This story from the front page of today’s New York Times describes the vast cultural, social and political differences between the United States and Europe when it comes to the personal automobile.
From the opening paragraph:
While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars.
Read that last bit again: Europeans are creating environments that are openly hostile to cars.
And people aren’t rioting in the streets – in fact more people are choosing to give up their cars. In Zurich, where there’s been a particularly active effort to push cars to the periphery, 45% of households are carless and those that do have cars are driving them less.
Compare that to Los Angeles, where closing down a few miles of freeway for a single weekend has been likened to the apocalypse. Nevermind that the temporary 405 closure is happening in order to widen the freeway to make room for more cars.
In Copenhagen “vast swaths of streets” have been closed to car traffic. In Paris car lanes have been traded for bike lanes. Meanwhile, back in L.A. we struggle to get cars off of a single lane on Wilshire Boulevard for just a few hours each weekday to make room for buses that carry more people than the cars on the same street.
So what do you think? Is European style urban planning – and the resulting inconvenience to drivers – something we should be doing in the U.S. (and in L.A. in particular)? Or is this European social planning forcing people from their cars and into a more inconvenient lifestyle? Read the article and then take our poll and leave a comment.