The world’s modern cities were built to suit personal cars. In the 20th century, neighborhoods were cleared and streets widened to serve streams of vehicles, often coming from suburbs. That’s starting to change. Congestion pricing introduced in London, Singapore, Stockholm, and soon New York is an interim step to remove traffic from city centers. Some are now banning cars altogether.
Oslo was one of the first. It began banishing cars from its downtown in the 1970s and, in recent decades, accelerated the process of turning more car lanes and parking spots into bike lanes, parks, and benches. People and public transportation were prioritized over private cars, buttressed by large investments in transit, bike-sharing, and street redesigns over the decades. Recently, Spain declared the core of its capital Madrid an “ultra-low emissions zone,” prohibiting through-traffic, except for registered residents, and banning older gas and diesel vehicles. A similar scheme is being rolled out in Paris. In North America, Toronto’s new nearly car-free downtown avenues have seen transit ridership soar.