6 Big European Cities With Plans to Go Car-Free
Oslo is the latest major metro to put pedestrians first in some central districts.
By Eric Jaffe / citylab.com
Image Dion Hinchcliffe / Flickr
Downtown Oslo; the city hopes to go partly car-free by 2019. (Dion Hinchcliffe / Flickr)

Plans to ban private cars in parts of a downtown area have become so common among big European cities that it’s getting hard to keep track of them all. Since the start of 2014 alone at least six metros have announcedambitions to convert parts of their central districts into pedestrian havens with less automobile congestion and air pollution. Based on the regular reporting of our correspondent across the Pond, Feargus O’Sullivan, CityLab worked up a quick tour guide to Europe’s car-free future.


The Norwegian capital is the latest city to declare a goal of going car-free, with reports emerging this week that private cars will be banned in the central district by 2019. Though the details are still being settled, the city will apparently enhance its bike infrastructure and give a “massive boost” to public transit. Predictably, businesses are already concerned with the idea—despite plentiful evidence that non-drivers spend as much, or even more, than people who park-and-purchase.


Milan has big plans to put people first. (Bert Kaufmann / Flickr)

Already home to an effective congestion pricing scheme in the city’s core, Milan made waves in July when its deputy mayor announced an ultimate goalof the “total pedestrianization of the historical center.” There’s reportedly no timeline for the plan. But the general idea is for Piazza della Scala to join two other downtown pedestrian zones and gradually stretch outward to other parts of the city. These changes—plus other car-free moves in Navigli and Piazza Missori—presaged a people-first future for Italy’s second city.


Bikes and buses may one day rule downtown Dublin. (Luca [JP@G] / Flickr)

This summer the Irish capital proposed a €150 million plan to ban cars from parts of the city center as soon as 2017. Reaction was mixed, with retailers as usual wary of the plan. But others were quite enthused: “Those of us who walk or cycle around the city, meanwhile, were enthusiastic at the prospect of not having to play a real-life game of Frogger when crossing the likes of Westmoreland Street,” wrote Davin O'Dwyer of the Irish Times. The city hopes to reach a point where just one in five people commutes into the core via private car—the rest coming by transit (55 percent), bike (15 percent) or on foot (10 percent).


The Champs-Elysees during a 2015 car-free day. (Olivier Pascaud)

Paris is no stranger to car-free restrictions. When the French capital implemented a one-day ban on odd-numbered cars in spring 2014, the result was a measurable drop in traffic congestion and pollution. Another temporary car-free day held this fall was declared by Mayor Anne Hidalgo (and visually confirmed by before-and-after videos) to be a great success. The trend will continue on a more permanent basis with news of a pedestrian zone along the right bank of the River Seine beginning in summer 2016.


The streets of Madrid should look more and more ghostly in the future. (Jose Maria Cuellar / Flickr)

One of the world’s strongest plans to eliminate cars from the city core can be found in Madrid. In 2015 the Spanish capital began issuing tickets to drivers who either don’t live in the central areas or don’t have a guaranteed parking space in an official lot. The rule more than doubled a limited-car zone already in place in the downtown area, with then-Mayor Ana Botella eventually hoping to pedestrianize even more of the city. Such measures built on the pedestrian-first goals outlined in the city’s recent general plan.


Plans to go car-free in parts of downtown Brussels have been met with mixed responses. (Riccardo Bonuccelli / Flickr)

In early 2014 the traffic-riddled Belgian capital (derided as a “sewer for cars”) announced a plan to convert a four-lane road into a pedestrian promenade. This time businesses weren’t the only ones who objected; walking and cycling advocates don’t exactly love the idea, either. Some fear that driving won’t be eliminated but merely displaced outside the core. The complete end of car use isn’t a terribly practical goal at the moment, but the fact that some think it’s within sight shows just how far many big European cities have come.

4.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 12,717 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,366 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 2,081 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,892 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,796 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 1,760 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,482 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 900 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 874 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 773 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 682 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 676 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 608 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 438 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 387 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 375 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 309 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 291 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
Deirdre Fulton · 269 views today · 'Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible.'
The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism
Chris Hedges · 267 views today · College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
6 Big European Cities With Plans to Go Car-Free