Car-free city: something right about it?

by Radio Somewhere

It would be wrong to say that I dislike cars. I’ve actually been a bit of a car enthusiast in the past (including rebuilding an MG) and used to enjoy driving through the countryside of New England. But I’ve never been a fan of city driving. Although my distance vision is good, my depth perception is lousy and judging safe distances when merging onto busy freeways or attempting to make left turns across traffic just freaks me out. So, when I made the decision to move to Seattle in 2001, I committed myself to living without a car — although, the bus system was a lot better back then!! But I am still getting by OK.

In my mind is an ideal city where no one drives — because no one needs to — and it’s a sign of a lot of things being right with the place, such as:

Everyone can live less than three miles from their job.

The economy enjoys job health, and a single income is enough to raise a family, so that the commute to and from work does not also involve transferring children to and from daycare.

Children are able to walk safely to school.

Everyone lives in a full-service neighborhood, well provided for groceries, shopping, restaurants, entertainment, recreation, services etc.

Work and personal schedules are more relaxed, so that people do not need to drive an easily walkable distance just to save time.

Crime of any kind is rare.

Note that I make no mention of public transportation. It’s neither a necessary, nor sufficient, condition for a car-free existence. What is more important is urban form designed around people instead of automobiles. The overlay of a well-designed transit system is then the icing on the cake, allowing mobility beyond distances that are walkable for most people.

Now — if I could just find a city like that!

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