Car-free cities, or car-free areas in cities, or simply more traffic calming measures, can create room for other activities in public places that would otherwise be dominated by cars.
But removing cars from cities requires developing substitutes for the convenience that extensive car use provides.
Removing cars from cities has the following benefits:
- Frees up land - otherwise dedicated to vehicle movement and parking - for other uses.
- Allows children and other pedestrians to reclaim the streets for play and walking, who would otherwise be "scoured" from the streets by frequent fast moving vehicles.
- Reduces the danger of fatal or injurious crashes, between vehicles and pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists, vehicles and vehicles.
Currently there are few car-free cities of any size in the world. (Venice is one exception.)
Some cities feature car-free neighborhoods, especially in older areas with streets too narrow to allow vehicle traffic except at at walking speed.
Many cities have car-free shopping streets, eg where high pedestrian densities would otherwise cause much pedestrian-car conflict.
Many cities have extensive greenspace (parks) which allow pedestrians and cyclists to get away from cars for a while (eg as they pass from one car-crowded district to another). Some cities have university precincts that are fairly car free.
Many cities attempt, with speed limits and other traffic calming measures, to reduce traffic speeds on local streets - to a speed at which a car could slow down (indeed stop) quickly if a person walked (or a child ran) in front of it unexpectedly.
Pedestrian-safe speed limits vary between 5 km/h and 40 km/h depending on local conditions (eg the ability to see ahead and how many children or other pedestrians are about), and how safe is "safe" (what trade-off you want to make between reducing injuries and allowing vehicle movement).
Allowing people to be comfortable with leaving their cars at home, or not owning them at all, requires alternatives - good public transport, walking and cycle paths, and shorter distances to jobs and services.
To the extent that substituting car use for other modes slows average door-to-door travel speeds, so should the average distances between homes and equivalent jobs and services be reduced, so that people do not need to spend more time travelling.
Other needs to be considered include:
- Safety (eg of women travelling at night).
- Ease of transport of goods and families. (Easy to pile the shopping and the kids into the wagon, but how easy using the bus?)
- Social excursions. (Easy for friends to gather inside a car, as they wander around the city visiting other friends; how easy by bus?)
Car-Free Movement. Wikipedia
Car-Free Zones. Wikipedia.
Car-Free Housing in European Cities. Jan Scheurer.
Car-Free Development (PDF). World Carfree Network