Most big cities are experiencing extreme gridlock forcing city leaders to think differently about the ways in which people move. The future of transportation is as uncertain as it’s ever been, and everyone from technology companies, automakers and city leaders are in the race to find solutions to transform the way we travel.
A big disruption in the transportation industry is the rise of the electric vehicle – the number of electric cars in the world passed the 2m mark last year and the International Energy Agency estimates there will be 140m electric cars globally by 2030. The drive to replace polluting petrol and diesel cars has been gathering momentum, and in July 2017, British and French governments committed to outlaw the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars by 2040. Volvo also pledged to only sell electric or hybrid vehicles from 2019.
So what about a future that doesn’t involve cars at all? In an effort to reduce congestion and carbon emissions, many cities are moving towards a car-free future.
Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, has arguably undertaken the most ambitious of these plans with the construction of 26 bicycle superhighways, extending out from the centre of the as part of a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050. Only 40 years ago, traffic in Copenhagen was as bad as any other large city, however, now more than 50 per cent of the city’s population cycle to work each day.
In an effort to reduce congestion many cities are moving towards a car-free future
Helsinki plans to make car ownership pointless in the next 10 years. Finland’s capital hopes that a ‘mobility-on-demand’ system integrating all forms of shared and public transport in a single payment network can render private vehicles obsolete. The city has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point, mobility-on-demand system by 2025. A system that theoretically would be so good no one would have reason to own a car.
Hamburg, a major port city in northern Germany, is currently working on a plan to make the city greener, healthier and generally more pleasant place to live, by eliminating the need for cars within the next 15 to 20 years. The city’s proposed Grünes Netz or Green Network will create walkways and bike paths that connect Hamburg’s existing green spaces and provide safe, car-free commuter routes.
In Spain, Madrid has banned most traffic from certain city streets and intend to expand the car-free zone even further. This is part of a bigger plan to completely pedestrianise central Madrid by 2020. Twenty-four of the city’s busiest streets will be redesigned for walking instead of driving.
In Paris, the mayor plans to double the number of bike lanes in the city, ban diesel cars and limit certain high-traffic streets to electric cars and other ultra-low-emission vehicles, by 2020. In 2014, the city briefly banned cars with even-numbered plates and pollution dropped by as much as 30 per cent in some areas, prompting plans to start permanently discouraging cars. The number of car owners in Paris has already reduced from 40 per cent in 2001 to 60 per cent currently.
The smoggy Italian city of Milan is trying to keep cars out of the city center by incentivizing commuters to leave their vehicles at home, instead offering free public transport vouchers.
Few people know that, 45 years before New York installed the bike lanes, pedestrian streets and public plazas New Yorkers now take for granted, there were bitter fights to create a car-free Red Zone in downtown Manhattan.
For new and improved mobility solutions to work in cities, we need to think differently about how we create, enable and support innovation in transport. What do you think about a future without cars? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.