Parking challenges, street congestion and air pollution are just a few reasons why cars are losing their place in ultra-progressive urbanization. As cities grow and populations expand, it’s imperative for city planners to strategically design in a way that’s conducive to a high quality of life. Already several cities across the globe are actively encouraging citizens to leave cars at home and building streets for people, not cars.
Slowly planners are beginning to understand the need to create great spaces for living, working, playing and raising families. The hipster lifestyle of getting around with cycling, walking, public transit and other emission-less transportation has become increasingly popular due to numerous physical and environmental health benefits. The key is to focus on a rebalance of public spaces to allow for more community interaction and walkability.
Progress Around the Globe
China’s Walkable Metropolis
In efforts to design an affordable urban life and address overpopulation, China has built a green metropolis from scratch. The city has a high-rise core, is entirely walkable and surrounded by green space. The purpose is to create a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Throughout the popular European city of London, traffic has been known to move slower than the average cyclist or horse-drawn carriage. To help reduce traffic, the city will pay commuters to take the train. Additionally, they utilize fines, better designs and new apps to help get rid of cars.
Milan’s Transit Vouchers
In Milan commuters are further incentivized to utilize public transit through government-paid vouchers. When they leave their cars at home, they will receive a public transit ticket of equal value for their journey in and out of the city. Instead commuters can take the bus or train. Milan’s test project to reduce pollution includes an Internet-connected box users can put in their cars to track the location, to ensure follow through.
Paris’s Pollution Drop
As pollution levels grew increasingly problematic, Paris officials decided to ban cars. Since doing so, not only have they seen a pollution drop, but also the percentage of non-car owners went from 40 to 60 percent. To further reduce emission levels, the mayor plans to double the city’s bike lanes within the next four years.
Copenhagen’s Bike Lanes
While Portland is known as the cyclist capital of the U.S., Copenhagen has designed their streets to be 9 times as bike-friendly. With numerous bike-lanes and strategic street layout, city planners purposely create a healthier city where citizens can easily live car-free. As a result of their bike-friendly design, the Copenhagen has one of the lowest percentages of car ownership in Europe.
Oslo’s Car Ban
With a population of 650,000 people and 350,000 cars, the Norwegian city of Oslo has completely banned cars from the city center. Not only will this allow streets to become more pedestrian-friendly, but also the ban will greatly help in reducing vehicle-emissions to combat air pollution. Though cars have been banned, public transit such as buses and trams are still utilized.
Leading in walkability for U.S. cities, Manhattan leads in the global trend of planning for more pedestrians and cyclists, who take over a 60-block swath downtown. There are bike valet services offered free of charge throughout. With traffic rates at roughly 8 mph, the heart of New York leads as the natural frontier for a walking community in America.
Despite automotive technological advancement, a few cities are beginning to understand the impracticality of cars in urban design. While the shift away from cars in urbanizing cities will happen slowly, several leaders are currently making steps in the right direction towards healthier neighborhoods.
While it’s impractical for most cities to go completely car-free, the growing trend toward healthier communities with sustainable designs is clear. With a big picture focus on quality of life, planners can design streets for people, not cars.