Following the recent trend of cities such as Vauban, outside of Freiburg, Germany, New York City has been decreasing automobile traffic in midtown Manhattan. With the goal of making Times Square (and surrounding areas such as Herald Square) more pedestrian friendly, vehicular traffic has been permanently suspended on Broadway, which cuts across Times Square. On Tuesday May 27th, Manhattan’s work week began with a car-free zone stretching Broadway from 47th street down to 42nd. According to an article in The New York Times, traffic did not freeze up at the northern or southern entry points and continued to flow through midtown.
In addition, smaller cities are promoting their pedestrian friendly qualities. Santa Barbara, California (roughly two hours north of Los Angeles) presents itself as a carless get-away destination. Several businesses have begun offering reduced rates on hotel stays for those travelers that present their train ticket at check-in. The website SantaBarbaraCarless.org contains a wealth of car travel alternatives to and from as well as within the city. “Santa Barbara Car Free is a cooperative partnership initiated and led by the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District since 1998 for cleaner air and a healthier planet. We have more than 100 business and community partners – all encouraging car free transportation to, and around, Santa Barbara.” With a temperate climate, biking is an excellent year round option in Santa Barbara. For specific information on biking in the city, refer to the biking section of Santa Barbara’s Car Free site.
These two examples show that pedestrians, bike riders, and non-vehicular traffic can coexist and even transform a city’s landscape. Reduced ground level ozone and airborne particulate matter from decreased motorized traffic enhances community health. In addition, carless districts encourage increased exercise, which also positively impacts health. From the largest American city to one with a population hovering around 100,000 people, all cities would do well to increase carless options like New York and Santa Barbara. Furthermore, these improvements allow people to connect with the land and with each other, all while gaining a sense of place and an appreciation for the natural world.
[image source: The New York Times]