Sunday, June 22, 2008

Random Pictures and Thoughts from the Towards Carfree Cities Conference



The slideshow above will give you a glimpse of the Towards Carfree Cities Conference that took place in Portland last week. Christine and I had various obligations back home, so we didn't attend the whole thing, but the time we had there was awesome. Here are some totally random thoughts to go with the pictures.

Huge thanks to Elly and all the other organizers and volunteers, Michael and Jennifer for opening their home to us, Greg and Beth for hosting a great party, all the Portland folks for making Portland what it is and everybody who provided all the great content, art, ideas and energy.

When going through the photos, I realized that shots of somebody talking or giving a PowerPoint presentation aren't that interesting.

Shots of the Sprockettes are interesting. Well, interesting to me at least. (Note to self -- see if Christine is willing to add more black and hot-pink lycra and fishnet to her wardrobe.)

You know you have a cool city when it has an art-show in one room and Fat Tire Ale in another, a loud band and the Sprockettes on the sidewalk, parking spaces out front converted to writer's workshops, art studios, and a tall-bike workshop.

Portland has its own bike rush-hours. Bikes and riders are everywhere.

The local bike routes, maps, signs and online bike trip planner make the city very discoverable by bike.

My Dahon rocks. Traveling by bike, bus & train is super easy and super fun with this little bike. I have to factor a bit of extra time into my journeys for demoing the bike to interested folks.

A tipi is the ultimate back yard accessory.

A BikeRacker rack is the ultimate driveway accessory.

Conferences like this one are great sources of ideas and experience.

"Multi-modal" is the big buzz-phrase conference. I'd always used multi-modal to describe a trip like the one Christine and I took to get here, a combination of walking, biking, taking the bus, train and one small bit in my friend Michael Rasmussen's (the cycle commuter not the racer) truck. But I guess when you are at a towards carfree cities conference and want to admit that you still own and use a private car, you refer to yourself as "multi-modal."

Open source software and open data standards are really empowering folks to make some great tools to help folks get around without cars, Smart transit, smart maps, and smart routing tools really do help people get around. Much of the really cool work is being done by geeks on their own time but they need consistent access to data.

Traffic doesn't behave like a fluid, it behaves like a gas. It fills the available space.

More traffic lanes kill more people.

Data can get skewed in interesting ways. Fewer pedestrian fatalities per mile may mean "folks are driving farther to find a pedestrian to run down."

I had this idea at the conference: Ghost bikes may be sending the wrong message. The "a cyclist died here" sends the signal that riding is dangerous. What if we had ghost cars, a death car painted white every spot there is an auto fatality? "Good idea, Kent, but that would be way too many cars." "Yeah, that's the point." Maybe a car with a skull & crossbones stencil.

The Arcata Bicycle Library is brilliant. Bill Burton tells you everything you need to know to set one of these up in your town here.

The problem with a conference like this is too many cool things happen simultaneously and you'll always have to miss out on something.

Gil Penelosa's "Portland has a long way to go" talk went over great with loads of spontaneous applause sprinkled througout. It was quite a contrast to Andy Clarke's rah-rah speech celebrating Portland and the LAB which seemed to fall pretty flat. The crowd was here to work and get fired up, not pat itself on the back.

Power Point is probably making us dumber. I saw some great Power Point presentations, but a lot of folks with great stuff just talked. And there was a lot of time spent in the "let me set this up" techno-phase. A while back the late Sheldon Brown pointed me to this, which does a great job of illustrating the problem.

The velorution is afoot and awheel. We've got a long way to go, but it's walking and biking distance.
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