Is it time to ban cars from cities?

As the world becomes more and more environmentally aware, countries and cities around the world are starting to introduce measures to reduce carbon emissions. But is the answer to simply ban cars?

In this article you will learn:

  • The impact of reducing motor vehicles in city centres
  • The changes that cities are making to address vehicle emissions
  • How cities are looking to ban cars

When Paris banned cars with even-numbered license plates for one day in 2014 it was reported that pollution dropped by 30 per cent. Mexico City introduced a similar policy, which saw 40 per cent of cars kept off the road on certain days to help limit the smog levels in the city. Beijing introduced a similar system during the 2008 Olympic Games with odd and even number plates only being allowed in the city on certain days. Combined with the shutting down of factories and industries that cause much of the pollution in the city, the ban drove airborne particulate matter concentrations during the Olympics down by 20 per cent.

So, how do we ban cars in cities?

Many cities are taking different approaches to reducing the number of cars on their roads. Helsinki is aiming for cars to be obsolete in its city by 2025, not through bans but by improving public transportation so that residents do not need to drive.

Madrid, on the other hand, has issued a blanket ban on non-resident cars from driving anywhere in the city centre.

Other cities, including Oslo, Berlin and Paris, are improving their cycle lanes to encourage people to get on their bikes, rather than in their cars. The German capital has started construction on a number of bike superhighways, which are 13 feet wide and blocked off from cars completely. Oslo plans to introduce a car ban next year and will replace 35 miles of road with bike lanes.

Chengdu, a newly-designed area in China, has been specially created to discourage people from needing cars. The architects who worked on the new area set out to make it possible for residents to walk anywhere they need to go within 15 minutes, completely reducing the need for cars or other polluting transport.

Vauban, a neighbourhood to the south of the town centre in Freiburg, has taken a slightly different approach though. As well as encouraging residents to walk or cycle with pedestrianised streets and cycle lanes, most of Vauban's residential streets are described as ‘stellplatzfrei’ – literally ‘free from parking spaces’. This means that for any Vauban resident who owns a car, they must rent a parking space on the outskirts of the town – a decision that could set them back about €20,000. Consequently, 70 per cent of residents don’t own a car – and 57 per cent sold a car to move there.

Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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