Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Town Without Cars

The NY Times reports today on Vauban, a German suburb that is acting against the use of cars.

It is, largely, environmental activism. But it also embraces issues of safety, health, and quality of life.

Vauban is a new planned community near Freiburg, in the Black Mountain region of Germany, near the Swiss and French borders.

Freiburg - I've visited - is a lovely, historic town where fountains run water along street curbs for aesthetics and cleanliness.

The streets of Vauban are free of cars, except the main thoroughfare, where a tram also runs. Stores and other amenities are on the streets of the town, rather than in malls.

70 percent of Vauban's families do not own cars.

" 'When I had a car, I was always tense. I'm much happier this way,' " says a Vauban resident quoted in the Times, "as she walked verdant streets where the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor."

City planning in the past 50 years has revolved around car use. As a result, as much as 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in cities comes from cars. Vauban hopes to show that, as we created the pollution, we can reverse it with planning.

Until then, we can still change car use from rampant to rare. Or, at least, rarer.

We use our cars so much, partly, because they cost so much. If we're paying $2500 a year for insurance, maintenance, repair, registration, inspection, and depreciation, we're damn sure going to use them.

This is where efforts like Carshare of Ithaca come in, offering partial rather than sole car ownership.

We also use cars to save time. But what does that saved time turn into? Going to the gym to make up for the exercise one doesn't get while driving?

The other main component of car use is, let's admit it, laziness. The desire to get somewhere while sitting down.

Compare that to the idea of walking streets like Vauban's, with children and bikes, birds and trees, and no specters of crashes and death.

Joe McMahon of Ithaca recently posted a comment online about hoping for a day when people are as shocked and upset about a death from a car as from a strain of flu.

Information about Ithaca Carshare is at Also, see the comment linked to this article from a message from Carshare.

Information about public transportation in Ithaca is at

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

1 comment:

Ithaca Carshare said...

Thanks for the mention of Ithaca Carshare. In case people don't know, we are offering a referral credit of $25 to both referrer and referree at the moment. And you can pay on your account with Ithaca Hours, if you'd like.
Jennifer, Andy & Anna
Ithaca Carshare staff