Europe Declares War on the Automobile

Monday, 27 Jun 2011 10:09 AM

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While Americans are struggling to find answer to long commutes and gridlock, European cities have found the solution: Get rid of cars. Cities such as Vienna, Munich, Copenhagen, and Paris are closing roads to traffic, limiting parking and making life miserable for drivers, The New York Times reports.

Drivers in London and Stockholm now have to pay to enter the heart of the cities and dozens of German towns have joined a national network of “environmental zones” where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter.

“In the United States, there has been much more of a tendency to adapt cities to accommodate driving,” Peder Jensen, head of the Energy and Transport Group at the European Environment Agency, told the Times. “Here there has been more movement to make cities more livable for people, to get cities relatively free of cars.”

europe war automobilesOnly a handful of cities in the United States have tried such methods, said Lee Schipper, a senior research engineer at Stanford University who specializes in sustainable transportation. San Francisco has pedestrianized parts of Market Street and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has generated controversy by “pedestrianizing” a few areas like Times Square.

Regardless, Europe has far greater incentive to act than America. European cities pre-date the automobile and as a result have narrow roads. Public transportation is also better and gas is about $8 a gallon, the Times reported.

Europe was on the same path as the United States a decade ago, with more people wanting to own cars, said Michael Kodransky, global research manager at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, but made “a conscious shift in thinking, and firm policy,” the Times reported.



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