Towards Carfree Cities: San Franciscans in the house

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Steven T. Jones reports from the Towards Carfree Cities conference in Portland.
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A Portland street corner.

San Francisco has a large contingent here at the Towards Carfree Cities conference. And judging from the size and engagement of the crowd at the “Battle for San Francisco (1992-2008): From Critical Mass to Congestion Pricing” workshop that some of us just presented, people around the world are carefully watching what we’re doing.

I moderated a panel made up of author and activist Chris Carlsson, geography professor Jason Henderson, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum, and Dave Snyder, the transportation policy director for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

Other San Francisco area presenters have included architect David Baker talking about “Better Living through Density,” Mike Smith with NextBus, activist Jason Meggs on trolleys, Henderson of freeway revolts, and Gus Yates of Berkeley-based Carfree USA, who gave a fascinating presentation on how Treasure Island could be a carfee project and what he was told by the developers when he presented the idea (I’ll do a post on that later).

In our session, Snyder described how and why the activism of cyclists has driven the larger carfree movement: “The bicycle movement is where it’s at in terms of community organization.” But all agreed that promotion of the bicycle as a viable urban transportation option is a means to larger ends. As Carlsson said, “Bicycling is not the end, but it’s a piece to the larger movement.”

The discussion was really interesting and I hope to include a link to the audio from the session in the next few days. But in the meantime, here’s a report on the conference from Snyder, who has been working within this movement for more than 15 years.