The Politics of Masochism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/12/2019 - 6:48pm in

American voters are exceptionally good at voting against their own interests about a host of issues.

£70 Bn Black Hole in Tory Spending Pledges

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 3:36am in

Despite all the Tory bluster, as Mike has pointed out Labour’s spending plans are properly costed and have the support of 163 leading economists. They have sent a letter to the Independent stating their support, saying

It seems clear to us that the Labour party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them.

We believe it deserves to form the next government.

Labour spending plans are backed by leading economists

The Tories, however, have always claimed that they are the party of proper fiscal responsibility, who truly understand economics. In contrast to profligate, spendthrift Labour, they can be trusted with wise, frugal expenditure.

So how do their manifesto pledges stand up?

Not well. According to an article in Tuesday’s I, they’ve got a black hole to the tune of £ 70 bn in theirs.

The article by Hugo Gye reads

The Conservatives face a £70bn black hole in their spending plans after making a string of manifesto promises without explaining how to pay for them.

Boris Johnson has pledged to build dozens of hospitals, create a new rail network and set up a hi-tech “gigafactory” to make electric cars. He is also promising national insurance cuts, a new system of social care and relief for indebted students. None of his policies is costed in the party manifesto revealed on Sunday. They add up to £52.2bn in added capital investment, and an extra £20.6bn on the annual bill for day-to-day spending, according to figures calculated by I.

The Conservative manifesto proposed a rise in day-to-day spending of £2.9 bn as well as £3.6bn in tax cuts. But it also contained a number of policies with no price tag attached.

The biggest is Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new network linking Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds, which will cost £39 bhn. Other promised capital projects not costed by the manifesto include building 40 new hospitals and the construction of a gigafactory to make eco-friendly vehicles.

Tory sources said future investment plans would be funded by a £100 bn pot of capital expenditure, only £22 bn of which has so far been allocated to specific projects. The shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, “With no evidence behind any of their figures, it looks like the Conservatives’ fake news approach applies to their manifesto too.”

The deputy Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, added: “Boris Johnson’s relationship with numbers has all the hallmarks of his relationship with the truth – nonexistent.”

That’s precisely how it seems to me.

The fact that these pledges are not costed suggests very strongly to me that, like his promise to build 40 new hospitals, they’re lies. The Tories have no intention of honouring them. They’re only interested in slashing welfare spending and privatising the NHS and anything else they can get their hands on for the benefit of their rich corporate donors, Donald Trump and the American private healthcare industry, and the hedge funds. And they are going to wreck this country to do so.

Don’t be fooled by them. Labour really stands for restoring the welfare state, public infrastructure and the NHS. And it’s all properly costed.

They are the party of economic sense. Not the loony, lying Tories.

Prof Simon on the Technology of Blade Runner that Exists Today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/11/2019 - 7:42am in

This is another fascinating video from Professor Simon Holland. As I said in an earlier blog piece, November 2019 is the date Ridley Scott’s SF classic Blade Runner is set, based on the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. Prof Simon here examines some of the technology that has now been developed, which is similar to that of the movie. This includes robots, flying cars and ‘a polaroid which allows you to see round corners’.

He begins with robots, stating that most of them have been developed by the pornography industry. These are the Real Dolls, androids which have been designed to look like real women. There’s a few photographs of these, shown with their owners or manufacturers. Mercifully, both have their clothes on. But some have also been developed by the military, and these, Prof Simon says, comparing them to Blade Runner’s replicants, are scarier. The robots shown at this point are the humanoid – roughly – and quadrupedal machines developed by the American firm, Boston Dynamics. A gun-toting humanoid robot shows its shooting skills in a range out in the deserts. Despite being repeatedly struck and pushed over by a man with a hockey stick, the robot manages to hit its target. When the pistol it’s using runs out of ammo, they throw it a rifle, which it catches with both hands and then proceeds to use. Another humanoid robot is shown carefully walking along a stony path simulating rough terrain, while one is also shown trying to pick up a box while another man with a hockey stick knocks the box away and tries to knock the robot over.  The quadrupedal robots include the Big Dog machine and related robots, which got their name because they look somewhat like headless mechanical dogs. Big Dog was designed for carrying equipment, and one is shown with four saddlebags walking around trying not to be forced over. Two lines of similar machines are shown pulling a truck.

The ‘polaroid that sees round corners’ is also shown, and it appears to be a mobile app. He also shows photographs of a number of flying cars that have been developed. As for the taxis on demand that appear in the movie, he quips that he’ll just call Uber.

But he also raises the important point about why our expectations of the future are inaccurate. He argues that it’s because we’ve forgotten how very different the world was back in the 1960s when the book was written. This is shown through another set of photographs of the fashion of the period, though I think they come more from the 1970s. Certain the pic of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John from Saturday Night Fever does. He goes on to point out how we have technology that was unknown when he was growing up – computers are everywhere and cursive handwriting a thing of the past. We evolve into the future, rather than making quantum leaps into it. He also cheerfully observes that he shares a Blade Runner obsession with his younger, near-lookalike, Adam Savage.

At the end of the video he examines an interesting photo he’s been sent by a viewer. This is a photo of the Earth from space, with a mark that looks like a UFO. But it isn’t. Unlike today’s digital cameras, those used by the astronauts used photosensitive film, which could get marked and spoiled by dust. This is what’s happened to the photo here.

Prof Simon is a genial, entertaining host, and it’s fascinating that some of the technology featured in Blade Runner is being developed. Scientists and engineers have been working on the flying cars since the 1990s, and one of the tech firms has said that they intend to put them into service as flying taxis next year. This seems unlikely. Critics have pointed out that the noise generated by their engines would be colossal, making their use very unpopular. Living in a city in which they were in general operation would be like living in an airport. The SF artist and book illustrator, Jim Burns, also comments on one of his paintings, which show such cars in use, that there are prohibitive safety aspects. What about accidents? Nobody would like to be around when it starts raining bits of aircar and body parts.

The robots we’ve developed are different from Blade Runner’s replicants, which are artificial, genetically engineered creatures, and therefore biological rather than simply technological. We’re nowhere near creating anything that complex. The military robots instead remind me of the machines from Robocop and the ABC Warrior from the ’90s movie, Judge Dredd, in which Megacity 1’s toughest lawman was played by Sylvester Stallone, as well as the robots in Chappie, which came out a few years ago. Despite the very impressive sophistication of these machines, however, they mercifully aren’t as intelligent as humans. This means we don’t have to worry about the world of 2000 AD’s ‘ABC Warriors’ or the Terminator movies becoming reality quite yet. But even so, watching these machines walk, move and shoot is disturbing, demonstrating their lethal potential and efficiency as fighting machines. Looking at them, I think the fears many scientists and members of the lay public have about them as a potential threat to the human race are justified.

3D Imaging Technology Inspired by Star Wars’ Holochess

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 4:37am in

This is awesome. This video from What the Future on the CNET channel on YouTube discusses Voxon Photonics VXI device. As the video’s host, talking to the company’s CEO, Gavin Smith, explains, this is a that uses a volumetric display to create three dimensional images. However, the device isn’t holographic, like its fictional inspiration in Star Wars, nor does it use Virtual Reality. Smith explains that it uses a very rapidly moving screen on which the image is built up in layers like a 3D printer. The screen moves too rapidly for the eye to follow it, and so the layers all blur into one image. At the moment, the device has a transparent cover to stop people reaching into the image. However, this isn’t necessary and the screen isn’t moving fast enough to do any harm.

The device debuted at the Tokyo Fair in 2018, and has found a number of applications. It comes with various devices that can rotate or otherwise manipulate the image. It’s been used for gaming, medical imagining, education at universities and schools, cars and video conferencing. However, the machine currently retails at $9,800 so they recognise it’s not a consumer device just yet. However, it’s price compares with that of other technologies when they first appeared.

Although it hasn’t happened yet, Smith and his company would like it to feature in the context that inspired it. They’d like it to appear in the Millennium Falcon at Disneyworld as a working holochess table, and they’ve devised a version that would make it possible. This uses a helical spinning screen rather than the type of screen the device normally uses.

This is absolutely amazing. When I was growing up, the SF predicted that we’d have 3D TV, but this definitely hasn’t happened so far. But with this device, we could be well on the way. As Max Headroom said when he briefly reappeared to do the channel ident for Channel 4,, ‘The future is now!’

Fuelfed car show - 10/27/2019 - Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/10/2019 - 11:32pm in



Here are the rest of the photos from the Fuelfed car show from last Sunday, 10/27/19 in Winnetka, Illinois.

Early in the show, I was framing up a Jaguar, trying to fit the whole car in the frame, when a car rolled through my shot. I immediately shat myself, because it was unmistakably a Lancia Delta Integrale: the legendary rally champion, in Martini livery no less. Lancias are rare in the U.S. They were briefly sold here under the Fiat brand, but you basically never ever see them, no matter how many vintage events you go to.
The Delta Integrale's dash.

The only thing that could me more trouser-moisteningly great than seeing a Delta Integrale in the flesh would be a Lancia Stratos. The Delta was based on the Delta consumer model, but the Stratos was Lancia's purpose-built rally car that looks like a spaceship. It is the coolest looking thing ever created by humans.

It was once the case that headlights were a single, replaceable unit. These were called "sealed beam" headlights, and they were generally round or square. The look of a round light recessed into an elliptical (or nearly so) housing is hard to improve upon. With the development of hallogen, LED or other just-replace-the-bulb modern headlights, the housing itself is intended to be permanent, and is worked into the shape of the grille or whatever. They can be any random, arbitrary shape, and the car manufacturers have taken advantage of this fact by making headlights any crazy, random shape they can think of. This is just one way in which the majority of current cars are overstyled and visually cluttered. By way of example, go look at a 2019 Honda Civic Si, and then look at this Dino. Grace and balance has been abandoned for hyperactive aggression for its own sake. This is awful.
The Ferrari Dino that makes stout-hearted men swoon.

It's hard to stop shooting a Dino. Every angle is basically a work of art.

This photo makes clear the poor quality of the 1985 Tokina lens I was shooting with. The highlight the the lower left explodes into a soft bloom of pale orange light. If your objective is to capture reality as your eye sees it, this is terrible. But, your phone's camera can do that. Every inexpensive kit lens can do that, too. This filthy old Tokina, which, technically speaking, could use a good thirty-year cleaning, adds goldness and pinkness, and exaggerates bright light in a trippy, dreamy way. It's my current favorite.

A De Tomaso Pantera is an Italian chassis with a  Ford V8 in the back.
The engine compartment of a Pantera is pretty weird. Huge V8, with the transmission behind it, but now drive shaft exiting the trans where it normally would. Instead, there are two half shafts going out the sides to drive the wheels. There is a surprising amount of room in the engine bay, because the bulk of the motor is just in front of the wheels. I imagine everything other than the most basic service is an engine-out procedure, which, by the looks of it, would be easier than in your average car.

I hadn't seen those wheels before. On a 911, they look great, properly dished under the huge RSR-style fender flares. The owner and his wife were debating swapping them back to OEM. I did my best to reassure them there were enough bone-stock 911s rolling around already.

The Volvo P1800 is up there with the Ferrari Dino at the top of the this-design-will-always-look-good Olympic podium. They're also mechanically simple and relatively easy to maintain. These can still be found for less than twenty thousand dollars... for now.

I'm not an off-road guy, but I'm pretty sure this is a Land Rover Defender, in its naturaly state of "kinda dirty".
A 1974 Jensen Interceptor. I'm pretty sure this car has a 7.2 liter V8. Even if it's "only" the 5.9 or 6.3 version, they always sound amazing.

You're right, badge. It is.
Add caption

Mercedes 300SL. This one should be one of the later, non-gullwing '57-'63 roadster models. Don't care. Still pretty. Actually, the gullwing versions are said to be too warm inside. The gullwing doors are to blame for that. As with any gullwing door, it's difficult to engineer them with a proper roll-down window mechanism. This little niggle is easily enough addressed by just taking the top off entirely. More affordable, too.

Porsche 356. Visually, this car pretty clearly bridges the gap between the VW Karmann-Ghia and the Porsche 911.

You don't see grille badges much any more, except on vintage cars. That's a shame.
This is the same Lamborghini Countach that I saw two weeks previously at the Then & Now show in Lake Forest. So, only one shot of it here. Unlike at the Lake Forest show, the doors were open, because there was no threat of rain.
Love this color. I don't know the factory paint designation for the color, but it person it was more apple green than lime green. The yellow fog light covers really looked good against it. If I ever were to get a car painted, making a change from a factory color, it'd be something like this.

Fuelfed car show - 10/27/2019 - Part 1

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/10/2019 - 11:57pm in



Yesterday (Oct 27, 2019) was the final show of Fuelfed's regular season. As with the Then & Now Lake Forest car show, I was recruited to be one of five drivers, helping a friend drive six of his collection to the show. This time, I got to drive a Morris Minor. Since he prefers convertibles, and for them to be viewed in their natural state with the top down, everyone wisely dressed for the weather. It started at 46 degrees, but eventually warmed up to a terrific 60 degrees. The light was great, the trees were doing their thing, and my 1985 Tokina 28-85 lens with the haze problem once again spent the whole day on the front of my camera. Man, I really love this dirty, slightly broken, not-very-sharp lens. It was worth every penny of the twenty-nine bucks I spent on it.
Part 1 of the photos today. The rest tomorrow. Since this is the internet, I don't need to tell you the rule of pictures, which is click it to big it, baby.
Loads of rain overnight gave it up by 4am, as the weather guy had predicted. Puddles and 46 degrees merited no complaints from anyone.

Thankfully, there was a Dino rolling in. The one-time unwelcome "not a real Ferrari" has finally gotten the respect it deserves. A good design ages well. Everyone who noticed the Dino going by and went "Awwww, the Dino's here!"

Red (orange, actually) car at the the back is a Saab Sonnet. Green one in the middle is a Volvo P1800. The yellow one in the foreground is a Citroen 2CV, or if you want to sound fancy "deux chevaux".

If you can believe it, the 2CV was manufactured from 1948 to 1990. As is
common with French cars, it's quirky, yes, but also terribly clever. You can
do almost anything to the car with only a few hand tools. They were designed
to help motorize those in rural France. So, they were very cheap, very easy
to work on, and had to be able to carry produce to market over roads or across
farm fields.
Long before Volvo decided "Let's make cars that are fuck ugly!", they made the P1800. Originally a coupe, this is a shooting-brake version introduced a little later. They're gorgeous and reliable. A 1966 P1800S holds the world record for longest service life of a car: 1.69 million miles.
Saab has always done their own thing. This is a Saab Sonnett III. Fiberglass body, unique styling,
and nutty colors. This one is orange, but there were other fun colors like avocado green. Why be boring?

A Lancia Fulvia! You don't see these very often. As Mercedes has their AMG, and BMW has ///M, Lancia's performance division was HF. This stood for "High Fidelity", meaning that their cars let the driver feel the road with "perfect fidelity". Their mascot character for the HF cars was a red elephant called "Elefantino", of course. Why an elephant? Lancia was big into rallying, where speed is important, but so is reliability. An elephant may take a while to get running, but can't be stopped until it wants to. ...or so goes the Lancia HF legend.

A dog. Value and collectability varies by whether she is a Very Good Dog and whether or not he has had her shots.

In America, the E-Type Jag was called the "XKE". When it was released in 1961, Enzo Ferrari called it "the most beautiful car ever made".

This Jaguar was sort of a plum purple color, which was a nice change from the typical conservative colors you see them in,
Personal favorite Jag wheels.

A Devon.

Another Volcvo P1800, in coupe configuration.

This is a Delahaye - an American brand famous for it's very swoopy art deco creations of the 1930's. I'm not very familiar, but I think this is a Delahaye 135. Maybe someone will comment and correct me?

Mercedes 300 SL.

A BMW 2002.

A old air-cooled 911 with really interesting Rotiform wheels.

The Cars That Ate Paris, by Stephen Pascoe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/10/2019 - 2:11pm in

There’s a feeling that has been gnawing at me for a long time now.1 Each time I go to the petrol station, take out the bowser and start to fill the tank of our family car, an overwhelming sense of guilt, dread and wastefulness comes over me. I can’t stop thinking about the profligacy embedded in this routine act of daily life: the energy-intensive life cycle of extracting, refining and transporting this oil halfway across the globe; the insanity of burning it for one’s personal mobility; the perilous environmental consequences of the carbon emissions from it; and the billion or so other vehicles like mine on the roads of the world.2

Yet here I am, along with my family, locked in this toxic relationship with the bowser, and with the internal combustion engine. Once upon a time, living in the inner city of Melbourne, we survived without a car. We took public transport, or we walked. Occasionally we borrowed a car to go shopping, or to get out of town. Being a carless household was difficult, but possible, in that particular urban environment. Now we live in the wide expanses of southern California: the infamously centreless, ever-expanding suburban periphery with its endless seas of cars pulsing on its prodigious freeways, and its vast tracts of housing built on the assumption of universal car ownership. Here, trying to survive without a car would be socially suicidal; and the imagining of alternatives feels near impossible.

Our quotidian reliance on the automobile is but one example of a more generalised politics of complicity that characterises our relationship to the making of an uninhabitable earth.3 By a ‘politics of complicity’ I mean the condition of being wholly aware of one’s participation in a destructive system, knowing the seriousness of this participation, but feeling powerless to do otherwise. This condition permeates nearly every practice of contemporary life, from using electricity powered by fossil fuels to travelling on aeroplanes, consuming meat and dairy products or negotiating the layers of plastic that wrap our material lives and suffocate the food chains on which we rely. Being complicit means being called upon to perform continuous, small acts of ecological destruction in order to satisfy a basic requirement, or as a precondition for participation in social life. Yet our complicity is unevenly distributed. It can be mixed up with virtuousness, such as when a vegan purchases jackfruit ‘crab’ cakes or plant-based ‘beyond meat’ burger patties, only to discover that their food is packaged in multiple, unrecyclable layers of plastic. Or we can be subject to competing complicities: is it better for me to draft this essay on recycled paper or to plug into a computer powered by coal-fired electricity?

In searching for a way out of the debilitating malaise of the present moment, we can look usefully to the frameworks of earlier generations of radical environmental critique. Alan Roberts (1925–2017), the Australian physicist and ecological theorist in whose honour this essay is written, provided one such example in his prescient and far-reaching critique of the bases of contemporary consumerism. While several strands of Roberts’ thought are of lasting significance to our present climate emergency, it is his politicising consumption from an environmental set of principles that I have chosen to draw on in the present essay.4 In The Self-Managing Environment, a collection of essays published in 1979, Roberts combined insights from Marx and Marcuse to argue that we had entered the ‘consumerist stage’ in the history of capitalism, a period based on a ‘majority dependence of the economy on prior and intensive shaping of the mass of consumers’.5 The atomised form of social life expressed through the nuclear family had led to the proliferation of energy-intensive lifestyles based on individual household units: domestic appliances, television sets, motor cars and various other gadgetries had become falsely synonymous with the ‘good life’.6 Consumerism had soullessly but effectively reduced the individual to his or her act of purchasing on the market, in place of more satisfying forms of social exchange. Identifying the emptiness and alienation at the heart of capitalism was a familiar refrain of Marxian cultural criticism; Roberts’ great contribution was to tease out the environmental implications of late-twentieth-century capitalism’s hegemonic consumerist ethos. In his analysis, consumer society threatened the environment because of its ‘unlimited appetite—unlimited precisely because its objects are so unsatisfying’.7

Whereas Roberts came out of a theoretical tradition promoting collective forms of social life and the deconstruction of individualism, many contemporary approaches fall into the trap of ‘lifestylism’—that is, the conviction that personal agency in consumption can be the catalyst for systemic change. According to the logic of lifestylism, if a sufficient number of enlightened and conscientious consumers cease purchasing problematic products, then production will necessarily shift to accommodate demand. The faulty logic of this blind faith in the magic of market forces is revealed upon even the most cursory examination. Firstly, as Roberts recognised, in a consumer society demand is not a given: demand is created through advertising. In other words, it does not objectively relate to some pre-existing need; rather, advertising shapes and determines consumers’ perception of need so that it aligns with the interests of producers. Moreover, the very possibility of ‘conscious consumer choices’ is structured around the differential terms of social class and purchasing power.8 Lifestylism’s ideology inevitably collapses into distinction seeking: a logic that asserts, ‘I can be exonerated of our collective sins by my individual virtue’. (I performed a subtle form of this in the second paragraph of this essay by implicitly lauding our household’s temporarily car-free existence.)

However, it is not sufficient to debunk the errors of lifestylism and to recognise instead that systemic factors precondition the terms of our individual choices. The consciousness of our manipulated personal participation in civilisational annihilation demands that we engage more systematically in the creation of alternative forms of social organisation as we move to decarbonise our way of life. I have chosen in this essay to focus on automobile dependence for several reasons. Of all our toxic ‘lifestyles’, the car mediates our relationship to fossil fuels in the most naked form, as my petrol-station anxiety suggests. It is also universal, posing a challenge to rich and poor countries alike. It affects the full gamut of settlement patterns, from city to country and the many spaces in between. It is also, arguably, the issue in which questions of social justice are most entangled. In a world that has been remade for automobility, the car has been constructed, mentally and practicably, as a key to economic empowerment and the right to mobility.

It is telling that the issue that ignited the revolt of the gilets jaunes was the price of petrol. This movement has had most traction among the communities of the périphérique, the people living in the forgotten zones outside the privileged urban centres. Such classes are reliant on the car as a consequence of the progressive disinvestment in France’s once-extensive rail network over many decades.9 The case of the gilets jaunes has captured most international attention, but similar protests have erupted elsewhere in recent years. When the government of Mexico removed price controls on gasoline at the beginning of 2017, the 20-per-cent rise in costs for consumers led the opposition to call for a ‘peaceful revolution’. Protestors blockaded freeways and petrol stations across the country for several weeks before thousands were arrested.10 In January 2019 a whopping 130-per-cent increase in the price of petrol in Zimbabwe inspired a similar nationwide strike that lasted several days until it was put down. The repressive government crackdown killed at least twelve people.11 It is communities such as these, across the globe, that will be most vulnerable to price hikes and sudden precarities in the supply lines of oil in the volatile years ahead.

The term ‘automobile dependence’ was coined by Perth-based academics Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy in their landmark 1989 Cities and Automobile Dependence: An International Sourcebook. It caught on quickly among researchers in the field of transport planning, as it suggested a collective pathology requiring urgent intervention. It captured what one writer has called the ‘insanity of normality’.12 The harmful symptoms of this societal sickness have been systematically documented elsewhere.13 Without wishing to exhaustively rehash them here, the car’s ‘externalities’ include the respiratory conditions that are endemic among residents living alongside freeways; the wasteful, land-intensive patterns of development that come with planning for car dependence; and the exclusion and alienation of non-drivers in places without adequate public-transport provision.14 The path dependency of automobile dependence is most extreme in the United States, where driving is inseparable from participation in the public sphere, and the practice of citizenship.15 (To illustrate: under ‘motor voter’ legislation, citizens are eligible to register to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles when applying for a driver’s licence.)

The engineering of captive consumer economies dependent on the lifeblood of oil has occurred in the century since the First World War: a remarkably short space of civilisational time, and a blip in planetary time. First in the United States in the 1920s, then throughout most of the world in the post–Second World War period, the age of mass car consumption spread in tandem with the rise in home ownership, the electrification of cities, and the development of what Timothy Mitchell called our ‘carbon intensive lifestyles’.16 At every step of the way, the forces that engineered this great dependence—the car companies, the oil companies, the road builders, the paid lobbyists—have sought to discredit their critics, and to delay and defer action that would dent their profit margins. Employing tactics similar to those of the tobacco industry, fossil-fuel magnates have successfully contained the threat of regulation while expanding their reach into new markets of captive consumers. Their oil-stained hands have been implicated in numerous wars, coups d’état and violent occupations in petroleum-producing countries. However, the history of the automobile has not been simply a conspiracy of capital. Driving upon the monumental American freeway network stretching from coast to coast, financed by successive waves of tax dollars from the New Deal to the Reagan era, one rides on an artefact of public-minded ambition, the promise of progress, and the illusion of freedom. The automobile intoxicated the twentieth century with its seductive claims of liberation. We are all now paying the price.

The title of this essay pays homage to the 1974 cult classic that was the first feature-length film directed by Peter Weir. The Cars That Ate Paris is a searing mix of satire, black comedy and B-grade horror that still speaks to our unhealthy relationship with automobiles. The fictional ‘Paris’ is actually a small Australian country town (Sofala, New South Wales) that lures visitors with a series of signs on the highway promising work. Once they approach the town on a narrow, windy road, the unsuspecting drivers are blinded by bright lights, causing them to crash. The smashed-up cars are then towed into town, where the Parisians proceed to scavenge off the wreckage of the vehicle. If they have not been fatally maimed already, the driver and passengers are then taken to the local hospital, where a psychopathic surgeon performs ‘experiments’ that turn them into catatonic vegetables.

The film’s protagonist, Arthur Waldo, the survivor of an accident that has killed his brother, miraculously avoids this treatment when the mayor takes pity on him and adopts him into the family. Arthur is a diminished and traumatised subject who wanders the streets of Paris in a state of shock, gaslighted into believing that he has a serious psychological condition: a fear of cars. Meanwhile, in addition to Paris’ sinister organised racket, a band of hooligans driving repurposed wrecks from the town’s crash industry terrorise the townspeople with their crazed driving and prevent Arthur from leaving Paris by blocking the road out of town. After finally being brought to justice via a public burning of their cars, they return to exact revenge with their now-weaponised vehicles, covered with spikes. In the orgy of violence of the film’s climax, the hooligans gruesomely impale one of the town elders and destroy the buildings of the main street. Arthur is convinced to kill one of the hooligans by getting into the driver’s seat and reversing into him repeatedly inside a garage. Instead of recoiling in horror at his act, he declares with quiet satisfaction: ‘I can drive!’ Healed of his motorphobia, he drives out of town joyously to the soundtrack of sentimental French music as the credits roll.

The Cars That Ate Paris is a ruthless critique of the implicit violence and anxiety of the automobile age. It is a monument to the anti-consumerist spirit of the time and place in which it was made, animated by the same spirit that permeates Alan Roberts’ writing. Despite the potency of the campaigns waged in the 1970s by community activists, engaged artists and scholars, the automobile was culturally rehabilitated in the following decades.17 Before his untimely passing, the internationally renowned Melburnian transport scholar Paul Mees (1961–2013) used to joke that against all odds we had somehow learned, like Dr Strangelove, to stop worrying and love the car once more. In these crucial missed decades, the promoters of car dependency shock-absorbed their opponents’ criticisms and enacted reforms to their production processes. Improvements such as switching to unleaded petrol, increasing fuel efficiency and, most recently, developing electric engines have all promised to tame the car. They can be seen as successive chapters in the search for a technological palliative to soften the environmental impacts of car dependency but leave the basic condition intact (conveniently sidestepping its structural inequalities in social and economic terms).

The latest chapter in this ameliorative history—as seen in the reification of Tesla, and the utopian promise of the electric car more generally—is a textbook example of what Roberts called the ‘technological fix’.18 (Mees, for his part, spoke of ‘technological fetishism’.) In searching for the technological magic bullet, techno-utopians engage in wishful thinking and a singular, unilateral approach to a complex problem. Applying the sort of methodical dissection that is a characteristic feature of Roberts’ essays, one can identify at least five objections. First, in a time when we have needed collective solutions, the electric car has catered to the few, offering a way for the rich to purchase away their guilt but leaving the many behind (a classic instance of the logic of lifestylism we dissected above). Second, current production levels are nowhere near those that would be required to solve the problem on a global scale, which in the crisis of climate change is the only scale that matters (to say nothing of all the energy implications of that production). Even if one can look past their other problems, the proportion of new electric vehicles will remain infinitesimal for the foreseeable future, the time in which we must radically act.19 Third, global levels of lithium, required for electric batteries, are fast being depleted and their extraction is polluting communities that lie close to mines.20 Fourth, the electric car offers no solution for the billion cars already on the road, unless manufacturers can accept or be subsidised into converting the engines of existing vehicles. Fifth, electric vehicles use the same synthetic rubber tyres that are now believed to be the largest contributors to the scourge of microplastics in coastal waters.21

Since the international accord was signed there in 2016, ‘Paris’ has come to stand for the last remaining hope of survival in the ecological emergency that is fast bearing down on us. It was in the French capital that the reluctant ratifiers of Kyoto—notably Australia and the United States—finally committed to meaningful targets for reducing emissions. The Paris framework allows each signatory to determine emissions-reduction strategy within its national borders. So far, few of the signatories have shown the stomach to address auto dependency. Of those countries taking tentative steps, France, which began clumsily to address the problem via a fuel levy, has seen the wrath of discontented and disenfranchised motorists in the form of the gilets jaunes. Whatever criticism one might make about the effectiveness of the agreement, the subsequent coming to power of climate-change-denying leaders in Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Scott Morrison means we must fight for whatever scraps of its potential are left. There is every reason to legitimately fear that the cars of the world may eat Paris once more.


It’s 23 July 2019 and I am in the car with the kids, to whom I have yielded control of the radio dial. Against the background hum of the air-conditioning, the commercial-radio announcer declares that ‘it’s the start of a heatwave today. It’s gonna be in the 90s [Fahrenheit] in LA and the OC, up in the 100s in Inland Empire, but you’ll be much cooler in your new Jeep Wrangler! We’re giving away ten this week to lucky callers’. Meanwhile, Paris—the real city, not the fictional Australian town, nor the metonym for international coordination—is sweating through its hottest day ever recorded: 42 degrees Celsius. The time for action is long overdue.

No magic bullet will singlehandedly wean us off our dangerous dependence on the car. But we need nonetheless to break the cycle of contemptuous self-righteousness and find collective solutions. In implementing our post-petroleum future, we need to put people at the centre of planning once more, and to confront the vested interests that stand in the way. In doing so, we might try to recapture something of the spirit of the 1970s and the example of Alan Roberts. When Roberts appealed to the concept of ‘self-management’ as being necessary to confront ecological crises, he meant the meaningful control of social life by communities rather than the interests of corporations or bureaucratic managers. He recognised that the ‘massive change in popular values’ required to overcome individualised consumerism would only come about through the experience of struggle.22 As ‘consumers’ we do possess some power, but it needs to be properly politicised, and built on cross-class alliances as we imagine solutions beyond the strictures of our present automobile dependence. Instead of shifting what we buy and do as individuals, we should be taking to the streets together.

Instead of kneeling at the altar of consumerism and absolving ourselves of sin in the Tesla showroom, we need to fight for our collective right to universal mobility via high-quality public transport. It must be safe, reliable, affordable, and air-conditioned for the hot periods of the year that will now be the reality of virtually every region of the globe. Given the urgency of our crisis, we may not have the time, or the readily deployable budgets and labour power, to undertake massive-scale investments. It won’t all be high-speed rail and fancy underground trains. Much will be simple but effective thickets of on-road buses, powered from renewable sources. Cities from Curitiba to Toronto to Zurich to Kerala have shown how it can be done.

Such networks can be deployed on existing roads almost immediately, with minimal financial impost. For instance, when Melbourne held the 2006 Commonwealth Games, lanes on many of the key inner-city roads were temporarily repainted as exclusive lanes for official vehicles. It was implemented without chaos and road users adapted. It could be easily done again, this time for buses, with a particular focus on the much-neglected outer suburbs of the city. As I write this, the city of Los Angeles is considering a proposal to give over single lanes on city roads to dedicated busways.23 The plan is a decent start but should urgently be extended across the metropolis and into the contiguous suburbia of the surrounding cities. In order to wean people off the car, we must actively create incentives for public-transport use, thereby making the alternative a competitive option. Adopting the kind of ‘network planning’ advocated by Mees and others, we should design services on the basis of legibility, reliability and convenience. Expanded and interconnected public-transport networks need to meet the needs of users, not the narrow operational logic of transport bureaucracies limited in imagination.

We must demand a moratorium on the construction of all new freeways that cater only to individual motorists. On those that remain, we ought to immediately implement massive planting of vertical gardens on the columns and flyovers—as has been recently trialled in the ‘Via Verde’ project in Mexico City—to help absorb carbon dioxide and filter air pollution.24 On the same freeways, we should dedicate lanes to public transport, properly connected at crossroads to other lines. (This also has begun in Los Angeles, but all too often with poorly designed stops and interchanges that are hostile to users). We should also take advantage of previous investment in existing rail networks and continue to invest in them to make them accessible across all parts of the network. As we move to decrease our dependence on petroleum, we must acknowledge and take seriously the unequal impacts of energy transition on disadvantaged communities—the spatially isolated, transport-poor regions that will bear an uneven proportion of the rough shocks ahead.

Perhaps most important, we must transform our respective alienation—our quiet, individualised sobbing at the petrol station—into more constructive and empowering ends.



1 I thank Rachel Goldlust for reading a draft of this essay and providing me with helpful feedback.

2 ‘Number of Cars Worldwide Surpasses 1 Billion; Can The World Handle This Many Wheels?’, Huffington Post, 23 August 2011.

3 David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, New York, Tim Duggan Books, 2019.

4 I am drawing mostly on the essay ‘Consumerism and Its Needs’, in Alan Roberts, The Self-Managing Environment, London, Allison and Busby, 1979, pp. 32–50.

5 Roberts, The Self-Managing Environment, p. 34.

6 Hall Greenland, ‘Physics Teacher Became a Pioneer Ecologist’, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 January 2018.

7 Roberts, The Self-Managing Environment, p. 174.

8 For probing recent critiques of neoliberal consumerist individualism, see Martin Lukacs, ‘Neoliberalism has Conned Us into Fighting Climate Change as Individuals’, The Guardian, 17 July 2017; see also Vijay Kolinjivadi, ‘Why a Hipster, Vegan, Green Tech Economy Is not Sustainable’, Al Jazeera, 6 June 2019.

9 Ian Klaus, ‘To Understand American Political Anger, Look to “Peripheral France”’, City Lab, 12 June 2019; Olivier Razemon, ‘La France paie cher sa dépendance à la voiture’, Le Monde, 7 December 2018.

10 Kate Linthicum, ‘Protests Erupt Across Mexico over a Sudden Spike in Gasoline Prices’, Los Angeles Times, 3 January 2017.

11 ‘Uneasy Calm in Zimbabwe Amid Stay-at-home Fuel Price Protest’, Al Jazeera, 16 January 2019.

12 John Whitelegg, ‘Editorial’, World Transport Policy and Practice, vol. 20.2/3, May 2014, special edition in honour of Paul Mees, pp. 4–5.

13 For useful introductions to the problem, see the work of Paul Mees, especially A Very Public Solution: Transport in the Dispersed City, Parkville, University of Melbourne Press, 2000, and Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age, London, Earthscan, 2010.

14 George Monbiot, ‘Cars Are Killing Us. Within 10 Years, We Must Phase Them Out’, The Guardian, 7 March 2019.

15 Gregory H. Shill, ‘Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It’, The Atlantic, 9 July 2019.

16 Timothy Mitchell, ‘Carbon Democracy’, Economy and Society, 38: 3, 2009, pp. 399–432. 

17 For a highly readable account of historical battles over the automobile in Melbourne, see Graeme Davison, Car Wars: How the Car Won Our Hearts and Conquered Our Cities, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, 2004.

18 Roberts, The Self-Managing Environment, p. 24.

19 In recent weeks additional reports of Tesla’s financial woes have emerged. See Russ Mitchell, ‘Tesla Loses $408 Million as Technology Chief J.B. Straubel Departs’, Los Angeles Times, 24 July 2019.

20 Monbiot, ‘Cars Are Killing Us’.

21 Rosanna Xia, ‘The Biggest Likely Source of Microplastics in California Coastal Waters? Our Car Tires’, Los Angeles Times, 2 October 2019.

22 Roberts, The Self-Managed Environment, p. 175.

23 ‘Editorial: Want a Transit System That Actually Works? Then L.A. Needs Bus-only Lanes’, Los Angeles Times, 13 July 2019.

24 Notwithstanding legitimate concerns about the intentions and implications of this project, it at least represents a low-cost, immediately deployable strategy for mitigating some of the toxic effects of existing freeways. It should be seen as part of a wider solution, not itself the sole solution. See Lisa Martine Jackson, ‘Mexico City’s Vertical Gardens: Seeds of Change or Cynical Greenwashing?’, The Guardian, 30 October 2018.

2019 Then & Now Car Show, Lake Forest, IL. - Pt. 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 9:49pm in



Here are the rest of the photos from Lake Forest's first annual car show, on 10/13/2019.

It's a strange fact that, at a show with this many super-rare exotics, something as iconic as the
Mercedes 3000SL gullwing can get so little attention.
The one big design problem with a gullwing door is this: If the car somehow winds up upside
down, lying on it' roof, how to you escape the vehicle? Maybe the Mercedes' windows can be
popped out in an emergency or something? I have to assume Ze Chermans thought of a solution.

Disambiguation: This is the now-defunct car maker out of Coventry, England, not to be confused
with the California-based company performing high-dollar restomods of Porsche 911s.
Grille badges are great. Too bad they kind of don't work on modern cars.

I found myself chatting with a 21-year old kid looking at this Ford GT40. He had assumed it was
a replica. I had a hard time convincing him otherwise. At an invitation-only show, a fake GT40 is
unlikely. Plus, the corroded wheel knockoffs, and the wire tying them to the wheel spokes (to
prevent them coming off) are clues to the car's originality. It's probably a three million dollar car.

An Intermeccanica Italia. Whoever they are/were, they have a sense of humor. The grille has a
prancing bull.

1984 Lamborghini Jalpa. One doesn't tend to see these just lying around.

1967 Iso Grifo.

I'm not usually a Corvette guy, but if you add huge tires and a bunch of scoops and intercoolers,
you have me. Spoiler alert: the engine was very shouty.

An Alfa Romeo Montreal. This car had to many cool details, it took a while to shoot them all.

This is a one-off coachbuilt ferrari. What's coachbuilding? That's where you buy a brand new car, and
deliver it to a company that designs and installs a custom body for you. Because a regular Ferrari is
just too ho-hum. The owner opened the trunk to show the underside of the body panels which were
covered with hammer marks, demonstrating that the body was built by Italian guys with a hammer
and a leather bag of sand.

A (or should it be "the"?) 1953 Buick wildcat concept car, built for the 1953 Motorama auto show.
These "Roto-Static hubcaps" on the front wheels are mounted to the axle, and don't rotate with the
wheels. Do they use the air to cool the brakes? No idea. Probably not.

The black car with the red top is the 1948 Hillman Minx I was recruited to drive to the show. Of the
three cars brought by Tim, this is the only one that had the top up. The windows were down,
however. I assume this is because the window mechanism would be so hard to repair should it
break. I like a crisp fall day, but the weather on October 13th was definitely crunchy, with
temperatures hovering in the mid-to-high 40's most of the day.
A Triumph TR6, with it's normal body on... not a fiberglass boutique one.
Did the Triumph have a Ferrari exhaust? No idea. The little stickers had the text "Monza" under
the prancing horse.

2019 Then & Now Car Show, Lake Forest, IL. - Pt. 1

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/10/2019 - 11:34pm in



Last Sunday (10/13/2019) was the first annual Then & Now Car Show in Lake Forest, Illinois. It's an invitation-only show, with collectors and dealers from around Chicago bringing their most interesting / rare / exotic / valuable, or "interarexoticuable" cars, competing for awards in various classes.

My buddy Tim (in the leather hat and goggles), when he brings something to a show, typically likes to bring several somethings from his collection of mid-century English cars. This means he needs to recruit drivers to drive some of his cars for him. Long story less long, I drove his Hillman Minx Mk 2 to the show, which presented a substantial learning experience. No power steering. No power brakes. Four-speed column shifter where 1st gear is non-synchro, so you can only use it from a dead stop or you'll crunch gears... or, if you're me, crunch even more gears.

Here are a million photos from the show. The other million will go up tomorrow.

FAQ: "What's with these pictures? Did you use some kind of janky old lens you pulled from a garage sale's butthole?"

Answer (short version): Yes.

Answer (long version): How dare you! I'll have you know I paid good money to pull that Janky old lens from Ebay's butthole. It's a 1985 Tokina 28-85 F/3.5 - f4.5. However, my copy of this lens is messed up or dirty in some kind of way that gives it personality and charm. Maybe it's got some haze on the elements inside or something, but it's definitely not accurate, and it's definitely not sharp. It's lacking in contrast, and bright light sources tend to bloom with a golden, peach-colored fuzz. Resulting photos are soft and dreamy, with a kind of pink gradient leading into the light source of the scene. It's my current favorite. If I were to have it serviced and cleaned, it would probably lose all of it's personality and I'd be left with a not-sharp, not-very-good vintage manual focus zoom lens with loads of color fringing that I never use again. The way I see it, photography is an art form, and this lens is a very interesting brush.

Anyway. The photos.

That's Tim. He brought three cars to the show. This green one his his pride and joy: a 1951 Jowett Jupiter. Aluminum body, flat-four horizontally opposed engine, with leather piping on the front fenders. 500 of them were built, and there are maybe twelve of them in the U.S. I'm sure securing replacement parts is super easy.
How you get aluminum to form compound curves is beyond me. Those light brown stripes on the
fenders? Yep. Leather piping, like on a couch.

Here we see the World War I Flying Ace, readying his Sopweth CamelSinger 9 Roadster for dawn

Mercifully, I was not asked to drive the Singer, or I would have had to steer from the right side of
the vehicle while carefully destroying the gearbox with my left hand.

One of the Mini Cooper variants. An old Clubman maybe?

A 1964 (I think) Caterham 7, which looks pretty much exactly like a 2020 Caterham 7.The dash of the Jowett Jupiter. The car was restored by the previous owner, and the current
owner has been unable to find out what kind of wood was used. The color name and paint code for
the car is also an ongoing mystery.

A Jag XK120 Coupe.

Yep. A Lamborghini Countach. Fun facts: The wing was completely non-functional, but was added
because it looked cool. Also, the name "countach" is not a real word, but is an Italian interjection
one might use when seeing something beautiful, like when the English say "phwooaaah!" The
Italians, man.

It's not the one you think. That's an Aston Martin DB4. The one in Goldfinger was a DB5... not that
I could tell the difference by looking... or that it matters much.
A 1991 911 Carrera, dressed up as a 1973 RSR tribute. I don't care how you get there, as long as
you add fender flares.
This is a 1957 Triumph Devin, which is a kit car. That's not an epithet. The owner described it as
much. I think it's a Triumph TR-6 chassis, with a fiberglass body by Devin.

A Ferrari Dino, named after Enzo Ferrari's son. Initially, the Dino was not designated as a proper
Ferrari, as it was "only" powered by a V6, which was designed by Alfredo "Dino" Ferrari.
Eventually, Dino persuaded his father to grant the car full Ferrari badging. It's not the first time that
Enzo seems to have needed to lighten up a little. The Dino is eye-wateringly pretty.
It's kind of hard to find a bad angle to shoot a Dino from.
A 2002 Morgan Plus 8, which looks pretty much exactly like every previous Morgan since the
beginning of time... except for the ones with three wheels. The modern, large-diameter wheels are
kind of a giveaway. Morgan is also notable for still using wood in the chassis of their cars.
Bonnet straps are bad ass. Fur-lined ones are badder ass.

This woody still has the lettering from when it served as a summer camp transport vehicle, which is
pretty adorable.

This is a one-off Excalibur. That means it was basically hand built and is unique in the world.
Excalibur may sound familiar as the brand made popular by TV show pimps driving their 1930's
looking coupes around, with the big silver headers. It seems they made other things, too. This car
rode to the show from the Milwaukee area in a covered trailer. The gentleman in the red jacket is
the owner.

The rest of the photos tomorrow!

Spain’s Happy Little Carless City

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/10/2019 - 4:25am in

Wherever you find advocates for saner transportation, their dream scenario usually hinges on the same outcome: making cities blissfully free of cars

To this end, the Spanish city of Pontevedra, population 84,000, has done something remarkable: it has reduced car use in its historic core by 90 percent, and citywide by half. And it has done it without blanket fees or bans, instead using clever engineering and some gentle nudging to get people out of their cars and onto the street.

Pontevedra proves that you don’t need the economic clout of London, the regulatory zeal of Singapore or the political moxie of Copenhagen to reduce driving to functional zero. “In effect, these are everyday public works that have been carried out in the context of a global project, but they cost the same or even less,” says Mayor Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores. For cities that want to tap the brakes on car usage, Pontevedra offers a masterclass in tactical de-vehicularization.

The small Spanish city of Pontevedra has reduced car use in its historic core by over 90 percent, and traffic in general by half. Credit: Council of Pontevedra

Lesson #1: Know Your Constituency

Some cities decrease car use by levying a fee on driving or prohibiting car use on certain days—good solutions, but not necessarily feasible everywhere. Pontevedra, for instance, was run by a politically conservative government for decades before Lores, a member of the leftist Galician Nationalist Bloc, came to power in 1999. 

Lores wanted to reduce driving, but because of the city’s conservative lean he smartly deduced that he should go about it incrementally. So, for instance, when he implemented parking restrictions, they initially included exemptions for local businesses, which were eventually phased out. “We’ve haven’t undertaken grand projects,” Lores told the Guardian. “We’ve done what was within our grasp.”

In the photo below, pull the scroll bar back and forth to see how Pontevedra’s car restrictions changed just one of its many plazas.

This measured approach has worked like a charm. Now that central Pontevedra is mostly car-free, a majority of residents like their city’s transformation, regardless of their politics. “Some people can’t stand you ideologically, but value that you’re doing things well,” Lores told the magazine Citiscope. The proof is in the ballot box: Lores was recently elected to a fifth term in office.

Lesson #2: Build Streets That Lead Nowhere

The sheer number of liberties Pontevedra has taken with its streets is exhilarating. For instance, many streets are designed as loops, making it impossible to use them to drive from one end of the city to the other. This solved a major problem—before the redesign, some streets were choked with nearly 30,000 cars a day, most of them simply passing through. Now, Lores told Citiscope, “If you enter by the south, you leave by the south.” 

Before the driving restrictions, some of Pontevedra’s streets were choked with nearly 30,000 cars a day, most of them simply passing through. Credit: Council of Pontevedra

Lesson #3: Make Double Parking Impossible

Pontevedra didn’t eliminate parking. In fact, in some places, parking is actually free—but only for 15 minutes. This ensures quick pickups and drop-offs by taxis and delivery trucks. And because most streets are a single lane wide, there’s simply nowhere for those trucks and taxis to double park, forcing them to use the limited number of designated pull-off spaces for their stops.

Lesson #4: Accommodate Cars… Somewhere Else

Calls for car-free cities can sometimes sound like a call to end driving entirely—a lovely fantasy, but one that’s unlikely to materialize anytime soon. With that in mind, Pontevedra does something controversial: it provides over 1,600 free parking spaces along its perimeter so that drivers can leave their cars there and enter without them.

Some drivers have complained that this causes traffic jams at the city’s edge. And the very concept of providing 1,600 free parking spaces (wherever they may be) is anathema to many urbanists. Still, the tactic has helped to keep cars off of Pontevedra’s streets, and since the entire city is small enough to be traversed on foot in 25 minutes, most visitors simply walk right in.

Now that central Pontevedra is mostly car-free, a majority of residents like their city’s transformation, regardless of their politics. Credit: Council of Pontevedra

Lesson #5: Put Pedestrians in the Street

In some parts of the city, Pontevedra has taken the counterintuitive step of removing sidewalks entirely. The message is clear: the street is for pedestrians first, and cars should maneuver accordingly. In other places, sidewalks are wide enough for two people holding umbrellas to pass each other comfortably, a welcome feature in a place that gets over 75 inches of rain per year. Crosswalks are elevated to sidewalk level so as to be seen as definitively pedestrian spaces. All of these measures promote the primary message: this is a city where cars are a non-native species.

Lesson #6: Treat Walking Like Transit

One of the more delightful elements of Pontevedra’s pedestrian-oriented streetscape is the Metrominuto map, designed like a subway map, with lines and transfer points, but for walking instead. It tells you how to get anywhere in the city by foot, as well as the distance—in meters and minutes—it takes to get there. The map won the 2013 Intermodes Prize and has since been copied by other European cities.

Lesson #7: Engage Local Business Owners, Don’t Capitulate to Them

Often, local businesses are seen as the opposition to anti-car efforts. But in smaller cities like Pontevedra, where face-to-face engagement is possible, you can get them on your side. “They had to go shop-to-shop explaining their plan and negotiating the circumstances,” the director of a local business association in Pontevedra explained of the city’s process, which was ultimately embraced by the group.

At the same time, however, it’s important not to mistake the vocal opposition of a passionate few for true unpopularity. “There’s a theory that says the commercial sector always opposes these kind of things. We argue that this is not true,” Lores told Citiscope. “There can be opposition from a few people, but normally it’s for personal or political interests.”

Lesson #8: Trumpet the Positive Impacts

Even initially unpopular plans to get cars out of cities are often embraced once they’re implemented. That’s certainly been the case in Pontevedra, something Lores isn’t shy about discussing.

When Pontevedra implemented parking restrictions, they initially included exemptions for local businesses, which were eventually phased out. Credit: Council of Pontevedra

“The historical center was dead,” Lores told the Guardian. “There were a lot of drugs, it was full of cars—it was a marginal zone. It was a city in decline, polluted, and there were a lot of traffic accidents. It was stagnant. Most people who had a chance to leave did so.”

Now, families with children are flocking to Pontevedra. Even as Spain struggles with a low birth rate, the child population of Pontevedra has increased by eight percent since car-removal efforts began 20 years ago. Overall, the city grew by nearly 10,000 residents in that time frame, making it the fastest growing city in the region of Galicia, according to Citylab.

“We’ve haven’t undertaken grand projects,” says Mayor Lores. “We’ve done what was within our grasp.”

Citylab also reports that crime rates are the lowest they’ve been in a decade. And according to the mobility publication In Movement, greenhouse gas emissions in Pontevedra have fallen by 70 percent. That’s half a ton fewer carbon emissions per citizen since cars were given the heave-ho.

All of this was accomplished without elaborate congestion pricing or a “war on cars,” which likely would have faltered due to Pontevedra’s particular circumstances. Instead, the city designed a system that worked for its own situation, with minimal disruption. As Lores told Citiscope, “You only need a small amount of cars to make a city work.”

Read this article’s companion story, Cars in Cities: How’s That Working Out?

The post Spain’s Happy Little Carless City appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.