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Learning From The Rise of Car-less Communities in Europe

Learning From The Rise of Car-less Communities in Europe

The government projects “Green Pastille” (“pastille verte”), “Carless Day” (“journée sans voiture”), and “Even/Odd Day” (“journée paire/impaire”) raise the central question of the place of the car in our cities. Is the end of the reign of the car here yet? The mission of eco-neighborhoods is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the city. What

Bois-Franc, France

The government projects "Green Pastille" ("pastille verte"), "Carless Day" ("journée sans voiture"), and "Even/Odd Day" ("journée paire/impaire") raise the central question of the place of the car in our cities. Is the end of the reign of the car here yet? The mission of eco-neighborhoods is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the city. What are the ways in which we can limit the use of the car?

If the suggested efforts remain insufficient, we should remember that mobility is liable to numerous territorial and environmental stakes.

The End of the Car in the City: An Idea Accepted in Europe

Since the 1990s, the concept of sustainable cities without cars has emerged in Europe. Among the best known are Vauban in Fribourg-en-Brisgau (Germany), Vienne-Floridsdorf (Austria), GWL-Terrein in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), and more recently Burgunder in Berne-Bumpliz (Switzerland). All of them have attempted to limit the dependence of users on their cars.

Car-less and Ecological Living

The best known car-less neighborhood is located in the Netherlands. GWL-Terrein features a program with six hundred dwellings completed in 1998. What's unique about this car-less neighborhood is that its inhabitants themselves wanted this type of environment. In effect, in 1990, a group of Amsterdam residents published the following in a local newspaper: "We want to create a project for car-less and ecological living. Would you be interested in participating?" Six thousand people responded to the call. Today, this neighborhood exists.

Bonnes, France

The Possible Solutions for Limiting the Use of the Car

The reduction of the use of the personal vehicle is a very common proposal, but we still must find adequate measures to incentivize it. In order to accomplish this, several attempts have been launched in certain eco-neighborhoods.

In eco-neighborhoods like Bonnes in Grenoble or Berges de Lac in Bordeaux, France, parking islands have been created by buildings with only one parking lot with one entrance and one exit, in such a way that limits the number of cars passing by. Parking is limited inside eco-neighborhoods, with the norm often being one parking spot per individual dwelling. Some places go even further. The Danube eco-neighborhood in Strasbourg offers even less with one space for two households, a quarter to one space for one hundred square meters of office and business space.

The eco-sharing could take different forms according to the territory. Parking spaces for electrical vehicles are best known. The Villeneuve eco-neighborhood in Cognin has made available free-service vehicles that can be reserved for a period ranging from one hour to an entire weekend.

New circulation schemes are at the center of the efforts. How can we bring together bikes and pedestrians? The integration of the eco-neighborhoods in the transportation network allows for responding to the problems connected with the car, as an example, Munich's rail network serves the city with a forty-five kilometer radius.

Often, the continuity and proximity of neighborhoods are alternatives brought up to ensure the success of eco-neighborhoods and the limitation of vehicle use. Recently, the appearance of shuttles on demand serving the commune shows that there are numerous means, and that there are others to invent.

Lastly, the most common solution deals with the development of eco-mobilities.

The Car at the Center of Territorial Stakes

More and more eco-mobility services are being developed at the heart of city centres. Regardless of where they are located, all users are at least six hundred meters from the nearest parking in an eco-neighborhood.

Inequality Increases If There Is a Lack of Eco-mobilities

Urban sprawl has an impact at both the communal and individual scales. The increasing cost of mobility in the household budget is a problem that could be resolved through the development of eco-mobilities in neighborhoods. This first fact adds to other inequalities since it can generate difficulties of access to employment, services and infrastructure.

Urban Planning Is Easier Without the Car

The car requires specific planning measures designed to accommodate it. It's important to plan for infrastructure - a parking lot for example - that can accommodate cars weighing between one and two tons, that are one to two meters wide, one and a half to two meters tall, and more than four meters long on average. By comparison, a bicycle weighs seven kilograms at minimum, which is around a hundred and forty times less than a car.

Eco-mobilities as an Aid to the Social Mix

Time and space management favors the use of motorized vehicles, but it cuts down the number of social ties that could take place between individuals. The physical distance between users is small in the use of eco-mobilities, and there are still no studies showing the links between the psychological distance and users; the first affirmation attempts to posit that eco-moblities could be a means for aiding the social mix.

A utopia of a car-less world, a dream of the eco-neighborhoods, or a ghost of the eco-individuality, whatever may be its object, protests against the use of the car contribute to the elaboration of our future of eco-cities.

What are the benefits of car-less or relatively car-less neighborhoods? Are there area in your community that vehicles do not have access to? Are they successful?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Bora Mici has a background in design and online writing. Most recently, she has worked as an online contributor for DC Mud,, and, covering urban planning and visual and performing arts in the Washington, D...

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