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An ‘autoban’ on the autobahn!

20 Jul

There is a growing trend for cities to close major roads to motorised traffic for periods of time to allow them to be enjoyed by pedestrians and cyclists. Germany recently banned cars from the A40 motorway for a party to which 3 million people turned up (three times the expected number).

Other examples include the Paris Plages which have taken place in Paris each summer since 2002 on roads beside the River Seine. Initially there was one ‘beach’ with a second added in 2006, in 2007 some 4 million enjoyed the event. We have already reported on the separate closure of the Champs-Elysees which attracted 2 million people in 2010.

In London the ‘mayor of London’s Sky Ride‘ (previously London FreeWheel) has taken place since 2007 with a 14km road closure in central London from Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace each September. In a separate event Oxford Street and Regent Street are closed to motorised traffic before Xmas each year.

In New York Summer Streets involves the closure of 7 miles from Central Park to close to the Brooklyn Bridge on three consecutive Saturdays in August. It has taken place since 2008 and in 2009 an estimated 100,000 people came out on the first day.

In Bogotá, Colombia they have a weekly event in which over 70 miles of city streets are closed to traffic.

Of course there was a time when it was only the protesters and activists who were challenging the dominance of the car on these roads and the authorities were trying hard to keep the traffic moving! Reclaim the Streets organised many un-authorised street closures during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and Critical mass have been holding mass cycling events around the world for many years. What is encouraging is that what started as illegal protests are now becoming an important part of the culture of many of our largest cities with huge numbers of people get to experience cities without cars, many for the first time.

Here is the route of the London event.

Route of the 2009 London Skyride

Route of the New York Summer Streets event:

Route of the New York Summer Streets event in 2009

The fields of the Champs-Elysees

28 May

The Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers) union attracted 2 million people to the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France during a weekend in May 2010 by transforming it into lush fields bursting with crops. They did it to raise awareness of the agriculture sector but it also demonstrated that we can used our city centres in a different way when we evict the cars. These following pictures are taken from in the middle of the road looking towards the Arc de Triomphe.

Photographs courtesy of Perry Tak

Photographs courtesy of Perry Tak

This is the normal view of the road as a dual 5 lane road full of polluting traffic – notice how inefficiently it is being used – there are actually only a relatively small number of vehicles, and therefor people, dominating a huge area.

The Champs-Elysees on a normal day. copyright image

The organisers are hoping to take the concept around the world so hopefully we will see them in Trafalgar Square soon!