News is beginning to circulate that the Norwegian city of Oslo is looking to be car free by the year 2019. While we shudder at the thought of being car free, downtown centers certainly aren’t the place for a decent set of wheels. Think of owning a st bernard in a bachelor apartment, doesn’t make sense does it? The same can be said for any half decent car while living in a crowded downtown core. Oslo isn’t the first city to have this thought, and as people become more and reliant on transit the need to reduce the amount of cars grows.
While Oslo is the first major European capital to go car free, other places around the world have had car free areas for years. What does it take to go car free? What are other cities doing, and is it viable? Prime Choice takes a look at the terrifying world without cars
Living Car Free And Simple
When a city says they want to go car free, what does that mean? In most cases, an entire city doesn’t go car free, but certain sections. In these sections, a range of no motorized vehicles to only service vehicles and buses are permitted. More and more cities are having experiments with certain streets or districts banning cars. When this happens, citizens are encouraged to commute on foot or by bike. The entire endeavor is an exercise in urban engineering, with planning for more space for stores and businesses and less space for cars. The entire dynamic of an urban core changes when you no longer allow vehicles into the mix. Pollution, noise, congestion, and accidents all disappear from downtown cores. In addition to that, gas stations and other car based infrastructure, like parking spaces and garages and taxi stands, all disappear when cars are removed from the equation. So does it work, or is the car free city a silly pipe dream?
Copenhagen used to be as bad as any other city for traffic and vehicle problems. In the 60’s, they began to introduce pedestrian only zones car free zones soon after that. Since then, people have widely adapted to this lifestyle, with over 200 miles of bike lanes being added and the amount of space dedicated to car free zones continuously expanding. To put the popularity of the car free lifestyle in Copenhagen into perspective, the city has a cycling population nine times higher than Portland, the US city with the highest amount of cyclists. That isn’t some skewed number either, Copenhagen’s population is 100,000 people short of Portland’s.
Quebec City isn’t entirely car free, but many of it’s more visited areas are. While most places on earth that car free have populations under 500 or are incredible remote, Quebec CIty has a population of over half a million, and yet still allows for some of its busiest areas to be car free. The reason isn’t due to any brilliant engineering or advanced designs, the city was simply built before cars were common and therefore wasn’t designed to include them.
The historic center of Vienna, the capital city of Austria, is also car free. Like Quebec city, the historical design of the city hasn’t allowed for vehicle traffic to take hold. If you’re still on the fence if the car free city lifestyle is worth living in then listen up, Vienna has been ranked in first or second place for quality of life surveys for over 15 years. Occasionally tieing with Vancouver and San Francisco (both relatively car free cities)
Why It’ll Never Work
For the most part, us North Americans are used to large distances between two points of interest. Due to this, we have accepted and enjoy driving. Getting told to leave our cars at home is a bit of a bummer, our cars have become a part of us. Without getting to drive, we feel like we miss out on a part of our transit experience. A car free city has no room for the 911’s, the GT-R’s, the M4’s. If we have all this space and nothing to really stretch out with, what’s the point?
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