What's better than green cars? Some European cities say no cars

Americans drivers are abandoning their full-sized vehicles for compacts. Pure electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and plug-in, gas-powered cars like the Chevy Volt are becoming more readily available as 2012 approaches – and there are several new models getting ready to join them on dealer lots. Meanwhile, manufacturers in Europe and Asia are preparing to crank out a horde of microcars so small they make the ForTwo look like a Fleetwood. For a driver interested in going green, it sure seems like there are lots of options ahead and American cities should soon see a smaller, cleaner fleet on their streets.

However, many European cities have a different idea. They'd prefer no cars at all. The chief traffic planner for Zurich, for example, told Mother Jones: "Our goal is to reconquer public space for pedestrians, not to make it easy for drivers." The way to do this involves reducing parking areas, charging cars to come into the city and making red traffic lights more frequent in order to "frustrate drivers."

Though some US cities are more pedestrian friendly than others, few follow in these car-hating footsteps. Even with many areas of urban sprawl slowing or even reversing, cities still lack good public transport for connecting commuter A with job site B. Besides, a lot of America is just flat out non-citified. All of which means few politicians are in a hurry to get between Americans and their cars.

Still, in the long term, big American cities may end up taking notes from Zurich. As cities become more crowded and people and cars compete for space, autos may increasingly find themselves machina non grata, and even a new generation of smaller, greener cars may prove to be not-green-enough in the face of climate change or an unsettled world market for fuel. The love affair between Americans and cars could end; maybe sooner than we think. We could really go for a chance to drive some of those crazy little microcars before that happens, though.

View 24 Photos

[Source: Mother Jones | Image: Brett Weinstein – C.C. License 2.0]

Share This Photo X