But what about retrofitting existing cities, where most people live today? Hanna Marcussen explains the approach that Oslo took: “We began with pilots to let people see what it would be like and we began making changes little by little. For example one of the nicest squares in Oslo is outside the town hall but until recently it was full of cars. When we closed it off about a year ago, people thought it was strange – but now they think it was weird that we ever allowed cars to drive through there at all.”
A car-free future?
“If you take the optimistic view, then this is a trend that is likely to continue,” says Acheampong. “If you look at the statistics, we seem to have gone beyond ‘peak car’ ownership, and driving now seems to be in the decline. There is also a big generational difference between millennials and baby boomers,” he says, with youngsters turning away from private ownership. All of which suggests cars’ current dominance may gradually phase out of its own accord.
That said, he also points out there is growing demand for new convenient mobility options; services such as Uber and Lyft are drawing people away from public transport, as may autonomous vehicles. “In the end, they're still cars,” he adds. He also notes that in much of the developing world car ownership is on the rise and governments are mainly prioritising car ownership over other forms of transport.
A lot of journeys also happen in metro areas that are nowhere near the centre of the city – think of London's M25, or Beijing, which has seven concentric ring roads. It is also relatively easy for old European cities, which existed for centuries without cars to get rid of them, but not so much elsewhere.
How far the trend for car free cities goes is yet to be seen. But when I left the car-free islands of Venice on my student hitch hiking holiday, the only way to journey onwards was to stand by the highway – and wait for a car.
Credit : BBC.com