- A number of major cities have joined the „car-free“ movement, which aims to reduce air pollution and improve safety among residents.
- Most cities that are starting to ban cars are located in Europe, though a few others, such as New York, are making considerable strides.
- In addition to implementing outright bans, cities have enacted measures to encourage cycling and make public spaces more pedestrian-friendly.
As small cities successfully implement plans to ditch their vehicles, many large urban areas are determined to follow in their footsteps.
The idea of a car-free city is not without its challenges. Though bikes and public transit are widely available in most cities, cars remain a preferred method of transportation for many urban commuters.
Studies have shown that it’s notoriously difficult to change a driver’s commuting habits, even when free public transit is involved.
The alternative is high levels of car pollution, which contributes to around 20% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. An Oxford study found that around 10,000 people die prematurely in Europe each year due to pollution from diesel cars alone.
Here are some of the major cities that are determined to improve health and safety by banning cars.
Madrid banned older cars from its city center.
In December, Madrid began restricting access to gas-powered vehicles made prior to 2000 and diesel vehicles made prior to 2006. Exceptions are currently being made for cars with a private parking spot that are registered in advance. Come 2020, older diesel and gas-powered cars won’t be allowed to enter at all.
Older diesel and gas-powered taxis will have until 2022 before the ban goes into effect, while hybrid vehicles with an „eco label“ are granted free reign. Any car that’s found in violation of the new rules will have to pay a fine of around $100.
On its first day, the ban successfully cut traffic on Madrid’s busiest street by a third. The city expects the ban to impact around 20% of the cars entering its urban core.
In Paris, the first Sunday of every month is free of cars.
A 2018 study found that Paris has the second worst air quality among 13 European cities, behind Moscow, but ahead of London.
The city’s major, Anne Hidalgo, has made it a personal mission to improve pollution levels by imposing numerous restrictions on vehicles. Cars made before 1997 have been banned from the city center on weekdays, and the city plans to limit select streets to electric cars by 2020.
Hidalgo recently declared the first Sunday of every month car-free from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the urban core — a rule that’s already been established in other parts of the city.
New York City banned cars from Central Park.
New York City’s car-free initiatives may lag behind those in European cities, but they’re still far ahead of the curve in the US.
In addition to creating permanent, pedestrian-only zones in popular areas like Times Square, Herald Square, and Madison Square Park, the city has banned cars from the internal streets of Central Park, which receives around 42 million visitors each year.
„This park was not built for automobiles,“ Mayor Bill de Blasio said while announcing the plan in April. „It was built for people.“
The city also built more protected bike lanes in 2018, though there’s some controversy over whether it exaggerated the scope of its efforts.
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Source: Business insider