Yesterday Barcelona became paralyzed by a formidable snow storm. At three in the afternoon the city was covered with a beautiful white powder. At 17h the buses and short distance trains were suspended and the highways around Barcelona were closed. By 18h in the afternoon, when I left work, the streets in the upper part of the city, where I live, where not transitable any more. 5-7 cm of snow in combination with steep and very tiny streets resulted into trapped cars about everywhere which effectively broke down all car, motorcycle and bus activities.
It was heaven!
I met my neighbor with her dog at the doorstep when taking my own dog out. We left the dogs run freely through the snow without having to worry about cars passing by. Entire families where on the street to do snow men and to chat with neighbors about the climate change. Children were playing on the street with (or despite of) the snow. The old women living across the street who warns me every time I get out of the house to keep my dog on a very short leash because her friend’s dog was run over by ca car… she finally relaxed and just observed what was going on, but without her usual hectic concern for dogs’ lives.
Which made me realize how much the daily car traffic in front of my door actually limits my life quality. At this time we have a metro about 7 walking minutes away. A new metro station will open in July practically on my door step. Metros in Barcelona run every 2-3 min (at night 5-7 min) and cover at least the entire city area, going well beyond the city borders.
So my Utopian wish is the following: Let’s ban all cars from the city. Increase the bus schedules of those buses running on a less than 10 min interval to make sure that public transport is always readily available. Install some extra “get-me-to-the-metro” lines for those places where the metro station is more than 5 min walk away. Offer free and guarded parking spaces at the ends of the metro line, so those people who need to go outside the city for work purposes can leave their cars safely there while commuting with public transport in and out of the city. Make sure that all metro stations are adapted for people with reduced mobility. And then, let’s just run on the streets. The only vehicles allowed would be: buses, municipal services such as garbage retrieval trucks, and the usual emergency services.
The advantages are very clean cut and almost immediate:
- more space for an urban culture of meeting, talking, walking, playing on the streets;
- a higher air quality in the city;
- increased security for bikers and pedestrians (and their pets);
- less toll on the streets, resulting into financial advantage of not having to mend them quite as often
- more space to have beautiful apartments, or to store stuff, as you would not need the parking spaces within the houses any more;
- and I am sure you can come up with many more advantages.
Of course, this means that the individual person would have to re-frame the daily whereabouts. But it is possible and much more sustainable then our current car-dependent life style.
PS: Extra kuddos to the car industry if you re-use your plants to build wind-energy equipment instead of producing more cars we don’t need 😉