context: the impact of traffic on the quality of urban life endangers the effective social and economic functioning of cities. Not only does traffic create pollution and danger, the subject of much concern and attention, but it also makes increasing demands on space, which attracts less attention. Public space in cities is increasingly dominated by cars, both moving and parked, which are preventing other activities that are the lifeblood of the city from taking place. These spatial problems cannot really be solved by technical fixes.
what: the Practical Alternatives to the Car working group has been looking at an alternative approach. Stattauto Car-Sharing (or CityCarClub as it is also called in the UK) can provide a ‘car on demand’ without the need for everyone to own their private car. At the same time it encourages more responsible decisions about car use, as it is based on ‘pay as you drive’ rather than the high fixed and low marginal costs of the private car which give the illusion of inexpensive travel once the initial purchase decision is made.
who: Carsharing is synonymous to Stattauto. This German organisation was created in Berlin in 1988 as a personal initiative when economics student Markus Petersen and a few friends got together to share the expense and guilt of car ownership with each other. They looked for help to create a public carsharing project, but the government at that time wasn't interested in their idea. For two years, Markus and his brother Carsten, an unemployed philosophy major, experimented organised experimented with the project as a kind of test study.
a success story: today Stattauto has become a successful organisation that promoted the creation of the European CarSharing network (ECS). Based in Berlin and directed by the same Carsten Petersen, five CarSharing companies formed the original umbrella organisation in 1991. Since then the membership has grown 50% to 60% annually. Today ECS has 40 participants who operate shared cars for about 56,000 members in over 550 towns and it is represented in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland. There are 212 cities in Europe with carsharing organisations. The European Car Sharing Association presently includes 40 local carsharing member organisations in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands with more organisations from other Western and Eastern European countries planning to join.
networking: the carsharing ‘movement’ has generated another project, intervening in a more general and theoretical way on the sustainable mobility issue: the Car Free Cities Network - European cities co-operating for sustainable urban transport. This project was launched in Amsterdam in March 1994. The Network's charter states that in order to achieve a healthier environment, improve traffic safety and promote more efficient use of energy, member cities must promote environmentally friendly modes of transport. The network now brings together about 60 cities from all over Europe.
In practical terms, the Network acts as a platform for the exchange of experience, information and good practice. Much of this activity is carried out by a number of working groups. One of these covers the topic ‘practical alternatives to the car’ and focuses on ways in which car dependency can be reduced by providing services in different ways, and by different approaches to urban development.
online thumb-through: the car-sharing phenomenon has reached the net. To Share, in fact, is an example of Internet-based resource specialised in sharing car journeys all over the world. The website offers a platform for those who want to share a car during a journey by putting travellers from around the world in touch. To Share is both an environmentally friendly system and an economical way to commute and to move around. The website includes 850,000 locations in over 70 countries on all 5 continents. Journeys can be browsed by country of origin and new journeys can be added to the directory. You can find a travel partner for either one-off journeys (business trips, attending a conference, etc.) or for regular travel and commuting in town (going to work or to university, etc.). It also gives the opportunity to find a travel partner for longer journeys during holidays and personal trips.