Have you ever wondered what the city you live in would be like without cars? For some of us the charm of biking depends on cars being there to zip by “Mission Impossible” style on our way to work, the grocery store, or the pub. I know I harness my inner Tom Cruise on a daily basis.
But let us just take a second to imagine a city where cars don’t pose death threats to us on the daily. A city where we can be ourselves and put our inner Tom Cruise to rest. In such a city there would be more space for pedestrians, pop-up shops, and for children to play. People would be healthier, there is less pollution and stronger communities. I realize that not everyone can bike and walk everywhere, therefore public transit would still exist but it would be incorporated within a network of walking and cycling paths. Transportation hubs, nodal points on transit lines on the outskirts of the city, would be connection points for external trucks caring imported goods or picking up exported goods. Personal automobiles, used to visit other cities or go camping, could be stored at these transportation hub as well.
These ideas, as much as I want to claim them as my own urban infrastructure genius, are not original. In fact there are many examples of cities that are testing out this “no-cars” idea or at least moving in that direction. Some examples include:
Copenhagen, Denmark – There is a large pedestrian area, called Stroget, where not even bicycles are allowed. This area is in the centre of Copenhagen and is a major commercial and tourism location.
Dubravik, Croatia – This is a UNESCO World Heritage city which may help protect the city from redevelopment that would destroy the pedestrian and cycling friendly narrow streets which were initially designed for horse and buggy. Hasselt, Belgium – The centre of of the city is car free which is helped by the closely packed historical buildings.
Milan, Italy – This city has had a lot of challenges with both congestion and pollution, therefore the City of Milan recently developed a program which offers any commuters free public transit vouchers if they leave their car at home.
Helsinki, Finland – a city designed with multiple suburban communities that feeds into the core (why does this sound familiar?!). They are expecting a large influx in new residences of the city over the next few decades therefore they are putting the infrastructure in place to support a car free culture that connects the suburbs to the downtown core with high-speed transit.