It’s a feeling we all know. The dreadful, hellish feeling of being stuck in traffic or sitting in public transit that’s again delayed. It’s no surprise the worst congestion happens at some of the busiest, most populated city centers of the world, from Paris to New York City. But how are these mega cities dealing with the problem?
Some of these cities have been debating limiting or banning cars in certain areas in order to reduce congestion and get the economy moving again. Traffic congestion and slowdowns, when they exceed a certain threshold, can impede economic development, discourage businesses from expanding and affect productivity, and governments are taking notice.
They see other benefits, too, to supporting car-free cities, from curbing pollution to encouraging public transit use. Different municipalities are using different approaches, with some banning cars in entire stretches and some limiting cars during certain peak hours, like in Colombia. San Francisco is considering eliminating minimum parking requirements, while Brussels has designated historic parts of its city center car-free.
Here’s a look at some major cities around the world and how they are ditching cars.
In this Spanish city, only vehicles that meet zero emissions requirements can drive freely downtown. In 2018, Madrid was one of the first in Europe to push this policy to curb emissions and reduce gridlock.
All petrol vehicles registered before the year 2000 and diesels registered before 2006 are banned in the city center, unless drivers are area residents or have another exemption. The goal is to slash nitrogen dioxide levels.
In recent years, Paris officials have stepped in to crack down on pollution in a variety of ways. Cars registered before 1997 are banned from the city on weekdays, and the Champs-Élysées has monthly closures.
In 2016, the highway along the bank of the Seine was closed off and will be turned into a pedestrian-only promenade. The city has also set environmental goals of banning diesel vehicles by 2025 and adding more bike lanes.
Many parts of this southeastern region of China are closed off to cars, including Discovery Bay of Lantau Island and Cheung Chau. To ease congestion, there are talks of another plan to remove cars and create more pedestrian zones in some of Hong Kong’s busiest streets.
It’s also been testing out street closures in Central, a busy business hub, as it tries to catch up to its international neighbors’ standards on pedestrian-only zones and combating congestion.