Today, the model of the car-friendly city is outdated and new models and concepts have become established in planning. The model of the “City of Short Distances” was first discussed in the 1990s, when the idea of sustainability increasingly emerged.
As a result, it was stated that a traffic- and space-saving urban development was necessary (and that certain preconditions for this model had to be fulfilled). The city of short distances is characterised by the quick accessibility of various facilities of everyday life, without being dependent on motorised means of transport.
The area of a city is of outstanding importance. Rigid in its offer and not expandable, it must be divided as fairly as possible between the individual interest groups. Traffic often competes with other space requirements and displaces them. The aim should always be to take sufficient account of individual interests and to maximise the quality of life of the people living there.
In the post-war period, wide, straight streets with large curve radii, good overtaking opportunities, moderate gradients, multi-lane intersections and junctions with large fields of vision, generous parking space dimensions and much more were forced and implemented under the model of the car-friendly city. The entire road network should be passable by car quickly, comfortably, without unnecessary braking, without waiting times and without manoeuvring.
The intensive use of the car in urban traffic means that the majority of motor vehicles have to be accommodated in the cities. The more cars filled the streets, the more local politicians, traffic planners and urban planners concentrated on giving the car more and more space.
Use of space and cars:
The actual use of inner city street areas by the individual types of traffic varies considerably. Car traffic requires by far the largest areas, pedestrian and cycle traffic is the most area-efficient. Although local public transport also requires relatively large areas, it is comparatively efficient due to its high mass efficiency and vehicle capacity, even with a load factor of only 20%. If the occupancy rate rises to 80 percent or higher, public transport is by far the most area-efficient mode of transport.
The negative consequences of motorised private transport increase with the number of cars in use. More motorised individual transport means more noise, more exhaust gases, more fuel consumption, more accidents and, above all, more land consumption. In addition, there are social problems in the area of children’s play facilities, neighbourhoods and satisfaction with the housing situation, which is clearly related to the volume of traffic on a road.
In Germany, the consequences of mass motorization are clearly noticeable:
– In 2018 alone, more than 46,000 new registrations of the reported passenger car were recorded. In Hesse, 81 percent of households own at least one passenger car.
– In 2017, there were 43 million registered privately owned cars and only 41 million private households. Only every 5th private household has no car!
– By the end of 2016, 372 privately used cars per 1,000 inhabitants were registered in the city of Kassel. This means that about one in three persons uses motorised private transport.
And all this despite the fact that cars are only used 5% of the time! This means that in one week of car ownership we only use it for about 8 hours.
To 95% of the time the vehicles only stand around!
Furthermore, on average 30% of the use consists of searching for parking spaces – what a waste of lifetime!
An example of disproportionate land consumption is Berlin: Although less than one in three journeys is made by car, motorised individual transport still accounts for almost 60 percent of road space.
Costs for parking spaces:
Apart from the lack of space due to many motor vehicles, the price also plays a major role. The construction or provision of a car park (outside) costs significantly more than the installation of bicycle brackets (where several bikes can also be locked).
There are also too few bicycle parking spaces anyway, especially in cities that are considered “bicycle cities”, there is always an enormous lack of parking spaces for bicycles.
In some cities, only two percent of the parking space in the street is for bicycles.
But cycling is good for the environment and good for people: Bicycle promotion makes cities more attractive. Every bicycle ride reduces the impact of car traffic in city centres on parking space requirements, the search for a parking space, vehicle noise, harmful exhaust gases, particulate matter and the potential for accidents.
In addition, cyclists shop close to their homes and thus support local retailers, which serves the objectives of climate policy and personal health prevention.
International examples of land reclamation:
The role models for reclaiming land are becoming increasingly numerous. For example, New York caused an international sensation with the redesign of Times Square. Even smaller cities (such as Brighton in Great Britain) are discovering the potential of roads worth living on. Or the Berliner Flussbad on the Spree.
In London, there is a project to make the city the first National Park City: Green Block. The aim is to make the streets car-free, green and planted, to create new, valuable living space. In addition, the already existing parks of the city are to be connected with each other, so that one can walk or cycle through the city on an exclusively green way.
Park(ing) Day Munich is a good initiative to draw attention to this topic: Every year, parking spaces are transformed into a shared living space for one day and are animated by residents.
Parking spaces as a topic:
Huge parking lots in front of department stores, construction markets or stadiums are only used to a small extent (if at all), most of the time they are almost or completely empty. Especially in front of large shops, the parking spaces are unused outside opening hours and could then be made available for public parking (by residents, for example).
All the large concreted areas used for parking are also bad for the environment, as rainwater cannot drain away (important for groundwater formation). In addition, the settlement of the ground can lead to flooding more quickly.
The stationary motor vehicle traffic often takes up between 20 and 40 percent of the road space, and thus stands in the way of the changing demands on a contemporary, fair division of the road.
Furthermore, wrongly parked vehicles often obstruct rescue vehicles, but also public transport, cycling and pedestrian traffic, as well as delivery vehicles. Parking cars often obstruct the view of children or cyclists, which leads to numerous avoidable accidents.
Opening the doors of parked cars is also an obstacle and a safety risk if they are too close together.
Moreover, parking space-related measures have a major influence on commuter flows from the surrounding countryside into the city and represent an essential adjusting screw for sustainable mobility.
All in all the topic of “parking” hinders the transformation of roads into safe and attractive living spaces in almost all cities.
It is necessary to establish contemporary solutions for car parking!
In order to achieve a better quality of life in our cities, it is necessary to turn away from autocentric traffic planning. As much car traffic as possible must be shifted to public transport, cycling and walking.