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Life in the Spanish city that banned cars (theguardian.com)
1240 points by antr 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 679 comments

Its insane to me how large space-wise small towns in the us (Oregon in mind as I write this) are — with a huge percentage of the real estate devoted to parking lots. Even setting aside the traffic, it’s silly to walk across these towns because businesses are separated from each other by massive parking lots.

The traffic is often amazingly inhumane. Many of the small towns in Oregon are formed on either side of the major highway which has speed limits within the town but still sees so much traffic as to be very dangerous for pedestrians.

These towns need the commercial visitors brought by the highway to survive — but the design common in Europe for this scenario is so much better. There will be a sign for an exit off the main road for the “city center” exit — there will be a single parking lot for the city center, and then comfortable walking distance to the businesses ... superior design.

Many small, especially old, towns in Europe have ancient road layouts that are too narrow and steep for cars within the town — which resulted in these car free designs for free. It’s beautiful. Parking is easy because there is only one place to do it on the outskirts — and then walk everywhere. There is no improvement for a small town to be designed otherwise in my opinion.

What really amazes me is the creation of new "Shopping Centres" - miles and miles of independent stores and nothing between them but parking lots. They took the mall and scaled it up so everyone gets a store, and now if I want to go to two places I have to actually drive from one to the other because it's nothing but parking lots and pedestrian hostile roads separating them - sometimes it's a two minute drive, but that's so much easier to do than try and navigate on foot it's ridiculous. You want to go to the next store over, but it's 3 lanes each way of homicidal traffic between you and it, or a 5 minute walk to get to the closest cross-walk.

This is precisely what shines so much in Pontevedra (the city featured in the article) and e.g. Oviedo (another Spanish city that aggressively adopted this policy in 1991). Local shopping benefited so much from banning cars downtown. Little specialty shops and cafes blossomed vs suburban malls.

Sadly, I think this is only easy to accomplish in mid-sized densely-populated cities (<= 250000 inhabitants), unless there's a lot of planning and investments done.

Paradoxically, shopping associations were initially strongly opposed to implementing car-less downtown plans. Only to reckon later how wrong they were.

If I recall correctly, car-less policies were imported from Aarhus and Aalborg, where majors were experimenting with turning some main streets into pedestrian only by the late 1980s.

It's also interesting to note that both Aalborg and Oviedo tend to rank very highly in a few quality of life EU metrics [1]. I know both, and they are pretty fantastic places to work and live in. Everything is within short walking distance.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/studies...

> Sadly, I think this is only easy to accomplish in mid-sized densely-populated cities (<= 250000 inhabitants), unless there's a lot of planning and investments done.

You are right about the "easy" part, but it can definitely be done. In fact that's what Tokyo feels like, and it's the largest city/metro area in the world, with 38 million residents.

Indeed. I've lived in downtown Tokyo for 8 years without even owning a driver's licence. Walking through the city is one of my favorite pastimes.

Take a bit of time to walk; Look, wonder, have a talk. There is no journey without the ´jour´; All should at least once be a flaneur.

An original poem? Lovely :)

Yea, its original. Thanks. Ive been a long time lurker here on HN, and thought i might contribute by putting my on topic thoughts into rhyme.

I moved here 2.5 months ago and I'm so glad I did. It's a huge metropolis where one can comfortably live without owning a car. On top of that, it has one of the lowest crime rates among the world's big cities:


Sure, but the whole thing depends on there being world-class public transportation. Fortunately, Tokyo has that.

I second the fact that most towns in Denmark have superb pedestrian-friendly downtowns. Ghent is also really good in this regard. And of course some mid towns in Spain & France.

Many American and British cities fail in this regard due to excessively sparse housing. But, for example, I found downtown DC & Arlington very walkable and nice.

When I was in Denmark, many downtown roads were close to cars, making them pedestrian malls. Unfortunately, certain traffic was allowed, such as official vehicles. There was just enough of them to pretty much ruin things. You couldn't just amble down the street without having to constantly get out of the way of them.

It's like being in the airport concourse with those electric golf cars racing between the pedestrians with their interminable annoying beeping.

I'm not sure how or why, but you're dead. Your comments are only visible to people with `showdead` enabled.


The comment was killed by HN's anti-troll software, which is tuned more aggressively for new accounts and unfortunately gets some cases wrong. Fortunately users tend to vouch for those, as happened here. That unkills them.

Me neither, but thanks for letting me know.

I wonder, when/if autonomous taxis come about will the whole attitude of catering to cars over than pedestrians will cease.

If people don't have cars, parking won't be a problem, and walking from one store to another rather than paying for a taxi would become preferable. Then more people would have the awful experience of walking half a mile through a giant paved parking lot which would motivate people to change it.

I'm worried that the opposite will become true. Autonomous taxis will drastically reduce the cost of taking a car ride. The benefit though might be that we get rid of the parking lots since a much higher percentage of total cars should be made up of vehicles that are shared and those shared vehicles should have much higher utilization than personal cars.

I feel like you'd end up with a micro-payment type system - it'd be $1 to cross a parking lot or two and you'd have fields of parking lots everywhere to house the cars that would serve the instant demand people would expect.

I don't think there would be so many parking lots needed. Cars today spend most of their time not in use, which is why we need such large amounts of area to store them.

Even Portland and Eugene love to boast how bicycle friendly they are, but neither are really commutable by anything besides a car for most people. Which is why most cyclists are so prolific -- it's hard to be a cyclist by circumstance. Riding your bike inherently comes with crossing a dozen intersections beaming with cars that treat you like you don't belong on the road.

A solution is to level the planes of separation between types of traffic in urban areas. With pedestrians closer to cars the cars have to go slower by nature. It's antithetical to the common logic and current policy of building walking paths completely separate from roads and all of the businesses attached to them.

> Even Portland and Eugene love to boast how bicycle friendly they are, but neither are really commutable by anything besides a car for most people. Which is why most cyclists are so prolific -- it's hard to be a cyclist by circumstance. Riding your bike inherently comes with crossing a dozen intersections beaming with cars that treat you like you don't belong on the road.

I commuted by bike for two years or so in Portland -- for work from North Portland to downtown across the Broadway bridge, and for fun when visiting friends all over south east -- and that wasn't my experience at all, Portland drivers were incredibly courteous to cyclists. You could take the lane when needed and no one batted an eye, people would correctly negotiate right of way with bikes at four way stops, etc.

Contrast that to Oakland where I live now where I receive death threats on a daily basis for riding in the bike lane. :)

Sometimes they're a bit overly quote courteous unquote -- stopping unexpectedly to let you cross, holding up traffic behind them, or waiting too long to turn onto the road you're on so that they end up behind you when they could have easily gone in front and been on their merry way, etc.

Not that I want to complain -- I'll take this any, any day over the drivers in certain other northern cities named after 70s rock bands. Just a bemused observation.

Peeve: these folks often don't realize there are other sides/lanes of traffic that they aren't able to stop. So the pedestrian still can't cross because of other lanes, but now the good Samaritan is just holding up traffic and slowing everyone down. Including the pedestrian who would normally wait for traffic to clear.

Paradoxically, in these encounters I prefer the "rude" drivers that get out of the way as quickly as possible.

I think this is a pretty interesting phenomenon and I often struggle with how to handle it. I have pretty severe defensive navigation requirements where I tend to require active perception of velocity change before I trust obstacles are going to behave in the manner I expect ... and I think that mentality often leads to these kinds of outcomes.

I was recently in Amsterdam where there are many many bikes and many variations on the scenarios that can cause this to occur. I felt like I started to observe communication on the faces and trajectories around me that tried to convey a message about a kind of conscious morality for influencing the outcomes that results in these scenarios. There seemed to be a kind of social encouragement toward modulating one’s trajectory when possible in advance of where uncertainties could cause delay in order to have the effect of minimizing the required velocity changes — an expression that seemed to say “if you put yourself into a situation where uncertainty about your trajectory is likely to cause a group velocity decrease, you haven’t found the ideal path. Keep an eye out for opportunities to improve the group outcome in the future and have a nice day.” (Edit: Culture in the Netherlands is rather amazing)

> Keep an eye out for opportunities to improve the group outcome in the future and have a nice day.

I think what you describe just minimizes fuel consumption though.

I had not really considered that people might view it differently but thinking back on my experience in Canada, I remember being surprised at how much people would accelerate when the light turned green and how hard they would have to brake just seconds later at the next red light.

I think what I was trying to describe does more than minimize fuel consumption — at least assuming as I sort of was trying to imply that changes in velocity are a message passing component that is part of a distributed “proof of consensus awareness” which is then employed to maximize the likelihood of involved parties converging on the same set of safe trajectories. If applied widely — I think the principle results in reducing the number of interactions where trajectories come too close for safety margins and cause involved parties to introduce extra delay due to uncertainty in the other agent’s behavior. If you modulate speeds in order to reduce the occurrence of delay-from-uncertainty, you can ensure that one party doesn’t experience any extra delay at all rather than both being likely to, which is a net win as well as win-win as the person who does stop or experience delay will wait less time in total for the obstacle to clear.

This is exactly how my first and only car accident happened. I was driving and the car in front on the next lane randomly stopped on the road. I couldn't see there was a cyclist on the other side of the car. The old lady went for it despite me not slowing down, so I hit the brakes and got smacked from behind by another car.

I would argue this is more to do with Portland culture of nice than anything.

I love riding, but I have been run over. No thank you. I will bike for transportation the day we implement Dutch style separated bike lanes (i.e. by an actual physical barrier, even if only a slightly raised bike lane)

Other than that, I drive my mountain bike to areas where there are no cars.

Edit: in the city I'm in now, we just 'created' a bunch of bike lanes. Which means putting paint on a continuous stretch of asphalt and expect vehicles moving at 10mph that weight 50 pounds to do just fine sharing the road with vehicles weighing 2000+ pounds and going 50+ mph. Ridiculous and a waste of my tax dollars.

> we just 'created' a bunch of bike lanes. Which means putting paint on a continuous stretch of asphalt

Yeah, this kind of thing is really disappointing, but unfortunately predictable. There's a real chicken/egg situation. Few people will bike until there's safe support for it; until lots of people are biking, all the infrastructure just takes space away from the people using cars.

I've been biking in Oakland for over 10 years and have never gotten a death threat.

I've had multiple people throw stuff at me from cars, I've had a teenager take a swing at me with a baseball bat from the curb, I've had a car stalk me for eight blocks driving inches from my back tire late at night. This is mostly West Oakland and the parts of of North Oakland along Adeline that gets you up to Berkeley -- I can't really comment on East Oakland or the hills. YMMV, of course.

I've been to your part of the world. The entire area felt unsafe everywhere. I got into a semi-fight on the bus for taking a seat. I've had poets aggressively push there words. It seems like the area is ready to explode.

Detriot feels much safer. People mostly leave you alone. Wear the wrong colors could be an issue. The boards over windows is a little bit scarier but in Detriot you feel more prepared, even expect something to happen so it rarely does. In Oakland/SanF things can be very calm but turn really quickly.

If there’s one thing that gets my goat it’s overly aggressive poets. The media really need to pay attention to this widespread problem. Once in Detroit a 15-line sonnet almost got me into fisticuffs with the so-called poet. Let’s just say I grew up in the mean streets of Anaheim and she didn’t stand a chance.

Pretty sure that's less about you being a bicyclist and more about you being in Oakland.

Cyclists really don't belong on the road. It's such an odd collective viewpoint that a vehicle which virtually always travels far below the speed limit should be allowed alongside vehicles that travel at the speed limit. I think this is because we conflate the benefits of cycling and the value of making our public infrastructure amenable to cycling with the opinion that cyclists should share highways with cars. It's simply not safe and no amount of "Share the road" stickers and driver education will compensate for that. Cyclists need their own infrastructure, bike lanes on the highways at a minimum. They don't belong mixed in with cars.

If we insisted bicycles only be allowed on dedicated bicycle tracks, there would be no track because there would be no bicycles (because there was no track!)

As a bicyclist, I would love to have a dedicated network of bicycle track all over town. But it doesn't exist, yet.

Also, this is way fuzzier than you present. There's little conflict between cars and bikes on lightly traveled, spacious suburban streets or sleepy neighborhood county roads. Even on collectors & minor arterials, on an e-bike I travel about the same speed as a slow car.

Speed delta is not an incorrect observation, but varies in significance. In terms of priorities, highways are certainly top candidates for the first dedicated bike tracks.

Do what downtown Vancouver, BC did - take out a travel lane and/or parking spots and create dedicated bike lane.

Sure, some businesses complain, but overall number of bikes on the road seems to have increased.



> It's such an odd collective viewpoint that a vehicle which virtually always travels far below the speed limit should be allowed alongside vehicles that travel at the speed limit.

Most cyclists are slower than the speed limit on most roads, but this does not occur "virtually always". Don't assume. Check the speed limit and the cyclist's speed!

As a cyclist, I find it really irritating to be dangerously passed by a driver, seemingly as punishment, catch up with them at a stop light, and then have them chew me out for not going the speed limit, when I actually was going the limit or faster. It's not hard for a fit cyclist to go the limit on a 15 or 20 mph road, particularly downhill. The problem here is that many drivers think anyone not going 30+ mph on those roads is being a jerk, and unfortunately some of those drivers believe dangerously passing slow vehicles is an acceptable response to their impatience.

But the reality is this: Going 30+ mph in a 15 mph zone is being a jerk!

I agree. The real solution is to eliminate cars from the roads, that way they wouldn't have to share with bikers.

I love small walkable shopping centers that are organically grown over decades that mix residential, commercial, and retail uses. I live in such an area and it is great, but, if society wants to find a way to move to a better human scale constructed landscapes, it might be a good idea to stop referring to people in cars as non-human inhabited objects and use a more human focus word like motorist. We use pedestrian for a person use their feet or a bicyclist or biker for someone using a bicycle.

Cars can be a great tool for humans to use and they are not yet running around without a human inside.

Cars are typically utilized under 5% of the time. A car most of the time is a non-human inhabited object that is wasting a lot of space

Similar to most rooms in a house/apartment? My living room and dining room is utilized way under 5% of the the time, both more square feet than my car.

I think the most intrusive part of cars are when they are moving. That is when they are dangerous, mess with peds and bikers, and occupying roads that break up community space. Look at how much parking structures are as a % of the total building space in downtown SF or Manhattan. Not nothing, but pretty small. Maybe 5%. Probably less.

This kind of snark, or perhaps just unrealistic statements, gets us nowhere...dedicated infrastructure for cyclists alongside the same infrastructure for cars is actually viable. Making a comment about how everybody should be using bikes isn't helpful.

I'm a cyclist and I drive a car. Dedicated infrastructure is usually for slow bicycles. I welcome it but I stay clear of it. I don't feel in danger in the road and I can go faster.

Problems with bicycle roads:

90% of traffic is much slower than me, which I do 20 km/h in cities (nothing special with some training)

They go up and down sidewalks and turn before intersections. This slows down everybody willing to go faster than 10 km/h

They are bumpier than roads

They are on the side of the road and more dangerous at any intersection, where they are close or before the stop line for cars coming from the side. Furthermore there is less space to look for incoming traffic. Being on the car's road is safer. I like bicycle roads when they are far away from car's roads, for example along rivers. Small low traffic roads are good enough.

On the other side, roundabouts and every other modern road layout that force cars and bikes to get close is dangerous for bikes. I feel safe to say that roads became less dangerous for cars in the last 20 years and more dangerous for bicycles.

I'd like to have the roads of the 70s: long straights, no speed bumps, no roundabouts (cyclists also don't like stop and go),

>>> Life in the Spanish city that banned cars

>> ban cars

> unrealistic statements

You, sir, are funny.

The United States is not Spain. Nitpick all you want - the vast majority of populated places in the US will never ban cars, at least for the foreseeable future.

Not because they can't though. Because they think they can't. Most cities in the US could do this with some adjustments to public transit, and by managing regional transit much better - for example it's insane that the default for suburban rail line stations is the "park and ride" - huge parking lot surrounding the train station, rather than using that area for residential development close to transit.

I wonder how much space could be allocated to residential development though. Here (Portland Oregon) The park and ride infrastructure isn't that built out (Or maybe it is and I just haven't noticed it???). I dont believe you could move all the people that need to drive into the city to work, into the new residential development provided by that conversion.

That's not the idea as much as moving parking away from IMMEDIATELY next to the station - and improving bus links to rail transit.

No... because they literally can't without massive upheaval of where schools, offices and shops are located.

"They literally can't change, because that would involve having to actually change".

They only want change that doesn't involve money, effort or change, or what?

Shops can move with the times, schools can continue to have buses to get kids there and offices can stay where they are as long as they'd like.

Banning vehicles has been shown to greatly increase shopping revenue and improve the healthiness of the area, so if a few businesses suffer, poor them... I'll not shed a tear for the strip malls.

Where in my comment do I suggest moving the suburbs? Nothing in your comment would be a result of anything in mine.

corndoge, it sounds like you assume that (an unnamed) we has to be in the United States.

I’m going to sorely disappoint you there…

However, if you want to talk about the United States, I would agree with you that it’s going to be expensive to shift the suburban sprawl away from personal vehicles. As much as that particular urbanisation failure is seen as typically American, it’s far from the exclusive option there. You will be surprised to learn that there are dozens of millions of Americans living in cities dense enough to justify not using cars as the default transport mode (“banning” isn’t a very accurate description of what that city did).


Electric scooters or bikes, typically the dockless kind, combined with existing (but re-inforced) public transport sounds doable, especially if you invest the same order of magnitude as local authorities spend on highways. That would require little investment (most of it would be private and from people keen on giving away billions).

   it sounds like you assume that (an unnamed) we *has* to be in the United States.
I wouldn't say this to anyone on hn who uses "we" without a qualifier because I assume as a matter of course that everyone on this website is aware that there are non American users. The pedantry here isn't appreciated.

   I’m going to sorely disappoint you there…

   You will be surprised

There already exists dedicated infrastructure for cyclists. It's called roads. Just need to get cars off of them.

I'm joking just as much as the people saying that bikes don't belong on roads are.

You must live in America. Here in Portland, the bike are winning out and things like a city-wide 20mph speed limit are taking hold. It's faster to get across town on an ebike than in a car, because all the drivers are stuck in traffic that the bikes rarely see because they use different streets. It's far from perfect but pockets of success like this prove the investment is worth it.

If you are interested in a ROI based perspective on town planning, https://www.strongtowns.org/ makes a compelling case that sprawl is not economically sustainable.

Totally agree with the sprawl issue, but I cannot see why we have to make one more of transportation worse to make another better. Not everyone can ride a bike. Either because of their physical ability or because of the for they'd need to travel. Europe has better bike lanes and higher speed limits for cars. We can have our cake and eat it too. Let's get rid of the sprawl, add some decent public transit and prohibit cars in city centers and we get somewhere. The sprawl that's subsidised by everyone is the root of all Urban planning problems in the US.

Small note, cars usually get stuck in traffic because they are bad at handling intersections, while pedestrians and bicyclists have such a high troughput in intersections that this seldom is an issue.

Disagree, slow the cars down. I've seen good results with "road diets" where 4-lane roads are converted to two lanes for cars and more space for bike lanes and center turning lanes. Also, adding pedestrian activated lights to stop cars.

Why do we need to slow down and even stop cars if we in your proposal even have a dedicated bike lane? Why not put up a small barrier between cars and bikes and have everyone go their own way? Speed limits on the US already are insanely slow compared to most of Europe and the bike thing seems to work better their regardless. We need more diverse infrastructure for different modes of transportation. I want trains that go 200mp/h, dedicated bike routes, and smaller dedicated roads for cars that are better organized with much higher speed limits and walkable city centers where pedestrians can feel safe from cars AND bicyclists. Sounds crazy but works in parts of Europe.

As a cyclist I've seen too many barriered-off cycle lanes that left me trapped and unable to go where I wanted to go, so if my choice is the main road or a cycle lane behind a barrier, I'll stick to the road. Separate lanes make sense for between-city highways, but inside the town speeds are already low enough - and space limited - that we ought to be able to share.

In hindsight, maybe training a neural network on Betsy DeVos was a bad idea.

Wow, never heard of her but quite interesting background.

DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, the former CEO of the multi-level marketing company Amway, and is the daughter-in-law of Amway's billionaire co-founder, Richard DeVos. Her brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA.

What surprises me here is the fact that Amway has done so well in China yet is connected to Blackwater.


Just make the cars slower and this problem is solved. 20mph in cities is safer for everyone, doesn‘t take longer to drive and allows sharing the road.

I think there's a happy medium that already works fairly well. I live in a fairly bike-friendly mid-sized city. For the most part, cyclists stick to designated bike paths and neighborhood streets, where traffic is minimal. Someone who's riding a bike on a main trunk road is either inexperienced, or trying to prove something. Most people eventually find ways to avoid those roads.

For me, high speed and low speed are both OK. I take longer rides that get me out onto the trunk roads where people drive 55+, but they usually give me plenty of room. What I'm not OK with is congested roads where drivers are not controlling their cars -- if someone stops suddenly, there will be a crash.

The city is gradually adding bike lanes on the more congested main roads when there isn't a good alternative. They're also designating some side roads as "bike boulevards" with "traffic calming" features that effectively discourage cars.

A way of planning for bike paths is if bike traffic gets heavy enough on a road, then set aside a portion of that road for bikes and leave the rest for cars.

It really depends. The biggest safety issue for cyclists is being overlooked at crossings. Being on the road makes them safer for cyclists in those situations. Especially for bigger roads there are also other solutions to this problem.

definitely agree. in fact, one of the biggest dangers of accidents is difference in speed on the roads. Its my understanding that this is one of the primary reasons for a speed limit (note if you drive too slow you also get a ticket), which is to limit the variance of speed.

Do you have a source for that? I had always understood the speed limit as simply being an objective, statutory codification of the subjective notion of "appropriate maximum speed for conditions"

Which fits well with dynamic speed limits cropping up in places that get regular bad weather


There is the source for California -- I see it gives exemptions for safety and law (I assume for road works, etc) but generally speed limits are objective based on conditions. It doesn't mean you can drive slow and impede other traffic traveling around you though, which is why there are laws for it. I don't see it enforced as much in San Diego, but when I lived in the Lake Arrowhead area it was enforced quite often on the highway up and down the mountain.

Quick edit -- that law is for highways, I haven't checked whether this also applies for other types of roads.

> Quick edit -- that law is for highways, I haven't checked whether this also applies for other types of roads.

Note that “highway” in California law has a very broad definition; see https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio....

“Highway” is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street.

Thanks for that, I wasn't aware of how broad the term was for California. Do you know if (silly question I'm sure) that definition can differ per county or municipality?

I started to reply to thinking there was a federal minimum speed limit but decided I should confirm what I believed and glad I did because I was wrong. In the US, states have full control over the speed limits that are set on both the state hwys and the interstate freeways within that state. That said, I'm pretty sure every freeway I've ever been on had a posted minimum 45mph speed limit, and bikes are not allowed.

Whether or not speed variances between vehicles increase accidents doesn't seem to be clear. With a quick search I found this(1) that indicates that speed variances don't play a role in causing accidents. I also found this (2), which says "that the greater the difference between a driver’s speed and the average speed of traffic—both above and below that average speed—the greater the likelihood of involvement in a crash". And I found this (3) which basically says the speed limit should be set at the 85th percentile of what everyone is driving. Kind of like how you should build sidewalks where people walk ("Don’t make any walkways this year. At the end of the year, look at where the grass is worn away. That shows where the students are walking. Then just pave those paths"), set the speed limit at the speed most people drive.

Everywhere in the US I've lived, the max speed limit laws were written like "whatever speed is safe for current conditions up to a maximum of XX Mph" So you can get a speeding ticket for going slower than the posted limit if conditions are bad. I've actually been pulled over going well under the posted max speed limit during a hard snow storm.

(1) https://www.caee.utexas.edu/prof/kockelman/public_html/TRB04... (2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_curve (3) http://onlinemanuals.txdot.gov/txdotmanuals/szn/determining_...

>That said, I'm pretty sure every freeway I've ever been on had a posted minimum 45mph speed limit, and bikes are not allowed.

There are exceptions, especially in the US West, where interstates may be the only path for miles and miles through some mountain ranges. Of course, they mostly have wide shoulders where people ride.

As someone who lived in Eugene and now PDX, the model I advocate is the wagon spoke. You need to ferret the people between the large spaces as the population density is that of the Ukraine which presents little in the way of the geographic challenges we have here. Get people to the perimeters and in parking garages and then make it so they're able to use alternative transport. We won't be building fast rail between Portland, Salem and Eugene but we can certainly make it so you limit the amount of driving you need to perform.

Or we could do what they do in the Netherlands and physically separate bikes.

Edit: phone auto-"correct"

"Livability", in America, doesn't really exist as a concept. I get blank stares from most people. They all want a single-family 2000 sq. ft. home somewhere in a suburb that will doom them to be behind the wheel of a car for every little thing and see nothing abnormal about it.

In America, a city is a place where cars drive to get from business A to business B. People enter the equation only as a necessary side-effect. But fuck you if you're a pedestrian or don't have a car.

In Europe, cities exist for people. Streets are built with people in mind, businesses are placed with people in mind, infrastructure is built with people in mind.

I grew up in Europe, and the entire city was "mine" as a teenager - I could go anywhere, cheaply, quickly, and never needed a driver's license. I shopped for groceries, paid bills, hung out with friends, went to school - everything was within walking distance or a short bus ride away.

Here - I don't know how kids do it. To rely on parents to drive you to - where - shopping malls???? - to "hang out" or be doomed to watch tv/play video games all day - I'm so glad that was not my child-hood - I really think it's one reason I'm not on various anti-depressants, nor obese, nor anti-social.

I really wish someone would do a study that looked at the number of depressed/anti-social/about-to-go-on-a-shooting-spree people in a country whose only interaction with other human beings is to say "good how are you" at the clerk at the grocery aisle check-out lane or to curse at other people behind the wheel of their car while getting there.

I really believe (no evidence, just belief) that if cities in America didn't make you stressed out just for trying to get from place A to place B, or putting your life in danger by having to drive, we'd see a lot fewer problems - a lot fewer.

It's the same everywhere, I can vouch for rural Illinois.

Check out strongtowns.org, a non-profit that explores this EXACT phenomena and how it happened.

Basically, infrastructure == progress to a LOT of poorly informed communities who don't bother factoring in maintenance costs or look at the actual economics of building huge roads through their main street.

Throw in a dash of pork-barrel spending and lobbying to secure funding to build more roads for the hell of it and you have the US's current mad-max roads-to-fucking-nowhere infrastructure nightmare. It was all a big experiment where everyone but the guys getting paid to build the roads lost.

Chalk it up to the fact that almost literally every European city developed while people still traveled on horses, and nearly every American city saw 90% of its development when cars existed. If Americans already need cars because cities are so far apart and it isn't yet feasible to rely on public transportation across states and the country, why bother making cities that resemble European, pre-steam engine city layouts unless you are dealing with a city like New York or Los Angeles, where there is no practical reason to leave?

It always comes back down to money. Suburbs are inherently less efficient; you need more sewage, more electric, more road, etc. to serve the same amount of people. And this is before we consider that suburban houses are much farther away and apart, much bigger spaces with more heating and AC requirement, etc. Suburbs generally don't make enough money through taxes to cover their lifecycle costs.

The first generation of suburbs is already failing as they become choked by the next generation of suburbs. Ferguson, MO was once a rich suburb of St. Louis. The suburbs of Nassau County, one of the richest US counties by median income, have been under state fiscal control since 2000.

It is less efficient if all you care about is money and people working for your company.

It is far less efficient if you have a partner, children, pets, and like having peace and quiet. You know, things that make you happy.

You can have all of those things in a city. It's not as if the Europeans are all single slaving away in cubicle farms. Most people would say that the Europeans work far less than Americans do.

In fact, suburbs can be some of the most limiting places for kids. Every activity needs a driver, so until you get a license you need a chaperone. You mostly can't walk to the shops, or the park, or your friend's house, with limited exceptions. And biking and walking are out of the question if you have to navigate a main suburban arterial to get there. As a parent your choices are to trap them in the house or spend your precious time driving your kids everywhere.

Half of Kansas City's downtown is parking lots which generally sit empty during the day. To make matters even worse, the city is constantly building mixed-use areas with retail and office space, restaurants, hotels and apartments intermixed with roads running every which way. Walking around these places is just a constant hazard.

Can you explain how the mixed-use makes this worse? Not having seen it, I'd expect it to make the situation better that I have a restaurant right next to my apartment or office and don't need to get in the car.

I haven’t spent any time in Kansas City to know what the parent referred to — but with a lack of knowledge I could imagine this aesthetic could lead to some pretty bad designs if the feeling was that each mixed use function needed its own entrance and each entrance needed to be as close to parking as possible. Such could encourage all the buildings to be islands surrounded by a moat of parking lots which would help ensure that walking anywhere would involve a lot of walking through parking lots ...

Separation is good, to stop the flue :P

One of the most interesting experiences in my life was visiting Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur. On that day all car traffic is prohibited (also TV stations are offline etc). It was absolutely amazing. Tel Aviv is a city with large roads and usually extremely busy. On that day, cyclists ride over the highway, kids play on the streets. I never felt that directly before how invasive the normal car situation is.

Here's a photo https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2015/09/F141003...

Just to clarify, there is no law that I know of prohibiting car traffic on yom kippur in Tel Aviv. However, since this is the most important holiday of the year, even many Israelis who don't celebrate other holidays will celebrate this one. I believe that virtually all businesses are closed that day, even those that don't close on other Jewish holidays (again, not illegal to operate, but customary). So in practice, few people will be driving that day/night.

Thanks for the clarification! Strong moral code though, I haven't seen one non-official car that day.

Moral code or just social pressure - the discomfort of the thought of disobeying the tradition and everyone glaring at you as you drive down the road outweighs the benefits of doing so even if you don't believe in the tradition.

What about hotels? E.g. if somebody wants to visit especially for that holiday.

Generally hotels will run with a skeleton staff.

FYI in case you weren't aware, Yom Kippur is celebrated tonight / tomorrow this year.

I'm aware :)

Reminds me of walking the Bijlmermeer near HVA in Amsterdam on a Sunday morning. No cars, no people, no traffic, absolutely empty streets. The only sound was that of the wind streaming through steel canyons, and my footsteps. A positively divine experience

Kids can play anywhere else when cars are on the road. What's so attractive about playing on a big patch of hard material that gets so hot in the summer you can't touch it without burning yourself? What's wrong with parks and people's yards? I never understood the pining for the days of playing on streets.

When I played baseball growing up, the street was level and hard and so on. The backyard with grass had a steep hill and poor traction, etc. The street in front of my house made a much better baseball field than my steeply sloped, grassy and uneven backyard.

Yet, it was right in front of my house, so I could use the bathroom, get a snack and remained under the watchful eye of my mother, unlike, say, some distant park with a proper baseball field.

you can't touch it without burning yourself

That's why I wore shoes or rode a bike when I played in the streets.

I grew up in places with small yards and no parks nearby. The street is where we'd ride our bikes, have water balloon fights, play roller hockey, etc.

It's about reclaiming the space -- playing near a road is noisy, smelly and dangerous for kids.

"Outside" has become synonymous with car traffic, which is why children playing on the road feels so refreshing

Brussels had a car-free Sunday last year, it was fantastic. Cars are like sugar, something great that we massively abuse.

Its amazing how divided Israel culture is yet the idea of having no cars for one day is totally embraced by anyone. Gives me a feeling of how polluted my daily life is with noise and gas.

Fun fact: today is Yom Kippur.

How accessible is Tel Aviv for pedestrians? I'm visiting soon and wonder how complicated it will be without a car.

The main parts are well accessible. There are some districts which are very car-centric, but the "old" part is well walkable. Or you can rent a bike, as I did.

I don't know why this didn't occur to me but in San Juan Capistrano, CA, I enjoy that place so much with my kids because of the fairly large area where cars have to have very slow speed limit or no cars allowed at all and pure walking which was far better even. There is such freedom allowing your children to laugh and play and walk on their own pace without worrying they'll be run over and having to strictly hold their hand near each cross walk where cars zip by at instant collision death speeds. I could hear the birds too. Was calming and slows the perception of time so you can actually relax.

This is why I like theme parks.[1] It's sad because in America we've largely relegated what should be a normal living environment to fascimiles of imaginary places.

Actually, I live in San Francisco and the "downtowns" of each neighborhood do allow kids some freedom away from their parents (e.g. to dart in and out of stores and restaurants without waiting for the parent), but it's limited to a single block unless you want to risk being run over. Hit-and-runs occur here regularly, unfortunately, because the city is just barely pedestrian friendly enough that pedestrians feel comfortable, but not friendly enough that cars are actually forced to slow down (e.g. streets too wide). If car and pedestrian are not both carefully paying attention, accidents happen.

[1] My wife doesn't like theme parks. But where she's from you never let kids out of sight, regardless, so they offer little respite for her.

"It's sad because in America we've largely relegated what should be a normal living environment to fascimiles of imaginary places."

This is deep and very quotable. It's one of the things I love the most about living outside the USA, when I'm able to do so-- not relying on my car to get literally everywhere. My happiness and quality of life feel so much higher. I know for sure it affects my waist line.

I think there is a big difference though. Theme parks are super over crowded and you end up having sore feet and wait in long lines all day and still having to hold on to your kids of fear of losing them in the crowd. I guess its still better than fear of death.

I visited San Juan Capistrano the other day, and it reminded me quite a bit of a theme park.

There's not much housing around the historic area, so nearly everyone drives in and parks in one of the parking lots surrounding it. Then they spend a few hours pretending like they live in this walkable, historic town, maybe they visit the Mission, then it's back into the car and the suburbs.

The area your talking about, where there's little places where kids can play: it's called the Suburbs. Growing up in the suburbs, cars went slow enough that we could play in the street. The neighborhood grocery was about two miles away and we could walk or ride our bikes, and we had plenty of friends houses along the route should we need to stop. There's not the density of little shops that you might find in SF, but as a kid you don't need that density (I don't need it as an adult; the suburbs I live in have a nice downtown, but if I need serious shopping, I have Amazon)

Suburbs, much reviled here, are the answer to all of the density problems that people are complaining about. Mass transit works with commuter rail. There's no argument except prestige to stay in the city.

I also grew up in the suburbs in the 1980s, both in Florida (more rural northwest) and Illinois (Chicago suburbs). The suburbs of my youth don't exist anymore; certainly not the ones I actually lived in. The streets are far more dangerous because cars drive faster and they seem to be more reckless (e.g. idiot kids or grumpy adults racing down the block in cars that outperform sport cars from 20 years prior). I used to regularly walk 2 miles to high school (when I slept late and missed the bus), a portion of which required walking on the side of a main thoroughfare without a sidewalk. Cars today drive 50mph or 60mph on that road whereas they once drove 30mph. I wouldn't walk that route as an adult today, and sure as heck wouldn't let a kid walk it regularly.

They do exist in some places. I've seen them and have visited friends living there. Cul de sacs in subdivisions still on the city periphery, predominately Mormon neighborhoods in Utah where people expect kids to dart into the street, or tony gated communities. But they're just not as common. And in any event, even when they can, kids these days don't spend much time outdoors. In places where I did (and kids still can) spend all day roaming around in the woods or riding their bikes across town, today's kids spend all day playing video games or chatting online. Even if I my kid chose to hang outside, he'd be playing alone much of the time.

As someone else mentioned on HN a couple of years ago, you can optimize for a kids ability to play in the streets when he's < 10 years old. Or you can optimize for a 10+ year old to have the freedom to get around an entire city by himself. These days you can't have both, unfortunately, whereas once upon a time the city offered both (when kids could play in the street because drivers and cars were less threatening).

Times are different. I don't dislike the suburbs, I just don't think they're sustainable. Most often suburbs deteriorate quickly within a decade or two. The qualities that make them livable disappear once they're subsumed by a new ring of suburbs, bringing increased cross traffic and a new generation of childless homeowners.

> The neighborhood grocery was about two miles away and we could walk or ride our bikes, and we had plenty of friends houses along the route should we need to stop.

This doesn't sound like the typical American suburban experience, and I think what you are describing is almost heading in the direction of the best existing solution for non-city living, which is the "village" style denser towns that you see in Europe. The idea basically being that you turn a fairly evenly distributed suburban population into one that clusters around small to medium sized town centers that are walkable and bikable, but contain and are surrounded by large areas of communal countryside and green space.

It necessitates a sacrifice in lot size (and potentially house size), but in return you get a quiet, safe, traversable town with plentiful access to the countryside, and it also helps immensely with things like logistics, infrastructure (electricity/gas/internet in the suburbs is a nightmare), and, potentially most importantly, transportation, since a strong commuter rail system can actually service that sort of layout effectively.

Many if not would still describe this as a suburb. There are definitely places (I'm aware of ones in the North East) that follow this model that are called suburbs. When people complain about suburbs, they are complaining about the model that dominates the US, not the concept of a less dense population area surrounding a metropolis.

Having lived in dozens of suburbs moving around in life, it seems very typical to me. Even challenging neighborhoods buried in sprawl would lead to local zoning opening up for shops. The problem often solves itself. Where I live now only had one nearby market within driving distance, but market pressure opened 2 more. Its almost as if there is profit in these overlooked planning issues and people like to win it.

This urban-centric thinking is odd to me. I do not want to live so far away from the natural phenomenon of earth, and I think it is unhealthy that so many want to push that lifestyle on everyone. It rings absolutely hollow to me to have effortless transport to a thousand places all manmade, and mostly devoid of non-domesticated plant and animal life.

> Suburbs, much reviled here, are the answer to all of the density problems that people are complaining about.

urban sprawl? What does that commute time look like, particularly for the poor?

+1, grew up in the suburbs (which are regularly the butt of jokes in "the city"), actually explored all around town with my friends without fear of being run over or really any other problem endemic to high-density living. Plus, the older I get the less I appreciate a dense city, and realize just how unnatural and problematic that kind of living is.

There has to be that balance of market places and convenience, not just a bunch of houses spaced far apart and wide streets. That isn't scalable. The suburbs are too sprawled where driving is necessary to get to anyplace useful if you need to shop or get stuff.

There is a gated neighborhood of large, well appointed homes near Rice University in Houston.* They open up every once in a while for tours, particularly at Christmas. More than once kids or adults raised there have mentioned being able to just play in the street as one of their fondest memories of the place. In car-centric Houston their experience is rare if not exactly unique.

*1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadyside,_Houston

Ex-Houstonian here: down there we worship and give sacrifice to the motor gods. We'll build massive multi million dollar freeway interchanges[0] as monument to our gods.

No place for busses. Our attempt at public transit was a slow tram that runs up and down main street through dozens of intersections, pushing any hapless motorist not expecting a train on the fucking road it encounters out of the way.

So when rice closes off the gates, it is like a little paradise. I disagree that it's "not unique," I can't think of a single other place in tbe entirety of Houston (a city so wide that it can take two hours to drive across if you go corner to corner, in non-rush-hour) where you get to experience that.


>I disagree that it's "not unique,"

When I say it's "not unique" I'm acknowledging there are other gated communities with low traffic. The closest one I can think of to Rice is in Montrose on Courtland Place. If you ever went to KPFT on Lovett and noticed a big wall where Lovett ends that's the back side of their little community. Look on street view or satellite view of Google maps at Bagby and Courtland Place to see what I mean.

Also the first neighborhood I listed is separate and distinct from the Rice University campus. It shares a border but it's not part of their land holdings: all the homes are privately owned.

Exactly. Walking with young kids is so stressful. All that kids want to do is run ahead, and I keep having to yell at them to stop, wait. You can never be at ease.

A city with fast cars running around is the least human-friendly environment that we have built on purpose.

People often complain about hostile or "anti-human" architecture [1], but those are silly details. The sad tragedy is building the whole city around the needs of cars.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostile_architecture

I wonder what effect the increasing performance of cars has had on safety. Any modern car can accelerate to ridiculously unsafe speeds within the span of a single block, whereas cars from the 1970s and even 1980s were sluggish. Similarly, modern cars can make sharp turns where older cars risked skidding. Then factor in things like less noise and larger A-pillars reducing visibility[1], and modern cars seem more anti-pedestrian.

The gap between inattentiveness and recklessness has been closed. Even considering improved braking, there was simply more margin for error back when speeds were naturally lower.

I know cars have always been dangerous to pedestrians. But there were other factors at play, like drunk driving being nearly ubiquitous.

[1] The left A-pillar in my Honda CRV has just the right size and placement that it blocks the far left-hand corner of the intersection from view. A pedestrian about to cross the street is invisible to me unless I physically lean over or have already entered the intersection.

> modern cars seem more anti-pedestrian.

Pedestrian safety is a big consideration with modern cars, as it's a legal requirement in most countries. Most of the homogeneity in modern car design is due to these regulations -- low hoodlines are rare because there needs to be a buffer between the engine and the hood; the hood can't extend all the way to the grill because the edge causes excessive injuries; and the front ends of cars have a weird bulge because pedestrians struck should be tossed to the side of the car to prevent them from being run over.

That's not even getting into automatic braking systems or backup cameras.

In contrast, a 65 Toronado looks designed to cause the maximum amount of damage to any person you run over.

Yeah, but there's only so much technology can do to mitigate a 40mph impact.[1] And I assume that 65 Toronado required wide turns (as did the 60-something Pontiac Boneville I briefly owned and stupidly sold because it wasn't sleek enough). Whereas pedestrians getting clipped by a left-turning car racing pedestrians is a regular occurrence.

That said, point taken. And those mitigations are based on real-world data, not my anecdotes. And, of course, nothing prevents us from having the best of both worlds--safer cars and safer streets. I was just thinking that streets are so stupidly designed today because, once upon a time, the same configurations may not have been as stupid. (I know that one reason SF streets are so wide, especially in the Western part of the city, is because they were designed to accommodate street cars and cars simultaneously.)

[1] Automatic braking is a huge deal but its far from pervasive. The last time I went car shopping three years ago, it was still an expensive option for both the Honda CRV and Mercedes GLC we were looking at. My lease is almost up and I think it'll be standard on the same model CRV. Even when it becomes standard industry-wide it'll be many years before I'd factor it into my mental calculus as a pedestrian. Less well-off drivers in older cars spend a disproportionate amount of time on the streets simply because of the economics (e.g. often live far outside the city because of housing costs, and drive into the city because neither their homes nor jobs are conveniently located to mass transit).

I don't think that cars vote or really have any agency (yet). Maybe if people, who think that people who emphasize the use cars have been in charge of building cities for too long, used a word like motorist that recognized the humanity of car users, you might find less resistance to your ideas. Being referred to as an inanimate object is an quite an "othering".

Being able to drive places feels much more like freedom to me than having to walk everywhere. As a kid I literally never walked into the road because I knew it was dangerous, so maybe that's just a problem of communicating the risk properly.

This is an almost uniquely American point of view.

To obtain this freedom you must : 1. Get a license and learn to drive 2. Buy or lease a large, rarely utilised machine 3. Keep it maintained 4. Keep it fuelled 5. Ensure your tax dollars are spent on enormous infrastructure projects 6. Continue paying for the maintenance of said infrastructure 7. Undergo the significant risk of getting in a vehicle, and impose higher risks on all those around you 8. Pollute the air around you with fumes 9. Warp the development of all living spaces around you to suit your convenience, regardless of cost or benefit

Your freedom sounds like my tyranny.

1. Easy in the US

2. You can get a good reliable used car for under $1000 easily, and I use mine every day

3. Not a big deal

4. 3

5. I don't mind paying taxes for infrastructure

6. 5

7. Acceptable risk for the massive benefit to me

8. Efficiency is constantly improving and there are no emissions from an EV

9. How is that any different from how we shape the landscape for our own benefit in every other way?

40 hours a week at federal minimum wage is $15,000. AAA considers average car ownership cost to be at $6,000 a year. https://www.moneycrashers.com/living-without-car/

That is a ridiculous cost to just throw on poor people. And this is assuming a poor person has a full time job with no dependents, and has no other competing concerns for money.

The average car ownership cost is probably not very relevant for the type of cars that people on minimum wage drive.

Generally lower purchase cost, but higher maintenance. And older cars generally have poorer mileage.

This is of course, also assuming that they didn't get a subprime auto loan to get that car in the first place. Subprime auto defaults are increasing: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-02/never-min...

I didn't say it's not good for poor people to have other options, I just said it feels more like freedom to me having the choice of driving.

I grew up in San Juan and my parents still live there. What areas have cars been banned or limited?

There is a nice place by the train station where you park and can walk into the little shops. The general speed limit is much lower than in LA and noise is much reduced. "Banned" is the wrong word. There are no roads in that area after you walk past the station but there is a parking structure by the theatre. I think in general, places like The Grove and and Irvine Outdoor Mall are like that in that you can walk freely but they still feel busy and overly commercialized because they are malls. I particularly liked the calmer area of San Juan downtown.

What area of SJC are you talking about?

I go there quite often and would like to see this for myself. Especially the area where no cars are allowed.


"No cars allowed" possibly service vehicles to the shops? But I never see cars and looks like they are never supposed to drive there. https://www.google.com/maps/dir/ZOOMARS,+31791+Los+Rios+St,+... See near Zoomars and Regency Theaters as the start of it where you park then you can walk past the station and go to the coffee shop and go to the restaurants etc there are never cars in there or any traffic

Raleigh converted Fayetteville Street to pedestrian only back in 1977. It ended up killing all of the businesses there.


The city reopened it to traffic, however, and "revitalized" the area, resulting in a booming downtown economy:


I love pedestrian districts in cities. Copenhagen comes to mind. However, pedestrian district plans need to be considered carefully, else they backfire.

Church st in Burlington VT partially closed to cars starting in 1980 (based on Stroget in Copenhagen) and ongoing into 2005 with more and more blocks carved out for pedestrians only. It has been very successful.

Why did it work, when Raleigh failed? What needs to be "considered carefully", exactly?

(The large college nearby definitely helps in VT's case. But what else?)



I don't know anything about the Raleigh project but some other thoughts on maybe why Church St works:

- Burlington is the biggest city in VT, and being on Lake Champlain and relatively close to the best ski areas in the state, it attracts a lot of tourists year round

- A ton of local businesses downtown, urban/residential neighborhoods are also very close

- A fair amount of parking (multiple parking garages, nearby on-street parking and parking lots)

- There's City Hall Park, and the town promotes the 'culture', e.g. allowing street vendors and performers, and with the recentish ban on smoking, it's pushed most of the bums into the alleys/side streets

I'd attribute a large portion of church street's success to zoning policies, the city has kept that street focused on small business to avoid that common american experience of walking by a walmart for twenty minutes... the north end of the street was more sparse in terms of doorways and always was more empty, but the center and southern end were vibrant.

So I think the key to trying to do this is to encourage small business to minimize the feet/door so that there is a reasonable variety of services available.

Just speculating, but looking at the photos from Fayetteville, it was totally car-scale. Sure, it was pedestrian-only, but just look at the pictures of the locale. Huge buildings, long distances, wide street.

This is not the best example but the first to pop to mind- compare to Pearl Street Mall, in Boulder, which seems to be doing well:


Which, just skimming, looks to be laid out similar to Church Street.

Among the differences are that the University of Colorado is right there and Boulder has been a fairly affluent town for a long time (even before the relatively recent immigration of Google, etc.)

Also, let's not overstate the differences. The actual pedestrian mall on Pearl is just a few blocks long. And Fayetteville in Raleigh these days, while not car-free, is part of a very walkable area of downtown Raleigh with lots of restaurants, a few hotels, some shops, new condo construction, some major businesses, the convention center, government offices, etc.

As a counter example, Vienna largely converted its second major shopping street, Mariahilfer Straße, to a mostly pedestrian + bike zone, with parts of it also shared space with cars, though they do not have priority over pedestrians. Gets very crowded during core shopping hours, so much that biking there is rather difficult. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/Wien_07_...

First one was Kärntner Straße / Graben, which is pedestrians only.



I'm looking forward to more streets getting closed off to cars. Way too much space is reserved for cars already.

Downtown pedestrian malls were tried in many US cities and mostly failed. They were an attempt to make downtown retail competitive with suburban mall retail, by the former emulating the latter, after the former was already failing. They only worked when other things were in place that made lots of people walking downtown utilitarian, like adjacent universities, tourist attractions, and dense connected residential. Few people wished to drive and park near downtown for a quasi-mall shopping experience, apparently. Lots has been written about this, but one overview: https://nacto.org/docs/usdg/revisiting_pedestrian_malls_scmi...

You could also make the argument that opening city centers to cars should be considered carefully, and that is also true. It just happens to be the current default almost everywhere.

Contrary to that anecdote, Jersey City (across the Hudson river from Manhattan), created a no-car zone near one of its busier subway stops and what was once a dead-zone after 8pm is now an extremely vibrant place filled with bars, restaurants and shops.

Proximity to mass transit and having density that already discourages driving helps.

It has nothing to do with car free streets and everything to do with the Jersey City being on the other side from Manhattan with rents being 50% or lower than the rents in Manhattan and Jersey city being accessible by PATH.

I don't think you understand. The mayor closed off a stretch of Newark Avenue, which leads right into the Grove St Path Station in late 2014. Prior to this, Newark Avenue was a strip of fairly grimy stores, a few restaurants, and some new promising places like Word Bookstore had been moving in since 2010 or so.

Still, this was a pretty dead place at night. In 2008, I would go to one of the two bars there and it would be a literal ghost town, with stores boarded up with metal gates and such- it looked almost post-apocalyptic. It was a little better from 2011-2014, but still it was a quiet area at night.

After the pedestrian plaza was put in, the amount of foot traffic increased ten fold, particularly during the day when it was a heavily traffic-ed street. This brought in a new wave of bars and restaurants to the area, and its now a destination on its own, filled with people nearly 24/7. In fact it has gotten so popular and become such a destination, the city is now trying to introduce ordinances to reduce noise at night.

The change was instantaneous after the pedestrian plaza was put in place.

People seem to forget these days how much Jersey City was shit on up until 2011 or so. It was "jersey" and it was absolutely not a definite that it would gentrify.

> People seem to forget these days how much Jersey City was shit on up until 2011 or so. It was "jersey" and it was absolutely not a definite that it would gentrify.

Bed-Stuy Bushwick Gowanus East New York Bronx Inwood

Same thing happened in Kalamazoo, MI back about 1978.

The city center closed part of the main street to cars when a four story enclosed mall of boutique stores was built. Within five years most of the mall and nearby stores were dying.

This was partly due to the growth of a pair of large enclosed malls 5 miles away which sucked business elsewhere. But I think most of the problem was that shoppers don't wants to walk outdoors in the long Michigan Winter. They needed to somehow enclose the pedestrian piazza to minimize peoples' exposure to the elements, but that wasn't in the budget.

Heh, enclose the pedestrian piazza to minimize exposure to the weather, thereby creating what we usually call a 'shopping mall.' Ah the irony that would be.

True, though I don’t know if it would have the same effect today. There’s 5000 people living downtown today, which is very new.

When I go downtown, I usually don’t park on Fayetteville, I usually park a few blocks away and walk.

I don't know the history of the mall in Raleigh but I suspect at least part of the issue was that, at the time, downtown Raleigh probably wasn't a place a lot of people wanted to walk around. As you say, there are a lot more people (and companies) downtown today and more upscale restaurants, bars, etc. Though, even today, like a lot of smaller cities that have had something of a renaissance, most of the places the average upscale professional would want to walk to are in a fairly small area.

I wasn't alive in 1977, but in the 90s, the perception was that downtown was busy during the day, but a ghost town after 5:00 PM. I don't believe that particular area was particularly unsafe or unwelcoming, it's just that the only reason people were there was daytime business.

The town I'm from, Eugene, Oregon, did this too.

They later reopened it, but put in roads that let cars through, but very slowly. Seems to be a good compromise.

Closing a road entirely is probably something you should do once you're at such a level of pedestrian traffic that the car lanes are impeding pedestrians, which isn't terribly common in US cities. However, making areas where people don't drive fast is absolutely a win.

There’s something to be said for joint car/pedestrian spaces as a permanent situation. Pike St outside of Pike Place market and Hanover St in the North End of Boston come to mind. Both are nominally streets, and cars attempt to drive them, but the speeds are slow enough, and there are enough pedestrians that both are on relatively equal footing. Cars are cautious of the pedestrians, and pedestrians weave around the cars, everyone has their choice of mode of transport.

Good compromise considering where we’re at in the us.

My city did this with bike lanes. Most of the housing isn't within easily walk able distance from downtown and the city is where a lot of people from surrounding towns go to buy things. All the downtown businesses that weathered the recession got rewarded with all their customers decided to spend their money at the businesses a mile away that had readily available parking. Grade A city planning right there. /s

Actually you need people in the city to not depend on cars. Public transport, cycle lanes and a reason to stay in the city centre like good restaurants, cafes, some festivals. Just closing a street to cars might just make everyone drive around and miss it. Also don‘t let big shopping malls be build at the outside of the city with huge parking areas. Create parks instead.


The area was closed to vehicular traffic in 1977. The article about possibly replacing the pedestrian mall is 1997. Construction began in 2005. The area reopened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic in mid 2006. The article about the results and other cities considering the same is 2007.

All of which is in TFA[1] the person you're replying to linked

[1] https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2007-may-learning-...

I'm not sure if it's what you intended but implying the whole thing is from 1977 is misleading.

Pedestrianisation works well in European cities, especially small ones. It's quite common here in the UK, often there are strict time limits on when delivieries can be made, e.g. 6-8am when barriers are open to let vehicles in and out.

However this model just does not work in the US, outside of very few places. US cities are designed for cars, and without major redevelopment everything's just too far apart - even within the context of a single street - for this to make sense. If you had electric scooters or something though...

It took major redevelopment for many US cities to become car-centric, so I am not seeing why we could not do another redevelopment to create pedestrian-friendly cities.

>so I am not seeing why we could not do another redevelopment to create pedestrian-friendly cities.

We have 2 local cities that made themselves bike friendly. Property values are going up in that area.

However, the people living there were already 10%ers.

Its cool to see lots of bike lanes and walkers, but they also managed to price the people that cant afford cars out.

All the more reason to make pedestrianisation universal, instead of a luxury.

The cycle of gentrification will change that. In 10, 20 years, a new neighborhood will be the hip place to be, all the rich propel will move there, and prices will drop. It'd be nice if the development could happen in the low-income areas from the beginning, but it's hot hopeless.

For now at least. As mentioned in other comments it's hard, and expensive, to redevelop entire cities. Politically it's also probably difficult because it's such a big change. Makes sense that those with money to afford making changes privately would have them first.

However, it's also likely they will want this nice life in more than just their area and will push for that over time.

It hasn't happened because most in the US don't need or even want to live in pedestrian focused cities.

Americans tend to live in detached single family homes.

Americans tend to want space between themselves and their neighbors.

Americans do not see their cars as liabilities.

Most people don't live in SF/NYC and/or don't read StrongTowns

Replacing American suburbia would cost $100 Trillion dollars. More suburbia is being created every day, far outpacing investment in "New Urbanism".

In America, when your city/suburb becomes blighted, you can move.

Internalize the cost of parking, drop mandatory parking minimums and change zoning to allows for reasonable density. Wait a few decades and cities probably won't be as car centric as they are now.

You could make quite a lot of money by building mixed use retail/residential where the car parks are now.

> there are strict time limits on when delivieries can be made, e.g. 6-8am when barriers are open to let vehicles in and out.

That is nuts.

That means a plumber, electrician, home appliance deliveryman, mover, etc. can only handle one job requiring a vehicle per day. He will have to charge 3-4 times more for his services than someone working in an area where it's feasible to finish 3-4 jobs in a workday. The costs are of course passed on to the customers. Is their car-less life worth living in a pigsty that they can't fix up because laws force contractors to charge exorbitant fees?

That means any business will want a dedicated vehicle to haul what they need in the 6-8 am window. This is not just grossly economically inefficient (no outsourcing delivery to third parties), it results in more vehicles sitting idle during the day, using up parking space!

And that means moving is a nightmare. Moving a two-bedroom apartment worth of stuff into or out of a truck is, realistically, at least a four hour job. That means a cross-town move that could be done in one workday with sane laws will take at least four workdays (two to load the truck, two to unload) in your crazy UK town. Imagine the costs. How is it moral for you to shackle your people to the land by making relocation unaffordable?

When you look into the details of these things you'll nearly always find that there are enough exemptions to make it work. If it was genuinely unliveable people wouldn't live there. People have managed to live in Venice for centuries despite it being physically impossible to get motor vehicles around the centre.


"In fact, in most streets there are no physical barriers to keep the cars out. Vehicles making deliveries or locals heading to private garages can still circulate in most places.

“What we did is to create loops to keep people from driving through the city,” Lores explains. “If you enter by the south, you leave by the south.”

The goal of this strategy, which is complemented by severe parking restrictions in all of the central area, is to get rid of what Pontevedra officials call “unnecessary traffic”.

You're being unrealistic.

I live in a large apartment development in Manhattan that is pedestrian-friendly and decidedly vehicle-unfriendly. You can't drive a car to the front of my building. And yet it works, very well.

I moved in with my girlfriend recently. You know how that worked? The movers she hired drove as near as possible, and simply pushed her stuff on dollies the rest of the way to the building. No big deal. Yeah, it took a little bit longer, but nowhere near as bad as the 4-day move you're hyperbolically claiming. And that side of the move was actually better than the other side, since she was moving out of a fourth floor walkup. Even though the truck could park almost directly in front of that building, it turns out it's harder to carry stuff down many flights of stairs than it is to push it on wheels across a flat surface and then up an elevator.

I moved from another building within my complex, and I accomplished my entire move simply by pushing my stuff on a dolly, without even having to hire movers. I've never before had a vehicle-less move even be an option, but it was in this situation.

As for repairmen, you know how they work? They get around on bicycles. You can carry a surprising amount of stuff on a bicycle, including all the tools you'd need for >95% of repairs. The plumbers ride around on bikes with a toolbox, plungers, and a snake, for example. For appliance delivery, they use tiny little vehicles that are basically a pick-up truck version of a golf cart. These vehicles don't go fast and the drivers yield to pedestrians, and you see them on pedestrian paths (and don't feel unsafe about it).

Every problem that you're bringing up is already solved in the many different areas that are pedestrianized and prohibit vehicle traffic. It's a failure of imagination to think that these problems are unsolvable. When your city is dense enough, a plumber/electrician can easily support him/herself on just jobs that are within a 10 minute walking radius, with the tools that can be pushed on a handcart or fit on a bicycle. Vehicles aren't necessary. It's actually more efficient for these professions, because in the suburbs it's typical to drive for up to an hour to get to a jobsite! So much wasted time spent just getting somewhere!

It works quite well with none of these issues.

The 6-8am window is for large deliveries. There is normally a retractable barrier for emergency usage (police/ambulance etc) and for minimal day access (I don't know how this is managed, but I have seen vehicles have to turn around and leave, where others, normally with a business inside get access).

Another common way is to have a central pedestrian only section, but with vehicle access through the 'back streets' behind. The pedestrian street is normally a great deal larger than the (often one way) back streets, and again has retractable bollards for maintenance, event vehicles and emergency vehicles. These back streets also give access to underground/aboveground parking for residents in flats. I would love to see this model used to some extent in residential areas. Some of my favorite times are when a street is closed to traffic for a street party.

In practice it works very well, at least in a large number of towns and cities in the UK. It's about finding the correct roads and spaces to limit and disallow motor vehicles on.

I don't know of any residential areas that have these sorts of restrictions. Its generally in shopping areas. Businesses have to schedule deliveries for these time slots.

>pedestrianised all 300,000 sq m of the medieval centre

It's a lot less impressive when you realize that they just banned cars from the area that was optimized for foot traffic anyway. Good on them for not trying to go to far and force people to walk/bike in areas designed for cars.

>"while people claim it as a right, in fact what they want are privileges."

Tangent: This is probably the most European quote ever. Roman senators, medieval lords, members of parliament, Napoleon, the Kaiser, etc, etc. could have all said this.

>And the same shopkeepers who complain are the ones who have survived in spite of the crisis

Surviving in spite of the crisis does not make the crisis fun or necessary. It took a lot of boarded up shops before my city took away the bike lanes and put back the on-street parking (no, the failed businesses did not coincide with the recession if anyone was wondering). You gotta do what works even if it's not what fits your political objectives. If an area of the city was designed for pedestrians that's probably what will work best there. If an area of the city was designed for cars then that's probably what will work best there. It's a disservice to taxpayers to use their money to jam a square peg in a round hole or vise-versa.

>The works were all financed locally and received no aid from regional or central government.

Good on them for not asking for a handout.

>"while people claim it as a right, in fact what they want are privileges."

There's nothing European about it, despite the fantasy of Europe being comfortable with dictatorships. Driving a car is also a privilege in the US - try driving one without your state-sanctioned license to do so and you will discover that.

By the way, Members of Parliament are democratically elected so I am not sure how they fit in with the rest of the motley crew.

Cars have to some extent led us through part of the industrial revolution. However, it's my belief that cars, except from polluting the environment and destroying our cities - makes people unhappy and sad.

Visiting LA this summer, I knew I was in for a car heavy metropolis but this... I can't understand why people waste so much time of their precious life (usually alone which also greatly worsen the problem) - locked in a car.

Coming to the topic of the autonomous car revolution, which I frankly do not understand. Sometimes it feels like the ambition is to end up as the humans in WALL-E. What kind of life is that?

Ps. Coming from Europe, I crossed US by bicycle a few years ago, from NY to US. People say it's a country to be seen through a car, but I argue it's to be seen on a bike.

I was born in Europe and lived there for 14 years before moving to US. I went there recently.

I also recently visited LA.....

Most people I know from smaller cities in Poland own cars or would love to own a car but simply cannot afford it as gas is really expensive, so are cars compared to incomes. When I visited I rented a car which allowed me to see so many things all over the country. I would not able to visit so many locations without a car.

Same goes for LA, renting a car allowed me to travel from LA to San Diego on a relatively short trip.

In NY over 50% households are car-free. In Chicago about 30% of households are car-free. People travel to cities for various reasons, often they don't do it daily.

My wife traveled to school by train in city of chicago for one year, then she switched to driving her car, she saved a lot of time on her commute, and didn't have to deal with weirdos on the trains at night.

Cars are here to stay. Some people drive less by utilizing services like amazon but then amazon needs to deliver packages, but, I guess that still minimizes fuel consumption as things are delivered in a more efficient way.

First thing I noticed when moved to SF Bay Area from Europe was “God, Los Gatos would be so beautiful if the main street was a pedestrian area.” Then went actively searching for one and found a little stretch at Santana Row in San Jose, if you can call 30 meters of blocked off street pedestrian area.

But even dense populated cities like SF dont have a pedestrian zone. It is one of the rare things I miss quality of life wise.

I agree. I think that there is a transition point where slow moving cars and people can intermingle. A third option, a hybrid.

As a kid in the early '90s the corner market, grocery store, schools from elementary to high, both jobs I had, and park were all within a 10 minute walk -- and that was in the suburbs. Cars don't need to be a requirement for daily life even in the suburbs it just requires good planning or planning at all.

When people ask me why I like living in Mexico, this is one of the main reasons:

The other week I walked around my neighborhood in Guadalajara to do some errands. I got my knives sharpened, picked up my repaired shoes from the cobbler, some fried pumpkin seeds from the seed guy, some meat from the butcher, and then some tacos of course. All within two blocks.

Latin America absolutely destroys the US in urbanism

I moved to a center (pedestrian zona) of a small town in central Europe, from a country's capital, same experience here.

In a capital, I didn't do a detour on my way home to get a good bread, as it would add 15 minutes to a way home. Here it's a pleasant walk behind a corner.

European grocery stores are so wonderful. I love how everyone's just stopping by to pick up a few things for dinner and tomorrow's breakfast, not pushing their yacht of a shopping cart around. The produce is always super fresh and cheap compared to American, and I always like getting a nice carbonated mineral water.

For the past 50 years or so, the literal books on good design (according to the govt of the US) have specified cul-de-sacs, which offer the promise of less vehicle traffic but actually guarantee MORE traffic, because you can't have good walking paths. From a plane you can get an idea of how old an area is - old ones will have cul-de-sacs, middle-aged ones will have a fern-like structure with dead end streets that have only lines of cul-de-sacs coming off of them, and recent ones will have this fractal-like shape of cul-de-sacs of cul-de-sacs of cul-de-sacs. In those environments, nothing is walking distance (and walking paths start to become labyrinthine swirls if you actually wanted to walk them) so vehicle traffic increases.

I think that problem can be avoided to some extent with paths/cycleways. Many cul-de-sacs in parts of Christchurch, New Zealand, are only cul-de-sacs for cars, and pedestrians and cyclists have a through-route. This can lead to situations where driving means covering a much greater distance, and is one of the enablers of the city's current focus on increasing bike-friendliness (the other being that it's very flat, unlike much of other NZ cities). It's still a pretty car-centric place, however.

It’s expected that suburbs are walkable for children and maybe even stay-at-home parents, but working members of the household usually drive to work and take the family to activities (restaurants, youth sports, shopping, other adventures) outside the walkable bubble.

>People don’t like being told they can’t drive wherever they want, but Lores says that while people claim it as a right, in fact what they want are privileges.

This strikes me as the fundamental issue.

Modern discourse about "rights" has become twisted. Some day we need to realize that one person's right is another person's prohibition. A society needs to choose its rights wisely lest the unintended consequences result in less overall freedom.

In a healthy civil society legally enshrined rights are less important because you can trust that everybody's freedom will be maximized, at least to a first-order approximation. In unhealthy societies legal rights are often cold comfort.

IMO as we accumulated more and more "rights", the concept became diluted. We went from the bedrock negative rights of freedom of speech, travel, etc, then to positive rights, and then people started applying the concept of "rights" to what I would consider "entitlements".

It's all the same debate, really. After all is said and done, rights function to entitle you to things or acts. The blurry line that I believe you might be talking about has a very specific name, but recent social and public discourse make a lot of people nowadays automatically cringe at it's sight (wrongly, IMO) without seriously hearing out or considering it's merits. I'm talking about the word "privilege".

>Some day we need to realize that one person's right is another person's prohibition.

I take slight issue with that - for example, what prohibition on males was there when women were given the right to vote? I suppose one could argue the male vote was diluted but realistically no pain would be felt.

I say this because oftentimes for social services arguments, conservatives will ask me "well who's gonna pay for it," which I can often answer with "literally nobody. You are generating property value for yourself by housing homeless / increasing the value of your currency by educating disenfranchised youth / whatever."

Granting the right to private property ultimately deprives people of access to necessary resources. Private property is what forces people to have to pay ever-increasing rent, or work more hours for less pay. It's an inherently unstable social system because those with more property can more easily increase their ownership and thereby make it harder for those with no property from ever getting any.

> Some day we need to realize that one person's right is another person's prohibition.

In college a professor told us "You can't grant a right without taking one away." In recent decades, the US trend seems to have been toward more individual rights and fewer community/state rights.

Applies to a lot of things though. Just think what else you could replace the first part with, and whether it qualifies as an argument at all.

Indeed and I think a further manifestation of this "privilege" is the constant honking of the horn by drivers at the slightest reduction in their speed or movement.

Not only do they want to drive wherever they want but they seem to feel entitled to take out their frustration on anyone they want. The noise pollution that invariably accompanies traffic seems to really only penalize pedestrians, the very people who aren't contributing to the traffic problems.

I work in the Domain of Austin Texas, it's an outdoor mall, office park and residential area that is supposed to be like a downtown 2.0 in many ways. A place for humans to "live, shop and work" according to their mantra.

In reality, it's scary to walk to whole foods to get lunch at times. Cars NEVER yield to crosswalks or pedestrians. It's so bad they have flashing LED's on the stop signs in some areas.

The domain would be beautiful if parking garages were on the exterior and everyone had to walk in. Imagine being able to walk to shops, work and dining without worrying about getting plowed down by an F150 with a "thank god for our snipers" sticker on the back.

In fact, the best couple of days at this area are the art walk days but its been a while since I've seen those. For the artwalk days, they close the streets and it's like a magic little city of everyone breathing easier, enjoying some quiet serenity and kids walking around without parents needing 100% attention.

For the price they demand to live and lease space here, it would seem serenity and peacefulness would be the best thing they could do! (and there was plenty of land at one point for exterior garages... now its just a mad dash for people to find spots across the different garages which are all too small for the big trucks texans love)

I identify with that crosswalk yielding issue. In Boston they sometimes put up signs on the road surface itself, informing drivers that is ILLEGAL to not yield to pedestrians. I say "You broke the law" loudly whenever a driver doesn't yield in that situation, yet I've never seen any enforcement of this law.

Meanwhile, law enforcement is quick to sit on the highway catching those going with the flow of traffic over the speed limit, or quick to over-police non-violent drug offenses. So sad to see enforcement of the rules of the road take a back seat, especially when it comes to pedestrians, whose chosen mode of transport is beneficial and should be encouraged.

>“The city is the perfect size for pedestrianisation,” says local architect Rogelio Carballo Soler. “You can cross the entire city in 25 minutes.

This seems to be the key point why it works.

And let's not forget temperate climate, without snow/freezing cold or excessive heat.

That's fucking Galicia, it rains a lot, and for sure it can have cold winters because of the Atlantic wind.



25 minutes on foot? It's more of a village than a city.

Are you familiar with the saying "In Europe 100 miles is a long way, In the US 100 years is a long time"?

In Europe 100 miles is... an anglicism :-)

No, but now I am.

> 25 minutes on foot? It's more of a village than a city.

you can walk from side to side of Paris in a tad more than one hour with a good rhythm, and two hours if you take it normally.

Paris is ~10km across. The metropole region around it is much larger.

Considering Paris is roughly 10 km across North-South, that's about 12 min/km at an average human walking speed.

So, this city is about 2 km across, which is very small, a village, considering smaller cities are more sparsely populated than an European metropolis.

You're really fixated on this village thing.

Drop into street view in the city centre and have a look around. It's not a village.

1/25th the size of Paris is not what I would call a "village". Paris is a huge metropolis. It is a small-medium sized city.

Additionally, Paris is not exactly a demonstration of how larger cities need cars considering that about 70% of its inhabitants commute without using a car at all.

Depends on the country probably.

In my country villages are very often https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_settlement , going on for kilometers along some road, with farming land on both sides.

Small to medium cities (< 100 000 people) are often very dense because they're mostly made out of commieblocks or old tenament houses.

It's much easier to live without a car in a city.

BTW: this village goes on for 20 km. It has 6000 people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zawoja

For comparison https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legionowo is the most densely populated city in Poland, it has about 50 000 people, and is about 3x5 km of low buildings. And still about 10% of the city is a forest :)

Cars waste so much space that people are used to bloated cities.

I'll settle for 3 hours and a croque-monsieur :)

It's the old town area only, of a city of 80,000 people.

with 80 000 people living there, it is not a village

Most cities in the Netherlands have a car-free inner city or shopping streets, no need to idolize this particular one. Going from a congested city to a car-free one is a good move though.

Interestingly, while Amsterdam's historic inner city is fully open to cars, you don't really see much of them - in part because it's just not practical, in part because parking is very expensive.

It drives me crazy seeing people claim to "just" prefer living in the car-oriented suburbs when

1) that lifestyle is vastly subsidized by economic activity generated in the cities

2) the biggest reason cities are unpleasant is (surprise) the high density of car traffic and noise!

The mass distribution of personal cars is going to go down as the greatest mistake in societal development.

If you're interested in "walking" around yourself, here's the streetview: https://goo.gl/maps/gxHkcvg4LWB2


I'm living in one of the closes villages around Pontevedra, I'm heabilly use the city, and I'm doing some remote job for an SF startup.

If you have questions, I'm happy to help and provide feedback.

What do people do who have to commute to the city for work?

What do you do when you have to buy a few boxes of beer for a party that are too heavy to carry?

How do emergency services work?

1) There are a few types: - Working in the city center --> Walking mainly. - Working outside of the city --> Cars/bus

The city that has banned the cars is the city centre, but is a round island, so in 10-25 min walk, there are parking slots, where you can drive from.

2) Shopping trolley, instead of buying a lot one day, you ended that each day you pick up a few things. (And this is great, 15 min day walking)

3) All the emergency services can go to the city centre, so cars are banned, but if you have an event or emergency cars can get into, here is the common sense rule.

And there is a benefit here, kids are in the street, and due a lot of kids in the street, that moves the street from unsafe, to full of #know people, that make things super safe.

Thanks. I suppose the common sense rule also applies if you buy furniture or move in or out of an apartment.


How about more frequent deliveries like stores or restaurants that need to get deliveries every few days?

already reply in another thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18015103

I recently saw a delivery service for that kind of stuff (kind of "Bier Taxi") using small electric vehicles in our 180k city. Scaling this to a "local grocery mail order service" could be a nice business model for a car-free city: Supporting local businesses AND avoiding having to carry 5 crates of beverages for the next party.

I think Rewe (a supermarket chain) is doing something like this in (parts of) Germany; but I believe they use gas-driven cars.

Is there something like that in your city?

Hey, I'm taking my family next year on a 10 day trip through Galicia, and was considering spending some time around Combarro, Pontevedra, etc. Can I get your thoughts and opinions on places to stay, things to do in that area? siegel dot darren at gmail

I thing "banning" cars in a Town/City work well for smaller cities, through you still might want to have some time frame in which e.g. trucks can bring new goods to super markets, fire fighter etc.

For larger cities I think it would still be possible to have many "no-car" isles, paired with good public transportation available for anyone at "any" place (which can be done today by e.g. using this small and _slow_ self-driving mini buses to connect the home/side streets with the underground trains, regular trains and potentially normal sized buses, you just need to deploy enough of them with a good rout planing algorithm and a smartphone app, through it might be slightly expensive).


Van and trucks can enter the city the first time in the morning, so things are ok, and there are no problems for that.

The city itself is a "round island", so cars can go close to the estuary and be close to the city, so get into city center takes less than 15 minutes.

>and there are no problems for that.

Forcing all deliveries to happen in the early morning sounds like a massive pain in the butt.

For example: Forcing a lunch/dinner restaurant to have people there early to deal with inventory or delivering inventory to a diner during breakfast rush are both far from ideal.

Any industry that routinely has to get materials (e.g. skilled trades) delivered will be inconvenienced by not being able to take delivery during mid-morning or after lunch, this can unnecessarily stretch out jobs (and cost more $$).

I guess if the only industries in your city are white collar or tourism it's fine.

Better to just not allow noncommercial vehicles during certain times.

>Forcing all deliveries to happen in the early morning sounds like a massive pain in the butt.

>For example: Forcing a lunch/dinner restaurant to have people there early to deal with inventory or delivering inventory to a diner during breakfast rush are both far from idea

TBH,restaurants the most happier with this changes. More people in the streets means more customers. If the van can get into the door, there is an entry zones, where delivery can be done with less than 5 min walk.

Disclaimer, my father is a deliveryman for restaurants.

> Any industry that routinely has to get materials (e.g. skilled trades) delivered will be inconvenienced by not being able to take delivery during mid-morning or after lunch, this can unnecessarily stretch out jobs (and cost more $$).

Nope, those industries are not in the pedestrian zone, in Galicia, there is a lot of industrial areas for that matter.

For white-collar, these entry areas, allow delivers to walk less than 5 min, so it's ok.

Is not walk/no-walk, the city did awesome to allow entry zones and make the walking culture for all of us.

>TBH,restaurants the most happier with this changes. More people in the streets means more customers. If the van can get into the door, there is an entry zones, where delivery can be done with less than 5 min walk.

I should have said industrial foodservice. Are there no schools, hotels, etc. in the city center? Do catering services not deliver lunches to the city center?

>Nope, those industries are not in the pedestrian zone, in Galicia, there is a lot of industrial areas for that matter.

Um, yes, you still have skilled trades. These are the people installing new light fixtures in office buildings and replacing the blower motor for a building's HVAC. Not being able to do diagnostic work and then send someone around later in the day to actually perform repairs is like getting shot in the foot to any business that does repair work.

I support not allowing commuter traffic in city centers but not allowing commercial vehicle traffic seems like needlessly cutting the clock cycle of every part of the economy that deals with physical goods by a factor two or three.

That's a few markets out of many, of which the plurality is outside and accessible 24/7. I't really no big issue to get those deliveries in by noon.

It's interesting how people's expectations and attitudes develop. I remember landing at San Diego airport and asking how I could walk the relatively short distance into the city center. I just got looks of derision and directions to the taxi rank. I did attempt to find a walkable route myself to no avail.

It's an interesting contrast to banning cars and essentially banning walking

San Diego airport website does give some walking details that were not known by the people you met https://www.san.org/to-from/Walking-Biking

I'll preface this with saying that I own two cars and in general like cars. However, I think personal motorized transportation along with industrialized animal farming are for me among the two biggest evils that arose in the last century. Cities in North America are entirely architected for the presence and convenience of cars. The mortality arising from pollution and accidents is staggering. The alienation and isolation of people as well. The cities and suburbs stretch so far out that you rarely get to see your friends unless you specifically organize something well ahead of time. Pedestrian zones with small shops are replaced with massive shopping malls.

I've always imagined a modern city with no cars, but I never knew that anyone actually had the balls to make this a reality. Kudos to this Spanish city! You can try to argue that the specifics of this city make it more amenable to being car-free, but I think that if there was enough desire, it would work anywhere. Just think if everyone paid their monthly car loan/lease into the public transportation system how incredibly functional it could be.

Working in the center of Berlin, I wish Berlin would do the same. There is a hospital near, and a constant load noise level from ambulances. Without cars, those could be much much quieter, but traffic increased, cars got more soundproof and people hear loud music, so ambulances became loader all the time. Noise kills people.

I really dislike cars and being around cars. They are noisy. They ruin the air quality of a city. They take up massive amounts of space through parking that could be better used. They force the public to subsidize car owners. They kill people through both air pollution and through collisions. They dominate a city's life in an extremely unattractive way.

I base a lot of my existence around avoiding cars and living in places where I can have a pleasant walk without having to deal with traffic. To the point where I recently moved from Chicago, Illinois to Portland, Oregon because Portland is a much more pedestrian friendly city. And it shows. You walk around the city and it's actually alive and working.

In Portland, people don't have to have their children on leashes because every street isn't a 4 lane highway with constant traffic that is disrespectful to people's space. People are strolling down the streets and wandering into businesses. In Portland drivers slow down and wave you across the street instead of swerving around you at 40 miles an hour.

In Chicago a common occurrence was for a car to decide to make a red light, so they would make a turn into a crowd of pedestrians who are crossing the street and "shoot the gap" without slowing down, with maybe 3 feet of clearance on either side. People would open doors without a second thought and door bikers. Trucks would make dangerous turns into bikers and frequently kill them ( A young woman was recently killed this way, and I once had to jump off of my bike and drag it onto the sidewalk to avoid being run over ).

Cars drivers seem to enter this "magic circle" where it's fine to do dumb and extremely dangerous things because you are driving. When you are in a car, all behavior is acceptable.

Decide to teach the biker a lesson by turning into them? They won't charge you with anything.

Swerve into a crowd of pedestrians? It's fine normal behavior.

Make a blind turn into an alley and have to slam on the breaks to avoid running into a pedestrian? Totally A-OK chief! Great work!

As has been pointed out elsewhere, a lot of European cities do not have this problem. When visiting France, I went to the city of Strasbourg where they have a very nice little "park and ride" system where you park your fume-spewing, space-taking machine and park it in the PARKING AREA, instead of letting you drag it into their beautiful city.

strongtowns.org has a lot of great information about how the US road infrastructure is, to put it bluntly, a dumb and bad experiment that has failed.

> I really dislike cars and being around cars. They are noisy. They ruin the air quality of a city.

I guess you are not alone. Given a certain location, the singlemost important indicator of your house price is the amount of cars driving by each day.

A factor of 3 in my immediate neighborhood:

$15k per m^2 in a cul de sac vs. only a 100 meters apart $5k per m^2 next to a 4-lane road with quite some traffic.

Population: 82.5k - obviously cars have no business driving through such a place.

I spend a good chunk of the year in Bologna, Italy. The city centre there is a roughly ~4km^2 Zona Traffico Limitato - an area in which only certain vehicles are allowed during certain hours. Pretty much every city in Italy has such a zone and 4km^2 to me seems to be the ideal size for it.

That being said I know a few people who live in the centre and judging by their experiences, I wouldn't want to move there. It's so densely packed that noise bounces off the walls effectively amplifying itself. Also there are no residential waste bins so if you miss trash day during the summer your organic waste turns into an unholy bag of stink.

Walkable cities are a nice concept, but one has to watch out for one perverse incentive that is created along the way: pack everything as densely as possible.

There is a pedestrian city in my province (Córdoba, Argentina) called La Cumbrecita. You leave your car in the entrance to the city in a parking lot and you can walk the entire town.

First time I visit there made me wonder why not all towns aren't pedestrian like this. I mean most towns have nice sidewalks and are walkable but why not just banning cars. In addition to having less noise I can imagine plenty of other benefits.

> [La Cumbrecita] is completely pedestrian and reminiscent of the small German towns of the fifteenth century. One can hike up through the town (and then down) to the waterfall, a truly paradisiacal experience.


The one question I have, that I haven't seen answered in the article or elsewhere, is how deliveries are handled. Presumably shops and businesses in a car-free city need to get truckloads of goods or equipment moved in and out on a regular basis. How is it done?

I've always loved the idea of being able to live in a car-free city, but never quite understood how certain things would work, including garbage collection, deliveries, and emergency services, without vehicular traffic.

Or do they make exceptions for all of those? Does anyone know?

Where I live, the municipality is seriously looking into an out of the city distribution centre with (smaller, electric) vehicles for supplying the city centre. That doesn't make it free of cars, but it will be more efficient (not every shop needs their own supply truck, supplies can be shared).

Which city is that?

This may be nice in a sunny seaside tourist city, but any pedestrianised towns I've been to in the UK are barren, dull, and frankly scary once the sun starts to set.

I would like to take this moment to advertise a project currently under development in my city:


The Atlanta belt-line is mostly being built on top of old light rail line around the city. The idea, as I understand it, is to provide a pedestrian and (unfortunately) cyclists only pathway that connects many of the notable places around the city. On this pathway, there already exists a large amount of beltline and road accessible shopping/restaurants/bars. There are plans to build a large amount similarly accessible housing on the beltline as well.

I assert that this strategy is a better alternative than closing off convex sections for cities similar to Atlanta. What would define a city similar to Atlanta? One that is not very dense, with some undeveloped or neglected land in urban areas, and whose centers of social activity are decentralized. By saying the centers of social activity are decentralized, I mean to say that the major parks, stadiums, shopping developments, chic neighborhoods, and so on, are dispersed around a few mile radius of downtown. Shutting of any two square mile area to car traffic would fail to capture more than a few of these places, and cause worse traffic problems elsewhere, which is costly regardless of how you approach it.

There are some downsides to the beltline of course, mainly its cost, but you get the same opportunity for a pedestrian urban experience, without overtly turning it into a political battle.

Most of Golden Gate Park in SF is closed to cars every Sunday (and Saturday during summer) and it is really magical. Normally living in a city makes you feel tiny but this makes you feel like everyone is on the same level.


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