EU Celebrates Un-Car

Glenn Swanson
by Glenn Swanson

Our friends across the pond are in the midst of celebrating (or not) “ European Mobility Week 2007.” This year’s theme: “Streets For People.” EurActiv reports that some 1600 cities are holding car-free events aimed at “reclaiming road space for pedestrians and cyclists… to cut congestion and pollution without reducing people's mobility.” If that sounds like something of a challenge, the European Union (EU) wants to “combat climate change, boost economic growth and improve European citizens' quality of life” while promoting “more sustainable modes of transport.” In an article entitled “ Severing car dependency in EU cities 'very realistic’,” Copenhagen’s vice-mayor (and Mobility Week cheerleader) Klaus Bondam offers a practical solution: “buy goods that come from your local area, so you don't need all that transport.” So the politician promoting an anti-car week created by an organization that began life as the European Economic Community suggests reducing trade with member states to protect the global environment. Go figure.

Glenn Swanson
Glenn Swanson

Glenn is a baby-boomer, born in 1954. Along with his wife, he makes his home in Connecticut. Employed in the public sector as an Information Tedchnology Specialist, Glenn has long been a car fan. Past rides have included heavy iron such as a 1967 GTO, to a V8 T-Bird. In between those high-horsepower cars, he's owned a pair of BMW 320i's. Now, with a daily commute of 40 miles, his concession to MPG dictates the ownership of a 2006 Honda Civic coupe which, while fun to drive, is a modest car for a pistonhead. As an avid reader, Glenn enjoys TTAC, along with many other auto-realated sites, and the occasional good book. As an avid electronic junkie, Glenn holds an Advanced Class amateur ("ham") radio license, and is into many things electronic. From a satellite radio and portable GPS unit in the cars, to a modest home theater system and radio-intercom in his home, if it's run by the movement of electrons, he's interested. :-)

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  • Solbeam Solbeam on Sep 20, 2007

    Katie, You took your Yaris to the Nürburgring! What was your best lap time? Did you get a 4 lap Ticket? Did the Yaris get to 155 km/h on your way down there? I want to hear the whole Nürburgring story :) If you have told it somewhere else.. maybe you have a link?

  • Tommickx Tommickx on Sep 21, 2007

    I'm from Belgium. I love(d) (to drive) cars, and used them too much. I had a 1990 Mazda 323F as a daily driver, and a 1978 Toyota Crown for fun. But I also walked to the bakery, supermarket, butcher, etc. There's a train and bus station across the road. I bicycled to work now and then (29 km one way). Every year more and more European capitals have car-free Sundays. And you know what? It's great! Thousands of families bicycling in downtown Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam. Impact on business? Ask the small bar and restaurant owners. In the 70s' oil crisis we had car-less Sundays. People still talk about how they could bicycle on the motorways/highways/freeways. Now I live in Cambodia. I don't have, need or want a car. Now I use cyclos, motorbike taxis and minivans. And I bicycle to work. Different countries have different cultures and geographies. Saying No to having a car is easy in the city, difficult in the countryside, even more so in countries with limited public transportation. But it's also a state of mind. Getting over that "How can I live without a car??" idea. Don't look at this EU initiative (this time it's the EU, other times it's local governments, or just local people organizing a car-free day in their neighbourhood) as a bad idea for business, but as a good idea for quality of life. P.S.: I just read that 50,000 families in Belgium traded in their car license plate for a 3-year bus subscription. Kudos to them!

  • Cammy Corrigan Cammy Corrigan on Sep 21, 2007

    Solbeam, I wasn't really timing because it is phenominally dangerous to do that whilst doing the Nurburgring. Apparently, when the police investigate crashes on the Nurburgring, 90% of all cars have a clock or timer in there. They were so concerned about their time that they didn't concentrate! My best lap time was about 15 minutes, which is about a mile a minute, which isn't too bad for a 1.3 petrol. If you want to shave time off your lap time (and I recommend that you don't, just enjoy "the ring".) here are a few tips: 1: take the spare wheel and jack out of the boot. You can save about 10 kilos that way. 2: Try to follow in the line of a much faster car in front of you, that car in front of you will have already cut the air which means less resistance for you. 3: tape up the gaps between metal panels on your car (i.e between the bonnet and on the bumpers) again, less resistance. 4: only carry about 20% of the petrol you need. For example, the Yaris has a 45 litre tank. I only carried 10 lites. Which saved me carrying 35 litres of petrol or to put it another way 26 kilos! The Nurburging is fun. It one of those things a petrolhead must do before they die. I plan to go again, but always check your brakes before and after. The Nurburgring really does need them! Only on the straights did I go up to 100mph. On the corners I went very carefully. Remember, the Yaris isn't designed for driving like this. And PLEASE be careful on the Karousell! It is soooooo dangerous! Oh and I bought an 8 lap ticket.

  • Brendon from Canada Brendon from Canada on Sep 21, 2007

    68stang - might want to check that mileage; according to google maps Winnepeg to Vancouver is 1600 miles - I'm pretty sure the Yaris isn't getting ~160/135 Mpg (imp/US). Stated mileage is from the Toyota US website is 29/36. For comparison sake, my 3Ltr BMW Coupe gets a bit over 30MPG on average; and I do push the petal to the floor at least once in any given drive... however I'm also a big fan of coasting in neutral (as long as I'm not hodling up traffic) which probably helps a ton. I do actually applaud the EU's efforts to get people to find alternative transportation; it would be a bit more difficult here in NA since our cities are so much more spread out, but if you try you can cut back your vehicle usage significantly by walking/biking for groceries, etc, etc. With the gas money we saved, we bought another car! ;-)