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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