People hate the idea of ​​car-free cities until they live in one

was in london crisis. In 2016, more than 2 million of the city’s residents – almost a quarter of its population – lived in areas with illegal levels of air pollution; Areas that also included approximately 500 schools in the city. The same air pollution was killing many people prematurely. 36,000 people per year, Most of it was coming from transportation: one fourth The city’s carbon emissions came from moving people and goods, three-quarters of which came from road traffic.

But in the years since, carbon emissions have declined. been there too 94 percent reduction A growing number of people live in areas with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that damages the lungs. The reason? London has spent years and millions of pounds reducing the number of motorists in the city.

It is far from alone. From Oslo to Hamburg and Ljubljana to Helsinki, cities across Europe have begun working to reduce their road traffic in an effort to curb air pollution and climate change.

But while it’s certainly having an impact (Ljubljana, one of the earliest places to move away from cars, has seen big reductions in carbon emissions and air pollution), going car-free is harder than it sounds. This not only caused politicians and urban planners to face death threats and harassment, but also forced them to rethink the entire basis of city life.

London’s car-reduction policies come in different forms. A fee is charged for dirty vehicles and driving in the city centre. Street layouts in residential areas have been redesigned, using one-way systems and bollards, barriers, and planters to reduce traffic (known as “low-traffic neighborhoods” or LTNs). goes). Plans have been launched to get more people cycling and using public transport. The city has avoided car restrictions seen elsewhere in Europe, such as Copenhagen, but things have changed nonetheless.

“The level of traffic reduction is transformational, and it lasts all day,” says Claire Holland, leader of the council in Lambeth, south London. Even after adjusting for the impact of the pandemic, Lambeth now sees 25,000 fewer daily car trips in 2020 than before its LTN scheme was implemented. Meanwhile, bicycling increased by 40 percent and walking and scootering increased by a similar amount over the same period.

What works best is a carrot and stick approach – creating positive reasons to take the bus or cycle rather than making driving harder. “In congested urban areas, you can’t make buses better if those buses are still stuck in car traffic,” says Rachel Aldred, professor of transport at the University of Westminster and director of its Active Travel Academy. “Academic evidence suggests that a mixture of positive and negative characteristics is more effective than either one on its own.”

For countries looking to cut emissions, cars are an obvious target. They make up a large portion of a country’s carbon footprint one-fifth of all emissions Throughout the European Union. Of course, urban driving doesn’t make up the bulk of car usage in a country, but the kind of short trips made while driving in the city are clearly the most wasteful, if you’re looking for a city to start with. An ideal place for. To get people out from behind the car. That, and the fact that many city residents are already car-free (for example, only 40 percent of people in Lambeth have cars) and cities have better public transport options than elsewhere.

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