Car drivers take up way more road space than they need since the size of their vehicles are disproportionate to their usefulness. Smart countries aim to limit the number of single occupant vehicles on the road for this reason and to ensure that all people can easily get from one place to the next. Traffic is so bad in some places that countries, like France, are now paying people to give up on their car.
France is working hard to push urban drivers out of cars and towards smaller and more environmentally responsible forms of transportation. In large cities like Paris, reduction in traffic from a switch to bicycles and scooters is perhaps just as important to many residents as the environmental effects.
We recently covered the case of anelectric bicycle company that is switching from vans to cargo e-bikesto increase the number of electric bikes it could deliver each day. The company’s delivery vans were simply too slow in Paris traffic, and switching to cargo e-bikes will help ramp up deliveries by using smaller, quicker, and more efficient vehicles.
There’s a fiction that cars are needed in cities and we should provide parts of our limited land in urban centres so one person can leave their car. This fiction perpetuated by car brains hurts our cities and is really not good, to solve this problem the city of Rotterdam create a parking pad that fits more than one vehicle using the same plot of land. Yes, it’s a bike rack. A special rack. The bicycle rack is placed on a mobile platform that is the size of a single car. The city can then easily trial out new bike rack locations, gauge demand, and get local communities to support a permanent parking solution.
The idea came originally from planners in the city of Rotterdam, who were brainstorming ideas in 2015 to help increase biking in a neighborhood that had extra car parking. “We figured, why couldn’t we develop a bicycle platform in order to just test if there’s demand for bicycle parking in this neighborhood—launch it as a test and experiment to help change the mindset of people in this neighborhood,” says urban planner José Besselink. “We also thought it would help us in accelerating this transition because we know that eliminating car parking is a tough thing anywhere in the world.”
In The Hague, neighbors can request a platform for their own block. On one of the streets where bike parking was installed this spring, the project helped residents realize they wanted to do more, says Schutte. “The residents of the street want to go even further and are investigating whether there could be more greenery in the street and whether the street could be made car-free,” she says. “It has also made residents more aware of their living environment and that you can do something about it, together with other residents and the municipality.”
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.