Outlook: mobility means real freedom
Until a few years ago, smoking was allowed everywhere—in the train compartment, in the restaurant, in the lecture hall. Today, this state of affairs seems ridiculous. We can’t believe it was perfectly acceptable at the time. We could feel the same way about cars.
The transition will not be entirely devoid of conflict. If a street is freed, some residents will park their cars in nearby neighbourhoods. This will cause more traffic in those areas, and those affected will quite rightly complain. Isolated solutions don’t work in the long run. Constant readjustments will be needed, and more streets will have to be freed swiftly. But there will always be a lack of understanding, anger and protests, at least from time to time. To think otherwise would be misguided.
There will also be differences depending on the type of residential area. Densely populated neighbourhoods and even entire towns and cities are more than capable of managing without private cars. In low-density housing estates, mainly comprising single-family homes, the situation is quite different. In the future, some people will still have their own cars if they have a garage or carport to keep them in. Of course, urban dwellers might own a private vehicle for pleasure or because they have to drive certain routes, but these will have to be parked for a fee in city or neighbourhood garages on the edge of the car-free zones.
When free streets are no longer the exception, but as commonplace as smoke-free restaurants, the number of cars will decrease drastically overall. It’s having your own car that will be the exception. If ever a person needs one, there will be plenty of cheap sharing vehicles available.
There will still be a few cars around on the streets—especially shared vehicles for certain routes, and route-independent shared taxis and special vehicles for people with mobility issues. Emergency services and logistics vehicles, as well as the tradespeople, construction companies and others who have heavy loads to carry, will also be able to drive into the free streets. They are essentially guests, so they will need to travel slowly and carefully so as not to overstay their welcome.
Transport beyond the private car will experience rapid growth, with the vast majority of journeys being made by low-cost public transport, electric scooters and bikes powered by renewable energy—for hire at the many small mobility hubs. And then there’s our own muscle power. Many more urbanites will find pleasure in walking or cycling. For children and seniors in particular, and for those in general who used to feel unsafe on a bike, a new self-empowering freedom of mobility has begun. There are now various continuous transport networks: from wide, fast routes for electric bikes, speed cyclists and large cargo bikes to varied and safe routes for cycling buffs and novice riders.
In retrospect, it’ll be amazing to see how normal it is for our streets to no longer be filled with countless ‘tin cans on wheels’ in such a short amount of time. This is probably mainly due to the fact that our everyday experience of the street and the city has changed completely—for the better! Residents now use the space in the streets for more greenery, for local business and for communal exchange in the immediate living and working environment. Many long daily journeys have become unnecessary as a result. This helps to protect the climate and also enhances everyday living in urban areas—more people benefit from a high quality of life. Because everyone has something to gain from it, even those who were initially vehemently opposed to freeing up the streets have fallen silent. Basically, no one wants to be missing out on this new found freedom.