Reclaiming the Streets from Cars

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Could this happen in the U.S.? It has been nice to skateboard on the streets of my neighborhood with less cars on the road. I think the car lobbies are too powerful here. What do y'all think?

"The mayor of Athens has said he will “liberate” public space from cars. His counterpart in Paris says it is out of the question for the city to return to pre-coronavirus traffic and pollution levels. In Berlin, 14 miles (22 km) of new bike lanes have appeared almost overnight.

Around the world, from Dublin to Sydney, cities are being radically reshaped in favour of cyclists and pedestrians as empty streets give authorities the opportunity to implement and accelerate large-scale projects.

Cycling advocates and environmental activists are urging governments to ensure the revival is long-term and lasts beyond the pandemic, for fear of a pushback by the car lobby.

The Greek capital is embarking on one of the most ambitious rejuvenation schemes, which has been hastened by the pandemic, according to its mayor, Kostas Bakoyannis. He announced plans last week to allocate 50,000 square metres of public space for cyclists and pedestrians.


Bakoyannis, who became Athens’ youngest mayor last year, openly admits that the pandemic played a role in accelerating infrastructure works that might have taken years to accomplish.

We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and are fast-forwarding all our public works,” he said. “The goal is to liberate public space from cars and give it to people who want to walk and enjoy the city … Athens will be cleaner, greener and better lit.”

In Budapest, 12 miles of temporary bike lanes have been introduced on some of the city’s busiest roads over the past month.

The city’s mayor, Gergely Karácsony, who was elected last year on a largely green platform, had little trouble introducing the lanes after many people expressed their discomfort at the prospect of depending on the city’s excellent but usually packed public transport system during the pandemic.

The mayor’s office said it was monitoring traffic levels and that some of the temporary lanes may remain once life gets back to normal. It is planning a public consultation over where and how to introduce more bike lanes in the future.

Around 20 miles of temporary bike lanes have been set up across Paris, much to the disgruntlement of car lobbyists who have protested to city hall that their rights are being squeezed. Main roads such as the Rue de Rivoli and Rue Saint Antoine, a major east-west route, are gradually being sealed off to private vehicles and there are proposals for a further 30 miles of bike lanes in the city.

Many Parisians are being offered €50 toward getting old bikes repaired as part of the French capital’s €20m (£18m) planvélo to encourage the use of bicycles.

David Trammel's picture

Walmart and other retailers are reporting that during this health crisis people are rediscovering their DIY roots.

"After consumers stocked up their pantries, McMillon said shoppers entered a second phase, which he described as "entertaining and educating at home."

"Puzzles and video games took off. Parents became teachers. Adult bicycles started selling out as parents started to join the kids," McMillon said, adding that home office essentials and exercise equipment also picked up.

What's more, DIY (do it yourself) emerged as a significant theme as customers picked up home improvement supplies to work on their outdoor and indoor living spaces and craft supplies for projects and side hustles.

"It was also clear a lot of people were taking a do-it-yourself approach as they bought items like bandanas and sewing machines to make masks," McMillon said."

It's been much the same in Canada as the other places cited.

How is the bike renaissance looking this year (2021) where you are? I'm still seeing lots of bikes and small numbers other active transport among adults (kick scooters are super popular with the kids, though). I'm enjoying my adult kick scooter that I bought last year, so my views may be biased. I really hope the surge in active transport, and the increase in infrastructure like bike lanes continues and even increases. As someone without a car, a city that isn't solely designed for cars improves my life.