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Oslo made its city center basically car-free (fastcompany.com)
488 points by prostoalex 58 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 479 comments



I want this so bad. My hatred for the automobile grows every day. The cost, the noise, the time wasted in traffic, the pollution, the ridiculous space wasted on parking. When you really add up the costs, both individual and to society, it’s absolutely insane. I wish the cost of gasoline was high enough to internalize all the costs and change behavior. Like really high. A dollar a mile. We are slaves to the automobile in so many ways.

I’d love to see a major metro area in the US do this. San Francisco would actually be a decent candidate for this. Market St + 4 blocks in each direction.

Cities existed before without cars and I suspect they will exist again after they leave. Sucks that I had to live in the time period with them.

Life is more than just figuring out how quickly and cheaply you can go from one place to another. I feel like a lot of you are missing that.


I'm amazed that so many people who consider themselves inclusive in their thoughts don't realize how exclusionary anti-automobile policies are. As someone who suffers from mild arthritis, the trip to the back of a Wal-Mart can be painful for me, and a walk or bike ride across a city block absolutely foreboding. On the bad days, even standing in line at a checkout for an extended period of time can send my knees and hips into a painful state (and the thought of riding across town standing on a scooter, frankly, horrifies me).

Cars and the point-to-point transit that they offer are a GODSEND for me and many other people who are somewhat mobility restricted, but not so bad that we need wheelchairs or crutches. They enable me to live a very normal life that would be impossible in a heavily pedestrian optimized environment. The fact that you don't even consider some of the alternatives as viable - automated shared cars, electric cars, strong hybrids ... all of which solve the problems you identified (wasted space on parking, pollution, etc.) leads me to believe that you actually just hate cars, and not any of the (solvable) problems that are caused by their current embodiment.

Consider that everyone's circumstances are not the same as yours. Have some compassion for your fellow humans.

EDIT:

To those who are saying that we'll still allow those with disabilities to have cars: many states require that you be able to walk less then 200 feet to get a disabled plate. On most days, I can walk at least 500 ... so by almost all standards, I do not qualify. However, walking 5-600 feet doesn't get you far enough to survive without a car. If the world were to go this route, we would have to reconsider what constitutes 'disabled'.

Another thought that surfaces is that with my 36-37" inseam (I wear 36" pants because that's as big as they sell, but they're really still too short), I do not fit in most public transit, and most cars. Thankfully, because cars are privately owned, I can pick from the 2 or 3 models that I actually fit in. A public transit world is a world that marginalizes peoples who are in the last 5-10% in terms of height/weight.


From the article

> A few spots are left, converted into parking for disabled drivers or EV charging, and some streets are open for delivery trucks for a couple of hours in the morning. Emergency vehicles still have access.

Nobody who has thought about this issue for a bit is suggesting that we ban cars like we banned chemical weapons. Simply that the number of cars can be cut by a factor of 5-10 easily, leaving behind only those users who actually need the car, and not using it as a convenience at enormous unaccountable externalities.

Not to mention that the the health of many (but not all) is destroyed by absolute minimum exercise needed in car centric cities. When everyone starts walking 5-10K steps everyday, many mobility related ailments are avoided or controlled or managed sufficiently.


Not to mention the abuse of handicap licenses in the states. I speak to this as witnessing an acquaintance borrowing a handicap permit from a family member and using it for themselves. This kind of behavior would have to be enforced more strictly.


Borrowing handicap permit is already illegal, and AFAIR carries pretty hefty fine. Of course, enforcing it is hard - would you demand a spot physical endurance exam from everybody parking in a handicapped place? How would you even know? I used the temporary handicapped placard once for a while, when I broke my leg. When recovering, on some days, I could walk for a bit. On others, I could only walk with crutches and for a short distance. But maybe I was just faking, who knows? And of course I didn't carry my medical records with me everywhere I went. So how would you know if I'm legitimately hurt or just borrowed the placard?

If you are reluctant to harass legitimately disabled people, some amount of abuse would slip in. I think unless the abuse is so rampant that legitimate users get denied access (e.g. so many fakers are parking in handicap spots that the real ones have no spot) ignoring most of it as the inevitable price of not making lives of legitimately affected people yet harder is the right way to go.


It would be reasonable to spot-check driver's license (which they necessarily have for driving said vehicle). Should be easy enough to verify against the handicap permit.


If I was handicapped and people started gestapo'ing me to make sure I am who I am....

man sometimes you just have to let externalities happen in the name of not screwing over the 99% of people who do it by the book


Where I live, the light rail isn't access controlled, so they send officers around randomly to verify that everyone on the train have a valid pass (and ticket those who don't). Nobody really complains about it or thinks it's invasive.

I don't see how this would be any different.


I am sure there are still people who manage to ride the rail for free. Not many, but there are. And that's ok, some low-level abuse is perfectly tolerable as long as it's low-level.


Same here, and for the metro as well.

That being said, IMHO it's better to tolerate a moderate amount of abuse than going over the wall with enforcement.


Completely unreasonable as far as I am concerned. ID checks are done as part of safety checks: drunk driving, speed traps, etc. But they cannot be done without another violation occurring. And that’s more than enough government in my life.


My office is directly in view of all the handicap spots in a large commercial office buildings so watch this everyday. It is crazy how many people abuse the handicap parking permits.

And then you see the people who really need it and would make a difference if they didn't get those very front spots taken up by these folks.


Please don’t be that guy. Manybhandixaps are not visually obvious.


Can confirm. Having a temporary handicapped tag enabled me to get to work when otherwise impossible when I had a broken pelvis. No cast, I could walk a very short distance, and I was a young looking guy driving an SUV in downtown SF. I probably looked like everyone's idea of the problem.


Agreed. I have used scooters in stores on days when my knees are unbearably bad. You'd be amazed how many people will give an otherwise healthly looking, reasonably fit/thin 37 year old guy dirty looks for what they assume is a joy ride.


I try to reserve judgement for only the most blatant of cases.

I just have some anti-American culture hate going on right now (I am an American). You can just feel the entitlement coming off some of these people.


That's just the thing - you can't tell how blatant they are without knowing the situation. You can merely look and think, "They can walk just fine.."

But you can't see that the person gets fatigued and suddenly can't walk very far. (And we are talking about fatigue that makes folks nearly pass out, not just mere tiredness) Or they have a history of numbness and trouble walking and keep a cane at their desk for this reason.

Like others have said, you cannot tell from the outside. This isn't freaking "entitlement". If you want to hate American culture, there are plenty of other areas to do this that doesn't make one crap on sick folks. I'd suggest focusing on letting folks go without health care or letting folks starve, but there are plenty of other choices.


I think this whole back-and-forth points out that having to give those who need it some special token/permit/allowance necessarily politicises the issue.

The nicest accommodations are those you don't even have to ask for.

While I want able-bodied people to take the stairs, I think it's great when we can afford enough elevators that nobody cares. The situation where they are rationed, whether by needing a special key or just by a sign & dirty looks, is always less pleasant. But when it comes to cities and transport, this is genuinely hard, as cities with so much parking that it's free for everyone are radically different to mostly non-car cities.


I think it's important to recognize, though, that in many cases, heavy road users' road use is subsidized by lighter road users. Roads are expensive both in terms of construction/maintenance and land use, they're mostly not paid for by user fees anymore (gas taxes cover a relatively small share, and same for tolls), and many people benefiting from these subsidies are doing so for lifestyle choice reasons and not out of necessity -- like, they're choosing to live in a rural area far away from infrastructure and then expecting government to build and maintain low-traffic roads to provide them access, or they're choosing to live in an exurb and commute an hour every day, or whatever.

Yours is not that case. You have a medical need, as do many people. But it's still reasonable to move away from the mentality that's common in the US of viewing road use and car use as a human right, and towards one that's about explicitly opting into or out of trade-offs about how best to make use of limited road space and government funds. Specifically: if we're going to subsidize road use, should we subsidize all of it, and if so, all of it at the same rate? I think you make a good case for why people with mobility restrictions should have access to such a subsidy, but I don't think it follows that because they should, everyone should. Maybe people who are able to take the bus or walk should have incentives to do so, or disincentives to not do so.


You use the words "choosing to live far away" but all that generally means is they are poor. Clearly they should just buy a house and move to downtown San Fransisco like everyone who cares about the environment does.


Urban revival and gentrification are pretty recent compared to decades of white flight.


There are many parts of the country where lavish acreages are built in communities far from town (save money on the land, put it into the house), banking on the automobile to commute thirty miles each way.

SF isn't even an anomaly here- look to the coastal mountains above Palo Alto. Lavish houses on large plots of land. Yeah, they are expensive, but you ain't getting no mansion and ten acres in the heart of SF for a paltry $50M.


I don't live in the Bay area. The richest people where I am live in giant single-family homes on large parcels in the suburbs.


We can also invest in public transit so that them owning a car wouldn’t be necessary


Actually, I'm going to argue for just the opposite: Let users of cars pay for the infrastructure they use (through gas and plate taxes), let users of public transit pay for the services and infrastructure they use (through ridership fees). Right now, public transit is heavily subsidized by income taxes and use taxes for cars (at least in my area). I think that if all transit users were forced to pay for their share of the cost of the services they use, you would see public transit use decrease in many mid-sized cities, and potentially increase in extremely dense cities.

If you really have a desire to 'stick it to the wealthy' while still enabling all to use the roads, sell access to HOV lanes at some extremely high cost and use it to pay for improvements to the infrastructure as a whole. I honestly think that this is a much better plan than the current (ridiculous) trend of offering HOV access to hybrids and EVs, because getting people into hybrids and EVs does nothing to ease congestion, which is the purpose of HOV lanes. Charging an extremely high tax for single-occupied HOV use would provide additional money to build improved infrastructure for all users, which would achieve the HOV goal of reducing congestion and pollution (because for traditional cars, congestion = horrible MPG).

PS - hybrids and EVs don't make sense in all areas. I have a Fusion Energi which has a plug-in range of about 20 miles, and I live in Michigan. I bought it because I wanted to be able to eat lunch in my car without idling the engine (to save wear and tear), but in general, hybrids and EVs are a complete waste of time in the midwest. 1/3 of the year is spent in arctic conditions below 30 degrees, and another 1/3 of the year is spent in sweltering 85+ degree temperatures ... and in both cases, hybrids and EVs don't do notably better than gas cars (first hand experience here).

As an additional aside, until we build more nuclear plants, and/or provide infrastructure to charge EVs during the day, they are kind of pointless. Solar power is not available at night (when most people charge EVs), so the electricity ends up coming from hyrdocarbon fuels plants. The conversion and transmission losses associated with going from Thermal->Mechanical->Electrical->High Voltage->Transmit->Low Voltage->DC->battery are so high that EVs really are currently not better than gas vehicles in much of the country. In areas where the waste heat from the gasoline is used to provide cabin heat, EVs are significantly worse in terms of overall energy use (especially those that use resistive heating for cabin heat).


To say that public transit is heavily subsidized ignores that the alternative, building new roads, parking, bridges, and other infrastructure is even more expensive. And it ignores how much regular road use is subsidized.


In the UK fuel taxes raise £50Bn for the exchequer every year and the total transport budget is £25Bn. Maybe it’s different in the US but certainly here, the idea that cars are subsidised just isn’t factually true. Drivers pay for all forms of transportation then contribute as much again to e.g. the NHS.


Just a couple of days ago there was a piece reporting research that the UK had the highest fossil fuel subsidies in the EU, to the tune of £10.5bn a year), along with another piece earlier in the week that we have to increase allocation of public funds for subsidising North Sea oil rig decomissioning. Can't quickly dig up a link for the second, but it was around £25bn.

Not to forget that the escalating climate change tax on petrol was paused some years back.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/23/uk-has-b...


FTA significant part of the UK fossil fuel subsidies identified by the commission is the 5% rate of VAT on domestic gas and electricity, cut from the standard 20%

Taxing something less is not the same as subsidising it and it is disingenuous to claim that it is. Is the government subsidising you by taxing you less than some hypothetical percentage?


Oh yes it is true. As a fellow Brit all the fossil fuel use contributes huge amounts of negative externalities in pollution, health damage and other more subtle environmental impacts. Fuel taxes are not high enough. It should cost much more than 1.20 a litre for the overall damage we do driving.


Subsidies can be very indirect and subtle. E.g. "If you want to build this store, you will have to also build one hundred parking spaces. No, we aren't going to give you any money for it, you figure it out"


How would this work when our cities have been so heavily developed to favor the automobile? I'm for road users paying for the roads or access, but public transit is so lightly used in most of the US and there's so little existing infrastructure that it's at a severe disadvantage and can't take advantage network effects or economies of scale. Instead of a train near my house, there's an interstate highway. Our cities are already so sprawling and NIMBYism so strong. I wonder if it's too late for transit.


Fast HOV lanes would make buses go faster, and if the HOV lane's expensive, most people would find taking a bus to use it most economical. Honestly I think if you instituted congestion pricing, Uber/Lyft would reinvent themselves as bus agencies in many cities.


I think public transit would only be viable in dense urban cores. In other areas, if the city desires to provide transportation assistance, I think it's probably more efficient to provide other forms of transportation to the working poor (who are typically the primary users of public transit in midsized cities). Here in Grand Rapids, the busses are so lightly used that it would probably be cheaper for the city to hand out Uber or Lyft credits for the people that are now using the busses (and it'd provide a better user experience too).


Can one of the people downvoting this into oblivion please explain? If a midsized city with little congestion could provide subsidized point-to-point transit for those who need it at a comparable cost to operating a bus system, what is the possible downside? This would be hugely beneficial to the people actually using the service, since they get all the time back that would have otherwise been spent waiting on transit services.


Don't you think this is relying a bit too much on private corporation like Uber and Lyft? What if they shut down, or leave the city? How long would it take to reorganize public transport?

Also, uber and Lyft would get to decide the prices, that could cost much more to the city.

I think a public transport has to be public, ie publicly owned.


Why does it have to be publicly owned? For example, all of London buses are privately owned, but the bus companies are contracted to operate routes and the city sets the fares, colour scheme etc so that they all look the same.


You're right, that's an other option. But can you say that it is really private if the city sets the price, and the routes?

And wouldn't it be better to have the same thing but public (so that benefits are used to actually improve the service, and not pay dividends)?


There won’t be Uber and Lyft if there aren’t already a road network and a massive pool of people who know how to drive


Everyone at this point is subsidized by general tax revenue; neither transit nor roads pay for themselves, so I'm not sure it makes sense to say one of them is subsidizing the other one. It may be true according to some ways of accounting that transit is more heavily subsidized than driving, depending on the specific transit mode, but if you actually charged rail users what it costs to run a rail system, many fewer people (as you say) would ride the train, and they just wouldn't fit on the roads in major dense metros because cars are so space-inefficient, so you'd need to build way more roads, probably seizing currently-not-road space by eminent domain, and you'd want to account for the loss of economic activity that came out of tearing down a bunch of buildings to replace them with highway. All of which is to say, I'm skeptical that an actual user-pays model would save drivers money over transit riders, at least in dense, transit-heavy cities.

Another way to think about it: you can view drivers paying for transit as a subsidy, but you can also view it as paying for decreased traffic, from which they directly benefit.


> Let users of cars pay for the infrastructure they use

Don't forget a fee for the air and noise pollution they cause.


Reply to danjayh - thread is too large to comment nest comments anymore lol

Though, one more thing I'd tax is noise from music bumpers. Those people drive me up the f-ing wall. I challenge anyone to think about how much damn awful music pollution is. Then come back in a year, after seriously considering it - if you've become the crazy old guy at the end of the street waving his cane (like me), then you know it's a problem.


The externalities of mass car ownership are not covered by the tax in the UK, let alone the US


Exactly, very true.


Already in place, via mitigations that have been implemented. Fuel injection, multiple catalytic converters, exhaust gas recycling, and closed-loop control all add substantial expense to modern vehicles. They do, however, very effectively reduce/eliminate the smog problems that we had 30 years ago (which is a good thing).

Most modern freeway builds include noise mitigation in their designs. This cost should be passed on to the freeway users via use fees.


You say "already in place". While it's certainly true that smog isn't anywhere near the problem it once was, it's still a problem, and others still pay for the consequences of automobile emissions.

Some quotes from various sources:

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-air-pollution-repo... - "Los Angeles remains the nation's leader in harmful ozone pollution from car tailpipes emissions ... but the report said the nation's second-largest city also achieved its best overall air quality score of all those years."

https://www.livestrong.com/article/156537-facts-of-car-pollu... - "The American Lung Association reports that 30,000 people are killed by car emissions annually in the United States alone. Air pollution also causes numerous respiratory and cardiovascular problems and may exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma. More than half of Americans live in areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards at least several days each year."

https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/motor-vehicle-pollution - "Motor vehicles give off more than half of all carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions in Minnesota. These emissions, including microscopic particles, can contribute to breathing and heart problems along with an elevated risk of cancer."

https://owl.cwp.org/mdocs-posts/elc_pwp6/ - "Metals can follow many pathways before they become entrained in urban stormwater run off. A recent California study sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Nonpoint Source Program suggests that cars are the dominant loading source for many metals of concern, such as cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc."


Fair enough. In those jurisdictions that still have problems, perhaps regulations requiring hybrid and/or plug-in hybrid vehicles make sense. This can't be done at a national level because the benefit of these vehicles falls off dramatically in areas that experience temperature extremes, making them hardly any better than traditional cars.

I drive a PHEV in Michigan, and for around 6-8 months a year, its mileage isn't any better than a standard 4 cylinder due to poor hybrid performance in extremely cold or hot temperatures. You get into the car, the BMS determines that the battery is either baking or freezing, and scales regen/assistance back to minimal levels. You essentially end up with a gas vehicle with an expensive start/stop system (and below about 10-12f, they actually often idle even when stopped to maintain engine temperature).


Are you serious? You think in the US of all places where environmental & air standards regulations are the weakest that all the negative externalities of air pollution from cars is captured in taxes?


  > Let users of cars pay for the
  > infrastructure they use (through
  > gas and plate taxes),
You couldn't. The cost of providing the road structures, lighting, c. 40,000 direct deaths a year, massive numbers of respiratory illnesses, serious injuries, not to mention importing oil and maintaining the largest army in the world to keep that oil flowing in is massive.

Automobile use is insanely subsidized by our society.


I broke my foot and ankle in several places in a rock climbing accident 1.5 years ago, and was put in a similar place to you (unable to stand for more than 20 minutes, unable to walk more than a few hundred yards, etc). This was a huge lifestyle impact to me -- before the injury, if it was less than a 30 minute walk, I almost always walked. If I wasn't in a hurry, up to 60 minutes.

What helped me a lot was getting an e-bike that I'm able to cruise around town at 20mph (32kph) in. I understand that this particular solution doesn't apply to you, since arthritis is triggered by joint movement, whereas my pain is triggered by impact on the damaged foot and ankle (and e-biking is low impact).

But this experience got me thinking a lot about small electric vehicles.

One could imagine a city center where most people walk or bike, and people with a medical permit could drive around in speed-limited, electric golf carts, which are fairly compatible with pedestrian-only areas. Perhaps the city itself would staff the golf carts with drivers who were summonable via app.

So people like us could drive to a parking garage on the outskirts of the city center, and then there would either be rentable golf carts at the garage, or golf carts able to be summoned to go into the city center.


Similar experience: I broke my leg, while I happened to be living both with a car, and in a building with underground parking.

This really made staying independent possible, for the months it took before I could walk properly. Sure it was slower to drive to the supermarket & park underground there, instead of walking... but much quicker than waiting for someone else to have time to help.

I agree that solutions other than a traditional car would be possible. But right now, thinking through other places I've lived fine without a car, they would all have been hell.


I was in Shanghai for work for about 3 weeks a few years back. For the first week, I tried to use mass transit, because everyone said it was the best way around (and in shanghai, their mass transit is absolutely world-class, the best of the best). It was absolute hell - a perfect description; I was in constant pain.

After the first week I broke down and just took cabs everywhere. Perfectly practical, but only when somebody else (in this case, my employer) is paying for it.


I can well imagine! Good on you for going all the same.

In defence of the transit, it has to be said that (in a city that size) those cabs could not work without it. The roads are only passable because 90% of people aren't on them.

Which is to say, the fares have to be out of reach (as a daily expense) for > 90% of people. I imagine most employers would balk at the cost of catching cabs everywhere in Oslo.


This sort of thing only works if the average car is an automatic transmission. In areas where a manual transmission is the norm, breaking a leg means not driving.


Manual in my case -- a light clutch is a lot less force than body weight.


Not bad, and reasonable solution - this is how crowded airports work too. Golf carts for employees and helping less abled people get to the gates.


What's the problem with electric wheelchairs?


>I'm amazed that so many people who consider themselves inclusive in their thoughts don't realize how exclusionary anti-automobile policies are. As someone who suffers from mild arthritis, the trip to the back of a Wal-Mart can be painful for me, and a walk or bike ride across a city block absolutely foreboding.

Oslo, and European cities without or with much less cars, have tons of people with arthritis as well and they're doing just fine. A walkable city will be even more welcoming for things like powered wheelchairs, healthier to breath for everybody, and will have low cost (and in some cases in here, free) mass transportation.

>Consider that everyone's circumstances are not the same as yours. Have some compassion for your fellow humans.

Yeah, because nothing says compassion like car ridden cities, and urban areas designed around driving.


What about orphaned children with arthritis? How does your elitist public transport serve them? Monster.


I'd be completely okay with cars for disabled people, deliveries, and people who have to transport a lot of stuff like tools for their job. But >90% of all cars on the road are driven by able-bodied people with nothing but themselves to transport.


Completely agree! I'd love to hop on a bus and watch Netflix on my phone while someone else drives me downtown to work, but it's 3x as slow. It takes me about 25 minutes to drive myself, or 60-70 minutes by bus. That and a lot of the bus stops around me have zero shade from the sun or rain, or one tiny bench so that the majority of folks waiting have to stand. It feels like such an afterthought.

Also, I'd like to point out the economic disadvantage that comes from having to own a vehicle to drive to certain jobs. I've had to turn down jobs back in the day because I couldn't save up enough to purchase a vehicle and maintain it as well. You end up losing a lot of personal time waiting on buses. I remember having to get up at 5:00AM to catch a bus a mile away, and then getting home around 9:00PM too tired to do anything else but sleep and repeat.


When I ride to work, trains are going every 2-3 minutes and it takes me 20 minutes to get to my destination at the other side of the city.

I don't think I world make it through the traffic and all the red lights in the same time. Finding a parking spot would take a significant amount of time again.


I'm sorry that public transport sucks in your city. Plans to reduce car traffic usually include improvements to public transport and bike infrastructure. In cities with good public transport it's usually faster to take a train and a bus than to drive. See for example London and Tokyo.


> But >90% of all cars on the road are driven by able-bodied people with nothing but themselves to transport.

Nowhere near 90% of cars in city centers, where all these bans are taking place, fit that description.


It sure looks like it on my commute. Maybe your city is different.


There are two people "obviously" disabled in my workplace of circa 400. One of them walks to maintain their fitness from a cleverly chosen home in a town of just over 100K. The other drives. Nearly everyone else drives for lifestyle reasons.

Most people do not need to drive. It is a selfish, ultimately stupid choice they have made.


90% seems like a reasonable guess to me.


This is important to consider, but even if anti-car policies inadvertently exclude some people, I'd push back against the presumption that they are more exclusionary than pro-car policies. They might still represent an improvement over the status quo in this regard. For instance, anti-car advocates often argue that policies which effectively require people to buy and maintain cars to participate in society are exclusionary of the poor.


For germany, there's a study that estimates that up to 30% of a flats rent in densely populated areas is directly or indirectly caused by car-centric planning. And if I just go round the block and estimate how much space is taken by (toll-free) parking and car lanes, I can quite well imagine that this number might be on the high side, but not entirely unfounded. Just half a block from my flat is a road that is double lane, at intersections 3-4 lanes including turn lanes in each direction, each direction offers a parking along the road and in the middle are two parking lanes 90° to the road. The parking space allocated would be sufficient to create a full house the entire length of the road. All that road space is built and maintained by the city, which receives neither vehicle tax nor any petrol taxes or any of the taxes that car owners pay.

I'm not generally opposed to people owning cars and using them. I'm opposed to people offloading the costs and space requirements of their private property onto the community.


A single parking spot is roughly equivalent to a large room in a flat. Parking spots are about 10m^2 each. Buildings have between three and five stories. At the relatively cheap rent prices here in Berlin, a parking spot should cost its user about 400€/month.


Exclusionary of the elderly, too. What exactly do you do if you live in car-burg where the only way to get around is by automobile, and you lose your license due to declining faculties? You become totally stranded & alone.


The first thing you should realize is that pedestrianized spaces are really nice for traveling in a wheelchair or mobility scooter. The second thing is that there are cars available in Europe, called Cantas, that are conventional gasoline ICE cars with purposely shrunk engine displacement. You'd never take one of those on the highway, but the underpowered engines make them safe (and legal) to take on any sidewalk or bike path.

All in all, a car free space can be far better for the disabled than what we have right now.


Anti-automobile policies need to be careful to accommodate the disabled but it's unfair to label them as "exclusionary" compared to the racist and classist history of automobile adoption and according public infrastructure support. From Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, America's most influential and prolific public planner and builder, The Power Broker:

“Underlying Moses' strikingly strict policing for cleanliness in his parks was, Frances Perkins realized with "shock," deep distaste for the public that was using them. "He doesn't love the people," she was to say. "It used to shock me because he was doing all these things for the welfare of the people. . . . He'd denounce the common people terribly. To him they were lousy, dirty people, throwing bottles all over Jones Beach. 'I'll get them! I'll teach them!'... [...]

Now he began taking measures to limit use of his parks. He had restricted the use of state parks by poor and lower-middle-class families in the first place, by limiting access to the parks by rapid transit; he had vetoed the Long Island Rail Road's proposed construction of a branch spur to Jones Beach for this reason.

Now he began to limit access by buses; he instructed Shapiro to build the bridges across his new parkways low—too low for buses to pass. Bus trips therefore had to be made on local roads, making the trips discouragingly long and arduous.

For Negroes, whom he considered inherently "dirty," there were further measures. Buses needed permits to enter state parks; buses chartered by Negro groups found it very difficult to obtain permits, particularly to Moses' beloved Jones Beach; most were shunted to parks many miles further out on Long Island. And even in these parks, buses carrying Negro groups were shunted to the furthest reaches of the parking areas.”

Also detailed in this book is destruction of poor and minority neighborhoods and communities by the common policy of appropriating their land for roads and highways. The lasting effects of these practices is plainly obvious in so many US cities and will not go away without active efforts to reverse the damage. In comparison, disabled-friendly infrastructure is frankly more easily solved.


You have arthritis, so therefore we should center our urban planning around personal cars?

That is not logical. What is logical, is that if car usage was heavily reduced inside urban areas, it would leave more space for the few cases where cars and lorries are actually needed.

It is a variant of the old argument "but without cars and lorries there would be no food transport" (or ambulances, constuction, or something else where it is easy to see the benefits). That has always been a false premise. The biggest problems with cars in urban areas in cogestion. Fewer cars would mean more space where it's most desperately needed.


You also need to redesign streets around cars, widening them, and making the city less pedestrian friendly in the process. And the less people walk, the younger they die and the more health problems they have along the way. You see your visible problem but don't consider the more diffuse and less visible problems caused by the car subsidies you favour.

What do people with your condition in Paris or Rome do? Most of Europe isn't designed around cars the way the usa is.


And keep in mind, most cities in the USA weren't designed around cars. New York City got it's street plan in 1810. San Francisco did in 1839. Our cities were designed with walkers in mind. The car is invasive.

The only American cities where "it was designed for cars" is an excuse are those built largely after the 1940s, when cars (and air conditioning) became commonplace: LA, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, etc.


I think some of us who hate cars (me included) also picture development patterns where cities aren't so sprawling that those with disabilities would have trouble getting around. In your case, a walk/bike ride across town might not be necessary. The market would be nearby, accessible to you via some small electric vehicle that operates on something closer to a human scale than a Ford F150. Heck, even the design of buildings themselves cause you problems because of cars. Instead of a small market, we have big box stores that require one to move significantly further while shopping.


I am perfectly fine to give people with medical issues an exception. But that doesn't mean that we should build everything around cars. Cars also cause a lot of health issues which should also be accounted for.


Yes - the argument is against the primacy and dominance of cars, not their existence in reasonable circumstances.


Going to the extreme is a good strategy to kill any debate. I am not sure if the GP intended this but I so often hear "Want to make changes to health care/ taxes/ others? Socialism! go to Venezuela!". Debate ended.


Lol definitely agree that this thread is mostly filled with extremeness. I don't think people should be advocating the removal of all cars/vehicles on the planet until there is a reasonable way to replace their functions (how do people, goods and large-scale construction projects get around in in normal and emergency situations). Similarly I don't think providing specific car free zones in small 1 mile blocks is the same as murdering elderly and pregnant people.


Agree. We've really put all our eggs in one basket in the USA... you NEED a car to reasonably participate in most parts of society. Sure public transit or biking are options, but they are much less efficient than driving. This is the problem. We've spent 75 years building this way, now when we want to take small steps towards reversing that, the steps are widely misunderstood. In a sense we've been extremely car oriented for 75 years, so that when anything except ultimate car domination is presented, it appears extreme.


  > you NEED a car to reasonably participate
  > in most parts of society.
Not for most people. Unless they have a very severe mental or physical disability. Driving is much less efficient than biking and/or public transit in how I have planned my life.


It's not unusual in America to find shopping centers where you have to drive, park your car, and then walk several hundred feet to actually enter the store, thanks to the enormous parking lot, because everybody has to park.

So, I'm not exactly sure how much the car culture is actually working in your favor. The alternative (public transportation) means parking lots can be smaller and closer to the actual destination.


On bad days, I either avoid extremely large stores or wait until I get a good spot. On good days, I walk from whatever spot I get. Either way, it's less walking than I'd do to/from a transit station.


In some countries with well-developed public transport, transit stations ARE malls, or malls have their own train stop.


I live in Oslo and have similar mobility issues (Ehlers Danlos syndrome). I am not classified as disabled, but it is hard for me to walk long distances or stay standing for more than about 30 minutes in general. Luckily, almost everywhere I want to go is less than half a kilometer from the nearest bus/tram/metro stop. If I really need to, I can still take a taxi to anywhere in the city center.

All that being said, Oslo is NOT a good city to live in if you need a wheelchair or crutches (which I do, with unfortunate regularity). 500 meters might as well be 100 kilometers if you are on crutches in the winter. Even if where you are going is right next to a train stop, the stops are not very accessible (long ramps way out of the way etc). The curbs do not consistently have ramps at crosswalks. The sidewalks are often covered in ice in the winter. There are stairs everywhere. Even with a car and being able to park near your destination, you still dealt with these issues.

So, I guess my point is, Oslo making the city center mostly car free is not what makes it unfriendly for people with mobility issues. Taking public transportation is still better than parking and walking wherever. But it still sucks if you have crutches.


The number of elderly and disabled who are excluded by the automobile-only neighborhoods in the USA vastly outnumber the people who require an automobile to get around within a city center. The pro-con in helping disabled people isn't even close in how many people would be helped by anti-automobile policies.


Car-dominant policies are also exclusionary, just for a different group. Being effectively required to drive is an enormous burden on the impoverished.

Also it sounds like a mobility scooter is kind of what you want?


Mobility scooters don't work so well in 3 inches of slushy snow (unless they make them with wheelchair sized wheels?) In any case, my area swings from -5f and lower on the cold winter days to 105f+ on the hot summer days, so anything that's not climate controlled is fairly unpleasant. We just hired in some contractors from the west cost, and we're predicted to have 12" of snow on Monday, a full day of sub-0f on Wednesday, and a -10f night the weekend after. They're quickly learning a lot about West Michigan weather :).


There are plenty of handicapped, disabled, elderly people on public transit.

You are fortunate enough to be able to afford cars and think that we should continue to design around what works for you. That simply benefits you - and not the handicapped, disabled people who use public transit every day.


>As someone who suffers from mild arthritis, the trip to the back of a Wal-Mart can be painful for me, and a walk or bike ride across a city block absolutely foreboding.

I've heard this before... and maybe I'm not qualified to speak, as I'm not yet the age where I really have to worry, but from what I know of current technology, I can totally go out and buy a walking speed electric wheelchair that is safe to operate even after my vision and attention degrade... but self-driving capabilities in cars are still quite some ways off.

Personally, my body would have to degrade a lot before I needed that wheelchair to make it a few blocks; but my attention and vision? that wouldn't have to degrade as much before I would not be able to safely operate a car.

This is actually something I've thought a lot about; I mean, I personally am bearish on self-driving cars, and if we don't get self-driving cars? I think I might need to plan on retiring to New York, as that's probably one of the few places I can count on aging without being expected to drive.


The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or one.

Seriously, we can come up with something other than 2 ton vehicles.

Hundreds of millions of people will live better lives if we can build our cities without needing cars.


You really need a disabled placard. There's no shame in using it when you need it.

The parking spots aren't just for people with wheelchairs. My grandmother got one when she had to use a walker.

You deserve it!


I'm in a similar boat, and do not qualify either. It sucks, but that's life.

With that said, I would really hate to not be able to take my car anywhere I need to go, because a good day can turn bad quickly. In fact, it is among the many reasons I am glad to have moved to a rural area.


People, predominantly children or the elderly, are literally dying from auto pollution in urban areas. I’m sorry for your medical conditions, but driving is not worth the cost to others. As you say - have some compassion for your fellow humans.


There's always someone, no matter what, who rails as hard as they can for the victim card. Go and take a look in the mirror.


you seem to be a very unlucky edge case, falling through the cracks like that, and in a car-reduced city your case definitely would have to be reconsidered. that said, having a city that is designed for cars is exclusionary to a lot more people - people who can't drive or own cars.

the difference between newer cities built for cars and old pre-car inner cities is quite extreme in that regard. i've got a supermarket 150m and a smallish shopping centre 500m away, which might be too far for you, but an elderly or visually impaired person could still get their shopping done on their own.

the shopping centers at the edge of the city - which are pretty much only reachable by car and you seem to depend on - have a disastrous and self reinforcing effect on inner city QOL (at least that's true for all the smaller cities around here, where cars are required to get around), as they cause most of the small local shops to die off, increasing the distance you have to walk to get to the remaining ones. removing cars from the equation brings those back, which also means the distances are getting smaller. that said, i doubt i cover a much smaller distance on foot when i drive out to the big shopping centers at the city pheriphery, as the distances from most parking spots to the destination inside a huge box store are at least as big as what i'd cover walking to my usual local shop.

of course this doesn't help you much if the distances are to big no matter what - i could see you getting around on a motorized scooter around here without problems though (as a few of my neighbors do).

so, from the perspective of an european inner city dweller, getting rid of cars would be much more inclusionary than the other way round.


I would honestly hope that this would facilitate a move to a more even distribution of businesses in neighborhoods. Perhaps making local deliveries cheaper and more feasible. Might make lighter transportation such as smaller, short range electric vehicles more of an option and cheaper as well.


This is probably one of the most insightful comments in this entire thread. Density isn't the problem - zoning is. Even in a suburban area, if there was a corner store, you could just take a golf cart, provided that you live someplace with a climate like the West Coast. I live in an area that swings from -5f in the winter to +105f in the summer, so for many months out of the year any transport without HVAC is not something you'd actually want to use.


Worst case is that 99% of the rest of the city is still accessible by automobile. High density areas like city downtowns should cater to pedestrians more due to that being the more humane overall.

As other people mentioned, there'd be workarounds for people with mobility issues for sure.


In what city is the high-density area confined to 1% of the city area?


Well, Calgary for example has a Land area of 825.56 km2 or an Urban area of 586.08 km2, and a downtown area of 1.8 km2. Which means it has less than 0.3% area for the downtown.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downtown_Calgary https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calgary

I suppose there are pockets of high density that aren't counted for. Also Calgary is probably unusually spread out for the given population compared to larger cities like New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco.


The notion that one needs to be "disabled enough" for a powered wheelchair but not for a car is entirely socially constructed and could change.

A car can fairly be seen as a grossly overpowered wheelchair with an extra ton of metal or two.


Do you need a two tonne steel box, or could you make due with an electric wheelchair?


Electric wheelchairs typically go 3-4 mph. They are not a replacement for point-to-point transit. My area also swings from -5f in the winter to +105f in the summer, so anything that's not climate controlled is quite unpleasant.


I think an electric wheelchair makes perfect sense when compared to walking, and using public transport. There are small foldable ones that can fit in a taxi or Uber as well.


> a walk or bike ride across a city block absolutely foreboding

i can't imagine taking a car to get to a bodega on the other side of the block or across the street is easier than just walking to the bodega directly.


I have considerable sympathy for you, especially since my mother has chronic back pain and similar shopping trips can be a nightmare on her bad days. However, I think there is considerable room for win-win on these things.

Just consider the trip to the Wal-Mart. I haven't lived in North America for a long time, but in my recent trip to Canada to visit my parents, we went to Wal-Mart. Look at those sprawling mall complexes with their massive parking lots. We had to drive from parking lot to parking lot, just to visit another store!

And the Wal-Mart itself was this behemoth structure with football field after football field of space under its roof. I mean it's half a kilometer from the frozen pizza to the checkout line. If you can't walk 200 meters, you can't shop in Wal-Mart without using their motorised carts (which are admittedly very cool).

Imagine a completely different situation (one which I thankfully live in every day). Imagine that you had stores that were close to where you lived. So close, in fact, that you could walk there if you were abled bodied. But if you were not, you could take an electric bicycle (which many elderly people use where I live) or even an electric cart similar to the one that you can find at Wal-Mart (these are really rare where I live -- most people are quite happy with their electric bicycles, but I've seen them frequently in the UK where I used to live).

Imagine that instead of several square kilometers of parking lots to contend with, you had hundreds of small shops. You had butchers that are just big enough to house the meat it sells. You go up to a counter, which is less than 10 feet from the door and you get your meat and -- lo and behold! There's the cash register, not 3 feet from where you are standing.

I could go on, but the biggest thing that makes this hard for people in North America to imagine is that it is so different. The lifestyle is completely different. Instead of going once a week or once a month to some massive discount store and buying a van full of goods, you go every other day and buy enough to fit in a basket on your bike. It seems like a lot of time, but instead of driving for 30 minutes to the store and spending 20 minutes fining a parking space, you walk 5 or 10 minutes to the store. That's what it means to build cities that are good for walking.

I write this with the full knowledge that my words are not good enough to explain this concept. Even my parents don't understand. When I stayed with them, I discovered that there was a shopping centre only a 20 minute walk from their house. I started walking there to pick up small things for dinner every day (hey 40 minutes of walking a day is not bad). They thought I was insane. Why would you walk to the store when you can drive? Why would you spend 40 minutes when you could send 10? They couldn't understand that the walk was the point.

And so, while it is unreasonable to expect North America to become Asia or Europe suddenly, I think there is a lot of things that can be done to improve the situation dramatically -- like rezoning areas so that shops can be build where people live. Things like mandating that parking lots have pedestrian paths that allow you to walk to the store without being driven over by a mini van. Things like having down town cores which are already mixed use to have walking only areas. Things like building safe public transit. Things like not approving large box malls in the middle of nowhere surrounded by seas of parking lots and no access to public transit.


As an American you just don't know anything else.

Do you think there are people with arthritis and disabilities in Europe?

So many city centres make cars a nightmare, but they are infinitely better places to live than the US.

Not to mention our healthcare but that's another thread...



I don't have a disability, but the non-car accessible vehicles seem to enable a lot more freedom than cars, because they don't have the same restrictions as cars.


You do know that exercise is crucial for people with arthritis?


Perhaps a Segway might work for you? Keep it in your car.


We'll have the drones bring you what you need.


it's true, too intense emotions are an issue;

we should reduce car usage for energy, pollution, life quality

but let's not be extremists


Nice strawman. The topic is no cars in the downtown area. You are walking over 500ft downtown from your parking spot to your destination, and there is no Walmart downtown.


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Car-centric planning is horrible for children, the elderly, disabled people, sick people, and the poor.

It makes them heavily dependent on able-bodied drivers (family members, taxis, hired helpers, ...) to move about.

Children are much more independently mobile in cities with good transit. In car-centric suburbs parents or other caretakers are responsible for personally carting their children from place to place, with huge negative impact on children’s quality of life. Children end up sheltered, over-scheduled, over-controlled, and dramatically delayed in learning to live for themselves.

It is for good reason that many college campuses and retirement homes are organized as little self-contained car-free villages.

In my opinion car-centric suburbs are optimized for healthy, wealthy 30–50 year-old full-time workers, and increasingly hostile as people get further from matching that.


My grandma never had a car in a major pedestrianized city. She lived independently until the age of 92. She took buses and walked everywhere. My other grandmother mostly walked around town.

My parents have a car but mostly walk around town.

Would I be right in thinking that you come from a car centric area where people don't walk and this lose their ability to get around at a younger age? Perhaps you have difficulty conceiving of life in a pedestrian friendly city.

If so, I don't blame you, there are almost none in the us.


When my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness one of the first things the doctor did was to submit revocation paperwork to the DMV. Unfortunately he lived in a very automobile-addicted area and being unable to drive proved very isolating for him.

The solution, of course, wasn't to figure out how to get him behind the wheel. The solution is weaning communities off of their car dependence.


I often visit a pedestrian friendly small community in Queens. The number of very old people I see walking around is amazing. Tragically, the intersections are dangerous and people drive fast through the narrow streets. There's little traffic enforcement and, since Americans don't think about this stuff, nobody seems to care. Walkability is being developed away in the surrounding areas. It's so sad.


I have medical issues that are completely unrelated to lifestyle. Unfortunately, autoimmune issues often don't respond to anything but drugs with horrible side effects.


That's very unfortunate and I'm sorry you have to deal with that.

But what of Rome, and Paris? Do people with your condition live in them? Those cities aren't built around cars, yet have millions of people from all walks of live.

If we make cities built around cars, and people don't walk, then people get more health problems and die younger. That has to be considered alongside cases like yours.


Yeah, grow up. Be a wheel in the machine. Waste your life away sitting in traffic. Breathe in that toxic air. Risk life and lim every day so the trip to Walmart is a little shorter. This guy has arthritis and this guy is out of shape and has a kid, so let’s continue this insane dance to make it easier for them.


That doesn't match the people advocating for less cars around me at all. Children and elderly are massive users of good public transport networks, where they exist, because they can't or don't want to use cars if it can be avoided. (And places where cars are absolutely not an option are very rare, so less cars can often benefit people who absolutely need cars)


Children who live closer to busy streets are more like to get asthma. They also radically change how parents feel about just any street of modest traffic, or biking in general. With children more dependent on parents to set play dates, children have more difficulty getting anywhere.

Also, think of the people who can't drive and for whom getting someone else to drive them is too expensive. That’s a lot of elderly.

Cars kill a lot of people every year. We need AI cars before something changes there, and when that comes, the conversation on exclusion will be very different.


most of the people in my apartment building are retired people, none of them use car, i have two small children and consider cars in city nuisance, we have 200m walk to tram stop (subway maybe 800m) which can take us anywhere in city, why would i bother with car. it takes me 5 or 8 minutes by tram to reach two different shopping malls, 4 minutes by tram to pretty big supermarket or have 3 other supermarkets within 900m radius


I agree with this so much.

I am sick and tired of subsidizing drivers.

I am done with the irresponsible and unsustainable policy of ignoring costs associated with road maintenance in the United States.

I am done with building roads through lower-class neighborhoods and damaging their property values.

End welfare for drivers. Make the drivers pay their own way.


I strongly agree. Also let's end welfare for upper middle class commuters by ending subsidies for rail transit. Here in D.C., taxpayers subsidize Metro commuters, who are typically white collar and make more than the average taxpayer in DC/MD/VA. Why would you expect anything else, given the stratospheric price of housing near Metro stations?

Low-income people take the bus. That's what we should subsidize.


Both rail and bus are heavily subsidized -- buses come nowhere close to paying for either their operating or capital expenses with fare revenue. It is probably true that if you broke down the WMATA budget and looked at the degree of subsidy per passenger mile on rail vs. bus, you'd get a higher number for rail than bus, but it's tricky to do an apples-to-apples comparison because the rail figure will include the cost of the stations, tunnels, and track, whereas the bus figure won't include the cost of the roads, but the government pays for the roads too, just not as a line item within the transit agency.

The reason to subsidize rail is that if you didn't, many people wouldn't take the train, they would drive or take the bus, and we don't have the road capacity for that. Rail is an exceptionally efficient means of moving lots of people with not very much space, and drivers and bus riders benefit from those people having been moved off of the roads in the form of reduced traffic.


That might be a relevant point in some cities, mainly New York. But in the DC metro area, only a tiny fraction of commuters take rail to begin with, in part because Metro is geared to getting people in and out of DC while most jobs in the area are outside DC. I’ve always found it very odd that folks who work ordinary jobs in the suburbs subsidize the relatively high income professionals that work in DC and can afford to live near a Metro stop.


> only a tiny fraction of commuters take rail to begin with

If you define "metro area" expansively, that's true, but rail mode share in the closer-in suburbs (Montgomery county, Arlington county) is decently high, and individual counties' contributions to WMATA's budget are commensurate with use. Not many people in Loudoun county use metro, but they also don't contribute very much, and nobody it Charles county does, but they don't contribute anything.


WMATA is at the low end of the farebox recovery ratio (42%). Meanwhile SF's Muni is at 35%, BART at 70%, and Caltrain at 63%.


Life and government isn't this simple. Subsidizing metro draws in high-income earners and thus builds the economy and increases tax revenues. The stratospheric price of housing near Metro stations increases real estate tax revenues as well.


The increased cost of housing near transit also reflects that various costs associate with sprawl no longer have to be funded (e.g commute time, roads).


I used to follow libertarian (the American propertarian kind) communities online, and one of the recurring challenges to libertarians is "but who will build the roads if government doesn't?" Of course, libertarians have all sorts of detailed responses to this challenge. Now that I don't really follow or align with libertarianism any more, my response is simple: if government subsidized roads less, there would probably just be fewer roads, and that would probably be a really good thing.


The history of major roads, especially interstate highways, is a history of the need for roads capable of allowing large military vehicles and troop movements. Has that changed?


I’m sure a very small portion of the benefits of the interstate highways goes to national defense. If it’s truly necessary for national defense, there should still be tolls levied for the side effects: namely the massive subsidies on personal travel and commercial freight.


The benefit in this case potential, so it's hard to quantify it unless and until it is realized. But if it comes to that, it would be absolutely crucial for national defense.


I don’t think the analysis is that difficult. Imagine that the interstates were only used for military transportation (both for emergencies, which presumably haven’t happened much, and for regular logistics). Surely the ongoing maintenance costs would be vastly reduced.

Those costs would be the costs that “we the people” accept as valid usage of taxpayer money. You could throw in costs for other public interests like emergency logistics (e.g. FEMA moving goods and personnel for hurricane relief), first-class mail, etc., and you’re still probably only accounting for a very small portion of the taxpayer money that is currently going toward regular interstate maintenance.

The rest of the taxpayer costs are just subsidies of private interests, namely commercial freight and personal transportation. Those subsidies aren’t “free.” They come at the expense of other private interests, like freight and passenger railroads. These subsidies undoubtedly drastically change the economy, pushing everything toward just-in-time fulfillment, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

I would like to see these private subsidies reduced or eliminated, perhaps by charging tolls.


Practically speaking you’d be shifting the burden from the people who can afford it, to people who can’t. I see similar arguments from people who resent paying into social security and other things. It seems to be a combination of ideological convictions, lack of empathy, and unawareness of why these kind of measures were created in the first place. Ignoring all of rhe knock-on effects of a massive road network and it’s upkeep, it’s ability to reduce the cost of freight, and subsequent lack of rioting from people who couldn’t afford milk without those “subsidies” seems ultimately short-sighted.


I’m not quite convinced that the effects would be so regressive, especially in the longer term. Couldn’t most national food transportation (including perishables like milk) be done with rail freight? Even if the retail costs stayed the same, surely the environmental costs would be drastically reduced (and surely the longer-term costs of climate change will be extremely regressive).

In other words, I question the premise that federal interstates reduce the cost of freight if you include the environmental externalities.


Ok, that’s a good question to raise, but maybe you should move beyond asking the question and try answering it. You could learn about how different shipping methods are used, how they interact, and just how extensive a rail network a country as massive as the US would require to replace roads. You could also consider that withnthe death of those roads, you’d be utterly snuffing out smaller rural communities, which would be too small or too distant from major population centers to justify a massive rail project.

All in all, if you have such a strong proposition about not paying for roads, it seems like you should already know these things. Now, could roads be replaced? Probably, at enormous cost both financial and environmental. Building massive rail networks is not quick or cheap, you’re talking about megatons or steel and iron being welded after all.


As a recent transplant to the bay area, I'm surprised so few people ride motorcycles - I know that it's not tenable for parents and people with medical conditions, but there are so many people here who could.

I cut my commute time in half, I got a lightly used motorcycle + gear for less than the price of a used Prius, I get mileage that's comparable to an economy car and performance that rivals that of a performance car.

Heck, I even took it to Los Angeles and back over the New Year's and I was surprised at how comfortable I was for the entire trip despite doing ~90 mph in 45 degree weather. In particular, my back would be uncomfortable if I had spent 6 hours in the car, but 6 hours on the bike was great.

It's just so cool that a machine that works so well in congested cities can also work so well on the open road. It's not like driving a large sedan or SUV - where the open road is a joy but city driving is terrible. If we could just get 25% of people out of cars and into motorcycles, we could reduce congestion dramatically - https://newatlas.com/motorcycles-reduce-congestion/21420/


> I'm surprised so few people ride motorcycles

I would find the risk unacceptable. Basically any flinch of anybody on the road can literally kill you. In a car, you are at least surrounded by the steel walls, so if somebody decides to do something stupid, in most cases, it's metal that gets smashed. In a motorcycle, the only thing between hunks of metal wizzing around and your flesh is a thin layer of leather. Not enough for me.


You're not wrong, and this is the same argument used in regards to bicycling. Something I hear all the time: 'You ride in this city?! Isn't it super dangerous?' When the solution is armor-up with a car and contribute to problem I just think we're thinking about it wrong.


Yeah I try not to bicycle on roads without a dedicated bike line too. If I were in a city with European-style dedicated and separated bike lines I would use them gladly. But I am not, so when the choice is between risking my life (in the most literal sense, not like "I am risking my life by voicing an unpopular opinion on Twitter" but literally risking being killed) and getting a car, I know what I choose.

If and when the circumstances change, the calculus may change too.


It's the same argument but here in Sweden there a lot more people dying in motorcycle accidents (6x) and a lot fewer riders (1/100x). I think riding a bicycle is considered more scary because everyone can do it and you only consider the worst outcomes, but my 10km bike path is considereably more safe than almost all forms of transport (based on statistics of accidents).


Riding a motorcycle amongst CA drivers is taking on a significant injury risk.

The efficiency gains of a motorcycle vs economy car aren't that significant and the emissions are worse.


The noise nuisance from motorcycles can also be a terrible blight on urban areas.

Although many motorcyclists do ride well maintained, quiet machines responsibly, there's a minority who modify their exhausts to increase noise and pollution in pursuit of a little more power. The noise levels can be ridiculous!

Personally, I can't wait for electric motorbikes to take over.


Me too except for one thing:

Loud motorbikes are very bad for your own hearing and disturbing everyone else's peace, but it does make you safer as cars can hear you come. Except if they are playing some loud Metal on the car stereo.


> Loud motorbikes are very bad for your own hearing and disturbing everyone else's peace, but it does make you safer as cars can hear you come. Except if they are playing some loud Metal on the car stereo.

My car would be more noticeable (and therefore safer) if I held my horn down while I drove around.


You know what else is stupid loud and annoying? Ambulances. Fire trucks. Diesel buses. Electric ones arent great either if they have those wire systems overhead, those hanging systems make lotta noise too. Sometimes they're separate but they have to make an obnoxiously loud whirring sound while accelerating anyway. Large trucks used for hauling stuff. (Ever notice how loud a ups truck is?) Buses with air suspension that raise and lower and beep all the time with stupidly loud systems (PSSSSST!!! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEP BEEP WWHOOOOOOOSH BEEP BEEP BEEP!!!!).

I've lived in enough metro areas to know loud bikes are low on the list. There's plenty more annoyances. God forbid you live near an airport, hotel (idling diesel buses), or a plethora of other annoyances.


A motorcycle isn't much more cost-effective to run than an economy car but a motorcycle has huge performance advantages and radically better / cheaper parking options.

The emissions are worse, but not worse than older cars that are still legal to drive.


> Riding a motorcycle amongst CA drivers is taking on a significant injury risk.

More than in anywhere else? Citation needed.

I ran the numbers for myself. Statistically, the amount of time I save per day by riding a motorcycle in San Francisco heavily outpaces the number of average life-minutes lost due to the risks of riding a motorcycle.


> Statistically, the amount of time I save per day by riding a motorcycle in San Francisco heavily outpaces the number of average life-minutes lost due to the risks of riding a motorcycle.

Those are the minutes spent stuck in traffic vs the minutes spent being dead. Some people might want to use a weighted model here.


Minutes spent stuck in traffic, to me, are almost worse than being dead.


I ride a motorcycle, but you and I "balance our books" very differently.


When I lived there a buddy on my pool team (when the billiards/pool scene was active and places weren't closing) was a motorcyclist. He lost half his face driving to Santa Cruz because an asshole was going 90 on the 17.


I agree with you, but the reasons more people don't use motorcycles are

1. They're harder to drive.

2. They're more dangerous for the driver.

3. They're uncomfortable in rainy weather. (And even more dangerous during icy weather.)


> 1. They're harder to drive.

This is pretty subjective, but I disagree. There are some ways in which they're slightly more difficult (e.g., a manual transmission) but that's an incredibly minor additional challenge. On the other hand, on narrow city streets, they're often much easier to drive since your margins of error on either side of you are so much larger.

It's just a matter of what you're used to. Now when I hop into the driver's seat of a car I'm amazed at the extra cognitive load of having to pilot a vehicle ten times wider than myself where I can't see the sides or edges, where my vision is obstructed by the A-frame, and where I can't use aural cues to know what's happening around me. It's just different, not harder.

> 2. They're more dangerous for the driver.

Fair, but IMO this is a tragedy of the commons. For every car on the road that's replaced by a motorcycle, the road becomes net safer. This is the same situation with SUVs just in reverse: SUVs are often safer for the driver than a passenger car, but they make the road more dangerous for everyone else.

We should find way to disincentivize driving over other forms of transit like motorcycling, public transit, and cycling to help combat this.

> 3. They're uncomfortable in rainy weather. (And even more dangerous during icy weather.)

Honestly, they really aren't even slightly uncomfortable in rainy weather. Most motorcycle jackets will have a waterproof liner in them, helmets are intrinsically waterproof, many armored gloves are waterproof, you can buy a pair of overpants for like $20 that slip over whatever you're wearing in ten seconds and are totally waterproof.

The only thing that won't necessarily be waterproof are your shoes (unless you're ATGATT). But you can choose to wear boots on rainy days, or even if not, most shoes will hold up long enough to get to your destination (for common weather and distances in San Francisco, which GP was discussing).

FWIW I'm not arguing with your thesis that these things are often why people don't ride. It's true! I just think that these concerns are actually more overblown than people realize.


You can't realistically compare the practicality of cars vs motorcycles in wet/icy weather.

I say this as a cycling fan currently getting rid of his car. If it's raining, it's Uber time.


> There are some ways in which they're slightly more difficult (e.g., a manual transmission)

Note the vanishingly small number of manual transmission cars on the market.

> IMO this is a tragedy of the commons

Yes it is.


I love motorcycles and miss riding, but you're something like 30 times as likely to die per mile.


If motorcycles were safer, I would agree with you. A fender bender or flat tire in a car is one thing. The same thing in a motorcycle is almost certainly either fatal, traumatic, or life-altering levels debilitating.

They don't call motorcyclists donors for nothing.


Personal anecdote: a friend of mine driving a motorcycle was killed when another driver hit him


I wouldn't be surprised if most people knew of someone who's been killed or injured in similar circumstances?

I used to ride moto-x as a teenager. Never in a million years would I ride a motorcycle on a public road, you are just so dependent on other people looking out for you and, in my experience, most car drivers aren't doing this. My partner once remarked: 'You always move over for motorbikes, nobody else does?.


I ride in LA and agree with you 100%. The whole city has become so much more accessible thanks to lane filtering and splitting since I started that it's hard to imagine giving it up.


It’s tempting but I don’t want to increase my chance of getting killed, it looks scary to me, and a smaller concern is wearing leathers in 30 degree C heat.


> It’s tempting but I don’t want to increase my chance of getting killed

I commented elsewhere but having run the numbers for myself, the number of minutes I "gain back" per day by riding a motorcycle over other forms of commuting more than makes up for any increased danger.


It doesn’t make up for it if you’re dead, and even if you gain a boat load of minutes in some twisted sense, dying early still leaves loved ones grieving and bereaved all the same.

Sometimes I wish we as people weren’t so self-destructively impatient. I’m not trying to single you out here, and I’m far from innocent, but really, what kind of world do we live in where we decide we’d rather DIE EARLY than sit in traffic? Why not just move? There are so many more options.


I heard some emergency room nurses call motorcycles "donor-cycles".

In college, I sat next to a guy in class every day and one day he was absent. A couple hours later in chapel, they put his picture up on the screen and said he got hit on his motorcycle and died instantly.


100% this.

Motorcycles are hands-down the fastest way to get anywhere in the city. This gap only widens when you consider that parking instantly becomes a non-issue.

We have perfect weather for it year-round. Lane filtering not only gets you to your destination faster, it's actually statistically safer. They're cheaper to buy, cheaper to operate, cheaper to insure, cheaper to fuel, and dramatically cheaper to park (at home, at work, on the street, and in terms of not worrying about parking tickets from street sweeping since you can often park off-street).

If do you need to carry more cargo than the bike will carry, you can always take a Lyft or Uber.

I get that a motorcycle isn't a workable option for some people. But it's certainly a better option than car ownership for many in the city, and I'm astonished that it's an option that so few people seem to consider given how perfectly-tailored this city is for it.


> I'm surprised so few people ride motorcycles

The noise of them is super anti-social.


Most motorcycles aren't loud. I share your hate for those that are, though.


Market st is already a no-go for private cars for many blocks. As much as I hate the scooters that go around in the sidewalks and then park haphazardly blocking the path for disabled people, they did reduce the traffic around Bart stations quite a bit. If it's easy to use the alternative, people do take it. There are a few who'd never leave their precious cars but most others care about the commute and not necessarily the mode.

Every metro region in the country must be a unified under a single transportation agency. They should have enough power to force major changes. If transportation is designed at one level above a single city (esp in a metro area), there could be a lot of efficiencies that can be derived. E.g, coordination between bus and the subway system to pick up passengers within a few minutes of disembarking from the train. Expanded subway coverage for arterial routes at least. Mini buses instead of big ones for feeder routes - with increased frequency. This is not uncommon outside the US btw.

Next up is zoning changes. Local groceries must be encouraged. There should be space kept aside every few blocks and it shouldn't be just a liquor shop - there should be explicit guarantees on providing basic amenities and produce. Small scale restaurants must be allowed in all areas. This reduces the need to go too far for regular shopping.

Then, increase gas tax - don't tie it to gas price. Calculate based on the needs of costs of highway maintenance and public transportation needs. Use that to provide subsidies for public transport.


Why should public transit be paid for by automobiles? Let the users of each service pay for what they consume. Cars pay for roads, maintenance, highway patrol, etc. Public transit users pay for rail, buses, dedicated lanes, etc. Forcing automobile users to pay for public transit obscures the true societal cost of implementing public transit just as much as using tax revenues outside of gas/license taxes for roads obscures the true cost of driving private cars.


>Why should public transit be paid for by automobiles? Let the users of each service pay for what they consume.

Why should anyone pay for anything they don't use? I understand this is a fairly common position to take in general, but this situation is not unique to public transit.

Regardless, true cost of driving private cars is already obscured beyond just for road construction and maintenance. Free or subsidized municipal on-street parking, below market rates, is one big example.


I am in general in favor of nearly all services being based on user fees, except in cases of people who have handicaps that prevent them from otherwise functioning normally in society (physical disability, mental health issues, developmental issues, etc.) or have had a recent extraordinary event that temporarily impacted their ability to care for themselves (loss of a job, loss of a family member, birth of a child, severe illness, etc.). In cases where it is desired to subsidize services for less well off users, raise fees on more financially capable users. To achieve this, I prefer the airline model - offer a couple of classes of marginally better service at an order of magnitude higher cost. The people who truly have the means will pay it, and those who don't will not. For instance, someone with 150k income and $15k/year medical costs,$25k/year childcare costs, and $25k/year in student debt payments might not be as well off as their income suggests. The airline model allows people with means to self-select in a way that income-based taxation does not.


> Cars pay for roads, maintenance, highway patrol, etc.

That's not accurate.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2015/05/debunking-the...


I must apologize for my lack of clarity. The intent of my statement was to say that "Cars should pay for..." and "Public transit users should pay for", not to imply that the users of these services cover their costs now. Cars are obviously subsidized by general tax revenue, and public transit is also subsidized by general tax revenue. Ideally general taxes would be reduced by the amount spent on these services, and the costs for these services would be increased accordingly.


My bad. I read it as "since cars pay... transit should pay too".


> Every metro region in the country must be a unified under a single transportation agency. They should have enough power to force major changes. If transportation is designed at one level above a single city (esp in a metro area), there could be a lot of efficiencies that can be derived. E.g, coordination between bus and the subway system to pick up passengers within a few minutes of disembarking from the train. Expanded subway coverage for arterial routes at least. Mini buses instead of big ones for feeder routes - with increased frequency. This is not uncommon outside the US btw.

New Jersey has a single, statewide transportation agency (local jitneys notwithstanding). It's better than nothing, but it fucking sucks.[1]. Increasing the scope of an agency, at least in the US, isn't a panacea; it just replaces one set of serious problems with a different set of serious problems. The US needs more fundamental changes than just changing the power/scope of agencies. Unfortunately I don't know what that is.

[1] https://twitter.com/FuckNjTransit


> Market st is already a no-go for private cars for many blocks.

This seems like a 'nobody goes there it's too busy' sort of argument. If it's a no-go for private cars then it should be almost empty apart from a few taxis and a bus or two? Which would make it not a no-go for private cars...


You are literally describing a soviet style centrally planned economy.

Society should be organised bottom up and decentralised.

Communities and regions need more autonomy. Decision making power belongs at the edges, with those who have the most context.

Bazar significantly outcompetes cathedral at scale.


You're free to build your set of competing roads next to the public ones if you wish. Good luck.


I don't think the people down-voting you realize that if (US) society put more authority locally (city > state > federal) the car-free cities they want would be closer to reality. Cities would have more power to impose tolls and restrictions on cars. If cities relied less on the state for their transit budgets they could more easily do as they please, same goes at the state level (the federal .gov is known to hold transit budgets hostage over unrelated things). The overhead of always having to deal with the next level of government is a big hindrance when it comes to changing the status quo.


You sound republican downvote 100x (just kidding). And not only that, but it even makes sense because cities that dont want cars (have a population that vote locally to remove them in key areas) can do so, and cities that want them, can keep doing that.

Personally I've always felt that about our system. Income taxes should be city 20%, State 5%, country 1%. Think about how fucked up it currently is compared to that.


> I wish the cost of gasoline was high enough to internalize all the costs and change behavior. Like really high. A dollar a mile. We are slaves to the automobile in so many ways.

I get that you're speaking in anger and ignorance instead of reason, but this happening any time soon would spell so more problems than it would cause. Have you ever traveled outside of a population dense location?

The automobile will go by the wayside in its own time, just like the horse and buggy, but we're slaves to the automobile because (outside of population-dense areas) the automobile is an incredibly valuable tool. I expect big cities to follow Oslo's direction, and while the time passes, cars will become more efficient and quieter.


If you’re not living in the Bay Area, this is not a conversation this comes up very much. People tend to love their cars, and the freedom it gives them, and frankly that doesn’t seem to be changing outside of some cities which were built in medieval times and suit walking better. A lot of “every thinking person believes X” topics you find here simply don’t exist on any significant scale outside of this bubble.

My point being, for armchair futurists who predict the death of the automobile, it tends to be a serious passion. Arguing with these people tends to be fruitless, because more than anything they want to preach. I try to avoid it myself, because right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, there is way too much money to be made selling cars for the business model to fall, short of being confronted with a superior replacement (a la cars vs. horses).

There are more productive uses of limited lifespans than... this.


Uh, this comes up quite a bit in Europe too. You say the Bay Area is a bubble and yet you seem trapped in it all the same.


The split is fairly similar though. "All cars aught banned"-type of folks only live in larger cities.


I don’t live or work in CA, so that would be quite a feat for me wouldn’t it.


So how would you know this comes up in the Bay Area? Or is it an assumption?


> Cities existed before without cars and I suspect they will exist again after they leave. Sucks that I had to live in the time period with them.

I find it interesting that many people don't realize that city with cars have exisited for a very long time. Romans did not pave roads all over Europe just to make it more comfortable for pedestrians.

The only difference is that back then, cars where horse-powered. As a result, they were more smelly, poluting, and noisy than now. Also, many farmers, artisans, shop-owner did have cars to transport goods.

But, the traffic became really dense only when the population became really dense during the 19th century. The first traffic light was in London in 1868. I have read 19th century articles complaining about traffic jams and bad driver behavior in Paris.


> Romans did not pave roads all over Europe just to make it more comfortable for pedestrians.

No, they did it because paving makes roads comparatively weather proof and it sucks to try to maintain a continent spanning empire by military force if rain cuts your lines of movement and supply, not for comfort.


Yes, but it did also facilitate transport of military equipements and commercial goods using wagons.

Sorry, my "just" was not intended to be ironic. Roads were also important for pedestrians.


A horse-drawn chariot is nowhere near as noisy and air-polluting as a 4-lane highway or a gridlocked inner city intersection with horns blowing


One horse-drawn chariot definitely makes more noise than one car, even when the car goes faster.


I want this so bad. My hatred for the automobile grows every day.

If you really want to see more people walk, then do more walking yourself as a form of basic transit.

I've lived without a car for more than a decade. Everywhere I go, people start walking more. As more people start walking, crime goes down. (See Jane Jacobs: "Eyes on the street" is the key to urban safety. This means pedestrians on the street.) Air pollution goes down. Plant life greens up. Locals start having less financial stress.

I have had the passing fancy of starting a "Pedestrian Ambassador" program or something. But, eh, I have enough half-baked projects going nowhere that don't pay squat. My life gets better when locals walk more.

If you want to see more people walking, be the change you wish to see. And watch it go viral.


Counterpoint: I've never had a car in five decades. I live in the same town where I grew up. Car use has increased massively and our road into the countryside has recently been 'upgraded' to arterial status, though with no change of infrastructure.

Fighting Car Culture takes more than a few people walking.


I want it too. Unfortunately we are many decades away in the USA, at minimum. I used to be more optimistic, but I took a trip to southern Europe, with the narrows streets, busses, subways, trains, tiny cars, and everything. It was great, traveled thousands of miles and never got in a car- but it was a dash of cold water on how big the gap is. Fundamental things like the width of our roads & land used for parking practically double the size of towns, making walking and biking far less competitive right out the gate.


How do you propose getting around quickly in car-free city centers? Electric scooter services? I was in NYC the other day, and it was like 1 am and we were several blocks northwest of Times' Square, it was freezing and raining and public transportation was on late night service which would have required 20+ minutes of waiting around shivering for a bus, or a long-ish walk to the nearest subway station and another longish walk to the hotel. Instead we got a Lyft to pick us up in 3 minutes and were curbside at our hotel in no time.

I'm just trying to imagine what my (and my pregnant wife's) options would have been with a car-free version of NYC


Walking. That’s how you get around quickly. It’s quicker to walk in downtown SF than take a car for a good portion of the day.

Also maybe you don’t need to get around so quickly. That’s kind of my point about how much damage the car has done to society.


Believe it or not, there were old and pregnant people before cars! We even had cities before cars!

Venice even had old people, pregnant people, and children! The trifecta. Rumor has it these people still roam Venice today, although in smaller numbers.


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No, it wasn’t. And life expectancy is mostly a function of infant mortality. And no they weren’t. The car didn’t liberate disabled people. If you’re going to say stupid things like that no one is going to listen to you.


Life expectancy was not 40 years. People who did not die in childhood generally lived to their 70s.


To put it another way, how did you get there? If it was by car, then yes you'd probably need a similar way to get back. If you'd settled on walking, then returning by walking would naturally be more viable. Obviously, what I'm saying is you'd have chosen a closer destination.

Hard to talk about public transportation without getting into statements that sound like judgments. Definitely not judging your actions. But it's not really a useful analysis to insert a particular solution midway into a situation when the solution wouldn't have allowed the situation to happen in the first place.


You missed the whole point. Raining, cold, pregnant wife. Or maybe he was accompanied by his elderly father. Or young kid.

Not everyone is a healthy 20 year old.


I live in Norway, and have for 5-6 years now. I'm 40. One of the things I noticed about the city I'm in - Trondheim - was that it was a walkable city. Between busses and walking, I'm usually set for transportation. We use the car once or twice a month for convenience (cat litter, for example). I don't have a valid license, so I don't drive at all and we didn't have any car the first 2-3 years I lived here.

I commonly see people walking in all sorts of weather - rain, snow, freezing weather and sun. Proper clothing makes these things tolerable in addition to simply getting used to it. I see pregnant women walking. I regularly see mothers with young infants in strollers. I regularly see elderly folks, sometimes with canes or walkers. In fact, I did some language practice in a nursing home and somewhat regularly went for walks with a few residents. The folks that did language training in a preschool were outside daily. The elementary schools have sleds and buckets for snow.

The combination of walking and public transportation usually works out well, and you do not need to be a healthy 20-year old to deal with it.


take a bus. or tram, metro, or train. When there's no cars on the road to compete with and enough demand to make 5-10 minute departure intervals viable, public transit can be a very efficient and convenient option.

Making the city center car free and making the city center motor vehicle free are not the same thing.


Get some exercise? It’s just rain. Has CA weather made everyone here soft?


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...and disabled. I bet the politicians have nice cars though.


They just spent millions of kroner on a new underground parking garage for the Parliament...


Now that's a straw man. Congratulations.


Now there's some irony.

You literally suggested that it would be, at the very least, impractical to get around if you're not a "healthy 20 year old", and yet cities all over the world are filled with people who are not, in fact, healthy 20 year olds, and they manage just fine.

And yet after an extremely blatant strawman, you have the audacity to call someone out who was responding to that strawman with a similarly extreme, but obviously tongue-in-cheek statement.


> Walking. That’s how you get around quickly.

You either have a limited definition of "quickly" or a limited definition of "around".

> Also maybe you don’t need to get around so quickly.

Or maybe you do.

> That’s kind of my point about how much damage the car has done to society.

There have been positives as well.


While I think the comment you were responding to was being somewhat snarky, urban design specifically to accommodate walkability is a thing. Cities that are high-density and mixed-use allow for many of the things people need to do on a daily basis to be close to where they already are, which makes "around" smaller for most purposes and consequently makes "quickly" more achievable on foot. Cities that have lots of parking lots place the actual stuff people want to visit farther apart, or who entirely separate offices from retail from food from residential, require vehicles.


Most city centers that go "car-free", especially in Western Europe, only do so for a few blocks. Imagine the entire area around Times Square becoming pedestrianized.

And yes, as much as they seem to clutter city streets, electric scooters and the like are seemingly becoming a viable last-mile transportation option.


I think this comment is actually so key and apt in this entire discussion. It almost sounds like some of the comments in this thread are like BAN all cars. But in reality, these efforts are really small, subtle fixes and actually probably make a lot of sense. And if we were to look at the maps of Oslo, the pregnant elderly people can still live, with a car, somewhere in Norway where they can still park AT the grocery store.

Baby steps instead of basically saying themagician is trying to kill my pregnant wife on a 20 mile hike in the forest and openbasic is going to run over my kids!


> It almost sounds like some of the comments in this thread are like BAN all cars.

There are a lot of comments in this thread assuming that everybody else wants to ban all cars (like Mr "I can't sit on a train because I have arthritis" above), but I have yet to see one that actually suggests that cars should be disallowed altogether.

The complaint is that cars are overemphasized in city planning. In New York City, something like 90% of street surface is devoted to the use of drivers, in the form of lane space and free parking, who make up only 35% of the population (not including Staten Island, where rich white suburban people bring it up to 45%).


> Imagine the entire area around Times Square becoming pedestrianized.

We have those. That's called a Shopping Mall.


Insightful. By advertising, lobbying and bribing their way into dominance, the car industry has created demand for private walkable city center substitutes.


I feel it’s a situation that happens because you count on taxis running around.

I can’t otherwise imagine being pregnant and stranded outside at 1am in freezing cold nowhere near other transportation. It still could happen, but you’d call an ambulance to help you out.


Here's the best way to get around in the car free parts of Oslo: https://oslobysykkel.no/en

Other than that, there's plenty of public transportation.

And you don't even have to make the entire city center free of cars, i.e. make every 5th street available for cars (limited, like 1 open lane). As long as you can walk a couple of blocks you'll be able to grab a taxi.


I agree with your point in theory, but it’s somewhat ironic that the Oslo bike share you link to is closed for the season. There are ways to move around without cars, but it becomes far more challenging in winter climates


They're currently piloting winter bikes: https://oslovintersykkel.no/en/

We've the same (next generation) bikes here in Bergen, open 365 days a year: https://bergenbysykkel.no/en


Your question presupposes the poor transit service you experienced in NYC (greatly reduced late night schedule) which which is no doubt a function of budget constraints.

There is a mode of point-to-point private-vehicle transport that is quite fast at dense urban scales: bike share. Oslo has it as do many/most European city centres.


When you get to truly late night, NYC is one of the few cities with any subway service at all. The MTA has a lot of issues but in general NYC isn't a great example of a city without good transit coverage.


I live in NYC and only ever take cabs when I am with a group that insists on it. I have no problem whatsoever with walking, cycling, or waiting a little longer for a train. And at all times of day.

It really is just a matter of shifting your expectation. Waiting for a train with friends late at night can even be a really fun experience that you can share with the other groups of tipsy people that are on their way somewhere. You might even meet someone new and special. To me, this is what city life should be, rather than the isolation of swiping on your phone in your ride-share.


I won't say I never take cabs/Uber/Lyft. But, on business travel, I'm constantly struck by the number of people who, confronted with going somewhere more than a few blocks away, their automatic reflex is to pull out their phone.


Your post is run through with faulty assumptions. You're assuming public transit would remain in its current under funded and under performing state in a world where we ban cars and can, thus, stop paying to maintain car infrastructure. In a world where everyone relies on public transit, there's that much more incentive to ensure it remains high functioning.


I don't think making the entire island of Manhattan car free is on the table, but there are certainly sections of Manhattan that could be made so that at this point are already de facto off limits to cars, like the narrow lanes of Lower Manhattan.


> raining

IMHO I think with all the money we save on road maintenance, cities would start should look at ways to improve sidewalks. One interesting improvement might be some way to cover them like is done in parts of Seattle or Las Vegas.


(Electric-)bicycles are usually the quickest way to get around in a city.


Light rail, cabs, buses et cetera


I dont. cars are freedom, especially in the wide spaces of the United States. Sure its crappy commuting for 1-2 hours in traffic in the city but thats because you guys all work in one place and live in another. Public transportation can be shut down but a jeep can go anywhere.


Pretty much this. Limiting cars in metro areas can make sense but it makes zero sense in the rest of the country. If it does happen it will turn into another contentious rural vs urban subject similar to gun rights.


In Moscow I've seen people use their off-road vehicles to do just that - drive next to the road so as to not be in traffic. I've been told it's illegal, but they still do it.


> Cities existed before without cars

Nope, their cars were called "horses and carts" (or donkeys, oxen, llamas, camels, etc.). And they were used not because people were idiots, but because walking and carrying stuff on your back has limits, and those limits have been reached by the economy thousands of years ago. And if you think modern cars are dirty, think about what comes out of a horse and where it goes when the horse feels like it. And how much would it cost to own one and maintain it in a working order. Of course, back then most people that weren't rich wouldn't hop the city back and forth because something interesting is happening on the other side, and would buy everything they need at local store or make it themselves. I'm sure homemade wooden shoes are almost as good as Nike. We just have to drop our living standards to medieval times, and we'd be fine with horses and donkeys. Or we can go further back and get rid of them too. Clean pre-industrial living like people lived 10 thousand years ago. I'm sure it was excellent then.


The problem is that this anti-car sentiment only works in dense urban areas. Many millions of Americans are a 20+ minute drive from work with absolutely zero options for public transportation.

> Cities existed without cars

Yeah, and if you ever had to leave the city, it was a multi-day dangerous journey by horse-back to get anywhere.

Again, there is an argument to reduce cars in big, dense cities. But making driving cost $1/mile would cause irreprable harm to the lower-middle and lower class who have to drive many miles to thier minimum wage job.


> Yeah, and if you ever had to leave the city, it was a multi-day dangerous journey by horse-back to get anywhere.

Not so much. There used to be inter-city rail that people used regularly.

This old railroad map (https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4121p.ct001917/?r=0.329,0.288,...) shows how dense and sprawling the railroad network was, even in 1900. Towns like Rhinelander, WI (and ones even smaller) that aren't even served by inter-city bus routes today had regular train service.


That is a different problem needing a different solution. The problem at hand is transit and congestion in cities.

Obviously the automobile is the problem and bikes and public transit is the solution, which we can see has happened here in Olso but also famously in Amsterdam and Copenhagen before it. There is no excuse and reason for having cars in city centers, after you build out good bike, bus, and train transit inside a city.


I am fully in the hate-cars bandwagon and I don't drive myself, but I have no objection to any sorts of park-n-ride style solutions. Cars are very time-efficient for long journies and they aren't terribly fuel-inefficient for those long journies considering how much infrastructure investment would be needed to establish good rail service, but within a city cars are silly.

I've always wanted to establish high tolls on entering dense urban areas, you can leave all the roads as-is but introduce a high tax on driving that last mile and supply free busing to compensate, some rich dudes will still drive everywhere but after a few years of high tolls you could probably ban cars outright with good public support.


If all limited access roads were toll roads that kept traffic stoppage to a minimum (trying for zero) by active pricing, the world would be such a better place in many ways. People could plan much better for how long a trip would take, people would have much shorter travel times, investors would have some idea of the revenue potential of roads so they could decide to build more of them.

The key would be to have the toll be quite low generally and make most of its money when there is high demand. In many countries the tolls are set to maximize revenue and this usually done by having a very high toll and almost empty roads. What would better for most people would be almost free roads (trucks always pay something as they are what wears out roads) and charge when the road is getting close to slowing down.

Also: Maybe it is a good idea to let your highly productive people (rich dudes) be able to get around cities quickly. They will be even more productive that way.


Annnnndddddddddddddddd, massive traffic jams and a single point of delay. Thank you njabore, that’s very cool!


Isn't there a chicken-and-egg problem especially in US cities? The typical low-density suburban sprawl in american urban areas was "fueled" by the car/oil and housing industry in a much larger scale then in other similar developed countries. This lifestyle was nothing less then the american dream - no? In the same time the economy and the urban centers are expanding and everything is built around the autombile lifestyle. So yes, today it wouldn't be possible to simply scratch the car out of the equation, simply because it's heart and center of the urban america. But without the onesided accent on individual motor car traffic, america would probably have a different landscape that made public transport much more cheaper and convenient.


The train network connected every city. It was incredibly dense.


Again, more than half of Americans do not live in a city. Being able to get from one city center to another solves none of the problems that having a car solves.


They connected every town too. You're being over literal. And have you never seen a Western movie?

Every tiny spot had a train station.


Agreed, even from the costs we can easily calculate it's obviously a massive drag on our economy, let alone the negative (in my opinion) effects on our culture. I think future generations will look on this America like we look at Easter Island now - a sort of inexplicable squandering of wealth and resources.


I think that if you do the same calculation to find the benefits (access to a greater variety of goods and services, access to a broader selection of employment, stable childhood environment due to not having to frequently move for work, etc.), the cost might not be as high. However, I have not seen any paper that attempted to account for this, so I cannot be sure.


You're right, there is this other side to the coin. I'm also not aware of research studying these high order effects. I wonder if you could apply the approach from the book Growing Artificial Societies, which is basically generative modeling of social organization, but I don't think that approach has a lot of academic support.


How do you think people in dense European cities do it? Hint, life is way better there.


Hatred... is a strong word. I agree the balance is completely out of whack, but hatred? Are there really no redeeming qualities?

Ps you've advocated taxing petrol, but EVs are now a thing. Pay per mile road pricing?


I don’t find many real redeeming qualities. Cars allow me to get stuff. That’s about it. I hate having one now. Even when I lived in the city I hated that they were still there.

I’ve spent some time in Belgium’s city center which has few to to cars, and small beach towns with few to no cars. It’s amazing. You spend a few days in an area with no cars and think to yourself, “Wow. Wow. It doesn’t have to be like that. What are we even doing?”

To me the car is just a phony sense of freedom and control. It drives the modern economic engine. But at great cost.


> You spend a few days in an area with no cars and think to yourself, “Wow. Wow. It doesn’t have to be like that. What are we even doing?

This! They closed down large parts of my city during a big week-long bike event last year, including the street where I have my office. The difference was astonishing, like night and day. You could easily talk while strolling down the street. With all the road noise gone you suddenly noticed bird chatter, etc, etc. More people used the public benches on the side walks (what's the point of relaxing on a bench with noisy cars blasting past you).

Local politicians are now running a pilot project to make one city district car free, which is fantastic.


Conversely, I come from a country where many people don't have cars, and public transportation is a necessity for many people. In large cities, even if you have a car, it's often easier to take public transport. I grew up with that system, and lived with in for 20 years.

Then I got a chance to try the North American urban sprawl living with a car. And I find myself much happier - for me, that sense of freedom and control proved to not be phony after many years now.

Tastes differ.


"It drives the modern economic engine"

Yeah kind of what I was thinking. I suppose if you could reliably separate car a business tool from car as personal transport. I fear you'd just get everyone setting up as 'builders' and 'delivery drivers' though.

I also think that outside of dense city centres you'd run into competition and economy of scale issues. If you're only now within range of one shop for x, prices are likely to increase in short order. And that shop will have less shoppers.


>If you're only now within range of one shop for x, prices are likely to increase in short order. And that shop will have less shoppers.

This is one issue that the (usually upper middle class or better) car-free advocates completely ignore that really ticks me off. I don't want people who don't have much money to have to choose between spending that money somewhere local but overpriced and taking a bus across town to go somewhere that actually gives them a good value.

I grew up somewhere that is almost an island and when there's little competition (everyone has to choose between the same few local options) all the businesses turn into rent-seeking scumbags. I remember when we used to leave that dump to visit relatives we'd always do our shopping on the way back because the non-local supermarkets were cheaper. When I go visit my parents I still ask if they want me to bring anything from Walmart.


Truth, food deserts will grow without the car. To see what it is like, go visit your local ghetto and rural area.


Pay per entrance would be a more stable option.

most of the traffic near city centers are not residents but commuters and shoppers. the goal is not to decrease the number of miles driven but to decrease the number of cars in a zone.


Agreed that pay per entrance is easier to do and works well for creating the right incentives around modeshare, but VMT taxes probably have their place too as a means of funding road infrastructure (which gas taxes ostensibly do now, but poorly, and not in a way that accounts for EVs well). More precisely, you'd probably want to tax vehicle miles traveled per unit of vehicle weight, to charge more to trucks (which cause increased road wear, and pay more under current schemes due to increased fuel consumption).


Manhattan is also perfect for this. You can walk anywhere and it's great exercise and if you need to get anywhere far, the subway is usually 2 or 3 blocks away at most. I could never figure out how so many taxis could exist in such a walkable environment until my coworker took a taxi to go 3 blocks. People love to be lazy, especially when the company is footing the bill. I still don't get why we don't have a light rail system to complement the subway system.


I can see the appeal of congestion fees now that seamless tolls are so easy to collect (using RFID, License Plate Readers, etc).

But apart from that, just needlessly taxing gasoline everywhere seems silly when you're trying to just reduce congestion in cities.


Would people who are advocates of a “pay for what you use” system be fine with being taxed by miles driven? Have a yearly inspection of your car for both safety concerns as a variety of states do, and also record the odometer at that point. Tax miles driven, and also multiply that a lot for vehicles that directly contribute to more maintenance on the roads, like semi trucks.

It will increase costs for shipping by truck, but would it also better reflect the true costs of what it costs to ship by truck, drive on highways, etc?


Add in realistic parking costs. IMHO if we abolished free parking and completely moved vehicle taxes over to fuel taxes, the system would be more fair.


Singapore is deploying a system of this kind, with dynamic pricing based on congestion https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/ncs-mhi-to-...


Again, as a fellow armchair policymaker, it feels like his would penalize people that earn less.

In most areas, if you want a more affordable house, you go further out. So now it'd get prohibitively expensive to drive to work.


Believe it or not, it is possible to build more homes near employment centers. We don't do it precisely because homeowners bitch and moan about, you guessed it, traffic and parking. So once again cars are the problem.


Homeowners bitch and moan about a whole lot more than just traffic when it comes to building more housing. Cars are a problem, but they are far from the problem.


If anything taxing gasoline favors city trips, vs highway trips.


How's that? Vehicles use more fuel beer unit distance in city trips than highway trips.


Sure, but the neighboring city might be eighty miles away while a drive across town might be five miles.


Not to reduce congestion. To reduce car usage so that they are only used in emergencies or situations where walking is not possible.


as a multimodal traveler, i generally agree with most of the changes that oslo implemented, but let's not make cars villians. fast personal, point-to-point, at-hand, energy-dense transporation is great! and so is having grass and trees with kids and dogs playing. but there's no need to pit them against each other.

so besides leaving some low capacity, slow roads above ground, let's put a few high capacity, fast roads underground (we could call them lowways!) along with a bunch of underground parking. sure, it's expensive but in a wealthy high density area like market street, we can afford it. and yes, price in the externalities and use the money to build/maintain. best of all worlds! (better solutions probably exist, so let's find 'em)

ps - dockless electric bikes in SF totally beat driving, ride hailing, or public transit for me.


> but let's not make cars villians.

"Over half of all vehicle trips are between 1 and 10 miles." [1]

~35,000 people die on American roads each year. [2]

Let's call a spade a spade. Cars are the villains. The over-reliance on your fast, personal, point-to-point convenience is killing too many people.

[1] https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/pubs/pl08021/fig4...

[2] https://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx


In the US, cars comprise 90% of land-based passenger miles traveled. [1] In Europe, it's 80-90% in most countries. [2] So if we in the US are "over-reliant" on cars, Europe is not far behind.

Considering that cars are the preferred method of transport for the vast majority of people, you could just as well say that "people who want to leave the house are the villains."

What really bothers me about the Urbanist attitude is that it seems to be based on shaming people for the ways they choose to live and comparing it with a mythical urban car-free utopia that doesn't exist.

I like transit and use it frequently but I detest the shaming and condescension.

[1] https://nhts.ornl.gov/person-miles

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/images/f/...


US pedestrian deaths are at a 25 year high. Be ashamed.

Or don't take the car for short journeys. Be part of a positive change.

Or don't take a job that requires long commutes. People want to live in location A and want a better job in location B and accept the fact they increase the risk of death in others, directly and through pollution, as a reasonable trade-off for their comfort.

I don't drive (34, Sacramento). Most people don't need to drive.

https://smartgrowthamerica.org/dangerous-by-design/


> US pedestrian deaths are at a 25 year high.

So is the population.

> Most people don't need to drive.

This is a depressingly provincial attitude. Public transit is not available within ten miles of a majority of the US population. Widen your perspective.


no, poor decision making is what kills people. cars are incidental to that (plenty of other machinery are involved in deaths as well).

if you want to reduce vehicle deaths (which have already been steadily declining) make getting a license much harder (e.g., demonstrate true defensive driving skills like both braking and accelerating out of trouble) and develop & enforce better safety laws (i.e., not some proxy like speed, but actually reduce behavior likely to cause death).

besides, we've long collectively accepted the tradeoff that we want fast personal transport more than a perfectly safe transportation environment. life is full of risks, and some risks will always be out of your control no matter what you do. hundreds of people die per year from bathtubs. are we over-reliant on those too?


> no, poor decision making is what kills people.

It's both. It's way harder to kill yourself or someone else if you and everyone around you is biking, and if they're just walking it's close to impossible.

Driving generates danger. Period. Sometimes that danger is worth it, but let's not pretend that it's not currently vastly more dangerous for others than other forms of transportation.


> fast personal, point-to-point, at-hand, energy-dense transporation is great! and so is having grass and trees with kids and dogs playing. but there's no need to pit them against each other.

Of course. The problem is externalities. If the people enjoying their energy-dense personal transportation aren't incurring the full costs of that transportation, then 1) there will be probably way more of it than there would be in a market with costs internalized and 2) the people who don't use it have a good reason to be upset.


> and so is having grass and trees with kids and dogs playing. but there's no need to pit them against each other.

If urban cores were allowed to be built high and dense, to accommodate all those people who prefer to live in dense urban areas, then the grass and trees and backyards of the suburbs would also fit closer to the urban core. Shorter distances even from the suburbs to the core.


Reading your opinion (and not passing any judgment on it), I recalled this excellent sketch on BBC's Big Train comedy show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UjOJy_54DM


I don’t know if research exists for this, but I wonder how much of the influence of people moving from rural or suburban areas in the USA to urban areas in the USA contributes to additional cars in US cities.

I grew up in a suburban area, and even though I live in a dense city now, having a car still seems mandatory to me somewhere deep in my brain, even though I know I could now get by with the occasional zipcar.

Suburban areas typically require a car since public transportation is nonexistent, and growing up in an environment for 20 years sure can condition someone’s preferences.

I wonder how many people truly like driving? And where’s the line lie between “I am willing to drive” and “I am willing to not drive” ?


It’s a huge factor contributing to income inequality as well. In a car free city you’d have to have affordable housing because otherwise you’d have no service people, since they wouldn’t be able to commute.


Ironically, drives to eliminate cars typically disproportionately negatively impact poor people. Wealthy people value their time over money, and so tend to retain their cars even when faced with higher costs. Poorer people will give up their cars to save money in exchange for spending hundreds of additional hours per year walking and commuting on public transit. In an ideal world, yes, they'd move closer to their jobs. In the real world, they'll commute, have to make multiple transfers between different modes of transportation, and lose precious hours from their days. This is particularly of a great impact to lower-income folks since they can't claim back those hours by hiring out things like cooking, cleaning, and maintenance. Affordable, efficient point-to-point transportation is of great benefit to this class.


This is the reason why a cultural transformation is needed, cars are a local maxima for mass transportation, but there are much better and viable options


I'm not sure that the drive should necessary be away from cars. With the advent of driverless cars, there is a new option: shared cars. They provide the time-savings of point-to-point transit for the already time-strapped lower class, can (optionally) enable ride sharing for cost and congestion reduction, use the existing infrastructure, and with sufficient percentage of self-driven cars should provide throughput similar to busses ... all while eliminating the need for parking in city centers. They are the best of everything.


No, try more like Tokyo. It’s great.


Can you give a few examples?


Lol yeah, incredibly unfortunate you have much more access to fast and often luxurious personalized transit than anytime in history.

Also you really want gas to be a dollar a mile and make all of your things expensive? This whole comment is ridiculous to me.


Yeah, I think it is unfortunate. I think it’s unfortunate how it’s shaped our lives. I don’t want fast and luxurious personalized travel. I want to be able to walk somewhere nearby and enjoy it.


Cities existed before cars, and had horses crapping all over the place.


Dunno about you, but I've never seen electric bicycle poop.


A world with only bicycles sounds like just another variation of hell, not an improvement.


I came here to say that largely excluding cars from city centers, along with a lot of other walkability/pro-socialization/human-scale-architecture changes is probably critical to reviving vibrant cities as they used to exist. Probably even better because there wouldn't be the problem of all the horse-poop. I genuinely think that this is the key to a new golden age of cities.

So, on largely removing cars from cities, I'm with you.

But seeing this top post about totally banning cars is absurd, even at the $1/mile proposal, and I'm all for radical steps to reduce climate change. You may have a zero mile telecommute, but most people have to move to where they work. Outside of the cities, a bike isn't even practical. I have a 25mi commute to my office, my spouse 35mi in the opposite direction. I even looked into a motorcycle for it's better mileage and smaller carbon footprint, but rejected it for too dangerous (& I've won championships in DH ski racing and sportscar racing). And I'm not even that rural -- others have longer daily commutes.

Unless you've got another system that can transport this scale of people to this scale of locations, your proposal just sounds like an out-of-touch elitest. The key point here is both the last mile problem, and the centralized maintenance problem. Look at the massive commuter transport systems of Boston and NY areas. They are a rolling disaster, almost terminally unreliable, and yet most of the riders still need cars to get to the train station. The build-out to get everyone withing a mile walk of a train station would be insane, even if eminent domain weren't an issue.


>I want this so bad. My hatred for the automobile grows every day.

>We are slaves to the automobile in so many ways.

>Sucks that I had to live in the time period with them.

Focusing your hatred on inanimate man-made objects does not address the root of the problem (and is probably not healthy). You wouldn't blame crowbars for break-ins (I mean you might, but I hope you don't).

The way forward is to develop superior alternatives (in the same way that the car succeeded the horse) not to increase cost. Increasing cost is zero sum at best. Developing better solutions is a net gain. Also, there's only so much pedestrianization you can do. Unless you turn LA (for example) into Manhatten density wise it is always going to be fundamentally pedestrian unfriendly because most of it was designed around cars. Cities that were designed when people walked everywhere and goods were transported in animal drawn carts are going to be more walk-able. Some amount of individual and private (they are different things) transit will always be necessary (assuming quality of life is to stay the same or increase).


English is not my mother tongue, but I think you are focusing too much on words:

My hatred for the automobile grows every day -> My hatred for how pervasive automobile are in cities and for how they damage city planning grows every day.

There, now GP hates a trend in society.

For the second part: this is essentially choosing how free you want markets to be (and how much of society you want to be a market).

In my opinion better alternatives would be more walkable cities and better public transports, which are helped by zone-based auto ban.

Regarding raising the price of gasoline I agree that it would be a terrible choice, it would impact the least the cities and the most industrial transports and rural areas (the only sectors were car/trucks are truly needed)


Just for clarification here is a nice ted talk about cities and walkability

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cL5Nud8d7w


I think I appreciate what you're saying but I don't think the analogy works exactly. How much crowbar marketing do you see in a day?


Crowbars don't need marketing if it's the go-to tool for break ins. The analogy works because it would be like charging $8k for crowbars or having a crowbar property tax that is insanely expensive per year as a way to combat break ins. That doesn't work because people will find a way to break in without crowbars. People will find ways to buy gas at far less than a $1 a mile if you simply raised gas prices (i.e buy teslas). While a tesla would solve the (well let's say offset) the pollution problem, it would do nothing for the space, traffic, noise, safety, etc..


wait, that is not the point...

crowbars have legitimate uses (the fact that they look like they are designed to feel scary and dangerous does not change that). Should there exist special crowbar licences?

> People will find ways to buy gas at far less than a $1 a mile if you simply raised gas prices (i.e buy teslas)

gilets jaunes disagree https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_vests_movement


I am agreeing with you, lol - it's an analogy that simply raising gas prices to fix the problem is like simply raising the price or taxing the crowbar to solve break-ins - it does not work.

Yes I definitely think the yellow vests would similarly be upset as well - again it's not solving the issue.


I could get on board with $1/mile. I bet it would really ease up congestion on the roads and my commute would be more pleasant.


Ah yes, only the rich should be able to drive!


This is actually not such a bad idea. If only the rich can drive then only the rich can commute. The city itself then becomes a haven for the middle class.


> If only the rich can drive then only the rich can commute. The city itself then becomes a haven for the middle class.

Real life shows us the opposite. The more expensive it gets to drive, the more the working class has to live farther away from the city.

Effectively, every dollar you take from people via commuting penalties, comes out of their housing budget. And since urban housing only ever gets more expensive, working class people just get pushed further and further away.


Ever lived any where that's not a major city in the US?

It is common here in Michigan to drive 20 miles to work.


I live in a mid-sized city in Michigan (Grand Rapids). Housing in the inner city is relatively expensive (3x+ the cost of the housing 20 miles out). Congestion is not really a thing ... maybe for 1/2 an hour right at 5PM and for 1/2 an hour in the morning. Parking is solved by having cheap lots at the fringes of the city center and providing a shuttle in (parking in the city center is only for higher income folks). Affordable point-to-point transit enables lower income folks to have nice houses and work jobs in the city, all while still having enough time left over for cooking & hanging out with family.

For instance, a nice 3br 1500 sqft house can be had outside of the city for under 100k (which works out to < $1k/month for principal, tax, insurance). A nice 3br 1500 sqft condo rents in the city for nearly 3k/month.


Yeah, my point to that guy was that getting rid of cars was ridiculous because so many people have to travel a long way for lots of things in places that sprawl.

I've also lived in GR for around 4 years. I think there is no congestion there because the city is still quite small. Downtown is a very small area and the population is tiny compared to the sprawl.


> Affordable point-to-point transit enables lower income folks to have nice houses and work jobs in the city, all while still having enough time left over for cooking & hanging out with family.

And you do that on the backs of those who live in denser communities.


How so? Seems like they should be able to move to a smaller city and live in an area that doesn't have capacity roadway capacity problems as well...


That's irrelevant in a discussion about banning cars from inner cities.


re: driving a long ways in Michigan - absolutely! I’ve lived in many states where I drove plenty to get to work or school.

Why have suburban areas, and cities in some places, been built with this kind of sprawl? Partially because there was no significant downside not to spread out.

I’m curious if people actively enjoy driving 20 to 30 minutes, and what kind of policy or other changes or incentives could be introduced (governmental or otherwise) to encourage people to bunch together more so driving would be much less necessary in places like you mention in Michigan.


How many people actually manage sub-20 minute commutes using any method? Short of finding an apartment a couple blocks from where you work, that's tough. And then if you move jobs, you have to move apartments too, which is a pretty big hassle.


To be clear, you believe that in this hypothetical only the rich would be able to afford to drive but the jobs and their employees would remain 20 miles from each other.


Average across the US is 16 miles, so it would essentially be asking people to pay an extra $700/month or so. Kinda like an instant 25% pay cut. Definitely would suck, but I bet a lot of people would make it work, and it would reduce congestion pretty dramatically.

It would also be political suicide, but this whole subtopic is a theoretical discussion anyway.


That's already the system in place, at least in the U.S.. Being properly insured isn't cheap. That you then have additional cost because 50% of the driving population isn't properly insured is an extra sting.

This is exacerbated by health care costs; state minimums coverages haven't followed increased costs; realistically, if more than 2 people get injured in any given automobile accident, 50% of drivers face bankruptcy.


Roads are finite so you need some way to ration them.

I suppose you could say current rationing is first come, first serve? That seems to lead to congestion so it seems to me we could do better.

You're right, I'm not sure a regressive tax is the best way. Is it worse than the current system though? What would be a better system?


That is the net effect, yes. Although honestly, $1/mile isn't that unfeasible for many people. Many people pay close to that already, so it wouldn't be like making 10x as expensive or something.


Must be nice living in that SV bubble.

How about we make it income-tested, and charge everyone who supports that idea, say, $10/mile and up? Even if you want to go on a road trip in a rental. Or get your kid to a hospital. At least that would be fair to people who actually work for a living, need to get places, and can't afford to live near transit because it has all been bid up through the stratosphere by techbros who can afford hiring ubers, muncheries, wags to do all the tedious jobs for them while they nonchalantly drive their electric scooters through what once used to be livable cities populated by different groups of people and complain about those uncouth nasty people who dared to drive their rusty beaters 50 miles to clean and cook and do all that menial work them for polluting "their" air.


SV meaning Silicon Valley? Unless that bubble is a couple thousand miles across, then no, I'm not living in that bubble.

In your hypothetical world, I would support splitting everyone by ideology so that the people willing to pay for nice things go to one city and the people who want to mooch go to the other. Let them each go their own way. We'd all be happier.


Doesn't really matter all that much if it is SV proper, or Silicon Alley, or Silicon Prairie, or any of the other areas where well-paid tech workers can afford to live without cars, look down on those who can't, and propose what comes across as an extremely blatant "I got mine, so screw you".


Agreed. LA took any love I had for cars out of me. Now I just want to live somewhere quiet where I can walk to places.


do what I do: live in a walkable part of LA. I live in weho and left my car at my parent's house.


There is still the getting to work problem especially if your partner works in a different area.


One of Madison Wi main streets is no-car and it's amazing, a great boon to the cities business in that area.


'I wish the cost of gasoline was high enough .... Like really high.'

My dad asked recently: 'I don't know how most people can afford to run cars?'

I said: 'I'll let you into a secret, they can't.'

You'll be surprised how high that cost has to be in order to force a lot of people out of their cars.


Portland, OR is halfway there already via mis-management. Nearly every parking space in the downtown core is a construction zone, 7am-7pm delivery zone, 15m quickstop, carshare, taxi zone, police/govmint only, etc. (see also: condo bunkers w/ no parking garages b/c everyone who moves to Portland will ride a bike, right?)

We have a pilot program for scooter share, multiple car-share options, lots of bike-share stations, light rail stations, even a flippin trolly! So they could easily start with a tight area around Pioneer Square and make it ped/scoot/bike-only then expand it out little by little as the businesses discover it's actually a good thing.

But instead we have "vision zero" which is a pretty good description for our city leadership.


"Cities existed before without cars"

Without engine powered vehicles yes, though man power and horse powered (with the loads of poop that come from the animals) were there though.. (unrelated note, personally, imho, i dislike horses more then cars)


> Without engine powered vehicles yes, though man power and horse powered (with the loads of poop that come from the animals) were there though

That’s not true. The electrical subway predates the personal car by a couple decades. Paris, France, and its suburb had 108 (electric) tramway lines in 1900. Autobuses were all over the place when the first “modern” cars first appeared in the city.


Spoken like someone who has the funds to live in some of the most expensive areas of the US, pick and choose their employer, doesn't mind spending money on quick, convenient transportations like Uber or Lyft and can afford to shop a high-end grocery stores.

For the average person in the US, who can't live in large cities due to cost, is lucky to have the job that is 25 miles away from home, and has to shop at the Walmart (10 miles in the other direction from home) cars provide a ton of value - in fact, they probably couldn't do without them.


Your post amounts to: "In an environment designed around cars, people have to drive!"

I mean, yeah. There's a reason people in, say, Germany do not really have this problem, and it's because cities and towns there aren't built around the assumption that everyone must have a car.


Last time I was in Europe there were a shit ton of cars too. Sure, maybe the number of car-less people is higher, but it’s far from the car-less Utopia the OP was imagining.


My parents are shocked I don't own a car. I have to remind them that when they bought their first car everything was cheap (cars, insurance, gas), parking was plentiful, and there wasn't much congestion. They still don't get it.

Also compare the cars made in the 1950s and 60s to today. The Citreon, the Mini, the VW Beattle, Fiat. They were lucky to get 50hp and up to highway speed. Todays cars are like personal jets. Everyone is rolling around in their own personal jet.


Most of Valencia! why are there cars anywhere except crossing valencia from 25th - 16th st? It seems like a natural location for a pedestrian mall with shops and natural area


A step in that direction is to block off the city streets during business hours, turning them into walking malls. I've seen some european cities to this. It works well.

It's not perfect, though. Some of these will let government vehicles on them, and they do often enough to make it a nuisance, like those annoying electric carts in the airport.


Small enough pedestrian zones and improved public transit are something cities (especially US cities), the hatred and proposals are exactly what you'd expect to hear from an overpaid young professional with no responsibilities, commute by an electric scooter, food catered at the office and delivered to home by some Munchery. Sure! You might be paid well enough that you won't notice that everything becomes more expensive, and if someone who actually works for a living goes broke because in the real world (as opposed to one where pink unicorns pull wonder-busses from any point A to any point B) they now have to pay $100 a day just to get to work and back home. Let them eat cake?

And sure, yes, cities existed before cars. And people lived in caves with no running water, too. Or, maybe more pertinently, people lived just fine (oftentimes better) without a good chunk of "disruption" and "innovation" that comes out of SF/SV. Should we ban them as well? Or maybe tax every Twitter and AirBnB... say a Billion a year to partially cover all the negative externalities?

Actually, the last one might be a good idea. /s


I live in Texas. My family lives 300 miles away, in Texas, and my last grandparent lives a further 200 miles in the same direction (also in Texas).

The two lane highways I take are the only way I would be able to see my family. Passenger trains and airplanes don't go to those places. A bus could get me there, after taking a grand tour of some of the other metro areas in the state.

For those of us out here, traveling the two lane blacktop in a gas powered vehicle is the only way we can live or survive.


But this is ignoring the fact that the only reason that population structure exists is because of auto dependence. Train lines worked before, they would work again, if people lived more reasonably close to each other so last mile wasn't such an issue.


This sums up most of the issues raised in this thread. Its not expected that everyone walk 40km to the shopping centre. Its expected that you don't go to a shopping centre that's 40km away and instead live close to what is important and shop locally.


And how do you propose to relocate all of these people to live in that urban paradise of yours, where they walk to anything and everything? Are you even going to ask them if they want to? Not everybody wants to live in a big city and values the same conveniences as you do.


In the same way you relocated them out of cities when cars became common. Slowly and over an extended period of time.


It's a non-answer, and in any case these people never were relocated "out of" cities. They never lived there, and don't want to.


Not hardly, loads of these small rural communities predate automobiles and didn't have a train stop. These communities sprang up to support local farming and ranching in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Maybe if the big cities didn't rely so heavily on things made on farms and ranches, like cotton, grains, and livestock, less people would be inclined to live out there.

Knowing those types, they love the rural life and wouldn't want to live in the big city, with all its big city problems.


I assume you don’t have children?


People in the Netherlands for example manage just fine with cargo bikes and public transport.


Holland is flat and the winters are mild. Try getting a cargo bike up a 200 climb in minus temperatures. It is not something I do every day.


Electric bikes are getting more and more popular here in Norway (and we got hills and cold weather). Studded tires and an electric motor doing most of the work helps.


I know no one commuting on an electric bike...


I commute to work on an ebike when its too hot to use a regular bike. They are truely amazing. Riding an ebike was what got me started on riding to work.


a LOT of people in eg. Amsterdam use them daily. And I see more and more of those every morning and afternoon when I cycle to/from work.


I know a couple who do in Oslo, and I’ve seen others.


Holland has a lot of wind though, that can be very annoying as well. (And somehow it will change direction during the day so it will always be against you..)


e-bikes are massively solving the "last hill" problem with bikes.


I wasn’t responding to a comment about the Netherlands.


Hello fellow SF resident. Sounds like you have much experience walking our fair streets.

Do you enjoy the strolls across our fecal matter smeared pavement, littered with heroine needles and adorned by snoozing outdoor denizens, who have been known to physically assault pedestrians from time to time?


Your argument is disingenuous. Homelessness is a different issue and should be dealt with separately.


I never argued that they should be resolved together and there's nothing disingenuous about it. Health and safety are genuine concerns for pedestrians and my point was to illustrate that they are obstacles besides cars to a city's walkability.


Don’t have those problems where I live. Those are mostly isolated SOMA/Mission/Haight problems.


You live in a city, San Francisco is safe compared to most cities.


The externalized costs of automobiles almost certainly are not a dollar a mile. The estimate is $3.80 per gallon: https://cleantechnica.com/2015/03/08/true-cost-emissions-fac.... For a typical small SUV getting 30 mpg these days, it's $0.13 per mile.


That's the cost of the emissions. What about the inefficient use of road space that comes from having highways full of single-occupant vehicles at rush hour, the larger roads required by said inefficiencies per given unit throughput as compared to buses or rail, and the opportunity costs of the land for the bigger roads or the money to build them?


What's the current cost of sucking a gallon of gasoline's worth of CO2 out of the atmosphere?


Couple of bucks. A gallon of gas emits 20-lbs of CO2, or ~1% of a tonne. Cost to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is roughly a few hundred $/tonne to about 70$/tonne depending on who's doing the estimating.


While I think it's easy to get on board mentally picturing a landscape without cars in most cities - what are we saying, that only young people that can walk or ride bikes are allowed?

Would this future of yours have any consideration for the accessibility challenged or elderly people?


I think accessible public transit (as in, floor flush with the sidewalk), especially trams, and personal electric vehicles like scooters or wheelchairs, have solved that issue in Europe.


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