Imagine a Car-Free Suburb.

May 14, 2009 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Here’s the result of visionary city planning: the streets of an upscale neighbourhood in Vauban, Germany are designed for pedestrians and cyclists, rather than cars.

The neighbourhood is car-free except the main road, where public transit runs. It does not have street parking, driveways, or garages attached to the homes. No more ugly snout-houses. Residents are allowed to have cars, but they have to buy a parking space at the edge of the development. Most families buy cars together or rent communal cars from Vauban’s car-sharing club when they need a car to move large purchases or to take vacations. [For the record, there are car-sharing organizations in Canada.] Sounds crazy, right? Of course it does, in a city like London, Ontario, that doesn’t have a decent grocery store downtown. But imagine what a sense of community a neighbourhood can have when people aren’t just moving between their cars and their houses. I love hanging out in my front yard and talking to the people who walk by.

The trick is actual urban design, which locates stores within walking distance.

“Development comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people,” said PPG 13, the British government’s revolutionary 2001 planning document.

The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for “car-reduced” communities in the USA, and a change in legislature may help. A six-year transportation bill to be approved this year is expected to consider public transportation service to suburbs. This is a big shift, since by law 80 percent of funding has gone to highways vs 20% for all other transport.
Still, zoning laws in the USA generally require two parking spaces per residence, and mortgage lenders can’t get behind the idea that someone would want to buy a house without space for cars. “People in the U.S. are incredibly suspicious of any idea where people are not going to own cars, or are going to own fewer,” according to David Ceaser, the co-founder of CarFree City USA.

It’s perfectly reasonable to demand enlightened thinking from your city government.

There’s a lot more to read about the topic in this New York Times article.


Entry filed under: Community, consume less, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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