Category Land Use

Don’t believe the Electric Car Hype

Don’t believe the hype. Electric vehicles are a threat to those who care about livability, equality and the planet.

GM, for example, has touted the Volt and its ability to run for 40 miles on electricity before switching to a gasoline engine. In January 2007 the Financial Times concluded that the Volt was designed to counter the “halo effect that Toyota gained from the Prius, which rivals the iPod as an iconic product.” In fact, iCar was the original name for the Volt. “I admit,” the former head of GM explained, “that it [the Volt] has a secondary benefit of helping to reestablish credibility in technology.”

The lure of technological advancement has always been part of the automobile’s formidable ideological prowess. Popular journals, magazines and other media regularly portray the automotive sector as a forerunner of innovation.

While automakers spend huge sums on R&D the mode of transport is inherently inefficient. These 3000-pound metal boxes carry on average one and a half people, approximately 300 pounds – a mere ten percent of the vehicle’s weight.

At the same, the car’s appetite for space is insatiable. Requiring 300 sq feet for home storage, 300 sq feet for storage at destination, 600 sq feet while traveling and another 200 sq feet for repairs, servicing or sale, an automobile occupies about 1,400 sq feet altogether – more space than most apartments. Read more

England’s Front Gardens Captured on the iPhone

Can a Car be Beautiful?

Can a car be beautiful? Of course it can. Any object can be beautifully designed and crafted. And there are certainly many beautiful cars.

The beautiful fantasy.

The beautiful fantasy.

By itself in a studio, or surrounded by greenery, a car can present an inspiring image. Sleek and shiny, or rounded and cheeky. Some seem to have characters of their own.

But, as Oscar Wilde said,

“No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.”

And the unfortunate thing about cars is that those ‘certain conditions’ are their normal surroundings, with other cars and out on a normal road.

As soon as you get a few cars together with their discordant colours, shapes and sizes they become an unsightly metalic mass. Have you ever seen a beautiful car park? I don’t mean the building, I mean the cars. It would take a very peculiar sense of aesthetics for your local NCP to send you into raptures.

And then there are the roads. An overgrown track or unkempt country road can be a thing of beauty, as can a railway line, or, of course, a canal.

But most modern roads are unrelenting tarmac, with added clutter. There is something deeply unattractive about tarmac. Perhaps it’s its brutal, life-denying quality. Or it’s inorganic, chemical composition. Road-kill belongs on tarmac.

Most roads are an insult to our visual sensibility. We want to look away from them rather than admire them. But drivers beware if you do look away for a moment, tempted by the beauty of the fields or sky, you risk death and trauma. A truly devilish conundrum.

Roads dominate the public space where we spend our daily lives. Whilst the creative types have been busy with other, sexier things, we have somehow allowed the Genesis fans with no dress sense to design our highways. The result is that our kingdom is ugly. Very ugly. And to add financial injury to visual insult, we spend a king’s ransom on keeping our streets this way:

The ugly reality.

The ugly reality.

Tesco Greenfield: A Case Study in How to Get it Wrong

Tesco is the biggest retailer in the UK. This store is a brand new development. It should be a model for good environmental practice, including, of course, accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

Background:- Tesco Greenfield is on the edge of a National Park in the Pennine Hills. Here’s the location on Google Maps. It is the only supermarket of its size in the area and attracted a lot of opposition and scrutiny at planning stage. Here we put the results to the test…

Customer Car Policy – A Good Practice Checklist:

1. Located close to residential area.

Tick – there are thousands of households within easy walking and cycling distance, to the East and South of the development.

2. Good public transport links.

Tick – a regular bus service drops off on the edge of the site and there’s a rail station five minutes walk away. There’s also a reliable taxi service.

3. Information and encouragement re alternative modes of travel prior to journey.
SnapShot from Tesco's Website

SnapShot from Tesco's Website

No mention of those good transport services, nor links to timetables, nor to taxi services. Fail.

Read more

12 Million Tons of Material Stored at Taxpayers’ Expense

It has come to light that some individuals have been surreptitiously storing 12million tons of their own property on the public highway. The material, a toxic combination of metals, plastics, rubber and highly flammable liquids, is estimated to take up 90,000,000m2, or 17,000 miles of road space.

There are concerns that the free-flow of traffic is hindered, gardens are smaller and roads are wider than necessary, adding to the already high cost of maintenance. Pedestrians are asked to avoid the material when crossing roads as it presents a safety risk.

There are also concerns about the visual impact.

“All this junk on the streets must be costing the taxpayer a fortune. And it looks pig ugly.” said one forthright resident.

Some ingenious owners attempt disguise their 1.4tons by spreading it onto the pavement. People can still get by, they just can’t hold hands.

photo: Adrian Short

Black is the New Green

A development near Ashton, Manchester UK

Dark Grey is Road and Car Parking

This is a colour-coded satellite image of an area near Ashton in Manchester, UK. But it could be almost anywhere.

It’s a fairly typical recent edge-of-town development.  The dark grey area is road, car parking and a service station.   The new businesses are an IKEA, a Sainsbury’s supermarket, Cineworld, Hollywood Bowl, Nandos and KFC drive-thru.  (The light grey areas haven’t been affected by this development).

It’s scary how much of the land is given over to the car.  Land is a precious resource.  And we give vast areas of it to the car apparently without question.

Walking is an unappealing option.  Sainsbury’s and Cineworld are only 300m apart but because of the layout most people will drive about a mile between them.  Take a look.

This isn’t inevitable, it’s just lazy.  Lazy planning for lazy behaviour.

With a bit more creativity all of these businesses could operate just as efficiently in half of the space.  They could share a home delivery service, run a regular mini-bus or taxi service, have proper cycle facilities, and connect up with the nearby rail and bus stations via a new park, or playground.  It’s not that difficult.

And what about the land saved from tarmac?  Well it could simply be left to the wildlife, or it could be parkland, or farmland, or grassland, or allotments, or housing or more businesses, or whatever other human uses we care to dream up…

York Castle Car Park

This has to be a candidate for the world’s most inappropriate car park:

photo: CARLOS62

It’s in the precinct of York Castle in the U.K.  The castle was founded by William the Conquerer following the most famous event in British history, the Norman invasion of 1066.  It has had connections to the British crown ever since.

In its early years it was a base for the ‘Harrying of the North’ a cruel suppression of the region’s population.  In 1190 York Castle was the scene of another tragic event, the mass-murder of the city’s Jewish population .  It was later a prison and the site for executions of criminals.

photo: mervtheserve

Do you know a less sympathetic car park?  Let us know.

Copy and credit: Creative Commons Licence Man's Greatest Mistake
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Cars are brilliant, but they are a brilliant mistake, and deep down, we all know it…

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