People hate the idea of ​​car-free cities – until they live in one

London has a problem. In 2016, more than 2 million city residents—nearly a quarter of its population—lived in areas with illegal levels of air pollution; The districts also contained approximately 500 city schools. Air pollution itself was prematurely killing up to 36,000 people a year. Much of it was coming from transportation: a quarter of the city’s carbon emissions were from transporting people and goods, and three-quarters of that from road traffic.

But in the years since, carbon emissions have fallen. There was also a 94 percent reduction in the number of people living in areas with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that causes lung damage. the reason? London has spent years and millions of pounds reducing the number of motorists in the city.

She is far from alone. From Oslo to Hamburg and from Ljubljana to Helsinki, cities across Europe have begun working to reduce road traffic in an effort to curb air pollution and climate change.

But while it’s having a definite impact (Ljubljana, one of the first places to switch away from cars, has seen significant reductions in carbon emissions and air pollution), moving away from cars is a lot harder than it sounds. Not only did this result in politicians and urban planners being threatened and killed, it forced them to rethink the entire basis of city life.

Car discount policies in London come in many different forms. There is a fee for dirty vehicles and driving into the city centre. Road layouts in residential areas have been redesigned, using one-way systems, barriers, barriers, and buttons to reduce traffic (creating what are known as “low-traffic neighborhoods” – or LTNs). Plans have also been introduced to have more people ride bicycles and use public transportation. The city avoided the kind of outright car bans seen elsewhere in Europe, such as Copenhagen, but things have changed nonetheless.

“The level of traffic reduction is transformative, and it lasts all day,” says Claire Holland, council leader in Lambeth, a borough of south London. Lambeth is now seeing 25,000 fewer daily car trips than it did before the LTN scheme was put in place in 2020, even after adjusting to the impact of the pandemic. Meanwhile, there was a 40 percent increase in cycling and similar hikes in walking and speed over the same period.

The best way seems to be to take a carrot and stick approach – creating positive reasons to take the bus or ride a bike rather than making driving more difficult. “In crowded urban areas, you can’t make buses any better if those buses are still always stuck in car traffic,” says Rachel Aldred, professor of transportation at the University of Westminster and director of its Active Travel Academy. “Academic evidence indicates that a combination of positive and negative properties is more effective than either alone.”

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