Car-free zones: good for everyone?

five lane city highway full of cars.. We need car free zones.Discussion about the benefit of electric versus fossil fuel vehicles will go on for some time. Regardless of the propulsion method, roads take up a lot of our land and environment. Case studies of road closures in favour of pedestrians, are appearing regularly in the literature. The aim of these car-free zones is to give more space to people to move around by walking and cycling. But not everyone can ride a bike or use public transport and this group is probably bigger than we think. 

Climate activists are keen to reduce the number of cars on our roads whether electric or not. An article on the World Economic Forum website discusses the issues with just one sentence about people with disability. This is going to be a major issue if climate activists forget diversity and disability. 

There are more people with mobility issues than most people think. Some are not in the disability statistics because they fall under long term health conditions. Then there are non-physical reasons for using cars. 

Personal vehicles are treated as personal safety devices by people who are physically frail of have a psychosocial condition. That also means they don’t like taxis or car share. People who become blind and have not learned the ways of public transport will use taxis and ride share to drop them exactly where they need to go. Public transport still has gender issues too. 

Cars are still mobility devices

With uneven or absent footpaths, older people begin to feel unsafe and then the car becomes a mobility device. When they cannot drive, they prefer a family member to drive them to the shops and medical appointments. That’s partly because they haven’t used public transport in the past and/or don’t feel safe. 

And cycling with the week’s shopping after picking up a child from school or child care is not an option for many parents.

The title of the article is, Are cars an urban design flaw? Cities advance car-free zones. The article presents case studies across Europe in the quest to reduce road space and increase living space. And car-free doesn’t mean pedestrian only – it means cyclists can mingle with pedestrians. For people with hearing or sight impairments, or people unsteady on their feet, this is not helpful. 

The city of Oslo is increasing their car free zones, but are making sure people who need to use a car are catered for. 

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