Car-Free Equals Care-Free


Car-Free Equals Care-Free

by Amy Lignor


Classic cars are stunning. Watching the “American Pickers” on TV trying to save them is even cooler. But…what would a world be completely and utterly car-free? Is it even possible to go car-free in 2016, when people love their cars, run the roads, and now even race the backroads trying to find some monster that’s popping up on their cell phones? Well, actually, it would be possible. In fact, in certain places it’s not only possible, but living in a car-free “zone” is actually working quite well.


Car-Free environment, Freiburg, Germany, Vauban development, alternative transportation, Davis, CaliforniaFor those who do not know, in Freiburg, Germany, the Vauban development just happens to be the best example of a city that has completely and successfully walked away from cars. It is a people-friendly culture that involves livable streets, healthy living because of the walking and riding bicycles that everyone does, there is no smog, no pollution, and no car accidents that bring harm to others.


But what may be even more surprising to learn is there are cities out there that, although they look to be impossible places to make car-free, are actually taking steps to move in that direction. Small and sometimes large steps that have already improved their cities as they attempt to change their lives by making their world either car-lite or absolutely car-free in the future.


Let’s begin with a city that is known for their wealth and their ability to move away from the norm in order to live their lives the way they want to: Geneva, Switzerland. It was back in 2010 that the City Council members in Geneva voted to close 200 of Geneva’s streets to car traffic. That incredible move was begun by the Green Party. Businesses have not suffered and life, as always when it comes to Geneva, is clean, calm, chaos-free and healthy.


Paris, France is one city that actually is in-line to make the move to a car-free environment. Parking spaces are begin removed in inner Paree, as well as the government charging higher prices when it comes to people who wish to park in the inner-city. The system called Vélib bike-sharing is doing great in Paris, and the people plan to expand the system every year. Paris also plans to implement electric car sharing with the institution of their Autolib program. And to top it off, Paris Plages is a month of summertime when the city takes a section of the Expressway on the Seine and turns it into an inland beach, giving people the ability to sunbathe, kayak, walk the streets, and never have to worry about doing battle with an angry driver.


Another place that has the ability to go car-free is Guadalajara, Mexico. You are talking about a city of almost two million residents just crammed with cars, buses, you name it. Sometimes it feels as if crossing the street means taking your life into your own hands. Oddly enough, however, this is a city that has actually won awards for implementing systems that take the danger off the roads. It took the city only two years to create a BRT (bus rapid transit system), referred to as Macrobús. Not stopping there, Guadalajara is looking to improve the streets even more so by closing fifteen kilometers to motorized traffic every Sunday for six hours, allowing pedestrians to enjoy the city in peace.


A suburb that will be car-free is already in the works for Melbourne, Australia. Located close to the business district of Melbourne, an Eco-suburb will be developed around walking, cycling and electric vehicles. Known by (for now, anyway) Eco-City Melbourne, this project will also include mini urban-farms. Housing will include buildings rising up to eight floors operated with centralized heating/cooling systems. It was stated that this new suburb will treat all its own sewage, using the resulting methane for power production for the Eco-City. Urban wind towers and solar panels will also provide electricity. And, best of all, it will only be a twenty-five minute walk to get to the heart of the beautiful Melbourne.


Am I leaving out the U.S. of A.? Heck, no. There is a fantastic city called Davis, California that is literally well-known for their people who love biking. A big college town, Davis owns the perfect bike infrastructure and is working on building a 1.7 million bike-only thoroughfare under a major road. Add this to their already well-built bus system, and its people who want a car-free culture, and Davis may just end up changing their name to Bike City, U.S.A.


In other words, a car-free environment does work and there are well-known cities and lesser-known small towns that are taking steps on a daily basis to get rid of automobiles once and for all. (For you classic car lovers, however, let’s at least keep those for show!)

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