Transportation experts have repeatedly found that building new roads inevitably encourages more people to drive, which in turn negates any congestion savings—a phenomenon known as “induced demand.”

The German city of Hamburg has announced plans to become car-free within the next two decades. It is an ambitious idea, but city officials obviously feel that the personal motorcar does not fulfill a function that walking, biking and taking public transport cannot.

The goal of Hamburg’s project is to replace roads with a “gruenes netz” or a green network of interconnected open areas covering 40% of the city. According to the official website, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, allotments and cemeteries will be connected to form a network, which will allow people to navigate through the city without the use of cars.

I will underline certain characteristics of Japanese zoning that makes it different from North American practices and that I find particularly interesting.

In the current Journal of Transport and Health, Garrick and Marshall report that cities with more compact street networks—specifically, increased intersection density—have lower levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The more intersections, the healthier the humans.

“It might not be common for people to explicitly contemplate health when selecting a place to live,” Garrick and Marshall write, “but this research indicates it is worth considering.”

In many cities the paths are completely segregated from motorised traffic. Sometimes, where space is scant and both must share, you can see signs showing an image of a cyclist with a car behind accompanied by the words 'Bike Street: Cars are guests'.

If the car is to prevail, there's still one solution: get rid of the cities. That is, string them out for hundreds of miles along enormous roads, making them into highway suburbs. That's what's been done in the United States. Ivan Illich sums up the effect in these startling figures: "The typical American devotes more than 1500 hours a year (which is 30 hours a week, or 4 hours a day, including Sundays) to his [or her] car. This includes the time spent behind the wheel, both in motion and stopped, the hours of work to pay for it and to pay for gas, tires, tolls, insurance, tickets, and taxes .Thus it takes this American 1500 hours to go 6000 miles (in the course of a year). Three and a half miles take him (or her) one hour. In countries that do not have a transportation industry, people travel at exactly this speed on foot, with the added advantage that they can go wherever they want and aren't restricted to asphalt roads."

The velomobile -- a recumbent tricycle with aerodynamic bodywork -- offers a more interesting alternative to the bicycle for longer trips. The bodywork protects the driver (and luggage) from the weather, while the comfortable recumbent seat eases the strain on the body, making it possible to take longer trips without discomfort. Furthermore, a velomobile (even without electric assistance) is much faster than an electric bicycle.

Essentially, during both the morning commute and the drive back home from work in the evening, Northenden becomes a traffic bottleneck, with hundreds of cars either trying to get onto the motorway, or out into Didsbury. I have to pick up and drop my child off at nursery in Didsbury a couple of times a week, and quite honestly, the drive is like hell on Earth at the worst of times. At least, this is my reasoning for the ugly traffic. In fact, I've contemplated numerous times exactly what causes the pileups in Northenden, sometimes wondering whether it's simply that the town is laid out in an awful fashion. Now, with the incredibly scientific power of SimCity, I will finally get to the bottom of what is the real cause.

The headline isn't really backed up in the article, but interesting nonetheless:] For our study, recently published in Urban Design International, we analyzed a dozen historically dense, small cities from around the country in which the shares of residents getting to work by automobile range from 43 to 91 percent. We compared the rates of automobile use to the number residents and employees per square mile. We found that cities with higher rates of driving have fewer people – a difference of more than 4,000 people per square mile for each 10 percent change in automobile use. As the Penn model suggests, this has to do with the amount of land used to move and store all those cars. [As I'm always saying to people who complain that Swedish cities aren't sufficiently accessible by car: building more roads makes things worse, not better.

We are enamored with the automobile and most still see it as a ticket to the good life, not a burden on the checkbook. We’re entrenched in 70 years of a psyche that proclaims our prosperity as a nation is tied to our road system (and how fast we can get to the Applebee’s). The end result comes with the caveat that you have to burn a half-gallon of gasoline to pick up a half-gallon of milk.

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