Congestion charges are a regular sight in cities. Once constrained to capitals, they are now in place in hundreds of cities around the world. And for good reason. Ever since the almost incomprehensible effects of global warming have become apparent, it has become more important than ever before to cut down on pollution when and where we can. And for cities, that starts with cars.
Every day thousands of cars pile into hundreds of cities around the world. As a result, governments and councils have been focussed on improving public transport to ensure commuters are able to get to work on time, easily and swiftly. Although this has helped, the introduction of the congestion charges is what has made the biggest difference. In London for example, traffic has reduced by around 10% over the last 10 years (according to TFL figures released in 2013). Although a step in the right direction, it still signifies that there is a lot of work to be done. So could the solution be banning cars from cities altogether be the answer? Oslo certainly thinks so.
The Norwegian capital, which just so happens to be the most populous city in the country, has revealed plans to ban cars completely from the city centre by 2019. It has joined an increasingly longer list of cities looking to move the focus away from cars, and push them towards greener and more public-focused transport solutions.
Oslo’s move is nothing new. As mentioned above, the list of cities banning cars or reducing their numbers has grown exponentially over the last few years. Finland’s capital, Helsinki, has plans to make its ‘mobility on demand’ service too good to pass up, and aims to make it so that no one will want to drive a car in the centre by 2025. Paris on the other hand introduced car-free days in order to raise the awareness of air pollution, so it’s only a matter of time before the city of love decides to spread its wings and make it more difficult for cars to enter the city every day.
The Great City on the outskirts of Chengdu, China and Masdar near Abu Dhabi are two other cities that are planning to focus on group travel transit or look into electric cars as alternatives to traditionally-powered private cars. All of this is great news for the world, but it does leave the UK lagging behind.
Even with the UK looking at life outside the EU and being completely self-ruling, it will need to keep up with its counterparts and pave the way for eco travel. The congestion charge was a step in the right direction, but with the focus on even more eco means of travel, and other countries pioneering car-free zones, the UK’s capital needs to keep up and pioneer new incentives and enforce new rules. And as a result, it will have to ensure that public transport is world-class – not to mention eco-friendly.
Do you think we will see UK car-free cities in our lifetime?