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How about car free cities instead of nano?

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, April 24, 2009 | 4:19 AM

Indians are being compelled to simply ape Western countries and transport policy planners are behaving like insane. More than one billion people are being tempted by the advetising and cinema world to adopt Western patterns of car use.

Most likley carfree cities would become the norm by the end of the 21st Century, due to energy constraints. As a nation we should begin now to prepare for the change, which is an opportunity to build urban environments superior to any ever known.

Across the globe there is a movement emerging that seeks car free cities. Between public transport and nano, no sane person would say the latter is good. Is nano for over a billion people good or a public transport system for everybody?.

Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress chief said she would never use Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car, as it is made with the 'blood of people'. You can ridicule her body language (because she does not use British accent like P Chidambaram) but she has a point at least in this regard.

Ineed the industrialized nations made a terrible mistake when they turned to the car as an instrument of improved urban mobility. Advocates of car free cities say, the car brought with it major unanticipated consequences for urban life and has become a serious cause of environmental, social, and aesthetic problems in cities.

Cars kiills street life, damages the social fabric of communities, isolates people, fosters suburban sprawl, endangers other street users, blots the city's beauty, disturbs people with its noise, causes air pollution, slaughters thousands every year, exacerbates global warming, wastes energy and natural resources and impoverishes nations. The challenge is to remove cars from cities while at the same time improving mobility and reducing its total costs.

The solution lies in opting for a better alternative. What would happen if we designed a city to work without any cars? Would anyone want to live in such a city? Does it make social, economic, and esthetic sense? Is it possible to be free of the automobile while keeping the rapid and convenient mobility it once offered?

Can carfree cities be built? Venice, the largest existing example, is loved by almost everyone and is an oasis of peace despite being one of the densest urban areas on earth. We can also convert existing cities to the carfree model over a period of decades, say advocates of car free cities. It makes eminent sense but are transport policy planners listening or they held hostage by the car manufacturers.
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