End of the auto age: how towns are outgrowing the automobile

Cities round the world are coming to the same conclusion: they’d be higher off with ways fewer vehicles. So what’s at the back of this seismic shift in our urban life? Stephen Moss is going on an epic (vehicle-loose) journey to find out

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Tuesday 28 April 2015 07.00 BST Last changed on Thursday 30 April 2015 16.59 BST
Gilles Vesco calls it the “new mobility.” It’s an imaginative and prescient of cities wherein residents now not rely upon their motors but on public delivery, shared cars and motorcycles and, in particular, on real-time facts on their smartphones. He anticipates a revolution as a way to transform not just delivery, however, the towns themselves. “The aim is to rebalance the general public area and create a town for humans,” he says. “There will be much less pollution, less noise, much less strain; it will be an extra walkable city.”

Vesco, the flesh presser answerable for sustainable shipping in Lyon, performed a leading role in introducing the town’s Vélo’v motorcycle-sharing scheme a decade ago. It has seen that be replicated in towns all over the global. Now, even though, he’s convinced that digital technology has modified the rules of the game, and will make feasible the flow away from cars that changed into inconceivable while Vélo’v launched in May 2005. “Digital records are the fuel of mobility,” he says. “Some shipping sociologists say that facts approximately mobility is 50% of mobility. The automobile becomes an accent to the cellphone.”

Image result for automobile

Vesco is not anything if not an evangelist. “Sharing is the brand new paradigm of city mobility. Tomorrow, you may judge a city in keeping with what it’s miles including to sharing. The extra that we have people sharing transportation modes, public area, data and new offerings, the more appealing the metropolis could be.”

The Vélo’v scheme is being extended, automobile golf equipment that uses electric powered cars are being advocated, and what Vesco calls a “collaborative platform” has been built to inspire experience-sharing through matching drivers with human beings seeking lifts. There is, he says, not any want for residents of Lyon to own a car. And he practices what he preaches – he doesn’t know very own one himself.

 

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Pedestrian-friendly valuable Lyon, on the banks of the River Rhone.
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Pedestrian-friendly relevant Lyon, at the banks of the River Rhône. Photograph: Alamy
The range of vehicles entering the city has fallen by using 20% over the last decade, without even a congestion-charging scheme (Vesco says it might impose a disproportionate burden on the less well-off, who tend to power better-polluting automobiles). And despite the fact that Lyon’s population is anticipated to upward thrust by greater than 10% over the next decade, he’s targeting an also 20% drop in car use. The automobile parks that used to run along the banks of Lyon’s rivers have already been eliminated, and human parks opened of their region. Vesco says someone returning to Lyon for the primary time in a decade could slightly recognize the town.

The intention is to rebalance the public area and create a town for humans
Gilles Vesco
Birmingham, which vies with Manchester for the name of England’s 2d town, has been following the experience of Lyon and other European towns intently and is now embarking on its very own 20-year plan known as Birmingham Connected, to reduce dependence on vehicles. For a city so related inside the public mind with automobile manufacturing, that is pretty a step. The initiative is being pushed by the veteran leader of Birmingham city council, Sir Albert Bore, who talks airily about imposing a three-dimensional shipping plan on the two-dimensional geography of the metropolis: “French and German towns all have an infrastructure which has a miles higher knowledge of how you want to map the city with layers of travel.”

“Multi-modal” and “interconnectivity” are the words on each city planner’s lips. In Munich, says Bore, planners instructed him that the city dwellers of the future would not want vehicles. Bikes and extra efficient public shipping will be the norm; for infrequent trips out of the city, they could hire an automobile or be a part of a vehicle membership that facilitated the inter-metropolis journey. The statistic all of us trots out is that your vehicle sits outdoor, idle and depreciating, for ninety-six% of its life. There has to be a greater efficient manner to provide for the common of seven hours every week when you want it.

Smallbrook Ringway, a part of Birmingham’s original, road-ruled Bull Ring buying center.
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Smallbrook Ringway, a part of Birmingham’s unique, road-dominated Bull Ring improvement. Photograph: PA Archive
Car golf equipment offers a 2d statistic. Whereas an individually owned car caters for an man or woman or an own family, a vehicle-membership car can provider 60 humans. As I kind this I observe the VW Golf sitting out of doors my window, which I last drove a fortnight in the past. Private cars are wasteful and highly-priced.

Bore recognizes that his plan to convert his town will now not be clean, and could require a wholesome dose of public training. “Birmingham was visible as the champion of the car,” he says, “and as an result, it didn’t increase an underground or the tram community you see in essential cities across Europe. There’s been a failure to develop those systems due to the fact there’s been no longer-time period vision.” Birmingham now has an extended-time period plan – however, what it doesn’t have is the money. It needs £4bn; up to now, it has raised handiest £1.2bn. Central authorities, personal-quarter developers, and neighborhood corporations are going to have to be satisfied it’s well worth it.

Birmingham became visible because the champion of the auto, so there may be not-term imaginative and prescient
Sir Albert Bore
Anne Shaw, Birmingham’s head of transportation offerings, walks me round the center of the metropolis to expose me the adjustments already taking location. The single tram line, which runs from Wolverhampton, is being extended; the gyratory street which cuts off among the municipal buildings is being taken out and visitors re-routed; forbidding concrete subways are being removed; cycle lanes are being installed, and a fast bus service is deliberate.