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How we can move to a “car-lite” city

Fancy shooting off to a meeting on an electric scooter powered by a publicly available solar charger? It’s already do-able in Singapore, and could be part of the recipe for “car-lite” cities of the future, according to new research from the Urban Land Institute and Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities.

Released as an ebook this week, Creating Liveable Cities through ‘Car-Lite’ Urban Mobility is the outcome of a major research project bringing together experts and case studies from Europe, the US and Asia to examine the ways in which private car ownership can die a natural death by attrition and cities can become more sustainable and liveable.

A range of mobility options aside from private car ownership have been analysed by the researchers, including walking, personal mobility devices such as electric scooters, cycling, shared cars, autonomous vehicles and public transport.

One of the key messages of the research is that the shift to car-lite requires an integrated approach that embraces urban planning, proper pricing of car parking and transport planning that is not focused only on peak demand and the needs of cars, but also ensures the “first and last mile” for people is factored into public transport planning.

“The journey towards car-lite is both important and urgent. Good local planning can contribute significantly towards promoting ‘car-lite’ cities,” chairman for CLC and global trustee of ULI Dr Liu Thai Ker said.

“This book attempts to present preliminary findings of case studies on the shift from a car-heavy to ‘car-lite’ urban environment. The study was also enriched by insights from many international mayors and experts.

“We hope the book prompts planners, architects, developers, and policy makers to share and exchange information and best practices in our common pursuit of a new order of urban mobility.”

Incorporated into the ebook are the main points raised at two multi-stakeholder workshops hosted by ULI and CLC. The second workshop was led by former Washington and Chicago transport chief Gabe Klein, who said the transport puzzle could take some lessons from the tech start-up sector.

Cities should be “open to innovations and experiments”, he said, and conduct pilots that are “low-risk” and “high-reward”, with these pilots serving as useful tools to help secure buy-ins and drive further changes.

Road closure events stretching over a longer period of time would also encourage people to re-organise their daily lives to complement the car-free lifestyle, Mr Klein said.

The book outlines 10 key ideas that can help cities make the transition.

They include putting an end to “cheap and easy” car parking both at workplaces and in residential areas; changing street design to make multi-modal models that are pedestrian and cyclist friendly the new normal; and changing mind-sets to make “car-lite” mobility cool.

“You have to start to market the savings to people, like you are with the big billboards for transit,” Mr Klein said.

“When I started at [Washington] DC, I had a car and driver but I rode my bike everywhere. Seven years later, a lot of Commissioners bike or walk, and are embarrassed to drive.

“Car ownership should be like shark fin soup – you can create a different culture where people feel stupid and embarrassed buying a car.”

Comments

2 Responses to “How we can move to a “car-lite” city”

  • Raven James says:

    I think that you have overlooked that due to physical difficulties not everyone can ride a bike. To “create a culture where people feel stupid and embarrassed buying a car” is insulting to 45% of the population with disabilities.

    Infrastructures should be such that people can access reliable and accessible train services.

    • Willow Aliento says:

      G’Day Raven,

      It is true that many people will not find cycling the answer, which is why the research suggested a mix of options. In my community, for example, there are a substantial number of people that use gophers [the four wheeled electric scooters] due to disability and the town’s pathways have been designed to make all key points accessible to gopher users, who can use the footpath or road, whichever they prefer.

      For many of these people a train would be problematic however, and perhaps the future answer lies somewhere with shared gophers that connect to hubs for the type of EV pod vehicles that are being trialled in the UK.

      More generally, so much needs to be done to make our cities accessible and inclusive for everyone, transport is one of those things, others include wayfinding, building design, open space design and recreational facility design.

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