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Posts tagged "Car-Free"

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Meet Some of the “100 Most Influential Urbanists” via Streetfilms!

Recently, Planetizen named their 100 Most Influential Urbanists of all-time, based on public voting off of a list of 200 nominees. Jane Jacobs won. As she should have.

Whether you believe the list is correct or has some people ranked too kindly or not at all, it has been circulating like mad on Facebook and other social media. Of course, when I took a look at the list, my first thought was how cool it was that Streetfilms had interviewed or featured dozens of them.  So if you want to learn or see many of these individuals in action, take a gander at the films below!

2. Jamie Lerner

The renowned urban planner became mayor of Curitiba and implemented their BRT system which we explore in this popular Streetfilm. But I selected the more intimate video we did on the story of Curitiba's first pedestrian street since it has lots of him.

 

4. Jan Gehl

In fact, there are many Streetfilms that have featured Gehl over the years. The film below is one of four I made - in five days - while in Copenhagen in 2010.  But our first with him was the most important: an influential video we cut of him  evaluating a horribly un-friendly-to-people Times Square in 2005 with Mark Gorton! In many ways it helped ignite the livable streets renaissance that NYC has been moving towards since.

 

10. Charles Mahron

About five years ago, Streetfilms first met Chuck, and we could tell he was an original thinker with ideas about our cities we needed to help spread. I thought he would make an interesting subject and followed him to a few cities.

 

12. William H. Whyte

Holly Whyte passed before I became deeply immersed making videos about urbanism and transportation. But since I always admired the simple language he used in his book "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces", I wanted to honor him with this montage of my favorite shots that matched the words in his book.

 

13. Donald Shoup

The undisputed expert of parking policy was part of our plan early on to highlight how ample free parking was a hurdle to having better cities. We interviewed him the first time he came to NYC and the 2nd time we did I decided it was time to take out some matchbox cars and show visually some of his concepts.

 

16. Janette Sadik-Khan

As NYC DOT Commissioner, we were perfectly positioned to watch the meteoric rise of Janette Sadik-Khan and how she introduced progressive public space initiatives and changed Times Square, Madison Square & brought us Summer Streets and more! She easily holds the record for appearing in more Streetfilms than any other person and  you might as well chalk all of this up to her,  Here we feature one of her first sit down interviews in 2008 with Mark Gorton about her work.

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Use our Streetopia Promos in Your City!

Last month was NYC's Streetopia kickoff event at the Museum of the City of New York. We debuted four great promos that will be used throughout the campaign. Although these promos focus specifically on NYC, you can see that any group can get a ton of mileage out of them. Each are about 1 minute long, but gives a crisp argument as to why we need to continue to do better.

In NYC bicycling has soared. Each year the numbers of people riding bikes goes higher. But to reach incredibly high bike mode shares, we will need to dramatically increase and improve bike lanes and accessibility. If you are in the United States, your city is probably experiencing something similar that needs fixing!

Parking is the root of all evil in thwarting safer streets in just about every city. Because more parking (on or off-street) invites more vehicles and congestion and less safer commutes for those on bike, walking or transit. There are many cities in the world that challenge parking that we can learn from!

If you go to some of the best livable cities/places in the world, most have vast networks of pedestrianized downtowns where people are free to shop, meet, lounge, eat or use as car-free transportation. There are dozens of great examples, but here we take a quick look at a few that are regarded at shining beacons to what we should be striving for!

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Streetopia: Reclaim Your Streets! (Streetopia Kickoff Promo)

Welcome to Streetopia the new push to drastically reimagine our city streets as places for people, with more efficient transport and safety for children & seniors to recreate and live. This is the "kickoff" promo, one of five we produced for the event.

The below paragraphs were so excellently written by Streetsblog's David Meyer in the article "Envisioning NYC Next Streets Revolution" that I'll now just lift those paragraphs below to describe some of why Streetopia is upon us.

About 12 years ago, a coalition of advocates under the banner of the New York City Streets Renaissance set out to transform city transportation policy away from the car-oriented status quo and toward people-first streets. Streetsblog and Streetfilms have their origins in that campaign, propelling a growing public awareness that NYC doesn’t need to settle for dangerous, traffic-choked streets.

While small interventions like signal changes, pedestrian islands, and safer markings have touched many neighborhoods, only a sliver of a fraction of city street space has been reallocated from cars to other modes. You’re less likely to lose your life in traffic now than 12 years ago, but New York still doesn’t have streets where, say, parents feel comfortable letting a child in elementary school walk a few blocks on their own to a friend’s house.

New York can be a city where everyone from young kids to elderly seniors can get around without fear, where neighborhood streets can be places of congregation and activity instead of motorways. To become that city, we’ll have to shift a lot more street space from cars to transit, biking, and walking.

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NYC Earth Day 2017: A Car-Free Broadway

This year for NYC's 2nd Car-Free NYC Earth Day, things picked up considerably from last year's inaugural event. The big spectacle was that you could walk or bike up Broadway from Union Square all the way to Times Square on car-free streets. But in a way since the Science March was already coming down Broadway to 47th street from the north, many people were able to traverse it all the way to Columbus Circle.
NYC Council Member (and Transportation Chair) Ydanis Rodriguez has been a real star in the move to get the city to think big things and also a great ally in the Vision Zero quest for safe streets. In this short, we got to walk with him for a few blocks and also talk to many New Yorkers about the state of the streets. Many dream big, wanting to see a car-free Broadway in the future, a proposal Mr. Rodriguez also would love to see.
As usual at these events there was plenty of programming. Running clubs. City agencies. Aerobics classes. Free Citibike rentals. In many ways it felt similar to one of the Summer Streets Saturdays in August, except this time it was on Broadway in the heart of the city. A statement to our city that it can be done. All we need is the will. After all 55% of NYC households don't own a car; and 77% of those in Manhattan.

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Oslo: The Journey to Car-Free

In 2015, the newly elected city government of Oslo, Norway, announced its intention to make the downtown car-free by 2019. I immediately put it on my list of places to check out for Streetfilms. Last fall I made the trip, not knowing exactly what I'd find.

There are a number of reasons Oslo is looking to shift away from driving and get cars out of downtown. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, and leaders see more efficient streets and transportation as essential to managing this growth. But the biggest factor is that air quality in Oslo and many places in Norway is deteriorating. In winter, especially, air pollution from diesel vehicles can reach dangerous levels and keep vulnerable children and seniors restricted indoors.

Oslo already has car-free blocks and car-light pedestrian zones that are full of people even late at night. And I knew it was a good sign when I stepped off the bus from the airport and immediately stumbled upon construction of a new rail line. But to make such a large area car-free entails going above and beyond a few projects here and there -- it takes a comprehensive strategy.

So Oslo is working toward its goal on many fronts. The city has been aggressively removing car parking, for instance, and by the end of 2017, expects to no longer have any on-street parking in the city core. Off-street parking is also being addressed -- all new developments are required to be car-free.

Ruter, the local transportation authority, plans to absorb all travel growth with buses, trains, and trams in addition to shifting some current car trips to transit. Car-share services are beginning to proliferate as more people go without a personal motor vehicle. Oh, and there's this nifty plan to help people pay for electric-assist cargo bikes!

Bike lanes are getting built or upgraded throughout the city. You won't find ample, Copenhagen-style protected bike lanes yet, but the on-going removal of car parking is clearing space for many wide, red curbside bike lanes. Despite the lack of true protection they feel safe, and unlike in the U.S., you will not find cars parking in them. Over four days, I probably could count the number of cars I saw blocking a bike lane on one hand.

The city's bike-share, Oslo Bysykkel, has recently been completely overhauled with more stations, better bicycles, and a more convenient user interface. You can unlock your bike by smart phone as you approach the station, just take it and go.

Will Oslo's city center go completely car-free by 2019? Momentum is certainly on the city's side. So sit back and take in these scenes of a city making ambitious changes to its streets, as well as interviews with public figures like Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen, who discusses why reducing the footprint of cars is so important to the future of her city. I hope you enjoy watching this Streetfilm -- I think it carries important implications for other cities around the world.

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Great Streets: Walking Burlington’s Church Street

From the beautiful photos of its major car-free shopping street, I've always been intrigued by Burlington, VT. While looking for a destination to bring our young son for his first airplane trip, we opted to go explore via a one hour flight to Burlington.

It's a very lovely small city and as you'll see Church Street did not disappoint. We spent a good deal of our time there. It was a vacation but my wife allowed me a few hours to shoot a little video and an interview.

One thing that did not make the final cut, was the story of how the marketplace came to be. I will type it verbatim for you from the historical markers that bound the street.

In 1962 architecture student Bill Truex experienced the transformation of Straget, Copenhagen's main shopping area, from traffic-snarled nightmare to successful pedestrian mall. Seven years later, while on the Burlington Planning Commission, Truex enlisted support from Pat Robins of the Street Commission and together they promoted turning Church Street into a pedestrian district. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and his chief of staff, Paul Bruhn, secured a federal grant and Burlington voters, with support from Mayor Gordon Paquette, passed a bond for the city's share of construction costs. The Church Street Marketplace, which opened on September 15, 1981 has been described as a the gem in the crown of the Queens City of Burlington.

What's amazing of course is how much further Copenhagen has gone in the years since the 1960s. Church Street is a great street and more U.S. cities need the heart of their downtowns to look the same.

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48 Hours in Copenhagen Yields Four Streetfilms!

Although the main goal of this latest overseas trip was to visit Oslo, Norway to interview leaders about the city's plans to go car-free in the city center by 2019, I knew I'd have the opportunity to visit somewhere else (very quickly) to shoot a few Streetfilms. Nearby Denmark was the obvious choice where I only spent a little over two days and it yielded a crop of Streetfilms substance (along with a short side trip to Malmo to also see the bike world there.)

Two of the films are already published on the blog, but two others new to you aren't.  The first was a short bit (above) where I got to talk to James Thoem, a Project Manager with Copenhagenize Design Company, about the key safety measures installed at what some claim to be the world busiest cycle intersection with over 42,000 users per day. The things he talks about would certainly nearly illuminate "right hook" crashes in the United States, but of course something tells me the incredible volume of cyclists also is a factor in driver's ability to sit patiently. I did a popular montage on that on my last trip here.

The fun montage above is just something I crammed together on my journey between Copenhagen to Oslo. I realized as I was out shooting footage that I was collecting an insane amount of children and dogs riding along in cargo bikes and such. It could be because I was missing my little boy (who recently took his first bike ride ever) and envied all the families. I surveyed fans on Twitter and asked if they would like to see such a montage. They enthusiastically said yes, so I obliged.

Here's just something I saw while out with James. A construction crew digging and transporting dirt.  Everything proceeding with very little fanfare. It looked all very professional and yet kinda scary. I took one ride underneath, which although the crew used due care, also seemed very borderline dangerous. Yet, nice to see life and work proceed without alarm. What do you think?

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There's me above checking out the newly opened "Kissing Bridge", which was delayed for many years. I'm not gonna say too much here about the final video since it has its own blog entry, but Marie Kastrup from the City of Copenhagen, showed me some wonderful hospitality gave me a whirlwind tour of the newest car-free bridges in Copenhagen. This is the result.

But the video itself should prove very valuable to cities across the globe as conversation starter. Here in NYC while we are debating whether or not we could possibly widen the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bike path say 3 to 5 years down the road (if at all), We need to look at what bridges could we build in NYC that would greatly enhance transportation for cyclists. The Move NY/Gridlock Sam plan does float the possibilities of some car-free crossings, but one has to wonder if it would be seriously ever studied. If we were in Copenhagen, there would likely already be plans for multiple bridges going in.

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It’s an Awesome Array of Austin Streetfilms Assets!

When I visit any city, even like I did in October to attend the NACTO Conference (see below), I attempt to do as much documentation I can in the limited time I have away from any work or speaking commitments I have.  In Austin, I was able to cobble together a really nice look at what is making bicycling there so much more popular (see above!)

Occasionally, even one long shot can be really helpful and inspiring. One night after finishing a 30 mile ride with the Austin Social Ride (you can see scenes in the top Streetfilm) I came upon something I did not know: 6th Street in Austin, the city's nucleus of loud live music, is closed to cars at least two or three nights per week providing a pedestrian paradise. It was glorious, after shooting this video I went back to my hotel room and came back at 1am just to walk around and watch people.

And finally, just in case you didn't get enough of the awesome 3rd Street cycle track in Austin in the above film (or just need some excerpted footage as a tool to show your community or city) here's nothing but montage of cyclists enjoying the safety of the lanes.

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Defending NYC’s Wonderful Pedestrian Plazas

For a few weeks now I've wanted to write about this New York City anti-plaza sensationalism since the desnudas showed up in Times Square . Thankfully many articulate others were busy crafting their own smart opinions like this and this shortly afterwards and laid the truth at Mayor de Blasio's feet.

By complete happenstance, I found myself grabbing a quick lunch on Saturday in one of NYC's newest plazas at 33rd Street in the shadow of Madison Square Garden. The temporary plaza, maintained by Vornado Royalty Trust, will be removed October 11th, then evaluated. I happened to have my gear from a cancelled shoot and though only there about 20 minutes, grabbed the fun montage above to demonstrate just how thriving the human element becomes and how much we need more space in a often loud, cramped city of 8.5 million people.

Of course the Steve Cuozzo's of the world never see it that way. He's one the loudest barkers in the anti-livable streets movement - a man who'd probably be happy to see 12 lanes of cars down every NYC Avenue. He's all about bluster and never making the world a better place for people. I like to balance the absurdity of words from people like him.

I've documented quite a few plazas in NYC, probably more than anyone else in the city. And physically I have visited just about every one. From Sunnyside's Bliss Plaza under the 7 train to Brooklyn's DUMBO Plaza, one of the very first waaay back in 2007. And, frankly, I'm pretty insulted by all this negative coverage and the lack of intelligence by a few powerful men.

Just take a look at the video above from Corona Plaza. It's a wonderful people space. And so popular it is scheduled for a $3 million dollar upgrade.

Look at what they did in Jackson Heights, turning 78th Street into a paradise. I am now proud to call it my home all these years later.

The transformation Janette Sadik-Khan and her team at NYC DOT did to Madison Square is nothing short of remarkable. In some ways, I think it is a bigger success than Times Square.

And speaking of Times Square, here's what we can never return to. Our interview between Mark Gorton and Jan Gehl in the Times Square of 2005 shows how horrible conditions were. Just watch. There's no better way to end a blog rant when you have irrefutable visual proof.

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Why did so many people think Hamburg was declaring a car-free City Center?

This one continues to be a head-scratcher!

Last year, many in the transportation world thought Hamburg, Germany was making plans to declare a car-free city center. I, too, had read many articles such as this and this that reported of it.

Even Copenhagenize which lists Hamburg as its #19th Most Bike-Friendly City on their biennial index was hoodwinked (make sure you read their addendum.)

When guest Streetfilms journalist Joe Baur was headed to Hamburg a few months ago he asked if I'd be interested in a story on the city's plans to become car-free. But when he dug deeper residents told him it just wasn't true! (See the above excerpt on what some of told him.)

As Joe wrote, "Basically nobody had any idea what I was talking about. One of my initial contacts said that the story was started by a British journalist who obviously got the story wrong and then every other outlet from there just picked up the story without fact-checking. The only thing anyone agreed on is that they wish it was a true story." We invite any readers who know more or have any instinct as to what happened to please leave information in the comments.

Regardless, Joe was still able to put together a nice piece for Streetfilms about Hamburg which you can watch here.

By the way, let me just include a few words about Mr. Baur who is a travel writer and filmmaker by trade. He's been car-free for the last four years and lives with his wife in Cleveland who gets that constant "How do you live without a car?" query from suburban family and friends.

He recently spent a year in Central America and promises to be uploading travel videos to his site and putting together a podcast focused on a mixture of travel, urbanism as it relates to travel, and simply talking to interesting people. So if you are "interesting", drop him a line!

 

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Cambridge: Britain’s Cycling Capital

In the city of Cambridge, just about an hour's train ride north of London, you'll find lots of people bicycling. In fact, the official bike mode share is 22 percent, but advocates believe it's even higher and could comprise up to 50 percent of all trips in the city center.

More than protected bike lanes, the key to Cambridge's success has been the management of motor vehicle traffic. For one, the city center is now ringed by a cordon of moveable bollards that only recede for buses, taxis, and some service vehicles. Private cars are not allowed downtown but people on bikes are free to enter at any time -- which makes the bicycle the most convenient mode of transportation.

In residential neighborhoods, Cambridge has also tamed cars using a strategy called "filtered permeability" -- placing physical barriers at some intersection that divert motorized traffic while allowing other modes to filter through. This prevents motorists from using residential areas as short cuts and encourages cycling. Similar techniques are employed in famous cycling cities like Groningen, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, and even here in the U.S. in places like Portland and Berkeley.

Cambridge is a growing city, and if new residents choose to drive cars, its streets could become overwhelmed by traffic. So the effort to create better streets for biking and walking continues. Recently, the city has adopted a 20 mph speed limit for most of its roadways, and a new push is on to install much more robust protected bike lanes in targeted areas where cycling feels less safe.

For bonus footage of Cambridge streets, check my post from earlier this week.

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Watch 18 Years of Car-Free Parks Advocacy and Progress in NYC

The exciting news about the big expansion of car-free zones in Central Park and Prospect Park is a milestone in a very long campaign. The movement for car-free parks goes back nearly 50 years -- much farther than the videos I've posted here. But it wasn't that long ago that car-free hours in these parks were the exception, rather than the rule. These clips capture the spirit of the last 18 years of activism, which has yielded tremendous progress.

The above video is a small segment I taped of one of the first "traffic calming rides" that Transportation Alternatives used to do in Central Park back in 1997!

There was a lot of action going on in Prospect Park as well. I was the chair of the Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives committee for two years and my immediate successor was Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek, who brought new energy and came up with the brilliant idea to do some car-free theater. Transportation Alternatives' director Paul Steely White (who then worked for ITDP) can be seen among the advocates -- and if you keep watching you'll see a rookie City Council member named Bill de Blasio endorse a car-free park trial.

Read more...

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Exploring the Streets of Stockholm

In 2014, I got the chance to visit Stockholm near the end of an incredibly hot summer. It's a charming and walkable place with a downtown buzzing with people. There's an easygoing rhythm to the city. After dark the pedestrian streets fill with both residents and tourists out for a walk, even after most stores and restaurants close.

I met up with a great mix of advocates, residents, and transportation experts to discuss what's going on in Stockholm. Sweden is well-known as the birthplace of Vision Zero, the country's goal to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries by 2020. Several American cities have now made it their explicit goal to reduce traffic deaths to zero in the next 10 years..

There's much more worth taking away from Stockholm, which in the last decade has implemented congestion pricing, expanded its bike network, and adopted a plan called "The Walkable City" to create streets that work better for public life.

In tandem with the release of this film, I have great news to share: Since some Streetfilms, including this one, can get a bit long, we've decided to break them up into bite-size pieces, for those times when you want to show a great idea but may not be able to hold people's attention for 12 minutes. These shorter segments will be available on Vimeo. Below are the four slices of Stockholm video you can mix and match to reach the masses.

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Reflecting on the 10th Anniversary of the “First Streetfilm”: Central Park, Bikelash & Advocacy

Last month was a very bad month in the tabloids and local news for NYC bicyclists. As you've probably heard we had two awful tragedies on the loop drive of Central Park in 2014 with cyclists striking pedestrians, killing both. What followed was sadness, anger and head scratching. But also the predictable media manipulation demonizing cycling, much of it unfair or downright ignoring facts.

While there's no excuse for bicycling at excessive speeds in our public parks during heavy use periods, the fact there are still cars allowed in what should be places of solitude (Central, Prospect & Astoria Parks) is completely insane. I've been a member of Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) for nearly 20 years and know far too much the long campaign to rid our parks of cars. And that's why I really enjoyed Stephen Miller's recent Streetsblog post "Traffic Lights Don't Belong on a Park Loop", which I hope help enlightens the masses that our parks are not highways.

Back in 2004, I was hired by T.A. to produce the (above) short film "The Case for a Car-free Central Park." Though I had been doing transportation videos long before, now looking back I consider it my first Streetfilm. Running an epic 20 minutes we interviewed health care professionals, advocates, authors, electeds and a cross-section of users from all the adjacent park neighborhoods.

Read more...

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The Rise of Open Streets

Streetfilms has been documenting the open streets movement for over seven years, beginning with our landmark film in 2007 on Bogota's Ciclovia, currently the most viewed Streetfilm of all time.

The next year, Mike Lydon of The Street Plans Collaborative decided to get an open streets event going in Miami, which led to his research for The Open Streets Project, a joint project with the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

Miami wasn't alone. In 2008, there were new open streets events in more than a dozen cities, including San Francisco, Portland and New York. All told, open streets events have increased tenfold since 2006.

"The Rise of Open Streets" examines the open streets movement from myriad perspectives -- how it began, how events are run, how they shape people's perceptions of their streets, and how creating car-free space, even temporarily, benefits people's lives. And it looks not only at big cities like Los Angeles, but smaller ones like Fargo, Berkeley, and Lexington.

We've interviewed some of the most important people in the movement, including former NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and former Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, as well as former Bogota Parks Commissioner Gil Penalosa and Enrique Jacoby, from the Pan American Health Organization.

We were proud to partner with The Street Plans Collaborative and the Alliance for Biking & Walking to produce this film, which we hope will encourage even more open streets events throughout the world. Funding for "The Rise of Open Streets" was graciously provided by the Fund for the Environment & Urban Life.