Talking Headways Podcast: Zero Deaths, Zero Cars, Zero Tundra Voles

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Special guest Damien Newton of Streetsblog LA joins Jeff and me on this episode to tell us all about the Los Angeles DOT’s new strategic plan, which includes a Vision Zero goal: zero traffic deaths by 2025, a vision all of our cities should get behind. He walks us through the oddities of LA politics and the pitfalls that may await the plan, as well as one really good reason it could succeed. (Her name is Seleta Reynolds.)

Then Jeff and I move on to Helsinki, Finland, and its even more ambitious goal: Zero private cars by 2025. They have a plan to do it, which includes many elements that American cities are experimenting with on a tiny scale. We talk about what Helsinki has in store that could get them to their goal.

And then we research Finnish fauna.

I know you’re listening to this podcast on your phone while you’re on on your bike or whatever, but when you get to a safe place to stop, shout at us in the comments.

And find us on  iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed.

  • ChrisLoos

    Nice! I always wish you guys would talk about LA more. So much going on here right now but relatively little mention about it on your podcast.

  • Kevin Love

    No cars does not only mean no deaths. It also means no traffic signals and a lot easier to get around. Just take a look at the City of Toronto, which has North America’s largest urban car-free zone.

    I’m jealous. I want to live there! Or better yet, a car-free Island of Manhattan. The next meeting of Auto-Free New York is on Tuesday, October 21, 6-8pm, at the TA office at 127 West 26th Street. The meeting features David Gurin, a co-founder of Transportation Alternatives. For details, see:

  • davistrain

    One item that came up was “coordinated payments”. I’ve been told that in some countries (Switzerland comes to mind), passengers can buy a ticket from point A to point B that’s good on trains, buses and boats. In this country it seems like every transit entity is its own world, and getting (for example) LA Metro and Metrolink trains to have coordinated fare media is like pulling teeth. The San Francisco Bay area has similar uncoordinated “fiefdoms”. This is one of the great appeals of the private car–fill up the tank and (to borrow an old song) “go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do.” I was intrigued by the idea of minibuses that use dynamic routing programs to pick up passengers and get them to their respective destinations as efficiently as possible. This might work in area with well-connected street grids, but some suburbs seem to be designed to act like rat mazes, to make sure only residents can find their way around. I live about halfway down a dead-end street, and I can imagine waiting for a minibus, even if its route is generated by a sophisticated algorithm.

  • davistrain

    Does “auto-free” mean free of all mechanically powered vehicles? Could New York function without taxicabs and buses? I follow events in San Francisco, even though I live near Pasadena, and see reports of pedestrians and cyclists being run over by Muni buses, refuse trucks, and construction vehicles. We could go back to the Los Angeles of 100 years ago, when one of the local newspapers had a crusade about the dangerous operating practices of the Pacific Electric Railway, and how the company allegedly had inexperienced crew members who were under pressure to keep to the schedule no matter who or what got in the way.

  • Joe R.

    I personally feel traffic signals are biggest problem for cyclists in places like NYC, with potholes a close second. If you get rid of private automobiles, you get rid of traffic signals,. You also eventually radically reduce the number of potholes. At the same time you do all this the need for separate bike infrastructure radically decreases. It might still be needs on some busy streets with lots of delivery vehicles or buses, but in general most streets will need no special treatment to safely, efficiently accommodate bikes once personal autos are gone.

  • Joe R.

    NYC could function just fine without taxicabs. Long term if we did things different we probably would need a lot fewer buses or delivery vehicles as well.

    There’s not anything necessarily wrong with allowing mechanically-powered vehicles, provided they’re not much heavier than a bike, and they can go no faster than maybe 25 to 30 mph. E-bikes are perfect example of a mechanically-powered vehicle ideally suited to big cities.

  • Kevin Love

    The Island of Manhattan can be as car-free as the City of Venice.
    Auto-Free New York has worked out the details. No need to re-invent the wheel.


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