The Best Ways to Get Cars Out of Cities

The Best Ways to Get Cars Out of Cities

Cars are the second-largest source of pollution in Europe, and SUVs worldwide cause more pollution than all of Germany. So what’s the most effective way to reduce driving, especially when it comes to individual passenger cars? A new analysis in Case Studies on Transport Policy identifies 12 effective measures after reviewing almost 800 reports on initiatives across Europe.

The most effective measures are:

  • Congestion charges, which require cars to pay when they enter the city center. Collected funds go toward sustainable transportation (12% to 33% car reduction).
  • Creating car-free streets and separated bike lanes, using measures like converting parking to bike paths (up to 20% car reduction).
  • Worker transportation services, like giving employees a public transit pass and/or running a shuttle service (37% reduction in car commuters).

Reuters: 2021 saw jump in greenhouse-gas emissions, says report, January 10, 2022.

Why This Matters

While reducing car use is necessary to hit climate targets, it also means cleaner air, better health outcomes, and more city space for people instead of individual gas-burning vehicles. The researchers note that successful initiatives -- especially when used in concert with one another -- provide measurable benefits from reduced car use to the “improved quality of life and sustainable mobility for [city] residents,” according to the Guardian.

Further, 75% of the initiatives analyzed were led by local city governments, which implies a faster implementation than those made at a national level.

American Lung Association: The Electric Vehicle Solution, February 3, 2021.

The True Cost of Cars

In the UK, 40% of low-income households don’t have a car in contrast to approximately 90% of high-income households. Driving in the US and Europe is powered by a combination of subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives that make driving the cheaper, easier option -- “essentially, such measures pay polluters while imposing the social costs on wider society,” the study authors write.

Looking at the situation from a purely financial angle, Copenhagen calculated that each kilometer of driving creates a net loss of -€0.71. The figure takes into account individual (physical and mental health, accidents, traffic) and environmental (climate, air and noise pollution) health. A kilometer of biking, on the other hand, is a €0.64  benefit, so replacing car transportation with biking creates €1.35 of benefits.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Electric Vehicles - The Promise for Health and Equity, September 14, 2021.