After COVID-19, Could Cities Be Car-Free?

A bold new proposal minimizes cars in urban life

Outdoor cafes
What would American cities look like without cars?
National Archives and Records Administration
By Tobias Carroll / July 26, 2020 3:23 pm

What will American cities look like after the current pandemic has ended? Bars and restaurants are currently facing a crisis, and music venues and other cultural spaces are also facing threats to their existence. Part of what makes envisioning the future of cities challenging is imagining what will and won’t endure from them as they are.

But there are different ways to envision cities in the future — some deal with specifics, while others explore the larger ramifications of planning decisions. Writing at Jalopnik, Erin Marquis has the details on a newly-released report that offers a roadmap to “better, cleaner, and more vibrant cities.” At the center of its argument? Minimizing the role of cars within urban spaces as much as possible.

The report in question is the C40 Mayors Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery. The report emphasizes the importance of “15-minute cities” and of converting street space into more accessible outdoor space. One of the report’s goals?

Giving streets back to people, by permanently reallocating more road space to walking and cycling, investing in city-wide walking and cycling networks and green infrastructure

This links up with the idea of the 15-minute city — one where residents can get to work, school and shopping without using a car, all within 15 minutes. Achieving this would require substantial changes to both infrastructure and the way most city dwellers go about their daily routines. This is further complicated by the current trend in American cars for larger and larger vehicles. Might cities 5 or 10 years from now keep cars away from the centers of daily life? It could be more possible than ever.

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