Towns are outgrowing the automobile

Towns are outgrowing the automobile 1
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Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki.
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According to the Helsinki Times, maximum future citizens of the metropolis will not own a car. Photograph: Pekka Liukkonen/Alamy
A revolution is coming. However, it charges cash
Richard Manninen is another guy with a plan – a completely big plan that is laid out on a desk in his office in the center of Helsinki. Manninen is the director of the metropolis’s strategic urban planning department. The mission is imaginative and prescient of how the city will make an appearance in 2050. It could have plenty greater human beings – the population is projected to rise by 50% – however, with a lot less dependence on vehicles. The metropolis’s population density could be increased; many new excessive-upward push apartment blocks will not have residents’ car parking; key arteries into the city will get replaced using boulevards; increasingly more space can be given over to cycle lanes. A document on the plan within the Helsinki Times final year hopefully predicted: “The future resident of Helsinki will no longer own a vehicle.”

“Agglomeration” is the buzzword that planners along with Manninen like to apply, and the advantages which derive from it are driving the imagination and prescient of a new metropolis. “When you’re located pretty close, groups can interact extra effortlessly; people can walk to paintings and use public delivery. It’s more green.”

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In many towns, the technology of the suburban commuter, alongside the era of the automobile, is drawing to a near. Manninen no longer desires a city with an unmarried center; he envisages a multi-polar town with half a dozen hubs in which humans live, paintings, shop, and play. This will lessen shipping congestion and generate a sequence of colorful, efficiently organized semi-self-reliant gadgets – that’s the plan, besides.


The younger technology is now not car-based. They are less probably to have a riding license
Richard Manninen
Though Finland is seen as a pioneer in sustainable delivery, the fact is instead specific. Because the USA got here past due to urbanization and there was a massive quantity of development inside the Nineteen Fifties and 60s, commuting with the aid of automobile is extra entrenched than in a few older towns. Finns have tended to live in the suburbs, riding to the center of Helsinki to paintings and their cherished usa cottages at weekends. But Manninen echoes Vesco in Lyon in his view that attitudes are changing: “The younger era are now not car established. They are much less probable to have a user license than preceding generations.”

Generation Y, the so-called millennials now in their 20s and early 30s who have come of age in the virtual technology, appear less wedded to possessions than their toddler boomer predecessors. Surveys show that the one item this is prized the phone, and the future of delivery is probably to be based totally no longer on for my part owned cars but on “mobility as a provider” – a word supposedly coined by way of some other Finn, Sampo Hietanen, leader executive of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Finland. Consumers will, so the theory goes, use their smartphones to test ultra-specific journey information, find vehicle-club cars or motorcycles, take a look at parking spaces, call up Uber drivers, and set up shared rides. Who wishes an, in my view, owned vehicle?

While in Helsinki, I meet a delegation from the metropolis’s Regional Transport Authority. I’m struck no longer simply with the aid of their dedication to sustainable delivery, however their willingness to interact with the general public. They send workforce into faculties and workplaces to try and win converts to strolling, biking, and public delivery and take their message to older people, who are the most proof against abandoning their cars.

Helsinki’s Baana bicycle corridor opened to the general public in 2012.
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Helsinki’s Baana bicycle corridor opened to the public in 2012. Photograph: Alamy
One of the projects they’re proudest of is their Kutsuplus (“Call plus”) bus service – a fleet of 9-seater minibusses whose routes are decided by using the bookings they get on any given day. It’s a wonderful concept, and I e-book a bus to take me from their places of work into a metropolis. It arrives quickly, selections me up at a bus stop just a hundred meters away, and costs €5 for the 2-mile experience. The problem is that, to this point, Helsinki most effectively has 15 buses and doesn’t have the investment for any greater. Like the various schemes presently underneath way, it’s at the pilot stage. There’s a revolution coming. However, revolutions value money.

“We are not making a automobile-unfastened Helsinki – that isn’t always viable,” says Reetta Putkonen, director of the delivery and site visitors making plans division, who I meet for lunch at an exhibition space committed to the metropolis’s imaginative and prescient of the future. “But we’re going to take manage of wherein the motors are and the way they may be used, so that we will have places wherein it’s first-rate to stroll, it’s very speedy and easy to a motorcycle, and public transport is noticeably efficient. Walkers could be the kings, and cyclists can have their paths. We will nonetheless have vehicles – human beings want them for wearing items – but their speeds could be very low, and there gained be so many of them. Our planning shouldn’t be based on cars and parking. It may be a balanced device.”

After lunch, I meet some other Reetta – now not all Finnish girls are called Reetta, they assure me. Reetta Keisanen is the metropolis’s cycling coordinator, and he or she has introduced two of the branch’s pool motorcycles for us to adopt a tour of the city. She takes me first alongside a cycle route that was once a rail tune, linking the metropolis center with the harbor. Halfway along the road, there may be an electronic check-in counting the cycles as they pass – I am the 54,672nd to this point this 12 months. Reetta II tells me that ninety-six% of the citizens of Helsinki are seasoned-biking. However, Reetta I had cautioned that the parent might be decreased if motorists realized how a whole lot in their street area was being eaten into.