I live in a small northern New Jersey town but lately, I notice more often how intense the traffic is around the commuter and school hours. I don’t spend as much time in big cities but when I am there I am overwhelmed by traffic.
Adding more streets and more parking to accommodate cars is one reaction, but a more radical movement is pushing to ban cars in dense city areas. This would give more space for bike lanes, bus routes and pedestrian plazas while also reducing noise and air pollution.
I was in Paris in June and I never drove but when I was on a bus or walking I was amazed by the traffic. I can’t imagine ever driving there comfortably. Paris is another city resorting to drastic and controversial traffic-restriction measures.
This is not a totally new movement. Copenhagen, Denmark, began putting the environment at the top of the agenda after the 1970s oil crisis and made urban planning laws that redefined the city’s public space and promoted cycling rather than driving. They have also proposed car-free Sundays.
They put a sales tax of 180% on any new car – a car worth $40,000 will actually cost you $100,000 to drive away. Former car parks have been turned into public spaces and pedestrian zones. That is radical and you can imagine the backlash if American cities did the same thing. But many cities, such as New York City, are experimenting with congestion pricing to discourage car use during the big commuter times.
America has a car-dependency problem. Watch a video about this