Let’s Outright Ban Cars in Large Cities

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Vehicles have been used to kill a lot of people throughout 2017, sometimes it’s an act of terror and other times it’s drivers being startlingly incompetent. Either way, people who walk are under threat from vehicular traffic in our cities (remember that everyone is a pedestrian). This past weekend in Toronto 11 people were struck in less than half a day by cars. The car-friendly designs of cities also make it easier for vehicular terrorism, safe streets can thwart some terrorists.

Why do we design our cities around cars and then allow people to drive recklessly? We shouldn’t.

Let’s try something seemingly radical: let’s say no to car culture in big cities.

Of course, the cities we have today could not ban cars tomorrow. No current public transportation system functions well enough to carry an entire city population. Not everyone can walk or ride a bike. Too many taxi drivers would be out of work.

We are not ready, but the car-free city is being tested in bits and pieces around the world. We should learn from all of them, and apply those lessons as soon as possible.

Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city center by 2019. Madrid has a goal of 500 car-free acres by 2020. In Paris and Mexico City, people are restricted from driving into the city center on certain days based on the age of their cars or the number on their license plates. Inside Barcelona’s superblocks, all car traffic that isn’t local is banned. Over 75 miles of roads in Bogotá, Colombia, close to traffic for a full day every week.

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Beijing Replacing Gas Taxi Fleet with Electric Taxis

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Smog and Beijing go hand in hand due to the explosive growth of car ownership and poor environmental management. That’s starting to change. China’s capital city has mandated that when any new taxi hits the street that it has to be electric. This follows their efforts to replace their buses with an all electric fleet, which included putting 100,000 electric busses on the roads. This electrification will make huge strides in better air quality and advancing the electric car market.

All newly added or replaced taxies in the city of Beijing will be converted from gasoline to electricity, according to a draft work program on air pollution control for Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and surrounding areas in 2017.

This is expected to create a market worth nine billion yuan (1.3 billion US dollars).

One expert says that such plan will not only make great contribution to environmental protection, but will drive the development of the new-energy vehicle industry.

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Cities Improve Parking by Removing Parking Spaces

Car culture greatly damaged urban centres the world over and now cities are trying to undo the damage. Smart cities are banning cars from certain areas, installing bike lanes, more sidewalks, and now are removing parking. Cities built too many parking spaces for cars and now they are reclaiming that space. It’s important to remember that most of the time parking spaces are empty – and you can improve parking by managing the supply.

Sometimes, the supply of parking goes down because nobody needs it. Since 1990, the city of Philadelphia has conducted an inventory of parking every five years in the downtown Center City neighbourhood, counting publicly accessible parking spaces and analysing occupancy rates in facilities with 30 or more spaces. Because of plentiful transit options, a walkable environment and a high downtown residential population, Philadelphia is finding that it needs less parking. Between 2010 and 2015, the amount of off-street parking around downtown shrank by about 3,000 spaces, a 7% reduction. Most of that is tied to the replacement of surface lots with new development, according to Mason Austin, a planner at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and co-author of the most recent parking inventory.

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Trams Win For Moving People

Traffic is a problem in every city, and more and more people are concerned with the most efficient way of getting people from A to B. It turns out we already know the answer: mass transit. The issue in traffic planing is slowly changing from how much space should cars get to how much space should the car give up. Bicycling and mass transit are the most efficient way to move people through cities and now urban planners are thinking of how to divide up space that the car once dominated for those modes of transportation.

Cars, as you’d expect, came dead last, taking over four minutes to move just 200 people over the line. In the city, the superior acceleration and speed of a car give no advantage. Busses and trams come first—no surprise, they’re called “mass” transit for a reason. But bikes come in far behind pedestrians, taking two minutes to get 200 people over a line, compared to just 38 seconds for walking. Obviously, over longer distances, things change a lot, but it’s interesting nonetheless, as much city travel is stop-start.

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Supporting Bicycles is a Good Idea for Cities

Torontoist is a blog focused on, you guessed it, Toronto and they recently ran a series of posts about bike lanes. It’s not all about Toronto as they pull data from New York and tout Strasbourg as an inspiration that Toronto ought to follow.

The success of cycling infrastructure in Strasbourg is a result of partnerships between the city and other transportation agencies. Parcus, the city’s arms-length parking authority, manages parking lots throughout Strasbourg and incorporates bike parking as part of its facilities. Parcus provides free, supervised bike parking at five different parking lots across the city. Parking attendants are even equipped with repair kits and bike pumps.

In another recent post, Torontoist provides a look at three myths about bike lanes that people (for some reason) believe. The first myth is that bike lanes block people from commuting from the suburbs. The response to the myth is pretty great:

The myth here is that cycling infrastructure will cause congestion to the point of excessive traffic delays. Bike lanes don’t always add to traffic congestion, and really need to be analyzed on a case by case basis. Except for rush hour, Bloor Street is already occupied by parking spaces on either side of the road, and, in turn, narrows a four-lane street down to two lanes. Bike lanes will remove parking spaces, sure, but in turn will leave the two-lane situation in the same condition it was prior to the installation of the bike lanes. If bike lanes do in fact cause minor inconveniences, these inconveniences are nothing in comparison to on-street parking used practically around the clock. Here’s an 808 page book on why that’s bad public policy.

Lastly, the site outlined why bicycle infrastructure is part of a larger movement to make streets good for all commuters. Having a multimodal approach to urban transportation is always a good form of planning rather than a monolithic approach focused on one mode of getting around.

The study of the improvements made to Richmond and Adelaide streets, which included the addition of a cycle track separated from vehicle traffic by flexi-posts and planter boxes, concluded that the upgrades resulted in an increased number of cyclists using the roadways and reduced travel times for drivers. During off-peak hours, a motorist’s trip was 30 per cent faster after the cycle track was installed and 12 per cent faster during peak hours.

In the study, both cyclists and drivers reported that they felt safer using the street once it had been upgraded. The report did not, however, mention how incorrect usage of the roadway, such as drivers and delivery trucks parking in the bike lane, can render it less safe since cyclists usually have to merge with traffic.