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Leave Your Car At Home: European Cities Create Anti-Driving Policies

Leave Your Car At Home: European Cities Create Anti-Driving Policies

Cities with policies to discourage people driving cars and giving pedestrians and cyclists the right of way?

Sounds very good, green, healthy and even humane to me.

The New York Times reports that a number of European cities — Vienna, Munich, Copenhagen, Zurich, Paris, Barcelona, London, Stockholm — have closed streets to car traffic and implemented bike sharing programs, are charging steep fees for driving in congested city areas and are drastically restricting the number of parking spaces. A number of cities in Germany have also become part of a national “environmental zone” network where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions can pass through.

Given that gas costs $8/gallon and up in Europe and that public transportation is far better than in the US, such options are not being greeted (for the most part) with the horror that Americans would have on hearing they can’t drive their cars wherever they d**n well please. A crowning example of the general disdain for public transportation was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s cancellation of the construction (which had already started) of a new trans-Hudson River train tunnel last October. My husband is a regular commuter from New Jersey to Manhattan and he and his fellow riders frequently refer to NJ Transit as “NJ Stranded” while stuck on non-moving trains due to yet another electrical failure. When it comes to public transport, the US’s can be more on a par with that of developing nations.

As the New York Times points out, European countries have also had to clamp down on car use by taking the measures noted above to meet “increasingly strict World Health Organization guidelines for fine-particulate air pollution.” Also, European Union countries who have signed the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions — which the US has not ratified — could not keep their commitments without severely limiting driving.

I know there are cities in the US far greener than the “Garden State” (i.e., New Jersey). It’s great to think that parts of San Francisco’s Market Street are now solely for pedestrian use and I’m for “pedestrianizing” parts of New York City like Times Square. The benefits of commuting via walking or biking are there, and not only for the environment; hoofing it to work is a fine way to get in some exercise.

With all this said, I’ll admit that we are overly dependent on our car and not only because of limited public transportation options. Public transit is not overly friendly for my teenage autistic son Charlie. He’s very sensitive to sound; trains, subways, buses, are all incredibly noisy, plus Charlie has hyper-acute hearing and can hear sounds like the humming of fluorescent lights, that most of us do not attend too. Further, due to his sometimes puzzling behaviors — making unusual sounds, stopping and staring in a spot like the middle of the sidewalk — and his looking older than his age, Charlie attracts attention that is not always friendly or sympathetic with his disability. Further, public transportation everywhere is still not at all as accessible to individuals with physical disabilities as it could be; sometimes a car might be the safest and easiest means of transport, if walking is not easy or possible.

Still, urban centers that put pedestrians and cyclists first would have other advantages for Charlie. He is not going to be able to drive, but he’s a champion bike rider and can certainly walk for miles. If he could bike or walk to work (with some amount of supervision), he would could be much more independent, rather than having always to rely on someone else to transport him.

Isn’t it time Americans let go of their romance with the car?

Related Care2 Coverage

How Chris Christie Gave NJ Taxpayers a $271 Million Bill (Plus Interest)

Beijing’s License Plate Lottery: Putting the Brakes on Cars in China

World’s Biggest Cities to Report on Carbon Emissions

Why Building a Bike-Safe City is Key to a Clean Energy Future


Photo of bikers on a car-free Sunday in Zurich by greckor

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82 comments

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8:21AM PST on Dec 7, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

10:28AM PDT on Oct 1, 2011

Only if alternatives modes of cheap transportation means are provided by the government.

10:47PM PDT on Aug 25, 2011

wow this is a nice that Leave Your Car At Home and European Cities Create Anti-Driving Policies.it save a patrol and now a days we have to save a patrol...
class a motorhomes

6:34PM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

What are these cities doing for disabled people who cannot walk, not even to public transportation hubs?

11:49AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

Way to go!!!!! congrats and good luck to them

11:23PM PDT on Jul 3, 2011

with few exceptions Men seem to be contra and Ladies pro the intent and direction of the article …

5:20PM PDT on Jul 1, 2011

Europe has always done it better. Great news!

4:33PM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Getting rid of cars/trucks is a nice idea as long as you don't have to work for a living and the government doesn't need any tax revenue.

How are sales reps going to survive? How are goods/raw materials going to be delivered to stores and factories? How are businesses going to sell products that are too big/heavy to be carried on a bike?

There are so many people who don't understand how an economy works and where the money comes from to pay for social programs.

6:02AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

I wish it was safer for cyclists where I live... more people should be able to bike if they want to. I support the idea of people walking or biking places, it is better for your health and less pollution. Sometimes people are only going a short distance and don't really NEED their car...

12:04AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

I'd say the rules shouldn't be compulsive. The government should just provide an opportunity to ride your bike safely on a separate bike lane and when you won't have to breathe dust in the street. It also takes responsibility from the cyclists themselves to know the traffic rules.
I know a lot of people who would gladly use their bicycles to ride to work or to school at least in summer, provided that there are conditions for that.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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