Tuesday, June 28, 2011

European Cities Intentionally Make Driving Miserable

The New York Times makes the case that the pedestrianization of Europe has shifted into high gear:

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. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Some of the stuff in this article just seems crazy to me.  Installing unnecessary red lights to make driving miserable?  Ugh.  I live in a city that has terrible red-light synchronization.  It doesn't make Lexington into a walker's paradise--it makes drivers angry and and has led to a culture of running red lights.  

That said, I do think there's an interesting story buried in this article about parking.  In the U.S., we mandate that new business provide some ungodly number of parking spaces for customers.  It appears that in Europe the regulations are backwards: "cities welcome new shopping malls and apartment buildings but severely restrict the allowable number of parking spaces."  Why have any parking regulations at all?  Why not just let the market make these decisions?  If we stop subsidizing parking, we could have enjoyable driving AND encourage more people to use mass transit.  

Steve Clowney


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