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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European Cities Announce Bans on Fossil Fuel Vehicles

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It’s no shock that cars are bad for health, what is shocking is that we continue to build cities to support automobiles. This is changing in some European cities and hopefully the idea will spread. Quite a few large cities in Europe are outright banning cars that use consume fossil fuels in the coming years (so residents with cars have a chance to get rid of their car). As the linked article says, ‘It’s not a human right to pollute the air for others’, we need massive change in how we treat polluters in cities.

Paris will ban all petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars by 2030, a decade ahead of France’s 2040 target. Copenhagen plans to ban diesel cars from 2019, while Oxford has proposed banning all non-electric vehicles from its centre from 2020. This would make central Oxford the world’s first zero-emissions zone, officials believe.

Sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, including hybrids, will be banned in the UK from 2040.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Yes in my Backyard!

Berlin

For too long cities have been plagued by NIMBYism – people who chant not in my backyard. People who oppose change have held back communities for too long and now people are shouting yes in my backyard – YIMBY. In Toronto the rise of this movement has led to annual event called YIMBY Toronto. The movement is international though and it’s primarily driven by people who have been negatively impacted by previous generations’ poor urban design choices. A whole generation is taking a negative and making it a positive.

The movement is fuelled by the anger of young adults from the millennial generation, many of whom are now in their late 20s and early 30s. Rather than suffer in silence as they struggle to find affordable places to live, they are heading to planning meetings en masse to argue for more housing – preferably the very kind of dense, urban infill projects that have often generated neighbourhood opposition from nimbys (“not in my back yard”).

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Living Off the Grid in a Major City

Most people think living off the grid means living the countryside with your own well, reenable energy, and food source. The truth is that style of off the grid requires massive space to work (for example, a well needs a large area to collect water from), so that rural off the grid doesn’t work for everyone.

What is a person living in the city to do to get off the grid though?

Back in the 90s there was a competition throughout Canada to figure that out. One winner is still living in his house that is off the grid in Toronto.

“We promised to make the house self-sufficient and not use any non-renewable fuel,” Paloheimo said.

“Despite the home’s high-tech appearance, most of the products and systems are simple and straightforward,” said Chris Ives, CMHC project manager, said in a Toronto Healthy House report published after the house was built.

“Off-grid houses do not necessarily require hours of labour for upkeep. In fact, everything in the house is easy to maintain and available in today’s marketplace.”

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Making the Most of Urban Laneways

Montreal
Many western cities have laneways that originally were used for deliveries via horses and cart; today those laneways are under utilized. These laneways cannot always be used for housing or other normal city needs due to their limited size. They can, however, be converted to enjoyable public space. Today there’s a trend amongst some cities like Montreal, Melbourne, and now Toronto to make their laneways into enjoyable little environments.

In this context, laneways can play a role both environmentally and socially. The Laneway Project has produced a guide to greening laneways, which outlines several strategies to introduce plants of all shapes and sizes between garages or behind stores.

From an environmental perspective, small changes to laneways can enhance biodiversity and reduce the urban heat island effect. Representing approximately 200,000 square metres of paved surfaces, laneways can also be adapted to improve storm water management. Senayah describes the Laneway Project’s puncture demonstration as “a meter-wide ribbon of green.” The permeable pavers not only reduce runoff but also add playful patterns to areas that are often overlooked.

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