Paris once had a reputation for horrible traffic, long queues of cars and taxing journeys via cars. When you have a problem stemming from one element sometimes it’s best to just get rid of it. That’s exactly what Paris is doing. By getting rid of the car traffic jams are going away and travel times for everyone are decreasing. By adding more mobility options people are able to navigate the city faster, easier, and are reliant on only one mode of transport. They have the freedom to choose how to get around.
OK, quickly: At the start of the 20th century, in the ’20s, ’30s, the car asserts itself as a travel mode in urban centers, which are transformed. Paris is clearly an old city with many centuries of history with an urban fabric. Even though it was transformed by Haussmann in the 19th century, it has an extremely dense urban fabric with a lot of small streets and a configuration a priori not adapted to the auto. When the car arrives, we transform what we can call public space, and this public space becomes automobile space, with the logical system of the car imposing itself in Paris. And public space is completely devoured, eaten away, and in a certain way privatized to one single, unique use.
Very quickly we see the limits of “total car” in Paris, even in the ’60s and ’70s. We try to say, “How can we preserve this city?” Well, by putting cars underground. So we construct parking, even whole highways, under Paris. But there’s opposition to the highway on the Seine. There were protests. When we did the parking under Notre-Dame, there was a lot of opposition, because they were going to graze the crypt underneath.
Smoking is bad for your health, yet people still smoke. Driving is bad for your health, yet people still drive. Over the last half century we’ve worked hard to help people quit smoking and deter people from engaging in the behaviour in the first place. It’s time we help people quit driving and deter them from even starting.
The reasons people think they need are a car stem from many directions. The way cities and suburban locations are built are designed for limited mobility (car focused), cities don’t provide non-car options, and just like tobacco there’s big money encouraging everyone to drive. Over at Vox they’ve outlined multiple approaches to getting people out of their cars and into the world.
End single-family zoning to encourage mixed-use development
On its face, single-family zoning is a housing policy that creates quiet, uncrowded neighborhoods by restricting the development of apartments, townhouses, or any other dwelling thatâ€™s not a freestanding home. Itâ€™s incredibly prevalent in the US (75 percent of residential land is single-family zoned), and,Â as my colleague Jerusalem DemsasÂ points out, it is incredibly harmful. It has had a racist impact, having been used to exclude people of color from certain neighborhoods, and it overall increases the cost of housing by limiting supply.
People make cities an interesting place to be. It’s the people that produce culture and economic prosperity, yet many cities have highways going right through them. These highways make the city worse in every regard.
Now, cities in America will be getting funding to repair the cities from the damage done by highways. Hopefully other parts of the world will see that highways are a thing of the past and we need to build cities for people.
The future of the countryâ€™s highway system is about much more than those neighborhoods, too. It will also affect public health and climate change. And the debate is happening at a fascinating moment: Many of the midcentury highways are reaching the end of their life span, and attitudes toward transportation are shifting.
â€œAs recently as a decade ago,â€ said Peter Norton, a University of Virginia historian, â€œevery transportation problem was a problem to be solved with new roads.â€ Thatâ€™s not always the case anymore.
There is a gender gap in our cities and it’s all thanks to car-centric design. Everybody knows that cars destroy urban centers and cause a lot of harm to public health. but you may not have thought of the impact cars have on gender. As cities look to modernize themselves by returning streets to people they need to also think about how different people use transportation in the city. Part time workers are more likely to be women and that often means more trips per day than their typical male counterparts. Designing cities through a gendered lens means that the city can accommodate multiple modes of transportation beyond the male-dominated rush hour.
â€œThe discussion on inclusive mobility is gathering steam,â€ said Ricarda Lang, deputy chair of the German Green party. â€œFeminism is not a stand-alone topic, but a perspective that we also apply in the area of urban development and mobility.â€
The issue is more complex than cars versus bikes. In some cities, women cycle less, likely because lanes arenâ€™t wide or secure enough, especially with kid carriers â€” underscoring the importance of transport design. But thereâ€™s no denying car-centric systems face strain.
Numerous grassroot initiatives are demanding restrictions on personal vehicles. One of the most radical is in Berlin, where activists are pushing for a referendum that would all but eliminate private autos in the inner city in favor of walking, cycling and public transport.
Urban highways occupy a lot of space that can otherwise be used for parks, housing, offices, or anything else that produces economic benefits. The post war highway building boom in North America destroyed communities (in the USA highways were built to purposefully isolate black communities), fuelled car-dependent suburban developments, and plunged cities into debt to finance the construction. Now, we pay the price for the thoughtlessness of previous generations with unsustainable developments, polluted land, and large swaths of our cities taken over by tarmac.
No more. Cities are removing their highways instead of going further into debt to maintain them (Toronto is an exception to this). As a result new land is essentially being created and new vibrant, prosperous communities are popping up.
Rochesterâ€™s Inner Loop, completed in 1965, is one prominent example. This freeway destroyed hundreds of businesses and homes while separating downtown from the rest of the city, theNew York Timesreports. And in recent years, local officials have been trying to undo the damage.
In 2013, Rochester spent roughly $25 million to take out an eastern segment of the freeway. Apartment buildings have since been built in its place, and smaller roads once separated by the Inner Loop have now been reconnected, facilitating the easy transportation of walkers and bikers in the area. Following the $25 million removal project, over $300 million of private investment was brought into the city,according to aRochester City Newspaperarticle.