Life Goes On Without Cars in Vauban


Martin Specht for The New York Times from a terrific slideshow

Vauban is one or TreeHugger's favorite models of development, with its solar roofs, cooperative ownership, clever design and car-free streets. Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times has a look, concentrating on the issue of cars. But she implies that cars have been regulated and designed out of the picture. She writes:


Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban's streets are completely "car-free" — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home. As a result, 70 percent of Vauban's families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here.

Rosenthal then writes about people trying to do the same thing in the United States and the resistance they face.

"People in the U.S. are incredibly suspicious of any idea where people are not going to own cars, or are going to own fewer," said David Ceaser, co-founder of CarFree City USA, who said no car-free suburban project the size of Vauban had been successful in the United States.

This is, I think, the fundamental mistake in the argument, that car ownership is something that is "allowed" or "forbidden". All kinds of Americans and Europeans live in cities without owning cars, there is nothing particularly original about it. If you design a suburb with decent shopping and schools within walking distance, good transit and maybe throw in a car sharing program, then people may well choose not to pay the cost of owning a car. If they do, they may be like the New Yorkers or Londoners who use them sparingly.

Nobody has to ban cars, we just have to give decent alternatives. More in the New York Times

More on Vauban

How to Build a Green, Car-free Community: Vauban
5 Alternatives to the Buy vs Rent Question
Can You Live Without A Car?
Solar Village by Rolf Disch
Ecocities of Tomorrow: A Visit to Freiburg
Eco-Towns: Three Models of Green Urban Planning