Towards Car-Free Cities III - Conference Proceedings

Prague 2003 - Programme - Programme Details - Proceedings - Transcripts 

The following page contains transcripts of the main strategy sessions at the Towards Car-Free Cities III conference.

"Carfree Cities: From Vision to Reality"

Part I: Introduction/Brainstorm

We need to develop a strategy to change the world!

  • use media to change people's values
  • how do you get people to change? Why do they choose to have certain things in their lives and not other things?
  • we need to develop an approach, methods and tactics

What do people values about private cars?

  • they value privacy, freedom and independence and so public transit epitomizes the bad because you have no control over whom you are travelling with
  • this is not the case in non-western cultures as they do not see the disadvantages of public transit

In public discussion we need to control the semantics, the language we use. For example, car accidents vs. car wrecks or collisions. Through language we must make cars politically incorrect, but we also must make it fun process.

Long term projects:
1. Web sites
2. cartoons/comic books
3. magazines/books
4. Car-free Institute
5. Regular press releases
6. Media rebuttals

1. Car-free days
2. Arm bands for dead/maimed friends
3. walk to school
4. Critical mass
5. civil resistance/disobedience

1. Adbusters and related things
2. radio, TV, DVDs, multimedia
3. Folk songs

Supporting work:
1. Conferences
2. Charities (intensive planning)
3. Economic simulations

1. Inform and communicate our research to politicians
2. Mobilize young and old people
3. Loss of community - we value privacy, space control
4. Public transport space is invaded
5. Community and grassroots organizing

1. Teach-ins
2. Develop a two to five hour syllabus for use in schools

Folk action:
1. Humour and jokes
2. Internet chat groups

1. How much money do we need?
2. Foundation
3. Private donations

In changing peoples values what should we be aware of?
What are we up against and what might work?

  • Habits
  • Expectation
  • Car as status and sex symbol
  • Space Control
  • Infrastructure
  • Planning
  • Fear and Security
  • Freedom/individualism
  • Car as a cultural rite of passage
  • Economic dependence
  • Car is convenient and comfortable, especially if you live in the suburbs
  • Economic misperceptions regarding owning a car
  • Culture of "newness"
  • Illusion of Speed
  • Power
  • The car is inevitable

"Carrot and stick" method - the best way to get people to stop using cars:

  • encourage value change
  • make visible the illusion of control and speed
  • Perceive life on a human scale
  • Undermine the inevitability of cars
  • Youth education
  • Convince people that bikes+walking=cool and cars=not-cool
  • Emotional attachment to cars is not logical
  • focus on local goods and services
  • Best practice - highlight favorable examples and experiences
  • Reducing cars reduces threats to our lives

Vulnerabilities of car-free society:

  • Immobility
  • Crime and Security (walking late at night)
  • inclement weather
  • discomfort
  • unpredictability
  • possibility of isolation
  • Carrying capacity (luggage)
  • The freedom to go where you want, when you want

The goals of the movement should be to balance local vs. global action/thinking; emphasizing the positive aspects of car-free living; research at a future Car-Free Institute or an Institute for Spatial policy.

Part II

The session began with a discussion for a Car-Free Institute combined with a discussion of the future of Carbusters.

In general, there is a need to change people's values. A film like Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002), contrasts American fearfulness with the Canadian lack of fear. Why do people like cars? Ad executives are partly responsible in this situation.

The goals of making Car-Free cities a reality should involve targeting youth and raising awareness. For example, in the US there is a lack of Car-Free days.

The following points were discussed in a smaller group session:

How does the government get involved?
One participant says it sounds like we've got to build a new city, not push existing cities to become car-free.

However, what are the things we need to do, the steps we must take, to get an existing city car-free?

  • public transportation
  • better architecture
  • a road map for how to become car-free because what happens if we build cycle lanes and no one knows/uses them? For example, in Bogota, 61% approved the plan for car-free areas and then 91% approved of it after they saw it.
  • We need partners in making car-free cities. For example, Krakow's mobility week involved the deputy mayor to Brussels
  • communicate a vision through small projects that get the people involved and help change their attitudes.
  • build car-free districts within existing cities.
  • challenge the idea of "freedom" (what does it mean?) and challenge the consumer culture.
  • a social movement that supports car-free culture. For example, interviews done in Denmark show over and over again that the quality of life improves with car-free areas.
  • a public day in which we can hear about car-free ideas.
  • a network and a global group to focus on making our cities car-free.
  • an e-cycle network, public space.
  • combine our set of principles with a list of concrete things that need to be done.

A list of possible partners in car-free groups was summarized as well as the potential enemies. However, we should not begin a plan with who are partners are, but, rather first decide what the plan should be.
How is the plan for America different from the plans for European cities which are more historical?

Another participant notes that 1/3 of the population in US would rather not drive and so developers must market to this 1/3. In Poland, car-free cities is politically incorrect. There are alternatives, but car use is still high.

we need to balance three things: Demand - Infrastructure - Politics. For example, there is an EU cycling infrastructure. Here, we must have a balance between mobility and proximity. We must develop nations that are non-industrial!

We can sell shampoo or we can try to sell car-free cities

It is important that making car-free cities involves an integration with nature (for example, Ecocity). In Bogota, ideas of social justice and equality are given priority. Joel notes we need to be humanistic about our visions.

Do we want to organize models of car-free cities as realization of our ideals or do we first want to focus on raising global awareness and global sympathy towards ridding the world of car dependence?
In creating a model car-free city, should we use a brownfield sites outside of a city (starting fresh) or should we focus on remodeling existing city centres?
In terms of the second solution, remodeling existing city centres, it is easier, more ideal because all of the components and infrastructure of a functioning city already exist. So, there is no need to seek massive quantities of funding and studies to show that people would actually move there were it to be built.
Let's do "backcasting," or, working backward from a determined goal.
We need to find out what kind of a city people want to live in for the future.

Main points:

  • Increasing pedestrian areas, public and alternative forms of transportation
  • Make the car-free issue known
  • Build upon a network
  • change individual values
  • take a political approach
  • informed culture leads to a gradual
  • reduction in car use
  • taxation

(We split up into two groups):
The first group worked on how to create a global web or network of support from a central location (Carbusters or a Car-Free Institute)
The second group worked on what actions to take locally in order to create car-free spaces and cities close to your home.

Part III

Purpose: Planning and Needs for next year and beyond

Summary: Apart for the planned Car-Free Institute, there is the need to establish the Car-Free Coordination Center that would take care of Public Relations. It will be a site where organizers work together to change values, while facilitating requests for research. We deicided on a list of priorities for action in the next year including the creation of topical list-serves, funding, lobbying for official support, expansion of campaign tools, directory of interested parties, World Car-Free day coordination, and adding more jokes and humor to the movement.

"Campaigning in Central And Eastern Europe: Overcoming Barriers to Success"

Part I: Defining current situation: problems/obstacles/challenges

Central Eastern Europe (CEE) context related to mobility in cities:

  • environmental
  • economic
  • social/cultural values
  • political issues

1. Decline of public transport with no priority (including financial) given to the creation of more public transport.
2. Growth of city traffic. In CEE we are not prepared for this fast growth

  • low level of traffic culture
  • bad practices in developing motor transport

3. Lack of diversity in modes of transport
4. Bad publicity for sustainability of transportation (the media is ignorant in this case)
5. Public opinion re: better public transportation is disregarded
6. There is a lack of enforcement of traffic laws
7. Bad planning and policy - lack of examples of sustainable and holistic approach to mobility policy
8. Lack of motivation for citizens to behave in sustainable way concerning mobility
9. Inefficient organization of the transport of goods
10.Citizens are not ware of health/social effects of traffic
11.Lack of cooperation/partnerships between local governments, NGO and local businesses

"Making our Cities Livable: Who's Doing What in the Czech Republic"

Introduction of several Prague NGOs

Petr Šmíd - Doprava Pro 21. St. - Environmental association raising awareness around sustainable development. They promote biking and public transport, do press releases on the Annual Car-Free days and are designing inter-city cycling proposals to make cycling safe.

Maria Petrova - SOS Prague - Association of environmental groups. Their priorities are: greenery, transport and planning transit groups in Prague. They believe it is wrong to allow cars as far as the medieval centre of the city. Their objective is to slow down cars.

Kamil Repes - Arnika Děčín - Their focus is on natural sciences and raising public awareness. They promote environmentally friendly modes of transportation. They recently held a festival for a pedestrian bridge that had been brought down.

Petr Novák - Association of the Blind - They operate nationwide in making streets more friendly for the blind through remote controlled transmitters

Todd Edelman - Cycling and Energy Futures (Cyklistika a energie budoucnost)- The organization is less than 1 year old. They are an advocate for more bike trails and the improvement of existing trails. In addition, they are promoting all non-motorized forms of transport, including wheelchair accessibility.

Aléš kuták - CDE - They are concerned with how highways do not help community development

Petr Tanda - O.S. Dvojka Sobé - They focus on public spaces and parks, including sculpture parks in the center of town. They also promote green spaces

Roman RůŸička - Bicybo - Promote bike transportation in city center. They have sponsors from city hall. They organize cycling trips and critical mass, but have problems getting adequate participation.

Mr. Rilval - Bohemian Greenways - Focus on development of greenways. Their project centers around long-distance cycling. They are part of movement to revitalize greenways. They want to shift investment form highway building to greenways.

Václav Procmázov - O.S. Terrigenia - they focus on public transportation and building something like the S-Bahn in Berlin. They work to integrate public transportation and to increase the amount of trains.

Daniel Mourek - Czech Greenways - Partnership foundation for greenways. They have partners in Slovakia.

"The Past, Present and Future of Car Busters: Assessment of Past Projects, Brainstorming and Future Direction - includes "Decentralising Car Busters into an International Network"

Key Points:
Car Busters projects in Prague include the following:

  • International quarterly magazine
  • Resources (on-line and print)
  • Organizing Car-Free days
  • monthly email news bulletin and email networking
  • world-wide contact directory - a comprehensive list of transport activist groups (on-line searchable database)
  • "Autoholics Anonymous" - how to personally move from a car-dependent to a car-free life (similar to carfreeuniverse.org)
  • Independent book publishing
  • International activist network

Summary of possible future directions

  • Assessing effectiveness - Car Busters is open to changes and new directions with car-free cities as the goal
  • Appealing to the general public (particularly for financial support)
  • Carbusters does not want to be an "anti-" or aggressive organization
  • We should have a second, more serious name
  • In general, the organization is ready to grow through network of grassroots movements
  • A decentralized Car Busters with a Car-Free Institute as the organization lacks a good main source of information research. There would be a database to store results of this research (like the contact directory mentioned previously)
  • Search for roles that can be decentralized (for example, "Car Busters - Poland")

At this point the participants broke into small groups

Thinking about Past and Present Projects: Assessing and making suggestions for change

Car Busters magazine
  • On-line vs. Print
    - there are no production costs for on-line publishing, but also no revenue
    - On-line does not have the lasting value or tactile quality of the magazine
    - currently, there is no on-line material of the magazine
  • Broader focus
    - Who should it be aimed at? Should the focus be regional? global?
    - too much focus on "cars are bad"
    - there could be discussions about "greener" cars? greener buses?
    - a global focus is important as banks that fund auto industry are global
    - on a regional level, we need to go inside the families, to the people who have never thought of car-free cities and make them more aware
    - Make links to other organizations within the magazine
    - Getting different view of groups/individuals' role in the movement
    - We need to target the car drivers, not just those who are already car-free providing them with resource/out-reach materials
    - We need to provide more resources and get better distribution
    - it is vibrant, Northern/Western-oriented, but there is no focus on the Southern Hemisphere. We should encourage other groups to create Asian/African versions which could be more culturally relevant (sister groups).
    - publishing the magazine in different languages - although it is very difficult to realize, it might be worth it
    - now it is for activists, but how effective is it in influencing the mainstream?
    - if we take out comics and replace it with graphs/charts it would be more respected
    - we could create an annual journal that is more professional and has a compilation of success stories, more stories about travel and more mainstream ideas so that it would be more "politically" appealing
    - the decision makers are the most important minds that must be changed
    - with a more professional format, we can work with politicians instead of against them
  • "how-to" lessons in the magazine are very valuable
  • don't use shiny paper

One group offered ideas on how some of the above points might be accomplished:

  • correspondents in foreign countries who report back on a monthly basis
  • hierarchical model may be more successful in this case
  • contact other publications that follow an activist/professional model and look to them for advice
  • internships - more accountability if projects are distributed on an "ad hoc" basis
  • libertarian party model - funds to a central office are dispersed to local chapters
  • a board of advisors and a statement about what Car Busters does on the front page

Resource Center

  • there is need to make it more widely known
  • What about providing a compilation of information that included excerpts from different books, published in different languages
  • we don't need another book, but short facts and figures with references
  • global facts and figures are needed, as well as comparisons between similar cities (for example, Kenworthy CD ROM)
  • a compilation of pictures would be good for use in local campaigns
  • we need books on CD ROM

The network

  • assist in funding, individuals can be part of a coalition
  • related to the distribution of the magazine
  • important for collecting and sharing information
  • great because it is good place for car-free days and to know that you are not alone

World Car-Free Days

  • everybody knows about them, CB has been successful here
  • governments want to organize them for other purposes, watering down the main goal
  • it would be helpful if there was a list of possible actions on Car-Free days (the list could be mentioned on the bulletin)
  • more cooperation with the authorities
  • In Croatia, there was no Car-Free day, so Green Action organized one that included music
  • the Bogotal model is inspiring, but in other cities Car-Free days are too small
  • you must start small! For example, "Bike Summer" where everyday in August there are actions from radical to mainstream
  • there are weather considerations in organizing a world day
  • need to work together, coordinate events - for example, the same model, on the same date, etc.
  • build on Bogota model, social aspects, rather than EU model
  • the egalitarian idea is not as acceptable in some areas
  • EU model too radical for some (N.A.)
  • involve UNESCO sights in event (coordination between UNEP and UNESCO)
  • at what level should coordination take place? municipalities (local)? Countries (national)? - maybe need one or both depending on the situation
  • is it necessary to have the same date worldwide (problems with weather, conflicting events? how do you choose a date? There is a danger it won't be seen as a whole
  • alternative: World Car-Free Day program, with alternative dates
  • it is important to have a step-by-step progression with the Bogota model in mind
  • develop measures of success
  • emphasize positive actions rather than being anti-car
  • make it a challenge between cities (fore example, reduction in emissions, most km given up, etc.)
  • criteria for sponsorship? - hard to point out; should be a local decision.
  • discussion of criteria should be ongoing, compiling a list of potential sponsors
  • framework and desiderata needed
  • more than one car free day per year is of course possible
  • make non-participation a faux-pas for the city - "everybody's doing it!"


  • the stories are good, particularly the one about cars attacking dogs


  • important for reaching people all over the world
  • beware of concentrating on the internet because of access difficulties in some countries
  • it can be used to influence more conservative people (given that the magazine is focused on activists)
  • linking website to other organizations, for example, Todd Litman runs a transit demand management website encyclopedia, it is an excellent source of information

Random thoughts

  • there is no engagement with the Prague community, but it is getting better, due, in part, to the conference
  • the office is too small so people can't come in and use it as a hangout place
  • some people are confused about the differences between CB-Prague and CB magazine

    Brainstorming on Future Directions/projects for Car Busters

    Evolution of Car Busters - general points:

    • annual network conference is necessary - pulling the different wings together
    • monthly summary of what each network group has done (designate a person to translate and send it)
    • A. Anon approach should be adapted to local conditions
    • international partnerships
    • decentralized distribution of labour
    • youth section (for fundraising)
    • coordinating activities with other groups / fundraising focus which requires partner organizations (see below)
    • bridge the perception Gap and demonstrate interconnectedness
    • balance of focus among the following: ecology; egalitarianism; transportation; quality of life
    • design competition in architecture schools
    • decentralized Car Busters (see below)
    • UN/intergovernmental organization
    • video game - "carbuster" funding opportunity
    • US foundations - www.activistcash.com - funding
    • professional video clip with translations
    • the "autosaurus" ad can be adapted
    • centralized resource for worldwide activism
    • Institute/Network as two distinct elements (see below)
    • program for drivers to reduce/end their car use, supported by the authorities, but less radical than Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), for example, autoholics.org
    • training courses for drivers who want to decrease/end car dependence
    • psychological research (for example, car drivers)
    • library: research, books, images/video, economic, socio-statistical data
    • translation of resources
    • newspoint - text/video
    • summaries for general public
    • solving potential conflicts between activists and lobbyists
    • speakers bureau: agent fee - grant funded
    • prepare campaigning tools - graphics, media kits, press releases, logos
    • accounting for the media response to Car Busters
    • making directory of interested parties
    • writing letters of support
    • comics, cartoons
    • World Car-Free Day coordination
    • grant writing
    • donations
    • connecting with other car-free people in your area
    • list of funders/relevant foundations
    • support for giving up driving
    • referral service with agent fees: architects, designers, green builders, etc.
    • slide shows and folk songs
    • Public service announcements (PSAs)
    • create a car-free syllabus with an education partner
    • humour/jokes


    • Car Busters - centralize the discussion groups among coalition members distributed across the planet
    • Car Busters can help make links with other green groups, explore the UN connection
    • governance from below
    • decisions can be made on the consensus model at the annual meeting
    • local groups can benefit from the "Car Busters" name for fund-raising, etc.
    • Central group would provide local groups with resources, such as a car-free kit
    • try to make local groups more effective
    • is good because lots of different things are going on
    • but still organizing international actions

    The name

    • it might scare people
    • it is good for activism, but also has negative connotations for other things
    • should the name be more professional?
    • how effective is it in communicating to the mainstream
    • the name is also good for youth, but others might perceive it as juvenile
    • the name should focus on mobility and accessibility, not necessarily cars, for example humanized mobility
    • it should have egalitarian focus
    • in Berlin, the name "car-free" is easily recognized, people know what it is about and "free" is a positive term
    • how do we want to be perceived, what is our mission statement?
    • Car Busters Europe or Car Free Europe and Car Busters International or Car Free International

    Car-Free Institute

    • an academic organization that would eventually be degree granting
    • 5-6 students, 2-3 teachers/researchers, there could also be grant writers for funding democratic board of directors
    • it would be a way to share experiences, information, etc. in a car-free place
    • An institute is important because design schools don't tend to think of who cities, just one building at a time
    • at the National Charette Institute - people gather together from the community over week to address problems in city design
    • what would be the difference/relationship between Car Busters and a car-free institute? This is important for the next phase of Car Busters
    • one possibility: Car Busters is a localized/decentralized network and the Car-Free Institute is international in scope and a resource for everyone
    • cars are an INTERNATIONAL PROBLEM so it should be addressed as such
    • do research about car drivers - what is their mindset?
    • teaching and research - immediate goal of a car-free institute
    • it would need a large budget for a physical building and money to pay researchers - it could receive this funding from rail, bike and bus companies
    • a car-free institute would need people who can organize
    • it can be the work of psychologists, media analysts, etc.
    • an institute is needed by activists for information
    • where would the institute go? a car-free city like Venice or one that is not
    • argument for Venice - you must be able to do research on how a car-free city works

    More Ideas

    • QUEST - program on the internet from Vancouver, BC - David Briggs did initial work
    • citizens talk about visions of the future and then you back-track to see how a city like this could be created
    • they have good listserv
    • ECO-CITY - just talking about cars is not enough: need overall environmental and human habitation to be addressed
    • we need to greater work between the concepts of eco-cities and car-free cities

    Media Skills Workshop

    Do-It-Yourself Media

    • Look for ways to be in the public eye that do not cost money to put on display: Street theatre, shadow puppets, pirate radio, flyers, posters...
    • How do you make sure one person doesn't have all the skills?
    • When working in a group, it is important to have a meeting structure that maintains equality among the participants
    • Training workshops for groups using the consensus model will protect against informal hierarchies, which prevent task sharing and skills sharing.
    • In addition, we must make sure that people who have a lot of media knowledge (for example, how to make a film) should hold informal training sessions for other members. Or, someone who does not have the specific knowledge can work alongside them to learn the necessary skills.
    • Get out and do it! If you don't know how to do something, you can learn it with persistence!

    Making Pirate Video and Community Radio/TV

    • If you need supplies you can try contacting local community stations because they might have free equipment for you to use.
    • Look for local funding sources (especially if you are a student)
    • Look for opportunities to swap radio/tv/video clips with other activists. Also, look for ways to share technology with other groups

    Mainstream Media

    • when you are dealing with mainstream media, don't get caught up by their questions, pick one main point of your event or action and answer every question in terms of that point. If you improvise too much, the media can really distort your message.

    "The Future of Car-Free Days"(day-long workshop)

    In this round-table intensive workshop, Diaz shared his ideas on how European cities could learn from The Bogota Programmw. In addition, the workshop allowed all those engaged in car-free days to share effective strategies and work together towards long-term change in European cities. Particularly invited for this session were partners and coordinators of the European Mobility Week and "In Town, Without My Car!" programmes.

    Key Points:
    Oscar Diaz will be meeting with the UN and the EU, and he would like to bring a letter of support from the participants in TCFC III conference (several people met after the session to write this letter)

    The goal of Diaz's meeting is to pass a joint declaration, supported by both the UN and EU, that the EU Car-Free day on September 22nd is a great thing. It is the only cohesive plan that has worked so far within the international car-free movement.

    The declaration is also meant to as a push toward the Bogota model of car-free days where the entire city is closed to cars, not just the city centre as is the case in Europe. Also, there are no exceptions to the Bogota mopdel, whereas the EU car-free day allows electric cars.

    The World Car-Free day on September 22nd - it is essential that the international community is unified and that all actions take place on the same day. Presently, countries have car-free days on different days and so it is not as powerful a movement as it could be if they all took place on the same day.

    Diaz will take a letter of support signed by the conference participants to his meeting with the UN and the EU next week. The letter endorses an International Car-Free Day on September 22nd of every year, rain or shine (or snow).

    Meeting Evaluation

    Directions/Orientation: Good
    Registration: Good
    Food: Yum/excellent...more fruit at breakfast


    • Latecomers Intro
    • Name tags
    • Ice Breaking - difficult

    Public Day

    • Czech NGOs not in press conference, too little time for presentations
    • The translation - very well done

    Walking tour

    • touristic so not in keeping with theme of conference; small groups would be better

    Transport Activism Video Night

    • video promoted not screened

    Critical Mass

    • Bonkers. Chaotic. In the wrong place. At the wrong time. At the wrong speed
    • cycling leadership not very sympathetic to riders in alerting them of where they are going and what they might need (helmets, lights and locks)

    "The Future of Car-Free Days"

    • confusing
    • not sure what the point
    • dominated suddenly by Oscar Diaz's World Car-Free Day proposal

    Strategy Sessions

    • Report back: good
    • Notes to meetings displayed: good
    • facilitation - neutral
    • non-native English speaking facilitators
    • structure - small groups repeated work
    • workshops not very practical
    • not much practical strategy for small groups
    • Lack direction
    • Best use of time?

    Assorted comments

    • provide list of requirements for conference (towel, etc.)
    • native English speakers should be more conscious of language difficulties
    • Hand signals - voting, asking to slow down, putting hands up
    • group discussion skills
    • task groups need more structure
    • co-ordination of materials
    • questions raised on List Serve by those absent
    • introductions - on paper compiled and ongoing in small groups/strategy sessions
    • discussion list - could have questions to steer/kick off/focus discussion
    • NGO involvement was not great - need balance (but not too many either!)
    • cultural X - very good ice breaker
    • discussion not focused on locality
    • acoustics not great
    • disabled MUST be accommodated
    • hard to catch up with changes of plans, especially the walking tour
    • didn't make use of the ecology of the ecological centre
    • changing times as we go along
    • need English dictionaries
    • morning meetings frequently late
    • Oscar Diaz was great
    • Good party, but were Vertigo very clever?
    • no strict segregation was nice


    • More "can we hear from someone we haven't heard from, please?"
    • Biking/walking tour in small groups with the NGOs.