In the environmentally unstable world we find ourself in, it seems car-owners have been forced to question the necessity of their vehicle, and consider alternative modes of transport in their city. Across Europe, cities have begun to implement their own laws on driving to both reduce emissions and noise pollution.
The Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, is testament to how a city is able to operate functionally without the use of cars. In 2007 the capital published ‘Vision 2025’, a set of detailed proposals which hope to create a greener and more sustainable city. Part of this proposal calls for a car-free zone in the city centre, which was aided by improvements to both public transport as well as cycling networks. In addition to public transport improvements, the city has introduced a fleet of golf buggy-like electric vehicles called ‘Kavalirs’, that are free to use and easy to hail. With these efforts and subsequent results of reduced noise pollution and gas emissions, the European Commission named Ljubljana the continent’s green capital as of 2016.
Paris is the next city to wholly commit to a car-free zone policy, although due to the city’s large population of 2 million and tourist intake of 30 million a year, these policies may be more challenging to implement. Since 2015 Parisian authorities have been organising car-free days, with the most recent occurring on Sunday September 19. For 7 hours from 11 am to 6 pm all cars are banned from the Place de L’Etoile and Avenue des Champs-Elysées, with the exception of emergency vehicles, ambulances, buses and cabs who are limited to driving at 30km/h. The Parisian authorities are even looking to establish more permanent traffic zone laws, which could become a reality as soon as next year. According to Airparif – the organisation responsible for monitoring the air quality of Paris – there was 7% less pollutant concentration in the air the day of the car ban, in comparison to a normal Sunday in Paris.
The UK government has taken a more hardline approach, with the introduction of Clean Air Zones for cities where the pollution is high. These cities have been asked to either introduce car-free zones or alternative actions to reduce emissions. London, Bristol, Birmingham and Bath have already implemented these laws, whilst Manchester, Newcastle and Leicester are preparing for the initiative to start later in the year.
These initiatives have seem to spread through most of western Europe with somewhat success as of now, however they have failed to be carried out in America yet. One reasoning for this may be due to American urban planning, with the use of the grid system appropriated for the use of cars. American cities were made to accommodate the commute to work from the suburbs into the city and, therefore the car has become a necessity of American life. American public transport is also notoriously poor with it being heavily underfunded, since many view public transport as welfare, whereas other nations see it as a necessity in order to work. However, due to America’s sprawling suburbanisation it seems that the only solution to reduce car emissions is to pump funds into transport, making it an accessible system for the masses.
We, as a society, have become comfortable in using cars in our everyday life that for many moving away from that seems almost impossible, but in the environmental situation we find ourselves in it is simply not a sustainable lifestyle to be living. Moving away from our car-centric lifestyles will be a challenge for many, however with all of the policies being instigated in cities there is little to no excuse for change to occur.