A World Without Cars

Enrique Peñalosa outlines the way to rid New York of automobiles.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: Is it possible to have a city without cars?

We have had cities in the world for about 5,000 years, from Babylon and Ohr, and all of these wonderful cities. And for 5,000 years, all the streets were only for pedestrians. Even when we see pictures of New York in 1910, you see people walking in the street.  I mean in Manhattan you see everybody—Manhattan was a pedestrian city in 1910.  Everybody was walking in the middle of the street.

But the twentieth century was a disaster because we made cities much more for cars than for people; and we made horrible things such as the FDR and things like this.  But, happily, all over the world this began to change at the end of twentieth century.  We realized we had made a big mistake everywhere—that we have made cities for cars, not for people, so in Europe they began to pedestrianize streets.  Now there is not one single city of town in Europe where there is not at least several blocks or a large area only pedestrian for a few streets.  They began to make bigger sidewalks to get rid of street parking.  And everywhere in the world I would say that in any advanced city today transport policy translates in to how to reduce car use.

Question: How can New York reduce its care usage?

But I think the best way to do it is to have–-to restrict parking.  I think more progressively that should be a goal.  We can also ask the people in New York, because it's only a minority of people who have cars.  We should ask the people, "Do you want these cars parked there or do you want these beautiful big sidewalks with bicycle ways around in Manhattan?" Why can't of people in Manhattan vote on this?  Why can't people in Manhattan vote whether they want beautiful network of bicycle ways and bigger sidewalks or do they want cars parked there?

So I think the way to restrict cars in Manhattan is, first of all, to get rid of curbside parking in the street.  You cannot just do a negative reinforcement to get rid of the parking.  You have to use something in exchange, which is a beautiful sidewalk or a beautiful bicycle way, or both.

So, and the second thing to do is to charge for the cars coming through the bridges, which are free.  There are still many bridges –it is very easy to do congestion charging in Manhattan because you don't really have to do congestion charging.  You just have to charge for crossing the bridges.  It is a little even contradictory to have congestion charging when you allow people to cross the bridges for free.  So I really believe that the first thing to do in Manhattan is to charge on the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge, and all the other bridges where people are going across the bridge for free.

The money that you collect from charging to cars, you can invest in improving pedestrian and bicycle ways and to subsidized public transport to make better and cheaper public transport, for everybody.

On the importance of improving public transportation

Enrique Penalosa: I think, in my areas of New York, you will need to improve -- New York has some of the best subway system in the world but still it doesn't go many places.  There are many places which are under sale by public transport so you need great public transport and I think you need to improve the bus service.  I mean, you need to have busses that go much faster.  You need busses that really go in exclusive bus lanes, that go much faster and to many more places.  To take a bus in New York is absurdly slow.  I mean, it is almost faster to go walking.