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Would You Live in a Car-less City?

12/20/2009

Empty Atlanta Streets

Would you live in a Car-less City?

Just to make that question easy lets make a few assumptions;
1. The weather is comparable to Southern California, semi arid.
2. Most people work within 5 miles of their job
3. this is also a rail transit system inside the city and between cities but no buses inside the city.

Would you live in a place where you never had to pay for gas again? Where people are healthier and more active in the spirit and culture of the community. Would you live in a place where every daily need was accessible by bike?

Planning cities is difficult, as the practice exists right now. Planning cities in which cars play a minimal role in out daily lives is not going to be difficult it’s going to require a cultural shift on the part of the residents as well as designers of the cities. The popular prefabricated/over planned, mixed use, “urban area” tend to feel inorganic and just kind of fake. You know those apartment complexes with aa couple park benches and a little grass near it and a walmart/publix/target attached to it; forget that

I would give the city an old world feel and add terraces and ramps to maximize the use of space above and below ground. Bike ramps spiraling up buildings would be a viable alternative to elevators and escalators. In the design of the city i would also think that geodesic domes, octagons, arches and liberal use of the golden ratio would add to the efficiency and beauty of the design of the city.

What happens when the city grows?
In any city growth has to be accounted for; and that growth has to be directed in a way that is sustainable to minimize the reason anyone would need to use a car. The Car-less City would have to be built with space within it’s urban center for people to move into and as population density increases public and business space is not sacrificed. Which means that other population centers will have to crop up with each center sharing areas of business around them. It’s a much more densely built model of traditional rural and suburban communities; places that are centralized, open for public use and at the same time intimate and socially oriented. Medium sized european cities would be a good example.

Can you imagine how much money you would save on a yearly basis if you did not have to pay all of the costs associated with a car? Most people, especially teenagers and young adults work vigorously at wage slave jobs to afford the car they they bought so they could get a job to afford the car etc. The impact on residents’ quality of life is undeniable; spending time outside, physical exercise, saving thousands of dollars a year are all things americans claim they want.

America is a car obsessed culture, we have the number one market in the world for cars. There are more cars in america than people that are licenced to drive them and in 2008 there were 37,261 highway fatalities. I’m sure countless other people died in cars in roads, streets, lanes and alleys. Can you imagine the reduction in accidents, the increase in public safety, if bikes were the primary source of transit in the city. No more drunk drivers plowing over telephone poles, just a few inebriated cyclists falling over at stop signs. But in order for us to move to a cyclo-centric culture we have to give up the idea of the car as a birth right, an american rite of passage. In american life, the car is a symbol of individualism, that antiquated notion of self directed autonomy that has us fighting global wars, getting fatter than cows and dumping toxins into the environment and crippling our economy.

A car-less City is more than just a “Green” idea among the millions of Green initiatives we are scrambling to adopt it’s a cultural shift, a necessary shift in the way we view our relationships with each other and this planet. Saving the human race from ourselves is going to require some sacrifice. A kind of sacrifice that many people are going to call “socialist”, collectivist even nazi. But what those people do not understand is that their rights as americans to drive their cars, eat steroid injected, genetically modified meat, to get fat and watch tv on a huge television all day are not productive to the survival or progress of humanity on earth. Anyone who calls people encouraging you to ride your bike, nazis probably do not think about saving the earth or the future past the end of their short lard infused lives anyways but we have to try and make it a reality for people to consider that we can do things that are good for ourselves AND everyone else AND even for generations not yet arrived.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/20/2009 16:56

    Is someone planning a move to Denmark? I like this idea but how could you start this same idea in a city thats already spread out like lets say….Atlanta : )

  2. 12/21/2009 18:58

    let me start by saying this post is more a thought exercise on building new urban and suburban areas.. but…

    ATL will never been a car-less city in my opinion, some parts of it may lend themselves to biking like the whole “Belt Line” movement and the neighborhoods affected by that project could be “bike friendly” but not “car-less”. I think some areas in new york, philadelphia, D.C. even baltimore and newark de could evolve to exclude cars.

    But these cities are more centralized as a whole where as in atlanta most of the population lives on the fringes rather than the center and even of those who live in the center good and services aren’t available inside of a reasonable pedestrian radius.

    In baltimore, DC and philly each little neighborhood has a square or strip where businesses are located where you can get, a cup of coffee, a beer and groceries. atlanta is not like this it’s dominated by corporate interests who erect huge pseudo “city centers” like Publix on Ashby street, Walmart on northside drive, target in little 5 points etc.

    It’s a cultural shift, which i said in the article, the urban culture of atlanta would have to change for this to work. but i ma surprised at the growth of the cycling scene in atlanta considering the distances between places, hills, crappy roads and bad drivers.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/publix-s-departure-disappoints-243213.html

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