Around the World

Mayors in major cities around the world are grappling with how to persuade or legislate to get people out of their cars to reduce congestion, pollution,C02 emissions and increase active travel. Cities are home to half the world’s population but only occupy 3% of global land. They do however account for 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is why it is essential to concentrate our energies on changing habits and culture in cities. Here are some of the initiatives around the world that might inspire change.

Oslo has removed all parking spaces from the city centre in 2019. it is part of a plan to cut greenhouse emissions by 50%.

Cardiff has announced that it will ban cars from the city centre once a year.

In India, Gurgaon has decided it will observe car-free day every Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to encourage people to use alternative modes of transport. It believes it will save an average of 2.6 kg of greenhouse gas emissions per person per day.

Meanwhile in nearby New Delhi the first car-free day reduced air pollution by up to 60%

Philadelphia went car-free for security reasons during the Pope’s visit in September . It was a revelation for a city that was built for walking. Kenney, a likely Mayor for the city wrote that “creating an open-streets program in Philadelphia is something I’ve thought about for the last several years. Bogotá has a great model that I’d like to look at replicating.”

Davis University Chancellor Emil Mrak was a visionary when he said ‘Plan for a bicycle-riding, tree-lined campus’ in 1961. They went about creating  a bicycling haven that is a model of what a liveable city could be then and now.

Dublin has announced plans to ban cars and taxis from large areas of the city centre.

Amsterdam has announced it will be introducing a Saturday car ban in the centre of the city.

In Bogota 1998 the new Mayor Enrique Penalosa transformed the city by discarding a $15 billion highway system and instead spending it on pedestrianized streets, buses, parks and cycle paths. He said ‘A citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car’. He built cycle paths that were ‘safe for an 8 year old’ and made an integrated public transport system rather than a cycle path that goes nowhere. He also made Sundays car free.

Car centric Sao Paulo, under Mayor Fernando Haddad, has added 320km of cycle lanes and plans to complete 400km by 2015 and an eventual 500km. This puts it on a par with Copenhagen.

Rome has recently intoduced a parking ban in one of Rome’s most historical lanes in the city centre as the start of an ambitious plan to change the dominating car culture.

In Suwon, South Korea Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, creative director of The Urban Idea helped mastermind the banning of cars for a month in the city. And Autumn 2015 this experiment will be repeated in Johannesburg.

Oklahoma is working hard to turn around an obesity epidemic caused by a car centric culture. Mayor Mick Cornett is on a mission to make the City a destination for Millennials by making pedestrian friendly pavements and miles of jogging, walking and bike trails.

Shanghai and Beijing have formed a vehicle registration quota to cap the numbers of cars in the cities.

Barcelona How does a city that’s mostly composed of street grids, devoted to moving cars around take it back and reclaim it for people? Superblocks!


In Barcelona the idea of Superblocks or superilles is pretty simple. Take nine square blocks of city. (It doesn’t have to be nine, but that’s the ideal.) Rather than all traffic being permitted on all the streets between and among those blocks, cordon off a perimeter and keep through traffic, freight, and city buses on that.

In the interior, allow only local vehicles, traveling at very low speeds, under 10 mph. And make all the interior streets one-way loops (see the arrows on the green streets below), so none of them serve through streets.

This will create pedestrian avenues and open plazas that were key features of old, built-pre-automobile cities? 

Istanbul has pedestrianised over 250 streets on its Historic Peninsula, creating a car free environment that has improved air quality, reduced traffic congestion and improved pedestrian safety.

In Paris Spring 2014 the government decided to reduce acute air pollution by banning half the private cars and motor-bikes and almost all trucks  from the roads of the French capital and its inner suburbs. On the first day, only odd-numbered vehicles were allowed. The next day was to have been the turn of the “evens” but the Government decided that the scheme was so successful that it could be abandoned after only one day.

Now the new Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has banned Diesel cars from the city from 2020 and soon non-residential private cars will be banned from the four central Arrondissements, starting first with the weekends and then moving towards a total ban. In the Mayoral election of 2014 60% of Parisians put pollution as their top priority issue.

it is also now enshrined In French Law that The Mayor of Paris can ban half the cars on high pollution days. Mayor Anne Hildago also wants to remove 55,000 parking spaces annually from Paris.

The EU has announced that it will ban petrol-powered cars from cities in Europe by 2050 in a “single European transport area”.

Finland’s capital Helsinki hopes a ‘mobility on demand’ system that integrates all forms of shared and public transport in a single payment network could essentially render private cars obsolete. Thy have introduced sharing taxis called Kutsuplus that use an app to calculate an economical route and share costs.


Mayor Bloomberg has created pedestrian zones in several parts of New York Manhattan, including a stretch near the theater district, to absorb the mass of tourists. This has proved very successful in reducing traffic and the retailers are happy that pedestrians spend more time shopping and enjoying bars and restaurants. They have also introduced Vision Zero to cut deaths from motorised traffic to zero.

Quick, cheap trials and road closures have enabled New York to progress new initiatives that would have taken time and money to model with conventional traffic methods. Janette Sadik- Khan has been creative and clever in using roadworks to trial re allocation of road space.

In Singapore, prospective vehicle owners are required to first obtain a Certificate of Entitlement, which can start at $48,000 in local currency for a small-size automobile. Only a specific number of COEs are released each month, part of government efforts to control the number of cars on its roads. The vehicle entitlement is valid for 10 years from the date of registration of the vehicle and the scheme aims to peg long-term vehicle population growth at 3 per cent a year. Those who cough up for the prohibitively expensive system must also pay registration fees and electronic road pricing, a series of congestion tolls that vary throughout the day according to usage. Some estimate that owning a Honda Civic in Singapore can cost more than $100,000

In Sydney, Clover Moore,the independent Mayor has been introducing cycle lanes against strong opposition.

The government of Hamburg, Germany, has announced it will ban all petrol-based cars from driving in the city center by 2034

Both Zurich and Hamburg have frozen the existing parking supply in the city centre, and when a new space is built off-street, an on-street space must be removed. These spots are then repurposed as widened sidewalks or bike lanes. The City of Zurich also regulates how much new parking can be added by developers. Zurich also operates a one in one out red light system that maintains a manageable level of road traffic in the city.

In Murcia, Spain to ease traffic congestion, the city offered lifetime passes to its new tram system to anyone who turned in their car – assuming it was fully paid off, of course

The city of Copenhagen has launched the first of 26 planned suburban commuter arteries built exclusively for bicycles. Another reason Copenhagen is the world’s cycle infrastructure leader — and possibly its most livable city — is because it’s the first to prioritize bikes (and, in other parts of the city, people) over cars. For instance Taxis in Copenhagen, Denmark, are required to carry bicycle racks. And traffic lights are synched to the average cyclist rather than the car.

Dubai is considering setting an income threshold for vehicle ownership, thereby maintaining the presence of Bentleys and Ferraris!

Seville has created a joined up segregated cycle network of 80 km that has encouraged a wide range of cyclists, including women, children and older people to use this cleaner, more environmentally friendly mode of transport.

Madrid has intoduced a non resident ban on cars entering the four central barrios of Cortes , Embajadores, Chueca and Malasan. They hope to encourage more people to walk and cycle in the narrow streets. There are also plans to pedestrianise 25% more of inner Madrid and increase its number of bus lanes, putting the area well on the way to an almost car-free future. By 2020 this 2 km sq Central zone intends to be completely car free.

Vitoria-Gastiez in Spain  has sourced the best active travel initiatives from around the world and increased walking and cycling to 50% of modal share in the space of 10 years. This once car dominated, congested city has become a model for a liveable, sustainable  environment in an urban area.

Edinburgh has announced a trial that will ban cars from the vicinity of 11 schools in the city centre. The exclusion will operate for 30 minutes before the start and after the end of school. The area sealed off will extend to 300 metres and the scheme will commence in the Summer term 2015.

Cities which also have major policies to reduce auto traffic include: Brussels, Belfast, Florence, Hong Kong,  Groningen, Gothenburg,  Milan, Florence,  Athens, Barcelona, Krakow, Mexico City, Munich, Basel and Budapest

Venice has always been car-free.

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