Making the United States "anti-car"
Visit Amsterdam, which feels like the bicycle capital of the world, and you'll see everyone on bikes, from chic ladies on their way to coffeehouses (a longstanding tradition in this European city) to office workers. The city offers dedicated bicycle paths, ample bike parking and lots more options to encourage people to cycle and it create active disincentives for driving. It's a decision born of practical and environmental concerns: Amsterdam is a small, easily crowded city, where cars could become a serious hazard and frustration if they multiplied on the streets, and its residents are very eco-conscious.
It's not the only city that's effectively taken an aggressive anti-car stance; London, for example, charges a high toll for entering the heart of the city in a car, encouraging drivers to think twice about making the trip. Around the world, cities are making themselves car-unfriendly to get people out from behind the wheel and into more ecologically-friendly forms of transit, like bicycle saddles, train seats, bus benches and good old fashioned shoes. The United States, however, seems to be struggling with this; in a nation where the car is practically a national icon, few cities want to make the first move when it comes to getting drivers off the road, and Emily Badger at The Atlantic suggests this is because we are too afraid.
The situation is a complicated one, though, as she herself acknowledges. On the one hand, disincentivizing driving is an excellent way to get people to stop doing it. Fuel is much more expensive globally than in the United States, for example, and pushing fuel costs up to a more natural level could be effective, as could increasing taxes to turn them into a realistic reflection of the costs of road maintenance. Eliminating parking spaces, increasing parking fees and tolls and replacing parts of the road with walkways and bike paths are more options, limiting the space available for cars. There’s also the carrot approach; employers can pay employees for not using parking and provide other rewards for using alternate transit to get to work, for instance.
All these approaches might seem sound on the surface, but there are several problems with them. The first is that they don't acknowledge the fundamental infrastructure problems that can make it difficult for people to switch to public transit. In centralized, logically built cities, the choice can be obvious: drive a car, or take excellent public transit.
Read more at ENN affiliate Care2.
Bicycle delivery image via Shutterstock.