Once you stop taking the presence of cars for granted, plenty of new possibilities open-up.
In Oslo, most on-street parking has been replaced with street furniture like benches and mini parks, as well as bike lanes and bigger pavements. Though some businesses feared a loss of trade, the city centre in fact saw a 10 per cent rise in footfall after the reduction measures. One UK man who has been taking town planning into his own hands is Adam Tranter, Bicycle Mayor for Coventry. Sometimes people-friendly transport changes can be fleeting but help us see another way.
The medieval city of Ghent found its narrow streets overwhelmed by traffic during the 1980s. In many more cities across Europe, e-bike schemes are taking off in a big way. Some disabled people need vehicles to get around. More accessible public transport systems like trams are ripe for expansion too.
Reducing the need to travel is another obvious way to cut down our carbon footprints. Nine out of ten residents now live in areas where traffic can go no faster than 19mph. Planning new developments for homes and businesses near public transport like light rail was a significant part of Freiburg’s journey to become Germany’s unofficial “environmental capital”. Though Milan and other Italian cities have a congested recent past, the country’s famous town and city squares suggest other ways of living.
Whatever comes in their place, cutting down on cars in city centres is essential for meeting national climate targets and improving our health. CO2 emissions are down by 70 per cent, and central Pontevedra has attracted some 12,000 new inhabitants. Things that first appeared unpopular have quickly won people over too. Five years later, the figures have switched to show majority support for the scheme. This cut dawdling vehicle emissions of harmful nitrogen oxide and particulates by 8 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.
Carolina São Marcos
STORYTELLME Junior Technician