Cities worldwide are reimagining their relationship with cars

The New York Times | Somini Sengupta, Nadja Popovich, and Tim Peacock Cities worldwide are reimagining their relationship with cars

At a time when most of humanity lives in cities, where do cars belong — especially the old, polluting ones that make city air foul for people to breathe? That question has vexed city officials across the world. Many are trying a variety of measures to reimagine the role of automobiles, the machines that forever changed how people move. The immediate motivation is clear: City dwellers want cleaner, healthier air and less traffic. The long-term payoffs can be big: Curbing transportation emissions, which account for nearly a fourth of all greenhouse gases, is vital to staving off climate catastrophes. And so, cities, which account for a large majority of global emissions, are dangling both carrots and sticks to persuade their residents to get out of their cars — or into cleaner ones. Several have begun by making it expensive to bring older diesel cars and trucks into the city center. Some are aiming to keep out diesel vehicles altogether during rush hour (Bristol, by 2021, for example) and eventually all vehicles with internal combustion engines (Amsterdam, by 2030). Several offer incentives to switch out conventional cars for electric ones. Some mayors have come under intense political pressure to address the health hazards of air pollution. “They see the growing concerns about the health effects of air pollution,” said Jane Burston, head of the Clean Air Fund, a London-based charity. There are road bumps though. Delhi, choking on toxic air, is struggling to staunch the flow of new cars and motorcycles on the roads, while in Madrid, where tens of thousands of delegates are to gather next month for international climate negotiations, the effort to restrict cars has turned into a political battle.