Published On: Tue, Nov 18th, 2014

Car Free Cities: Impossible Dream or Future Reality?

Though Washington State Republican Ed Orcutt blames heavy breathing while cycling as a culprit for global warming, most environmentalists agree that the bike is better for the environment than the car. With the threat of global warming, and the increase of costs and shortage of fuel, the conversation for making public transportation more accessible and designing cities to encourage walking and riding has become more pressing. The debate is not so much if car free cities would be favourable, but if it is a plausible idea.

Bicyclist Public domain image/Man vyi

Public domain image/Man vyi

Movements for Change

There are increasing movements to encourage walking, riding, and taking advantage of public transportation throughout the UK. It is better for the environment, individuals, and society. One such movement is the Cycle 2 Work Scheme, which encourages biking to work. This saves money for participants, as individuals save on fuel costs. There are even employers’ benefits of the Cycle2Work Scheme, such as major discounts on bikes.

The Vision for 2030

It is not just the private sector that is encouraging other modes of transportation besides cars, especially within cities. Many European cities already boast of more than half of all journeys being on foot or bicycle. University researchers from Leeds, Oxford, Salford, Manchester, and East Anglia have explored ways to encourage more walking and bikes in the UK and created a vision for the year 2030 with the greatest potential for change. Their goal is to reduce car transportation as much as possible, thereby increasing sustainability and increasing quality of life in cities, by reducing traffic, car emissions, and fuel costs.

Assuming government and society is much the same in 2030 as it is today, but city planning is not improved, envisioned transport would be about 32% walking, 13% cycling, 25% public transport and 30% car. The goal is to get the car percentage down. With changing society’s values, encouraging urban areas to get in their cars less, improving public transportation, and designing cities better suited to pedestrians, by increasing planning at the local government level, the transport percentages could look more like 37% walking, 23% cycling, 35% public transport, and 5% car. The 2030 Vision has mapped out several possible future transport percentages by taking surveys about potential future plans.

A Cyclical Problem; a Cycle Solution

The biggest problems with encouraging less car use are cyclical. The roads are not designed well for pedestrians, because many people use cars. Many people use cars so the roads are designed for heavy car use.

Long distance commutes and difficult household routines also limit public transportation use and walking or bike use. However, the general population seems favourable to alternative transportation if there were methods and designs in place that would make it easier. City planners look favourably on designing cities to encourage more walking and cycling and individuals favour cities designed this way too. With everyone in agreement that more self-propelled transportation, as opposed to driving, would be preferable and benefit everyone, as well as the environment, it seems well within the realm, of possibility that car free cities may be a part of the future.

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