- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ski slopes, a car-free refuge?

There is a ski slope in Japan called Gala Yuzawa which is probably fairly unique in the world. In most places in the world, skiing means driving. Whether you drive, or take a ride with someone else, or take a bus, driving is regarded as pretty much the only way to get out to a slope. At Gala Yuzawa however, the gondola lift is linked directly to a shinkansen (bullet train) station, which puts it just a little over one hour from Tokyo station. How cool is that!? How respectable is that! Read a book, have a sandwich on the train on your way up, get off, rent your gear, get changed, gondola straight up the slope before breakfast you are on powder snow high up in the mountains. There is even a spa resort connected to the station, so you can clean up and relax before the train home in the afternoon - again relax, read a book or eat your dinner during the short (and safer) trip back home.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece about skiing in China, and noted that one of the great attractions of skiing to people everywhere around the world is the peace and quiet and clean air. It is a pity that people don't realize that our city streets could also be as quiet as this if we just changed the way we thought about things.

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