When Cities Are Designed for Driving, Car Bans Are Not the Solution

Banning cars will not be effective as long as U.S. cities continue to prioritize transportation systems where mobility is dependent on driving.

1 minute read

January 13, 2020, 6:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink

Dallas Freeways

Omer Rana / Shutterstock

Culdesac Tempe is a new Arizona development where cars will be banned—a strategy to encourage less driving, but one that does not address the broader issues, writes Joseph W. Kane. "Rather than focusing on an outright ban on cars, we need to make it easier for more people to live in places where shorter trips are the norm, and driving across an inefficient and inequitable built environment isn’t always necessary."

Culdesac Tempe’s vision is commendable, says Kane, but sustainability within the development will not change the fact that people still need to drive to get to work, shopping, school, and other destinations in the metropolitan Phoenix area.

Transportation systems too often privilege cars, and the car-centric landscapes of many American cities are reflected in trends in recent years such as the increase in vehicle numbers and vehicle miles traveled.

Kane suggests that the United States look abroad for examples of effective policies and design measures that foster density, decrease driving, and offer a range of transportation options. "European cities stand out here, from Barcelona’s 'superblocks' planning effort, to Ghent’s pedestrian zone, to Copenhagen’s bicycle highways."

But some cities in the United States have also implemented strategies that are making a difference, notes Kane, including pedestrian-friendly neighborhood design, parking minimums, and congestion charges. "These efforts encourage people to drive less, while incentivizing the creation of more walkable, livable communities."

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