Most vegans are also environmentalists, and keen on creating healthy green communities for all. Also see tips to be a greener driver. One way to do this is to create walkable communities. Also called ‘mixed-use communities’, you can work from home – then pop to the shop, office or any other place, without having to get into a car. Of course, this theory is not often promoted by governments, as the big car companies often donate to political parties or have them lobbied to support the car or even aeroplane industry. If we had mixed-use communities, we would not have out-of-town stores or supermarkets or retail parks: you’d get your bread from the baker, bike repaired at the local indie shop, eat lunch in the park and walk to the doctor.
Walkable cities have a big knock-on effect. People who spend their time on their feet (instead of in cars) are likely healthier, less stressed, spend more time in nature, have healthier and more relaxed children, and also likely are more financially stable, as they are not seeing all their money poured into a vehicle they don’t need to use. Many people give up their cars altogether.
- Stop basing cities around cars. Build at the speed of walking, and ban cars where you can (that’s how he started, banning cars in the main street, then adding more walking spaces and bike hire).
- Make it enjoyable. Make the city centre a pleasure for being in: parks and beautiful buildings. He put heated street lamps and benches (it gets cold in Copenhagen) and this brought more people into the city, so it felt safe. Although more night lights can cause issues for birds flying into windows, this city is not full of glass-fronted skyscrapers.
- Have such good design that it’s faster to go by foot or bicycle, than car. This is what planners have done in Belgium’s second city of Ghent. It made the city centre car-free, then it’s easier now for people to walk or cycle, as drivers have to use a ring road. Also see how to find good dog walks.
- Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Space is a super book by Jeff Speck, known as the ‘rock star of town planning’. The world’s expert on making cities more walkable, he is not a fan of those who add extra lanes to motorways. His 10 steps to make a city more walkable include planting trees, to make it more pleasant to walk. He is well-known for his oft-mentioned quote that turns up in his books and talk. In Jeff’s land, a walkable place is ‘useful, safe, comfortable and interesting’. His simple chapters include how to escape car-thinking, get the parking right and make comfortable interesting spaces. Jeff writes ‘The faster a society moves, the more it spreads out, and the more time it must spend moving’.
So which cities in the world live mostly without cars?
- The tiny Channel Island of Sark is car-free.
- Louvain-la-Neuve (near Brussels, Belgium) is car-free, built to house a Catholic university. Nearby Ghent is mostly car-free too.
- Venice has no cars at all. But its rivers are polluted from water-taxis.
- Tripoli (Lebanon) has no cars, as they would get stuck! Full of winding streets and stairways.
- Orvelte (Netherlands) is a museum village.
- Many islands worldwide are car-free.
- The most car-free cities in the UK are York, Leeds and Cardiff.
- Read Carfree Cities and Carfree Living.
The website Urban Advantage is very interesting, where a digital imager creates before/after pictures of how to turn these empty parking lots into walkable communities, simply by widening the sidewalks/pavements, adding trees and generally making the areas more pleasant to live. Steve has recently written a wonderful book Imagining a Walkable America, these ideas could be used worldwide.
Handbook for an Urban Revolution is the story of NYC’s Transport Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan who managed the seemingly impossible task of transforming one of the world’s toughest cities into dynamic spaces, safe for pedestrians and bikers. Her approach was dramatic yet effective. This book shows how to do the same, where you live.
Urban Playground looks at how to replace car-dominated, noisy and polluted cities devoid of nature, with walkable, welcoming and green alternatives. Good for humans, animals and the planet, this book shows how seeing cities through the eyes of children, is key to good urban design. Healthier children means happier families, stronger communities, greener neighbourhoods and an economy focused on the long-term.