From the Viewsroom

Time to ditch the car

Chitra Narayan | Updated on October 25, 2018 Published on October 25, 2018

What can India learn from Curitiba, Oslo and Chengdu?

A haze envelops Delhi as a deadly cocktail of pollutants surrounds the Capital. It’s that time of the year when air pollution peaks and affects everyone’s lungs. But are authorities in India addressing the root of this issue?

Forget tobacco. Car is the new cigarette of the future, and car exhaust the second hand smoke that kills, says Jaime Lerner. He is a Brazilian urban planner and former mayor of Curitiba, a town that tried an urban sustainability experiment, lifted itself out of chaos and earned itself the tag of the greenest city on Earth.

Curitiba is not alone. In 2015, Norwegian capital Oslo declared it would ban cars in its core by 2019, becoming the first European city to go car-free . For the last three years, Oslo has been investing heavily in public transportation, creating bike lanes and replacing car parking areas with flowering plants. Madrid says it will ban cars from 500 acres of its core area by 2020. Closer home, Chengdu in China has been designed in such a way that people can walk anywhere in 15 minutes or less. Only half the roads in this city will allow cars.

World over cities are urging people to ditch their cars by redesigning areas, pleading, cajoling, incentivising and even outright banning. Paris has car-free days. It has also tried the odd-even number plate experiment, and reported a 30 per cent drop in pollution.

In India, sadly, by contrast you see monstrous new parking facilities coming up. Forget incentivising people to walk by ‘pedestrianising’ areas, here the footpaths are vanishing, encroached by vendors, and illegally parked cars and bikes. And Delhi, after that one single experiment with odd-even number plated cars, has gone back to its bad old ways. Even that experiment had more detractors than supporters.

World over, mayors, town planners and governments are thinking about their cities differently. There are lessons we can learn from Vancouver, which has combated dense urbanism through carefully crafted regulations and awareness drives. Here it is left to private citizens and corporates to launch such movements. To their credit, several companies are promoting car pools, urging staff to use bicycles and even arranging electric car shuttles. If individuals and companies can do this, why not the government?

Published on October 25, 2018
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