Visions for the Car-Free City

It is the dream of many urban planners to remove all the cars clogging the city streets. Who wants fast-moving, loud, heavy chunks of steel polluting the air and endangering people crossing the street? Some cities, such as London, have implemented a congestion toll on any vehicles entering the city center. Now there is a new group in the United Kingdom that wants to take it even further. Organized by the universities of Leeds, Oxford, East Anglia, Salford, and Manchester, along with local walkers and cyclers, the group “Visions 2030” want to transform four key UK cities.

The goal is to make automobiles obsolete by 2030 in future UK cities, to the point where up to 80% of all travel is done by bike or on foot. The team will be submitting their visions to city planners, discussing how this goal might be achieved.

Computer 3D modeling and animation will be the dominant feature of the visions which they intend to bring to reality. They will use realistic behavioral rules to determine how people will act on the roads within their virtual models.

To move to a new car-free paradigm, the visionaries must make the case to urban planners to encourage citizens to walk and ride their bikes more. Arguments for doing so include improvement of public health and well-being, reduce vehicle emissions into the environment, and reduce levels of congestion.

They have calculated that two thirds of all trips in the UK are under 8 kms (5 miles) in length, and 42% are under 3 kms (1.86 miles), which is a good walking distance and easily within biking distance.

In many European cities such as Amsterdam, walking and biking make up around half of all trips, but in the UK, the number has been dropping. Total bike traffic declined from 23 to 5 billion passenger kms between 1952 and 2006.

The visions laid out by Visions 2030 will show the selected UK cities as becoming more walkable and bikable. The project commenced in October 2008, and is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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Article by David A. Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

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