Early trends in yacht design

interesting article from SAILfeed

Early yacht race

We’ll recall that the advent in the early 19th century of what might be called the first purpose-built cruising boat,Cleopatra’s Barge, was nurtured by the vast personal wealth of one individual, George Crowninshield. And as the 19th century progressed, yachting, not surprisingly, continued to be the domain of the wealthy. The vessels and the egos behind them only grew larger and more extravagant.

Yachting was very much about social status, and this led to the formation of exclusive clubs. The two most prominent were the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), formed in England in 1815, and the New York Yacht Club(NYYC), founded in 1844. Neither, however, was the first of its kind in its respective continent. The Water Club, formed in Cork, Ireland, circa 1720, is believed to have been the first yacht club in Europe, while the Boston Boat Club, circa 1830, was the first in North America. The activities of these clubs centered on racing and wagering, and the racing could be quite vicious. Competitors in early RYS events, for example, would effectively wage combat against each other, wielding weapons of various sorts in efforts to cut away their opponents’ rigs. Like their Dutch predecessors, RYS members also staged mock naval reviews in which large groups of yachts sailed in formation.

Cruising, it should be noted, was not unheard of. Members of the RYS often cruised in company across the English Channel on wine-buying expeditions along the French coast. Likewise, the first thing members of the NYYC did upon forming their club was to cruise in company up Long Island Sound to Newport, Rhode Island, staging various “trials of speed” along the way. To this day the NYYC Annual Cruise with its competitive squadron runs is religiously observed.

Over time, yacht racing became more formal and less violent, though the wagering continued unabated. The designing of yachts also became a specialized practice. Originally, as was the case with Cleopatra’s Barge, a gentleman’s “yacht” was essentially a working vessel dressed in finery. Its construction might be specially commissioned and executed, but its design was based on common working craft. Over time, however, yachts became unique vessels in every respect. Eventually it became possible for men to earn a living by specializing in the creation of these pleasure craft.

Cutters Versus Sloops

As the design of yachts evolved, two fundamental paradigms asserted themselves. In Great Britain, where racing handicaps were based on government tonnage rules for taxing commercial vessels that penalized beam, yachts tended to be narrow and deep. These so-called “cutters”–the term in those days referred to a vessel’s hull form rather than its rig–depended for their stability on a great deal of ballast fixed as low in the keel as possible. In the United States, meanwhile, where beam was not penalized and there was a considerable amount of shoal water along the coast, yachts tended to be wide and shallow. Vessels like this, described as “sloops” (again, the reference is to the hull, not the rig) and sometimes as “skimming dishes,” depended on their wide hulls for stability (though some ballast was carried loose in their bilges) and on centerboards to minimize leeway. The centerboard, an American innovation first patented in New Jersey in 1811, was directly descended from the leeboards used by the Dutch aboard their wide, shallow jaghts.

Radical British cutter

A radical example of a British cutter with a deep keel and a very narrow hull

Lines of Gracie

American centerboard sloops like Gracie, shown here, were quite wide and shallow

Inevitably, these divergent design paradigms were forced to converge. The first equalizing event came in 1851, when the famous yacht America, owned by John Cox Stevens, a founding member of the NYYC, crossed the Atlantic and trounced a fleet of British yachts in a race around the Isle of Wight. America‘s hull was not radically shallow, nor did she carry a centerboard, as she had been designed expressly to cross the Atlantic and was based more on New York pilot schooners than on cutting-edge racing yachts. But she was wider than the British yachts she competed against and, more importantly, carried much of her beam aft and had a hollow bow with a fine entry forward. This was the exact opposite of the crude “cod’s head and mackerel’s tail” shape (a wide entry forward with a narrow run aft) that still prevailed in Britain.

As a result of America‘s success, though British yachts did not immediately become significantly wider overall, their proportions started shifting. Bows became more hollow and concave, and the point of maximum beam moved farther aft. This was exactly in keeping with the first scientific theory of naval architecture–called the Wave Line Theory–which had been developed and promulgated by a Scotsman, John Scott Russell, nearly a quarter of a century earlier, but had until then been ignored in Britain.

Yacht America

Besides winning her famous cup for the New York Yacht Club, the yacht America was an early example of a “scientifically” designed sailboat

Lines of America

Lines of America

The next significant equalizing event came in 1876, when the American centerboard schooner Mohawk capsized and sank in a sudden but relatively moderate squall off Staten Island in New York Harbor. The boat’s owner, Will Garner, his wife, and a party of guests were killed in the incident.

Mohawk, an extreme example of the skimming-dish type, was intended by Garner to be the largest, fastest, most opulent yacht in the NYYC fleet. She was 141 feet long, 30 feet wide, and had a draft of just 6 feet that increased to 30 feet when she dropped her massive 7-ton centerboard. She flew an amazing 32,000 square feet of sail area. The fact that she could not stand up to all her sail in spite of her great beam helped fuel arguments that the wide, shallow yachts favored in the United States were fundamentally unsafe. It did not help either, of course, thatMohawk was slower than Garner had hoped and proved a dud on the race course.

Schooner Mohawk

Schooner Mohawk under sail. She proved both slow and unstable

A narrow British cutter named Madge crossed the Atlantic and raced successfully against several U.S. yachts in 1881, and then another large centerboard schooner, Grayling, capsized on her maiden sail in 1883. As a result a vociferous group of “cutter cranks,” who called the skimming dishes “death traps” and favored British designs instead, became prominent in American yachting circles. This led to the development of “compromise” designs pioneered by Edward Burgess of Boston, Massachusetts, an entomologist turned yacht designer who was heavily influenced by British cutters he had observed during a summer spent on the Isle of Wight.

These compromise boats, like the British cutters, had heavy ballast keels, but they were not nearly as narrow or deep relative to their length. Also, like the American boats, they carried centerboards. The litmus test came in 1885, when the Burgess-designed Puritan defeated an American skimming dish, Priscilla, for the right to defend the America’s Cup, then beat a British cutter, Genesta, in the Cup finals.

Lines of Puritan

Lines of Puritan. A successful compromise design that bridged the gap between narrow British cutters and wide American sloops

Racing Rule Development

The final factor that helped to unite the opposing camps of yacht design was the development of empirically based handicap rules for racing. As noted, handicaps originally were based on commercial measurements devised for tax purposes. Over time, however, it became clear that these formulas had little to do with a vessel’s actual performance.

Performance, it was noticed, depended most directly on waterline length–i.e., more waterline equals more speed. In 1883, the first handicap rule based on measurements of waterline length and sail area, the Seawanhaka Rule, developed by New York’s Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, was adopted in the United States. Soon afterward, in 1888, a similar rule came into use in Great Britain. The result, ultimately, was a universal trend favoring boats with overhanging ends whose waterlines increased as they heeled to the wind.

One of the most important yachts to exploit this little rule-beating trick was Gloriana, a 70-foot sloop designed and built by Nathanael Herreshoff for E.D. Morgan in 1891. Gloriana, thanks at least in part to her overhanging spoon-shaped bow, was undefeated the one season Morgan raced her and instantly secured Herreshoff’s reputation as a yacht designer. Described by some as the first “scientifically contructed” yacht, she was also very stable and could carry a great press of sail, as weight above her waterline was greatly reduced and was instead concentrated as ballast in her keel.

Yacht Gloriana

E.D. Morgan’s Gloriana under sail. She was undefeated the one season he raced her

Lines of Gloriana

Lines of Gloriana

In the decade that followed, the continued development of these features, plus a tendency to cut away as much keel as possible to reduce surface area below the water, produced increasingly radical boats. This evolution culminated in a 1901 Bowdoin Crowninshield design, Independence, that was lightly built with immensely long overhangs, a tiny keel, and a gigantic sailplan. Independence leaked badly, however, and handled, as her skipper put it, like “an ice wagon.” Nat Herreshoff managed to perfect the concept in his equally radical Reliance, which defended the America’s Cup in 1903. Termed a “monster” by many at the time, Reliance measured 144 feet long on deck (and a little over 200 feet overall if you measured from the end of her boom to her bowsprit), and had a waterline length of just 90 feet, with over 16,000 square feet of sail area flying from a single mast that was 200 feet tall.

Lines of Independence

Lines of Independence

Reliance under sail

Reliance running off with maximum sail set

Profligacy in the Gilded Age

In all ways, the general trend in yacht construction in the latter half of the 19th century was increasingly grandiose. This was particularly true in the United States, where the enormous expansion of the national economy in the years following the Civil War—the Gilded Age, as Mark Twain termed it—allowed for the accumulation of private wealth on a scale never before imagined. Picking up where George Crowninshield had left off with Cleopatra’s Barge, the American “robber barons” competed with each other in creating ever more extravagant vessels.

Originally, these 19th century super-yachts could function both as cruising and racing vessels. Will Garner’sMohawk, for example, though intended to excel on the race course, also featured fabulous creature comforts, including gas lighting, hot and cold freshwater plumbing, and a steam-heat system, not to mention a grand piano and other lavish, heavy furnishings. Even America’s Cup contenders were tricked out in this manner and were often cruised between campaigns. By the end of the century, however, the superwealthy tended not to cruise in the sailing vessels they raced, as these were becoming ever more extreme. Instead, they cruised for pleasure aboard enormous steam yachts that were even larger than their sailboats.

The trend toward profligacy, and toward steam, was reflected in the changing composition of the NYYC’s squadron of members’ vessels. In 1870 the squadron consisted of only 49 vessels, four of which were steam yachts. The largest vessel was a 145-foot schooner displacing 275 tons, owned by William Douglas. Within just 30 years, the squadron mushroomed to 402 vessels, 207 of which were steam yachts. The queen of the fleet was Lysistrata, a 314-foot steamer displacing 2,682 tons that belonged to newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett.

The nearly tenfold increase in the size of the squadron was not really a function of yachting’s growing popularity as a sport. Instead it reflected yachting’s growing importance as a venue for public displays of status and wealth–a fact, of course, that was also reflected in the growing size of the yachts themselves. Many of the “yachtsmen” who owned these vessels, unlike George Crowninshield, who made his fortune at sea aboard trading vessels, had little interest in nautical matters. Even those who owned and campaigned racing yachts were often happy just to write checks (and make wagers) and never sailed their boats themselves.

As for cruising, the tycoons of the late 19th century did indeed wander far and wide in their floating palaces. One of these was an Englishman, Sir Thomas Brassey, who circled the globe in 1876-77 in his 170-foot steam auxiliary schooner Sunbeam. His wife, Lady Anna Brassey, published an account of the voyage (it was, in fact, the first circumnavigation ever made by a yacht) that became a bestseller both in Britain and the United States.

Yacht Corsair

J.P. Morgan’s Corsair. By the end of the century rich yachtsmen most often cruised in large steam vessels and only raced under sail

The Brasseys were followed by many others, particularly Americans who, like Crowninshield before them, yearned to cruise the Mediterranean, where they could purchase art and perhaps hobnob with European royalty. J.P. Morgan, for example, bought his first yacht—Corsair, a 185-foot steamer—in 1881 and at once took off on an art-buying cruise to Palestine. His third Corsair, built in 1899, which he often cruised to Europe, was 304 feet long. James Gordon Bennett, meanwhile, spent almost 20 years living aboard his steam yachts, meandering ceaselessly back and forth across the North Atlantic. Lysistrata, his last and largest vessel, had more than 100 paid crew, a stable for a milking cow, and three separate owner’s staterooms.

Needless to say, cruising on this scale never trickled down to the lower strata of society. But upper-middle-class and middle-class sailors were finding ways to get afloat, and in the end the cruises they undertook turned out to be much more influential.

When a bike gets abandoned and stripped

I am amazed how long it lasted

Get a bike. Lock it to a post. Take a pic every day for a year.

Last year, Red Peak Branding conducted a unique urban experiment for Hudson Urban Bicycles. On January 1, 2011 we chained a fully loaded bike – bells, basket, lights and more – to a post along a busy Soho street. We took a picture of the bike everyday for 365 days, watching it slowly vanish before our eyes. The photos we took were then turned into a daily calendar. We call this project LIFECYCLE: 365 days in the life of a bike in NYC.

RIDE JOURNAL story – My Bike is dead

Only discovered The Ride Journal at christmas when i got no 5 as a gift ….. fantastic – buy it and order older issues here

Loved this one – when the bike dies …

My bike died yesterday. Or maybe not.

A few days ago I noticed a creaking sound when I pedalled, but it wasn’t coming from the pedals. It seemed to be caused by some motion when I was on the saddle, so I assumed the seat post had become dry and crusty – that makes bikes creak. So when I got home, I relubed the post. I also took apart and reassembled the bottom bracket cartridge, just for good measure.

But riding to work yesterday, the creaking sound was still there, perhaps even worse. At Lex and 60th, I stopped at a red light and examined the frame. There, like a chasm in front of me, I saw a crack. The ragged line girdled the bottom lug of the downtube on my beloved Bianchi Alfana. I carried on to work but decided it would be stupid to ride home. I caught the N Train at 57th and 7th and took the subway back to Astoria. I went to the last car because it’s normally the emptiest. In the back, I stared at my frame, feeling melancholy. Here I was, with my beloved bike, knowing I may never ride it again.

I had half an hour to ponder. I’d never had a bike die of use and old age before. I was sad, but not angry. What if the bike had been stolen one day earlier? Then I’d have been pissed off. But really, what’s the difference? Either way, the bike had been taken from me.

Maybe it can be fixed – after all, it’s only steel. Tomorrow I’ll take it to my man at the Bicycle Repairman Corp and see what he says. With boats, they say the only defining characteristic is the line: from profile, the curve on the top of the hull. Everything else can be fixed, welded, repaired and replaced. But you can never change the line.

The frame is the line of the bike. Everything else can be replaced, mended, modified or changed. The frame is the bike. This frame has been with me for 12 years, through bumps and speed and curbs, plus a few spills.

I’m a heavy guy who rides a skinny-tired road bike to commute to work in New York City. Maybe the bike is just the victim of my return commute on 58th Street, one of the worst in Manhattan. It’s one I often take because, well, it’s not 57th or 59th Streets. Or maybe the crack started back in 2005 when I wiped out on the Triborough Bridge.

The frame crack is natural in a way. Organic. A fatal flaw, but also just a wrinkle of old age. It’s hard to be angry, the bike has been good to me, probably better than I’ve been to it. That’s the beauty of bikes: a bike is there for you no matter what, like a loyal dog. But I’m allergic to dogs; all I’ve got is bikes.

Do I want a new bike? No. But I still can’t help but think maybe things could be better. I mean, my shifters don’t really work well any more in temperatures under 40ºF; the chain ring is no longer perfectly true; 650B wheels would let me put full fenders on the wheels… But these are bad thoughts I don’t want to think – it feels somehow unfaithful.

Along with the real loss, what is so horrible is the anticipation of dealing with the life afterwards. Shock replaced with feelings of loneliness, soldiering on, the future, and replacement.

Guilt is a factor when one contemplates loss that hasn’t even happened.

After any great loss, life will almost assuredly be filled with joy eventually. Thinking of that too early seems to trivialise things. A couple of years ago I had to deal with the idea that my wife might die.

The thought crossed my mind. To cut a long story very short, she didn’t. My wife, hell, any person is more important than a bike. I don’t like personifying machines. You can’t buy love. But I can buy a new bike because I live a rich life in a rich country. Yet the feelings I have for the loss of my beloved bicycle remind me of the sadness of human loss. It doesn’t even come close in terms of magnitude or degree, of course, but in spirit, in the nature of loss, sadness cares not for the source.

My bike is dead. I love my bike. I am sad.

Peter Moskos. NYC, USA. Peter rides a bike in New York because it’s fun, really.
www.astoriabike.com / www.marklazenby.co.uk

Looking to park your bike: solutions

From a bike tweet:


In most cities, cyclists have nowhere to lock their bikes legally. Here’s how to change that.

By Bob Mionske

Whether your bike takes you to work or just on the occasional coffee run, when there’s no rack at your destination, riding suddenly becomes a less practical means of getting around.

After all, cyclists are often prohibited not only from bringing bikes inside, but also from lockingthem to posts or railings.

Of course, we’ve always made use of whatever structures are available. But law enforcement can, and sometimes does, impound illegally parked bicycles, a fact New Yorkers know all too well.

The unfortunate truth is that in most places, cyclists don’t have the right to a safe place to park.

To change this, you must organize locally and lobby your elected representatives. Here are some points worth sharing with them.

The Demand Is There

In 2009, New York City began requiring the owners of commercial buildings equipped with at least one freight elevator to provide access for bicycle commuters.

Interestingly, even though the law does not apply to residential buildings, bicycle parking has become a popular real-estate marketing tool in that city.

Resources Are Available

Cities are increasingly coming up with creative solutions (see “Park Here,” below). Philadelphia has turned old parking-meter posts into bike racks; officials in New York plan to do the same.

In Los Angeles, a new law will require more parking spaces for cyclists and make it easier for developers to swap car parking for bike parking.

Bikes Mean Business

On-street corrals, or rows of bike racks, are a smart use of space. A single car-parking spot can fit 12 bicycles, according to the Clif Bar 2-Mile Challenge.

In other words, bicycle-friendly shopping districts could potentially draw more customers.


Park Here!

Three genius bicycle-storage solutions. —Emily Furia

Vancouver, Washington

Top off your tires before heading home using one of the floor pumps attached to some of Vancouver, Washington’s bike racks. Or protect your baby from thieves and the elements by stowing it in one of the city’s card-accessed bicycle lockers.

Long Beach, California—and beyond

Bicycle centers or stations offer secure, indoor bike parking, along with showers, lockers, and sometimes repairs. The first one opened in Long Beach in 1996. Today there are facilities in Minneapolis; Portland, Oregon; St. Louis; and Washington, D.C.


The city’s Kasai train station boasts the world’s largest bicycle garage; it can hold 9,400 bikes underground. Punch in a code, and an elevator retrieves your ride—in about 23 seconds.

The run Commute

This is pretty inspiring

This is my daily exercise routine; my run to work is my run to keep my health!

I live 15 miles from my office in Midtown New York City. Each day I get to work by foot – I run to work! Exercise is one of the most important parts of my life, if I don’t exercise daily I just don’t feel good.

Having a tangible reason and benefit to running to work takes the mental pressure out of my mind on whether I will make time for exercise or not each day. I have to get to work, so I have to run, it’s simple, it’s routine, it’s a better life and lifestyle.

When I’m training for ultra marathons I run home too! Running ‘double’ workouts is another secret to my success in staying injury free, being accomplished in the ultra distance races, and keeping mental burnout at bay.

If you can work your exercise into your daily routine so it has a tangible use and benefit then you’ll have developed an important lifestyle habit that will improve all other areas of your life.

No excuses! You can commute to work too! Instal a shower at your office. Take a sponge bath in the bathroom. Shower and change at a local gym. Run home from work at the end of the day and shower at home, do it, you can make it happen!

“Exercise each day as if your life depends on it” – Dr. Douglas Graham

Watch out – an anniversary that bikers might not be aware of

1899: Henry Bliss becomes the first pedestrian known to be killed by an automobile in North America.

Bliss, a Manhattan real estate salesman, had just stepped off a streetcar at West 74th Street and Central Park West (a few blocks south of the American Museum of Natural History) when he was struck by a passing taxicab. It knocked him unconscious, crushing his skull and chest. He died the following morning.

The driver of the cab, an electric-powered vehicle, was arrested and charged with manslaughter. The charges were dropped after it was determined that Bliss’ death was unintentional.

On the centennial of his death, Citystreets, a safety-awareness organization, placed a plaque at the site:

Here at West 74th Street and Central Park West, Henry H. Bliss dismounted from a streetcar and was struck and knocked unconscious by an automobile on the evening of September 13, 1899. When Mr. Bliss, a New York real estate man, died the next morning from his injuries, he became the first recorded motor vehicle fatality in the Western Hemisphere. This sign was erected to remember Mr. Bliss on the centennial of his untimely death and to promote safety on our streets and highways.

Bliss was not the first pedestrian traffic fatality ever recorded anywhere, however. At least two other people are known to have died before him, including Irish scientist Mary Ward, who was run over by a steam-powered car in 1869 in County Down, possibly making her the first auto-traffic victim in the world.

A move back to cycling (and other alternatives) in cities

A great article on te rise of green in europe – a slant from the New York Times but interesting reading.

ZURICH — While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Christoph Bangert for The New York Times

Cities including Vienna to Munich and Copenhagen have closed vast swaths of streets to car traffic. Barcelona and Paris have had car lanes eroded bypopular bike-sharing programs. Drivers in London and Stockholm pay hefty congestion charges just for entering the heart of the city. And over the past two years, dozens of German cities have joined a national network of“environmental zones” where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter.

Likeminded cities welcome new shopping malls and apartment buildings but severely restrict the allowable number of parking spaces. On-street parking is vanishing. In recent years, even former car capitals like Munich have evolved into “walkers’ paradises,” said Lee Schipper, a senior research engineer at Stanford University who specializes in sustainable transportation.

“In the United States, there has been much more of a tendency to adapt cities to accommodate driving,” said Peder Jensen, head of the Energy and Transport Group at the European Environment Agency. “Here there has been more movement to make cities more livable for people, to get cities relatively free of cars.”

To that end, the municipal Traffic Planning Department here in Zurich has been working overtime in recent years to torment drivers. Closely spaced red lights have been added on roads into town, causing delays and angst for commuters. Pedestrian underpasses that once allowed traffic to flow freely across major intersections have been removed. Operators in the city’s ever expanding tram system can turn traffic lights in their favor as they approach, forcing cars to halt.

Around Löwenplatz, one of Zurich’s busiest squares, cars are now banned on many blocks. Where permitted, their speed is limited to a snail’s pace so that crosswalks and crossing signs can be removed entirely, giving people on foot the right to cross anywhere they like at any time.

As he stood watching a few cars inch through a mass of bicycles and pedestrians, the city’s chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann, smiled. “Driving is a stop-and-go experience,” he said. “That’s what we like! Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it easy for drivers.”

While some American cities — notably San Francisco, which has “pedestrianized” parts of Market Street — have made similar efforts, they are still the exception in the United States, where it has been difficult to get people to imagine a life where cars are not entrenched, Dr. Schipper said.

Europe’s cities generally have stronger incentives to act. Built for the most part before the advent of cars, their narrow roads are poor at handling heavy traffic. Public transportation is generally better in Europe than in the United States, and gas often costs over $8 a gallon, contributing to driving costs that are two to three times greater per mile than in the United States, Dr. Schipper said.

What is more, European Union countries probably cannot meet a commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions unless they curb driving. The United States never ratified that pact.

Globally, emissions from transportation continue a relentless rise, with half of them coming from personal cars. Yet an important impulse behind Europe’s traffic reforms will be familiar to mayors in Los Angeles and Vienna alike: to make cities more inviting, with cleaner air and less traffic.

Michael Kodransky, global research manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York, which works with cities to reduce transport emissions, said that Europe was previously “on the same trajectory as the United States, with more people wanting to own more cars.” But in the past decade, there had been “a conscious shift in thinking, and firm policy,” he said. And it is having an effect.

After two decades of car ownership, Hans Von Matt, 52, who works in the insurance industry, sold his vehicle and now gets around Zurich by tram or bicycle, using a car-sharing service for trips out of the city. Carless households have increased from 40 to 45 percent in the last decade, and car owners use their vehicles less, city statistics show.

“There were big fights over whether to close this road or not — but now it is closed, and people got used to it,” he said, alighting from his bicycle on Limmatquai, a riverside pedestrian zone lined with cafes that used to be two lanes of gridlock. Each major road closing has to be approved in a referendum.

Today 91 percent of the delegates to the Swiss Parliament take the tram to work.

Still, there is grumbling. “There are all these zones where you can only drive 20 or 30 kilometers per hour [about 12 to 18 miles an hour], which is rather stressful,” Thomas Rickli, a consultant, said as he parked his Jaguar in a lot at the edge of town. “It’s useless.”

Urban planners generally agree that a rise in car commuting is not desirable for cities anywhere.

Mr. Fellmann calculated that a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three. “So it’s not really fair to everyone else if you take the car,” he said.

European cities also realized they could not meetincreasingly strict World Health Organization guidelinesfor fine-particulate air pollution if cars continued to reign. Many American cities are likewise in “nonattainment” of their Clean Air Act requirements, but that fact “is just accepted here,” said Mr. Kodransky of the New York-based transportation institute.

It often takes extreme measures to get people out of their cars, and providing good public transportation is a crucial first step. One novel strategy in Europe is intentionally making it harder and more costly to park. “Parking is everywhere in the United States, but it’s disappearing from the urban space in Europe,” said Mr. Kodransky, whose recent report“Europe’s Parking U-Turn” surveys the shift.

Sihl City, a new Zurich mall, is three times the size of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Mall but has only half the number of parking spaces, and as a result, 70 percent of visitors get there by public transport, Mr. Kodransky said.

In Copenhagen, Mr. Jensen, at the European Environment Agency, said that his office building had more than 150 spaces for bicycles and only one for a car, to accommodate a disabled person.

While many building codes in Europe cap the number of parking spaces in new buildings to discourage car ownership, American codes conversely tend to stipulate a minimum number. New apartment complexes built along the light rail line in Denver devote their bottom eight floors to parking, making it “too easy” to get in the car rather than take advantage of rail transit, Mr. Kodransky said.

While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has generated controversy in New York by “pedestrianizing” a few areas like Times Square, many European cities have already closed vast areas to car traffic. Store owners in Zurich had worried that the closings would mean a drop in business, but that fear has proved unfounded, Mr. Fellmann said, because pedestrian traffic increased 30 to 40 percent where cars were banned.

With politicians and most citizens still largely behind them, Zurich’s planners continue their traffic-taming quest, shortening the green-light periods and lengthening the red with the goal that pedestrians wait no more than 20 seconds to cross.

“We would never synchronize green lights for cars with our philosophy,” said Pio Marzolini, a city official. “When I’m in other cities, I feel like I’m always waiting to cross a street. I can’t get used to the idea that I am worth less than a car.”