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Toward Car-Free Cities III Conference Report (Draft/incomplete attempt)

Wendy Brawer of greenmap.org gave me a bunch of greenmaps from around the world before I left for the conference, and asked for a report when I got back. Here's the report! The conference was March 17-22, 2003, in Prague, Czech Republic. http://carbusters.ecn.cz/conference/

Added by colin #442 on 2003-06-18. Last modified 2008-03-06 18:00. Originally created 2003-06-18. F0 License: Attribution
Location: World
Topics: activism, building the carfree city, community, education, grants, media: visual: photography, Our Culture, planned cities, policy development, TCFCIII, urban planning, World Carfree Network
: important, photos

What is the best use of our time? I'll do something inspired by Roger Schank's Engines for Education .

Start by selecting the description below that is closest to the perspective with which you're viewing the site. If an important perspective is missing, please suggest it .

What possible roles could the reader be in?

Just curious...

Prospective attendee...

Carfree movement researcher...

Looking to collaborate... (not written- view the participant's list )

Wannabe activist... (not written)

Devotee of the author...

David Ceaser

Just curious...

I'm surfin'. Show me the cool things.

  • A list of participating organizations and their web sites
  • Alexey's pictures: TCFC Conference , Views of Prague , Trams of Prague , Views of/from Toulcuv Dvur (where we stayed while in Prague, and where much of the conference was held)
  • Orest's pictures
  • Marcus Heller's Autofrei leben in Europa presentation , Marcus' site also in english
  • Randy's Fes presentation: transcript , Fes pictures . Randy had many more pictures than that, but those will give you some idea of what the slideshow was like.
  • Ell and her film Green Gold as well as her co-MC'ing of Kino Aero day.
  • Benji's presentation of Green City Munich , including blade night , tree parade , and a street life festival / car-free day .
  • Oscar Edmundo Diaz's presentation of Dia Sin Carro en Bogota. No transcript yet. Why was it cool? They made the entire city carfree for one day. They also built many bike paths and a nice bus system. They weren't doing it for the environment, but to create a more egalitarian society. Diaz had many great stories about what was involved in making this happen. Most recently Diaz has been working with ITDP and also, I believe, on a UN World Carfree Day program .
  • Todd Edelman, an American who has started a Czech NGO , and who lives in Prague because he can take his dogs on the subway... and also something about saving his people from the car/truck-induced holocaust.
  • Kino Aero day, where some people gave presentations in English and others in Czech, and there were headphones you could plug in at each seat in the theatre to hear the translation.
  • Email list archives , old list home page , new list home page
  • Carbusters' conference page
  • Lars Gemzoe's presentation of how Copenhagen has been transformed from a car-infested to a (more) people-friendly place over the past 30 years.
  • The Introduction of several Prague NGOs at Kino Aero day.
  • The evaluation at the end; Resolutions and attempts at/to encourage/allow non-native English speakers & women to speak. Checking in with the women and alternatively orientated (?) to ascertain if harrasment/ other problems may have occurred.
  • Conference attendees, what else was cool? Torching a cardboard effigy of a car during the critical mass bike ride. Piotr. Pete. The raw-food vegan (Marcin?). Desislava from Sofia. The urban planner from Istanbul (Kevser). "How to Level a Curb" by Green Action Zagreb. The crazy guy who's planning to build a carfree city in the US. Ed. The guy from Romania (Vlad or Florin?). The women in black. Velophilosophie. The Russians. Chocolate/carob bean pods from Croatia(?). Learning the folk dance? Oleg's (?) and others' collecting of bicycles for conference use. Prague? Podoli Plaveky Stadion? Jason. Jessica. Kirstin's mom. Ralf from the Netherlands.
  • What wasn't cool? Those damn undercover transit police and the honor system... Wishing I had told the cooks I was a raw foodist too!


Prospective attendee

Why should I go?

The best thing about it is that you'll be around others from around (part of) the world who share your opinion about cars and are working on doing something about it in different ways-- often in ways you hadn't thought of.

For one week you will be at a sort of celebration of anti-carness...

It can also be an opportunity to explore a new place and meet new people.

I'm an urban planner, not an activist primarily-- is there good info for me?

In spite of it being a sort of "activist" conference, there was a large number of presenters and attendees that someone in the planning world would benefit learning from. You might take a more focused approach to the conference though, than simply going to everything.

I'm a rabid activist. Are there too many suits there for me?

Amazingly there was quite a range of people, including some who wear suits and who are professionals in the planning world or in politics. But you won't be disappointed by the activists.

How is the food?

A lot of people liked it. For me, I would have told them I was a raw food vegan to get more fruit and uncooked veggies.

The place to stay?


The price?

For TCFCIII, it was hard to beat.

Why shouldn't I go?

You might have to fly on an airplane! Or, if you can do a greater good by staying where you are.

I'm from Africa / US / South America. What's there for me?

The conference and carbusters has a definite focus on Eastern Europe. Still, useful things can be learned (Markus says, "no, also north america (or better: the english speaking world, western europe also)"). In the long-run each area should have its own organizations and conferences that can be better focused on their region, in addition to cutting travel distances.

Will there ever be an internet version of the conference? I really don't want to fly.

There was talk of that, and ideally the internet could be used to better disseminate conference proceedings and allow wider participation. This is one effort along those lines.

I ride a recumbent. Does anyone else?

Amazingly recumbents have yet to catch on among this crowd. But you could be an evangelist for recumbency and perhaps strategize how to get more people on those kinds of bikes.

Carfree movement researcher

  • Is there any hope?


  • Can these people be stopped?

    No. Car-infestation is making more of them all the time.

  • What ideas and concepts introduced at the conference?
    • EU admission very often means more large-scale road projects in that country (such as a super-highway running through it).
    • Carfreeness for egalitarian not environmental reasons (Bogota)
    • Large-scale transformation of existing cities is possible (Bogota, Copenhagen)
  • What major initiatives were discussed?
    • Formation of a world carfree network and a change in carbusters' role to being primarily a facilitator of this network.
    • The ecocity movement seems to have had an impressive conference that is continuing on-line.
  • What challenges does the movement face?
  • What is the quality of leadership?
  • How diverse is the movement?
  • How diverse are its approaches to the goal?
  • How stable is the movement?
  • Is the movement growing? Why?
  • How likely is a carfree city?
  • What other main concepts surfaced at the conference?

I'm interested in the author's perspectives.

  • What did you think of Prague?
  • Why did you go to the conference?
  • What effect did the conference have on you?
  • What memorable people did you meet?

In February I was accepted to attend the TCFCIII conference. I had been in a rut in NYC, and planning a trip to Prague made me realize I didn't want to return! So one of the effects of the conference was helping me to leave NYC. I had recently become more active in carfree work, by assisting with http://carfreecity.us , and beginning construction of carfreeuniverse. I was eager to meet David Ceaser (one of the leaders behind carfreecity.us), Randy Ghent of carbusters.org, and others who shared my desire for auto-free city-space. The following posts to the BuildACarFreeCity and carfree_cities lists express my excitement and enthusiasm at the time: Re: Carfree Times #29; Karen Mell; freestateproject.org , Re: help us get the word out , Re: Funding Idea , how can I help? .

By the time I left for the conference, I was moved out of the room I had been renting, and I had given notice at my job. When I would return, after the war had started, I would work for two weeks and then bicycle to my parents' house in northern Virginia, where I am writing this now.

The Idealists

Who are the leaders of the carfree movement? How do they maintain their joy in living in the face of such a difficult goal? I often think of being a carfree activist or a peace activist as comparable to banging one's head against a wall.

I arrived in Prague after a long plane flight, and after getting an exemption from the endless security line because I had been late for departure. I walked into Prague from the airport, to see if I could tell the difference from the place I had left. It was chilly, the sky was grey, I passed some children and apartment buildings. I passed some pizza places. I came upon a place where they practiced traditional building (thatched roofs, post & beam, and mud/cob construction). I came upon a large, white, star-shaped building with a tall, pointy roof surrounded by a large formal woods. I rested. The women talking to their children reminded me of French. One dropped the pants of her little boy so he could water one of the rose bushes. Walking into town along a street car line, I found an atm and got the 4,000 kroner I needed. Eventually I came over a hill and to some churches, where there were no cars. I peered in a church with locked doors, and watched for minutes what looked like a frozen, glamorized, undersea scene, with twining wooden columns suggesting seaweed, with neptune-like male figures floating on top wearing crowns with long gold points spreading in the manner of sunflower petals. A serpentine sea-scene.

Who on earth would make a church like that, and why?

Who on earth would make Times Square, or a sky scraper, or NYC, and why? Why weren't new buildings made that way? How was it that these old buildings could be built that way?

I passed over the hill and looked down on Prague for the first time.

How is it that they can have a city like this, and now, we do not?

I rested and watched the town below and the Italians walking up the hill for a long time. The old, carfree part of town was empty of people. In the distance, I saw a black sculpture wall of bodies. I saw sculptures of huge muscled men and animals killing eachother. I eventually made my way into town and found a place to sleep near a restaurant, on an island, alongside the river.

What did I learn at the conference?

I'm getting burnt out on writing this, already?

I learned this:

I do not wish to live in Prague. They have taken a city that was made before there were cars, and let cars in. It is too cold for me. While car-busters makes fun of SUV-driving, overweight Americans, there were plenty of out-of-shape Czechs (even among those at the pool, Plavecky Stadion Podoli). I now think of the yoga mat toting women of NYC, Central Park looking like a foot race every weekend morning (when it's closed to cars), or Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, California, USA.

Who are these crazy activists, what is their story?

I met the gods of carfree activism. They appear to be calmly and persistently working away.

What am I self-censoring?


I met David Ceaser, Randy Ghent, Jason Kirkpatrick, Kristen Miller, and others whose names I could and should look up. An awesome woman from Hungary, a woman urban planner from Istanbul, Markus Heller , an architect in Berlin.

what are the main points that would interest me?

main points that would interest others?

Colin Leath <>    

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