Can We Keep Cars Off the Streets

Madrid's car-free zone is just under 500 acres. Only people who live in the zone are allowed to take their cars inside. Those who want to drive in, but don't live in central Madrid, need to have a guaranteed space in one of the city's official parking lots

Madrid’s car-free zone is just under 500 acres. Only people who live in the zone are allowed to take their cars inside. PHOTO: Pictures Dot News

After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn’t make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn’t just the smog or the traffic deaths; in some cities, cars aren’t even a convenient way to get around. Commuters in L.A. spend 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. A UK study found that drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking spots. A growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps, and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train instead.

Designating car-free zones is one thing, following it through is a different case altogether! In Madrid has its car-free zone, an area that is just under 500 acres in size. Only people who live in the zone are allowed to take their cars inside. Those who want to drive in, but who don’t live in central Madrid, need to have a guaranteed space in one of the city’s official parking lots. If the driver doesn’t, he could be hit with a 90 euro fine.

In addition, if you are a driver and you own a gas guzzler, expect to pay higher fees at the parking meters in the Spanish city. The smart meter knows what car you’re driving, and, if it’s bad for the planet, you’ll have to pay more. Of course, if you’re going to ban cars, you need alternatives for people. Last year Madrid brought in a new bike share program with 1,500 electric bikes (pictured above) stationed at 120 different locations. The city also hopes to add more bus lanes, and make the city more pedestrian friendly.

Last year, Dublin was named the 10th most congested city, and the sixth most congested in Europe. This year, the city is mulling a plan to send cars around the city center and transition some of the biggest streets into car-free zones. Instead of cars, pedestrians, cyclists and buses will have the run of the road, as well as a new tram line. New bike lanes and wider sidewalks are also in the works. Hamburg has joined this bandwagon and is aiming to build a Green Network in the next 15 years, thanks to the city’s median temperature increasing by 1.2 degrees Celsius to 9 degrees Celsius, and sea levels rising by 20 centimeters. Meanwhile, Copenhagen is riding strong on its popular love for biking while Helsinki gets by fine with public transport.

See which other cities are trying to keep wheels and engines off the road for a cleaner tomorrow.

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