Are we addicted to our cars? In the United States, the car is king. Many American cities (particularly in the Western US) were founded after the invention of the automobile, meaning their development has been shaped by the car to a much greater extent than European cities, which often grew up from old medieval towns where walking (and horse and cart) were the traditional mode of transport.

For trips under one mile, statistics show that Americans rely on their cars almost 70% of the time, while Europeans rely on bicycles, walking, or public transport 70% of the time. So, could Europeans take it even further? Would they be prepared to give up their cars for short trips entirely? Several European cities, including Brussels, Vienna and Copenhagen, already have car-free areas. Should these areas be expanded, and should other cities follow their lead?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Yannick, who thought that all cities ought to be car free. He argues that most trips in cities are below 10 kilometers, which (he says) is “bikeable”. In Yannick’s view, “cars simply should not be the norm if we are to become sustainable”. Is he right?

To get a response, we spoke to Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Research Professor in Environmental Epidemiology at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). What would he say to Yannick’s comment?

Next up, we had a comment from Christiane, who thinks that every Sunday of every year should be car-free in every city. Is that a realistic proposal? Here’s what Mark Nieuwenhuijsen had to say:

Finally, we had a comment from Oranje, who believed it wasn’t enough to promote alternatives to cars, such as bike lanes and better public transport. In his view, there should actually be disincentives for car-driving in big cities, such as tolls in the center, high-parking fees, etc. Would Mark Nieuwenhuijsen agree?

Should cities try to go “car-free”? Do the environmental and public health benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – New York City Department of Transportation
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83 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Andrew Potts

    yes because its the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to travel in a city or town. Scary stuff for Germany because the drop in people buying cars would be felt .

    • Ágnes Losonczi

      You too don’t give a damn about those, who are unable to ride a bike or walk, when especially these people live in cities, near all the services and medical treatment necessary for them! Most unfair!

    • Andrew Potts

      Dont be silly the more people cycling means less congested space for people who really need a car improving access. Stop virtue signalling and actually think about the next step.

  2. Ivan Burrows

    How do you intend to get stock to the shops ? , out of town shopping centres have already decimated independent retailers so all that policy would do is finish them off.

  3. Yordan Vasilev

    The European cities are not as Americans. We have some remarkable buildings since the Medieval Times and since newer times. Despite of that, the invirement will become cleaner without cars. Because of that, yes, we should try the European cities to go “car-free”.

  4. Kimmo Linkama

    If you live in the centre of an urban environment, if there are sufficient and high-quality bike lanes, if public transport is developed enough, if there is a working goods delivery system, and if you live somewhere that doesn’t get 50 cm of snow at -30°C, by all means.

    The rest of us will have to rely on our cars, as unfortunate as it may be.

    Another point: incentives always work better than placing limits on what people can do. If such rules and regulations are one-sidedly put in place “from above”, it will only create antagonism between the administration and the people.

    Looking at things strictly from their own perspective, there are always people who know better how others should live their lives.

    • Lonzo Bildelberg

      producing hydrogen from water requires a lot of energy, that would mostly come from coal power plants

    • Daniel Meternă

      Lonzo Bildelberg that’s why innovating must became priority.

    • Stef Kostov

      Try to convince ppl they don’t need a car

    • Dilyana Pencheva

      Това нямаше нищо общо с моя въпрос

    • Dilyana Pencheva

      Аз не съм казала че не съм съгласна с теб

    • Ágnes Losonczi

      And what about the disabled?! People are so dense and insensitive!

  5. Paul Vincent

    With the advent of EVs…AI. .ride sharing (uber/lyft) car ownership in cities will become redundant…

    • Paul Vincent

      To be clear…I’m not saying that cars will disappear…just that ownership of one will increasingly become redundent…when you can call for a ride when you want…of course personal transport will always have a place….

    • Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      I standard that but the way i see things the % of the personal cars will be heavily dependent on the money invested on other means of transportation and the city’s architecture it self 😉
      I think it’s also a social-economic matter for example in some countries employers are so much distrust the mass transportation that often hire only people with personal vehicles

    • Ágnes Losonczi

      Παυλος Χαραλαμπους who cares about the disabled, who can’t ride a bicycle or walk and for whom public transportation is also a no go?

    • Paul Vincent

      That’s why I didn’t focus on mass transportation….but on on demand personalized transport options.

    • Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

      Ágnes Losonczi those people probably will always have to rely on a personal vehicle, actually that’s was my point for me some cities can’t be changed at least not dramatically and there will always need a big fleet of cars to move around people and us as said is also a social matter,most transportation has to do with going to / returning from our jobs and employment now days lets say is unstable you can’t give up your car if you don’t know what will happen next, were you are going to work tomorrow etc

  6. Παυλος Χαραλαμπους

    For some cities its almost impossible(just think what will happen if we ban cars from Athens) but small towns and islands should do it
    Check for example the Greek island of hydra it’s car free for at least a decade and everyday life is running compete smoothly. Also small towns and islands should at least try to disconnect them selfs from the main electric grid in order to use locally produced ” green ” energy

    • Luísa Cunha Ventura Gagean

      Yannick Cornet things must be done quickly. Citys must have Hydrogen mooved vehicles. If you are not in a hurry, to work, or something else, then you can ride a bycicle. There are a lot of obssessive ideas that make me crazy, in EU. Freedom is needed

    • Paul Vincent

      Luisa…i will bet you that within the next decade, car ownership will plummet…why ecpend the capital cost and running cost of something you use for 20% of the time…..ride sharing…AI….EVs (autonomous cars)…will dominate.

  7. Cyril.F

    We should use less automobile in city. The advantages are enormous :
    – better health (by exercices)
    – less energy consumption
    – less pollution
    – re-dynamism of the economies of the cities.
    – discover our neighborhood
    – etc.

    Advantage of cars :
    – faster ? when there is few cars
    – need infrastructure and a lot of space
    – take away services from each other (school, market, etc.)

    • Kav

      but for example a disadvantage not using a car could be a great amount and trust me you might end up in a problem with your job e.g. going on time.yes less pollution but then what are the roads for mate what do we d with them.

  8. Georgia

    Yes, or probably in city centres. Not entire cities car-free. That would never work in Athens for example.Instead of total ban why not try electric cars in cities and electric motor bikes?

  9. Phet Sophansay

    It depends. If what I buys in the shop is delivered for free and the public transport is good. Why not?

  10. Edita Buržinskaitė

    Well, I don’t think you can get rid of cars completely but lessening traffic and encouraging other modes of transport is entirely possible.

    • Mário Lobo

      Some of the ongoing solutions go from paying toll to exclude older cars.

  11. Chris Pavlides

    No. Practically its not possible with current infastructures & real life needs. But we could support further bikes & other alternatives.

  12. Florin Holban

    As long as THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN A CAR FREE CITY CENTER is not left in private hands yes! If a company will provide this and that transportation and mobility systems city dwellers will be slaves to the profit made by skyrocketing prices of just going from A to B!

    • Ágnes Losonczi

      A carfree city neglects it’s citizens, who are unable to ride on a bike or walk. Not fair at all!

    • Florin Holban

      Combustion engine powered vehicle free… And no, locomotion is perfectly available for those who don’t walk, or ride or see or any other “motric” disability…

  13. Giannis Dimitrakis

    If all cities are willing to drop taxes, why not. If they are not willing to drop taxes, hell, I will drive anywhere I want.

    • Kav

      Its not always about that there might be an another solution

  14. Cãlin Rednic

    Pretty late for this kind of questions, when cities grew and strech for tens of kilometers, when most of their inhabitants comute on long distances in infinite directions. It should be best to find solutions to optimize all kinds of traffic instead…

  15. Kav

    What about daily journeys her it takes you about and hour and a half that can not always work out with out a car besides sometimes you might you have to use the motor way you never know plus walking on the motor way you cannot walk or ride a bicycle.

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