After hundreds of years of living with cars, some cities are slowly beginning to realize that cars aren't really that necessary in the urban context.
It's not just the smog or the deaths that occur in traffic; In a city, cars are not even a convenient way to get around. Today, traffic in London moves slower than the average cyclist (or horse-drawn carriage).
Those who drive through the streets of Los Angeles spend about 90 hours a year stuck in traffic.
A UK study revealed that drivers spend 106 days of their lives searching for a place to park. Now a growing number of cities are ditching cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better designs, new apps, and, in Milan's case, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train.
Not surprisingly, these changes are happening faster in European capitals that were designed hundreds or thousands of years ago before cars were made.
In the suburbs that stretch into America that were designed for driving, the road to eliminating cars is obviously much more challenging. (And a few car-loving cities, like Sydney, Australia, are heading in the other direction, taking space for pedestrians in some central streets so there is more room for cars.)
Here are a handful of leaders heading into car-free neighborhoods:
Madrid has already banned most traffic on certain city streets, and the car-free zone will soon expand even further.
Stretching over more than 2.5 square kilometers, the area will still allow residents to drive, but anyone else who enters will be fined more than $ 100. It is a measure within a larger plan to make the entire center of Madrid pedestrian-only in the next five years.
Twenty-four of the city's busiest streets will be redesigned for walking, not driving. Before the layout of the streets changes, it will also be encouraged to stop using cars in another way: Now, the dirtiest and most polluting cars in the city will have to pay more to park.
Last year, when smog levels skyrocketed in Paris, the city briefly banned vehicles with odd-numbered patents. Pollution dropped by 30% in some areas, and now the city plans to start discouraging car use permanently.
In the city center, people who don't live in local neighborhoods won't be able to drive within the area on weekends, and that rule could soon apply all week. By 2020, the mayor plans to double the number of bicycle lanes in the city, ban cars that use diesel, and limit certain high-traffic streets to only use electric cars and other low-emission vehicles.
The number of drivers in the city has already started to decline.
In 2001, 40% of Parisians did not have a car; now that number is 60%.
Plans for a new satellite city for Southwest China could serve as a model for a modern suburb: Rather than having a sketch that requires driving, the streets are designed so that any location can be reached in 15 minutes.
The plans, designed by Chicago architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, do not call for a complete ban on cars, but only half the area of the street will allow the use of motorized vehicles. The city will also be connected to the nearby and larger city of Chengdu by public transportation.
Of the expected population of 80,000, most will be able to walk to their offices in local neighborhoods. The project was originally planned for completion in 2020, but could be delayed - it is currently on hiatus due to zoning issues.
Even though Hamburg is not planning to ban cars from the city center (as has been misinformed everywhere), the city is making it easier and easier not to drive. A new “green network”, which will be completed within the next 15 to 20 years, will connect parks throughout the city, making it possible to bike or walk everywhere.
The network will cover 40% of the city's space. The city also covers sections of the infamous overcrowded A7 ban with parks so neighborhoods that were once difficult to cross on foot will soon be friendlier.
In a new planning, the city presents a design that will transform car dependents into dense, walkable communities linked to the city center by rapid public transportation. A new application is being tested that allows citizens to request a bicycle, car, or taxi (all shared), or find the closest bus or train.
In a decade, the city hopes to make owning a car completely unnecessary.
The polluted city of Milan is testing a new way to keep vehicles out of the city center: If car owners leave their cars at home, they receive free tickets to use public transport.
An internet-connected box on the dash keeps track of the car's location, so no one can cheat and drive to work. Every day someone's car stays at home, the city sends a ticket of the same value as a bus or train ticket.
Forty years ago, the traffic in Copenhagen was as bad as in any other large city. Now, more than half of the city's population commutes to their office by bicycle every day - nine times the number of commuters on bikes as there are in Portland, Oregon, the city with the most bike commuters in the United States. United-.
Copenhagen began introducing pedestrian zones in the city center in the 1960s, and car-free zones slowly expanded over the decades. The city now has more than 200 miles of bike lanes, with new bike superhighways under development to reach the surrounding suburbs.
None of these cities plans - yet - to get rid of cars entirely. And this may never happen; Future cities are likely to have at least a small fleet of self-driving electric cars on hand to eliminate some of today's challenges in terms of parking, congestion and pollution.
But it is also clear that urban planners are finally recognizing that streets should be designed for people, not cars.