(1) - The Public Domain

As this is an important concept, it is essential here to analyse the term “public domain”, as well as to consider some of its implications.  This term is usually defined as “property rights that are held by the public at large”. However, this strict definition might also include prisons and aircraft carriers. Instead, I use the term here to mean “that which is owned by all for the use of all”.  Essential in this definition, in my opinion, is a right, the right not to be excluded.  In this sense, the concept of the public domain is a further democratic evolution of the Greek agora, the Roman forum, the squares and piazzas of the medieval cities.  More inclusive than these spaces, the public domain carries with it the traditions and expectations of civic, political, religious or artistic expression. 

The idea of the public domain is gradually being diluted and transformed.  Shops, cafés, and other privately owned spaces are often lumped together with the public domain.  They are not truly public, however, they are “semi-public” or “semi-private”.  The growing importance of this semi-private domain is in fact a reflection of the loss of true public spaces. This is understandable: if they are not included, all we have left with is a vision of pavements and very little else.  

More difficult to define in this context is the role of public parks. When surrounded by walls, locked at night and subject to rules that forbid political gatherings, busking, etc., it is hard to see how they fill the traditional role of a “Public Forum”. But in any order, a token green space used as a game reserve for community life is certainly no substitute for a living city.

(2) - The official tourist guide for Dublin City shows 64 outdoor photographs.  If we count the vehicles shown there are: 10 boats, 3 buses, 2 trams, 2 trains, 2 horses, 0 cars.  If you were to take this at face value, you would believe that Dublin was a carfree city with the charm of Venice; prospective tourists know there will be cars in the city but somehow they block it from their minds. 

(3) - Campo San Giacomo da l'Orio, Santa Croce Venice

(4) - Donal Appleyard carried out a study in the 1960’s which was later published in his book, “Liveable Streets”.  It was the first work of its kind to measure the relationship between traffic volume and social connection.  Ironically, Appleyard was killed by an automobile in Athens. In 2005, Transportation Alternatives (New York) produced a publication entitled “Traffic’s Human Toll”.  Their research found that people living on streets with light traffic had on average 18 friends and acquaintances, while those on streets with heavy traffic had only 8.  Of course, the real test would be to compare a true Carfree city with an automobile city.  I suspect those figures would be even more revealing.

“Traffic’s Human Toll: Transportation Alternatives”, edited October 4, 2006.
http://www.transalt.org/press/releases/061004trafficshumantoll.html, accessed November 2007. 

For an introduction to Donal Appleyard’s work see Project for Public Spaces,  http://www.pps.org/info/placemakingtools/placemakers/dappleyard, accessed November 2007. 

(5) - The phrases “things happen because things happen” and “life between buildings” were coined by Jan Gehl.  His book Life between Buildings is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand  how public spaces work.

Gehl, Jan.  1971.  Life Between Buildings, available via Gehl Architects, http://www.gehlarchitects.dk/lifebetweenbu.asp, accessed November 2007. 

(6) - Walljasper, Jay.  2007.  “The Good Life in Greece”, Project For Public Spaces, edited in February 2007, http://www.pps.org/info/newsletter/february2007/traveling_in_place_feb2007, accessed November 2007. 

(7) - Dolphins Barn , Dublin - or anywhere really...

(8) - Irish Sun, June 8, 2007 reporting research from The Children’s Society, UK.

“In 1970 the average 9 year-old girl would have been free to wonder 840 meters from her front door, by 1997 the distance had shrunk to 280 meters.  Today the limit seems to stretch to the garden gate.”

(9) - In a Dublin city centre art shop I counted 237 pictures for sale but only one of which featured a car and even this was painted in an abstract style that made it hard to recognise. In contrast, there were 96 paintings of natural landscapes, 26 paintings of carfree streets and 22 that featured boats.

x - Ref: car pollution and the cars environmental impact, the cars pollution and cars environment cost