A car-free future for our cities?


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A car-free future for our cities?

72 per cent of trips to work or study by Australian adults are made by passenger vehiclei. Initiatives such as the transformation of part of Sydney's CBD into a car-free zone are aimed to make the city more pedestrian-friendly.

At the end of 2012 the NSW Government announced that it would make major changes to the Sydney central business district (CBD) with the aim of reducing traffic congestion in the inner city. The plan to change the way Sydneysiders get around the city centre is by creating a light rail network connecting the CBD with the Inner West, Pyrmont and southeast suburbs. As part of this initiative, the busy one kilometre section of George Street between Bathurst and Hunter Streets will be made car-free: only emergency service vehicles, small delivery trucks and vehicles belonging to property owners will be able to enter this zoneii.

At the end of 2012 the NSW Government announced that it would make major changes to the Sydney central business district (CBD).

Reasons for a car-free CBD

According to the Government of NSW, the planned changes to Sydney's CBD have been designed in response to studies indicating that the current transport system is already stretched to capacity. These studies project that the CBD's public transport network will not be able to cope with forecasted growth, with an estimated additional 86,000 residents and 150,000 workers commuting into or through the CBD in 2036iii.

In 2013, high levels of traffic congestion meant that it could take up to 30 minutes to travel between Central Station and Circular Quay, a distance of only 2.5 kilometresii. Over 1,600 buses enter the CBD in the morning peak, with only 19-34 per cent of buses running within three minutes of the scheduled timetableii. The Government of NSW expects that light rail will provide a more efficient and reliable service, transporting up to 300 people at a time and running within two to three minutes of the timetableiii.

Making part of George Street free from cars and buses is supposed to reduce air and noise pollution, and increase space for pedestrians. These improved conditions in combination with easier and more efficient public transport connections may make exploring the city centre or walking to work a more pleasant experience for pedestrians iii. The NSW Government's and City of Sydney's plans to transform the CBD are due to be finished in 2019-2020iv.

While Sydney is just at the beginning of its CBD make-over, Melbourne has already earned a reputation as a particularly pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly cityvi. A section of Melbourne's Bourke Street has been car-free and accessible by tram since 1972v, and traffic restrictions exist in many connecting lanewaysvi. Part of Swanston Street has also been recently redeveloped to limit traffic, with the aim of making it a more usable space for everyonevii.

Car-free areas make streets more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

More traffic-free zones for our cities?

Although there are only relatively small sections of Australian cities which are closed to private vehicles, many city planners around the world are looking at car-free options to create streets more conducive to walking, cycling and socialising, as well as a means of reducing carbon pollutionviii.

In Australia, city councils have also become more aware of ways to make CBDs more attractive and pedestrian-friendly. Many city councils including Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth have started developing their own plans and proposals for extending existing pedestrian-only zones and improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructureix,x,xi.


iAustralian Bureau of Statistics 2013, 4102.0 Australian Social Trends, July 2013 – Car Nation, viewed 30 January 2014,
http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features40July+2013

iiTransport for NSW 2013, CBD and south east light rail: Business case summary, November 2013, viewed 28 January 2014,
http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/media/131114-CSELR-Business-Case-Summary-November-2013-FINAL-A4.pdf, p. 14-16

iiiTransport for NSW 2013, CBD and south east light rail: Business case summary, November 2013, viewed 28 January 2014,
http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/media/131114-CSELR-Business-Case-Summary-November-2013-FINAL-A4.pdf, p. 11-13

ivTransport for NSW 2013, CBD and south east light rail: Business case summary, November 2013, viewed 28 January 2014,
http://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/b2b/media/131114-CSELR-Business-Case-Summary-November-2013-FINAL-A4.pdf, p. 19

vCity of Melbourne, Streets and roads, viewed 30 January 2014,
https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/AboutMelbourne/History/Pages/Streetsandroads.aspx

viPaonita A 2011, 'Pictures: twelve car-free city zones', National Geographic, 11th November, viewed 30 January 2014, viewed 30 January 2014,
http://news.nationalgeographic.com.au/news/energy/2011/11/pictures/111115-car-free-city-zones/#/energy-car-free-cities-melbourne_43625_600x450.jpg

viiCity of Melbourne, Swanston Street redevelopment, viewed 30 January 2014,
https://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ParkingTransportandRoads/Roads/SwanstonStreet/Pages/SwanstonStreet.aspx

viiiPaonita A 2011, 'Pictures: twelve car-free city zones', National Geographic, 11th November, viewed 30 January 2014,
http://news.nationalgeographic.com.au/news/energy/2011/11/pictures/111115-car-free-city-zones/#/energy-car-free-cities-fes-fez-morocco_43623_600x450.jpg

ixKelton, S 2012, World-renowned urban planner Jan Gehl suggests how Adelaide can be pedestrian-friendly, Adelaide Now, 24 September, viewed 5 February 2014,
http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/world-renowned-urban-planner-shows-how-adelaide-can-be-pedestrian-friendly/story-e6frea83-1226480573468

xKelton, S 2012, World-renowned urban planner Jan Gehl suggests how Adelaide can be pedestrian-friendly, Adelaide Now, 24 September, viewed 5 February 2014,
http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/world-renowned-urban-planner-shows-how-adelaide-can-be-pedestrian-friendly/story-e6frea83-1226480573468

xiRomano, M 2012, Perth CBD evolving to be more pedestrian friendly, 12 March, viewed 5 February 2013,
http://www.sciencewa.net.au/topics/technology-a-innovation/item/1289-perth-cbd-evolving-to-be-more-pedestrian-friendly