There are cars almost everywhere nowadays. People can’t hide from them, not even on the sidewalk. If all the cities were like Copenhagen, 25 billion dollars would be saved and the people would be healthier. Car-free districts already exist and we talked to an inhabitant of the first one of them.
Cities thought for a long time, and some of them think so even now, that the solutions to problems in traffic are new roads. More roads mean more cars and not the other way around. That is the reason for which many cities are making their roads and parking lots smaller or closing them completely. They want to bring the streets back to the people, lower the emissions in the air and hence fight the climate change.
An example for all is the capital of Norway – Oslo which plans to ban all cars in its city centre till 2019. The Oslo’s centre has only about 1000 inhabitants but around 90-thousand people commute there to work every day.
„People will still be driving in 2030 but their cars will have zero emissions“ said according to the AFP agency Lan Marie Nguyen Berg – a member of the Norway’s Green Party.
Restriction of cars in the city centre is one of the ways how Oslo wants to achieve lowering of the gas emissions in half of their value from 1990 till 2020. That makes most of all the local environmentalists happy.
„It is a very strong message when a capital city of an oil-producing nation says that it won’t invest into fossil fuels,“ said the director of a NGO Future In Our Hands Arild Hermstadt.
Oslo is not the only metropolis which decided to shun the cars away from its streets. After having big problems with air pollutions, Paris decided to try and ban cars in 30 percent of its streets for one day. This experiment resulted into 40-percent lower NOx gas emission in the Parisian air.
The Paris city major Anne Hidalgo therefore decided to ban all diesel fuelled cars in the city till 2020. These types of engines produce less CO2 emission than gas powered; however they produce 4-times more NOx gases and 22-times more micro dust particles which clog our lungs. 42 thousand people a year die in France due to air pollution.
Paris will not be only banning but plans to subsidise buying of the more ecological vehicles. „This will incorporate up to 50 percent of the price and low interest rate loans to pay the rest of the price,“ said the major according to Le Monde. „We are already debating this plan with five banks as well as transport companies.“
Also Madrid decided to lower the numbers of cars where 24 most frequent will be turned into pedestrian zones in the next five years. Helsinki will substitute cars by public transport on demand which can be requested via mobile app and German Hamburg is making the bikes or walking more plausible through a net of green infrastructure.
But one does not have to travel from Slovakia too far for a good example. First families already live in a new car-free district in Vienna called Aspern Seestadt and the pedestrians are already enjoying the most famous shopping street Mariahilfer Strasse which has been turned into a pedestrian zone with no cars.
How is Slovakia doing?
Most visible are the traffic problems in the largest city – capital Bratislava. According to a recent survey made for the purposes of Bratislava City traffic planning, half of its inhabitants have a car which they can use every day, only 36-percent of them use the public transport to commute the job and only by 1,6% of inhabitants used the bicycle as everyday transport event although every second Bratislava’s inhabitant owns a bicycle. The new document of the city transport planning has a goal to increase the share of public transport and lower the individual car transport to 35-percent till 2025 and to 20-percent till 2040.
Also new rules of parking which are being debated for a couple of years now could lower the number of cars in the streets of the city. Local politicians have already attempted to pass these new parking policy but with no success so far. „The ambition of the Bratislava Lord Major is to pass and start using the new parking policy till the end of 2016. The exact date depends however on the cooperation with majors of all the city’s districts,“ told us Ivana Skokanova, the spokesperson of Bratislava’s Lord Major.
The city hall wants to teach its inhabitants to use the public transport instead of cars. It tries to do so through the preference of the public transport on the streets, separate bus lanes, renovation of tram lines and its vehicles. „In 2016 the city plans to create new cycling paths in the whole length of 2,5 kilometres,“ said Skokanova.
The solutions exist
If the whole world has been like the cycling Copenhagen, 25 billion of dollars would be saved and even more if also the health care saving would be accounted (the cyclists are six-times healthier than the non-cyclists) or the costs of traffic accidents. Every investment into to cycling infrastructure returns according to a study from the New Zealand six to twentyfour times.
A way how to drastically lower the number of cars in the streets without lowering our comfort maybe already exists. It is a car-sharing, although it can help as well, but self driving cars. Those from Google have already driven million kilometres in the real traffic.
Take a look how it feels to ride in a Google car:
If their cars work perfectly in the future, one could call the for example in front of the office building, take a ride to a coffee shop and while talking with a friend, the car could be used by someone else. Private cars spend most of their lifespan standing still at a parking lot. One self-driving car could be capable of replacing 9 regular cars that we have today. Imagine the amount of saved space on the street.
A different approach how to persuade people to step out of their cars is being tested in the Czech Republic. The Cirkev bratska (Protestants) has called for a “Car Lent” (don’t use cars) during the Easter holidays. During the 40 days of Lent people don’t give up on sweets or meat but their cars. „Car Lent” is just a different approach the lent, an impulse to think about our approach to the environment. We can cooperate on creating a future which values the life on Eatrh more,“ said the head of car lent Marek Drapal to ekolist.cz.
Close the parking lots and you will have less cars, says the inhabitant of a car-free district
ANDREAS DELLESKE lives in a district with no parking lots. Vauban in German city of Freiburg was built in the nineties in the area of an abandoned military base. As one of the first districts in Europe it did not build any parking spaces. The inhabitants have to leave their cars in one of the garages on the edge of the district. Streets are full of playing children whose parents do not worry that their children would get hit by a car.
Andreas Delleske had a presentation in Bratislava on WhatCity? Konference.
How did you persuade people to come and live in a district where they can’t have their car parked in front of the house?
That was one of the first tasks of the local forum of inhabitants. A part from cooperation with the City hall they made PR for this new district. They created slogans such as „to live where everyone else goes on holiday“ and similar. These slogans took interest of many people who then joined the discussions and workshop event not all of them came to live in Vauban in the end. Freiburg is a size of half of Bratislava and at the beginning our local forum had 400 members which is quite a lot.
How long did the publicity campaigns run?
I am not sure exactly how long it took but the information is communicated to the public till this day. The most intense it was during 1992 and 1998.
During that time cars were not such a problem in Bratislava as it is today. Has it been the same in Freiburg?
Vauban has been a military base before so from the beginning it has not been constructed for the cars. Freiburg has problems with cars but is has been working on a solution for thirty years. One of the main topics were the cycling paths which have started being constructed 40 years ago. So at the time of the creation of Vauban, the topic of cars has not been new and the city has been working on it already before.
Where did the idea to create a district without parking places come from?
Two people came with this idea. One of them was a student of architecture and the other was for a long time responsible for the car sharing system in the city. However we were not the first ones to be working on a car-free district, one district in Tubingen did the same along with us.
What types of people came to live in Vauban? Students, wealthy families, retired people?
All sorts. It is important to understand that Freiburg is a university town where 24-thousand jobs are created by the university and hospital. So the inhabitants in Vauban were relatively high educated and young.
Many people surely think that an eco district without cars is only some hippie place. Is that the reality?
If it is true I see no reason to brand people like this. People in Vauban are simply people. I for instance don’t look like a hippie but maybe inside I am one.
How do the streets in your district look like? Can people drive in front of the house to take out for example their shopping and then drive away to park the car?
In around two thirds of Vauban are no parking places on the streets and neither on the private grounds. If you own a car, you can come in front of your house and take out things but after 20 minutes you have to go and park your car in a garage on the edge of the district. You are obliged to buy a parking place in one of these garages. Not everyone always accepts these rules but only one car can fit onto our streets so there are no more that 8 cars parking in the whole district.
Do the inhabitants of Vauban own cars?
In Germany we have around 600 cars on 1000 inhabitants, in the cities it is around 400 cars and in Vauban we have only about 170 cars on 1000 inhabitants. Most of us do not own a car. I, for example, don’t even have a driving licence but if I had one, I would borrow a car sharing car if needed. Half of the households in Vauban own a parking place but most of them bought it just as insurance for the future or in case of selling of their apartments.
So Vauban is a little bit less strict than I imagined.
We had two reasons for this – we did not want to be too restrictive but liberal instead and the second reason are the national laws which dictate the construction of parking places. My house which is located in the part of Vauban where cars can access has to have 16 parking places according to the law. So we reserved a place for 16 cars in the grounds but closed a deal among the owners that we will use only three parking places which we also constructed. The rest is a lawn. It is an internal car-free concept against which the city hall cannot object.
In Bratislava we say that people would be the happiest if they could park their cars into their living rooms. How to change this conception?
This question has been scientifically answered by Professor Hermann Knoflacher from Vienna who has been doing a research during the last 30 years into the motivations of a family to buy a car and also to sell it. Motivations were the wealth of the family, number of its members and children, distance to work etc. But the biggest factor was the possibility to park the car on your own ground. If you have this option, you will sooner or later buy one. If you have to walk for a couple of minutes to get to your car, even if you own a Porsche, you will understand that for the everyday commuting you don’t need it. Of course, the city has to offer alternatives for cars for this concept to work.
So the solutions is to offer alternatives in form of good public transport, cycling paths but also not to approach cars like Gods trying to make their existence as easy as possible?
Yes. Technically is the easiest solution to move the parking places. It a scientifically proven method. By changing the external factors we can modify the human behaviour.
During your presentation you said that if we don’t change the traffic on the street, nothing else will help.
You can make the street prettier by new banks, tram stops or improvement of streetlights but none of it will be really noticed by the people if they will still be bumping into the cars standing in their way.
How will the streets change if we ban the cars’ parking on them?
In thousand different ways. Instead of parking places we have parks in Vauban. Some people play ping-pong directly in the middle of the street. And the hens are running around without fear of having the run by a car. That is also a huge benefit for the children. If there are cars parking on the edge of the road, the risk of a child running from behind one of them a getting hit by a car is very high. If there are no cars parked however, the drivers can see the children on the street from a large distance. The parents in Vauban are not worried to let their kids play out in the streets. They don’t have to worry that a car will hit them.
Watch the whole presentation from the conference WhatCity from Dennik N here:
Read the article in Slovak here.
The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of ALDA and the European Union.