon Field

A soup on the way to work? © Simon Field

A café vehicle first appeared on the line in 1924, thanks to Rheinbahn director Max Schwab’s determination to do something a little different. Such was its success that four more were ordered for the Krefeld route, joined by further restaurant trams for the Duesseldorf-Duisburg inter-urban line in 1949. A decline in patronage from the late-1950s saw the Krefeld line lose its buffets in 1963, not returning until 1989, by which time the new VRR ‘Verkehrsverbund’ (travel authority) had been coordinating timetables and offering integrated ticketing throughout the Ruhr for 9 years. In particular, the introduction of low-cost transferable season tickets undoubtedly played a large role in the 18% growth in passenger km between 1980 and 1989.

So what’s on offer today? The ‘Bistrowagen’ operate every 40 minutes on weekdays on line U76. The inexpensive menu includes hot and cold drinks (including beer of course), soup, sandwiches and cakes, plus a ‘special’ such as meatballs in a roll. As my pictures show, it’s all very civilised and, most importantly, people were using the service during my visit on a wet Tuesday in March. Guten Appetit!

Sadly it appears that Ruhr line U79 no longer sees any bistro trams – unless you know different – and those on the Karlsruhe system are used only for special events and private hire.

Guten Appetit! © Simon Field

Guten Appetit! © Simon Field

Other special – and often expensive – restaurant tram services include:

* Fondue-trams in Zurich, Switzerland.

* ‘Dining cars’ in heritage trams in Milan, Italy.

I’d love to hear from you if you’re aware of any others, especially those operating regular scheduled services rather than special tours for diners.

And finally, can anyone beat this for impromptu at-seat dining on a metro system?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywLhNwSBizE

Simon.

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Cars, Cell Phones & The (Sponsored) Culture of Narcissism

Raymond Williams called it “mobile privatization.”

I think of it as “life behind screens,” or “bubble life.”

It — experiencing life predominantly through video screens, work sconces, and automobile glass — is not just part-and-parcel of corporate capitalism, but perhaps its first intention and requirement vis-a-vis the organization of the lives of the masses.

The latest bubble life news confirms, in spades, that the private automobile may be, as Plan C author Pat Murphy posits, “the greatest creator of alienation between humans that has ever existed.”

To wit, some excellent reportage from a July 18 New York Times story:

Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving. Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.

A 2003 Harvard study estimated that cellphone distractions caused 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries.

Yet Americans have largely ignored that research. Instead, they increasingly use phones, navigation devices and even laptops to turn their cars into mobile offices, chat rooms and entertainment centers, making roads more dangerous.

A disconnect between perception and reality worsens the problem. New studies show that drivers overestimate their own ability to safely multitask, even as they worry about the dangers of others doing it.

I’ll let the excellent CARtoonist Andy Singer have the last “word” on this totally unsurprising phenomenon:

by Andy Singer

Michael Dawson (The Consumer Trap)

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