On the Level- Car Free Blog

On the Level is a reference to remaining ‘down to Earth’ by deciding to forgo air travel.  It also refers to the prerequisite of a flat grade for rail transport and the benefit of one for bicycle transport.   The blog attempts to be a progressive discussion about the reality of transport and atmospheric damage happening right now in the 21st Century, and what the hell we’re going to do about it.

About the blogger:
Josh Hart was born in 1976 in Stuttgart, Germany the so-called “cradle of the automobile” where Porsches and Mercedes are manufactured.  Obviously, he’s not too fond of these estranged members of his extended family.  The son of a ballerina and a former oil company executive, he grew up in the suburbs south of San Francisco, studying social psychology as an undergraduate at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he started cycling to his classes. Shocked by the horrific impact of heavy car dependence on quality of life in the seaside town, he gave up his Volkswagen for good and began to campaign for environmental and social change.

He has worked as a professional transportation planning advocate for the last ten years in San Francisco, first as project coordinator for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and then as program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.  He obtained his MSc in Transport Planning at UWE Bristol in 2008, and completed research entitled Driven to Excess, presenting the social and quality of life impacts of automobile traffic on local residents.  The research was covered in over 100 international media outlets including the BBC, the Guardian, Tehran Times, and the Daily Mail.

His writing has appeared in Surveyor Magazine, Walk Magazine, Make Magazine, Carbusters and Lonely Planet’s recent anthology Flightless: Incredible Journeys without Leaving the Ground.

Josh has given up flying and car ownership, because it’s just wrong.  Plus he hates airline food and oil changes.
You can e-mail him at joshuanoahhart [at] gmail [dot] com

The header for this blog depicts the underground bicycle parking garage in Groningen, Netherlands.   The facility parks up to 6000 bicycles, cost 10m Euro, and offers round the clock valet bicycle parking, bike repair, rentals, and transit and route advice.   The red bike paths go everywhere in the town, and get priority over motor traffic.  With the respect given to cyclists, it’s not surprising that 60% of the City’s trips are made by bike.  You can read more about my visit to the town here.

9 responses to “About

  1. Yes mate, nicely done, im with you!

  2. one of my most avid fans has lost his 7″, he thinks you may be responsible. how do you plead?

  3. Just something I thought you may want to use – it came from The Australian (a news limited paper!) http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au – I don’t know if it would apply to the UK roads.
    I would imaging it would be worth using given the attitudes of car drivers to cyclists and pedestrians. I am writing a comment on it in my blog, but thought you may be interested in it.

    It is here as follows:
    The cost of free parkingFont Size: Decrease Increase Print Page: Print Christian Seibert | June 19, 2008
    HOUSING affordability, cutting greenhouse emissions and easing the rising cost burden on low-income families are the issues of the day across the country.

    Congestion in our cities is a problem and encouraging public transport use is also a challenge.

    People are looking to the Rudd Government to address these challenges but, for all the discussion taking place, one factor linked to all these policy challenges has been overlooked. It relates to the minimum parking regulations that are a standard component of the urban planning frameworks of our cities.

    In 2005, Donald Shoup, an economist and professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, published a book titled The High Cost of Free Parking, which provided important insights into problems associated with minimum parking regulations.

    These regulations dictate the minimum amount of off-street parking spaces that any urban development must provide. They are meant to ensure there is an adequate supply of off-street parking for the additional cars that will be attracted to the development, minimising any spillover of cars parking on surrounding streets.

    Most off-street parking provided in our cities in accordance with minimum parking regulation is free, but it is a mistake to think that because drivers don’t pay, nobody pays.

    By requiring a development to provide a minimum amount of off-street parking, the cost of providing this parking is bundled into the cost of development. This then is passed on to the public through increases in the cost of all goods and services sold at sites that offer free parking.

    This has various ill effects. First, so-called free parking distorts transport choices because by bundling the cost of parking into the prices of goods and services, the true cost of driving a car is hidden and it appears relatively cheaper to drive compared with walking, cycling or taking public transport.

    For example, if you had to pay $2 up-front whenever you parked at your local shopping centre, you would think twice before driving and you might instead decide to walk, cycle or take public transport.

    By encouraging car use in this way, it makes it harder to promote the use of public transport and contributes not only to congestion but also the greenhouse emissions caused by car use.

    Second, free parking makes housing more expensive because residential developments are also required to provide a minimum amount of off-street parking. Although the regulations vary, houses are often required to have two parking spaces. This increases the cost of owning or renting a home. When you consider the cost of land in our cities, providing two parking spaces can be very expensive.

    Even if you don’t own a car or own only one car, you still need to be provided with the two parking spaces, in which case you have to pay for something you don’t want and won’t use. Given the problem of housing affordability, it doesn’t make sense tohave regulations that increase housing costs and don’t benefit people whodon’t have a car or don’t need two car spaces.

    Third, free parking harms those on low incomes. Increases in prices, caused by bundling the cost of parking into the cost of goods and services, have a disproportionate effect on those on low incomes. According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, those on low incomes own fewer cars and therefore benefit less from the availability of off-street parking when compared with those on high incomes. The rising cost burden, especially on low-income families, is a big problem, and it doesn’t seem right to have regulations that increase the cost of goods and services such as everyday groceries and also make those on low incomes subsidise the car use of those on high incomes.

    If these are some of the problems caused by minimum parking regulations, surely the solution is to remove these superfluous regulations. Many developments would still provide off-street parking, but it would be provided on the basis of commercial considerations and it is likely that considerably less would be provided than is the case at present. This would result in some spillover of cars parking on surrounding streets, putting pressure on the limited supply of on-street parking available in our cities.

    The best way to manage this increased demand for on-street parking would be to charge a market price for on-street parking, a price that matches the demand for parking with the limited supply. There are several ways such a new pricing system could be implemented. Local governments could manage it themselves or on-street parking effectively could be privatised, with local government leasing on-street parking to private entrepreneurs who would then manage it.

    Given that parking regulation is linked to so many of the policy challenges facing Australia, there is a strong argument to comprehensively reform it. It is a national issue, requiring a national response ideally as part of a broader reform of urban policy in Australia.

    Christian Seibert is a Melbourne economist. His article, “There’s no such thing as a free parking space”, is in Policy magazine

  4. So Cruising is definately for you then?

    • Oh you know me- conspicuous consumption to excess…. now I just need a BMW to drive around and around the deck during the crossing 😉

  5. your protest on Fell st. is so moronic… what, you want to come down on automobile owners? get real! and if you want to protest BP, take that silly “we are with pelicans” sign to the Gulf. and while you are it, get a shave!

  6. no, not everyone lives and works within a radius of 2 blocks like you probably do. so lay off your fanatic pro-bike mantra. you only sound loud and screechy, not at all effective. what do you think this country is, Sweden or Denmark?

  7. richard Preuhs

    Do you know any ant-car advocacy groups i could join?
    I am tired of these cars ruining the landscape. Ruining the quality of life.

    i unfortunately live in the US where everybody thinks it is their right to drive a Suburban.

    I am sick and tired of arguing with irate drivers about my right to share a public road.

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