What would it mean If Micro-cars Ruled the Roads?

bmw isetta smart car photoFair Companies/Video screen capture

Micro-cars could reinvent city streets while reducing the cost of transportation infrastructure. They take up less space, and get pretty good gas mileage. Right now, cars dictate the way cities look. Streets and avenues are as famous as buildings in many cities – think Madison Ave and the Empire State Building. Roadways are more famous in other cities. You probably know where Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard are, but can you name a noteworthy building along them? Maybe it’s time to rethink, redesign and regulate the size of cars…for the good of the environment and urban spaces.

Metropolises are trying to take their streets back from automobiles and there’s grumbling from Washington about the cost of highway projects. Mayors are putting millions of dollars to constructing bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly environments.

It’s obvious once someone points it out. Our entire society is designed for the good of cars. Highways snake across the landscape in long, narrow lines only being interrupted by on- and off-ramps and interchanges. Boulevards and avenues cut through the density of metropolitan areas. When cars first appeared in mass, they were big and bulky. Those days are long gone, so maybe it’s time to ask what the world would look like if micro-cars ruled the planet?

From the width of interstates to alleys, they have been determined by the cross section of the old cars like the 1960 Ford Galaxie and the 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air. Micro-cars like smart, Scion iQ and the Fiat 500 are nearly half the size of these out-of-date gas guzzlers, so why shouldn’t the side of roads be revisited.

The size of a car, as much as the emissions, has a direct negative impact on the environment (if not more). Wider roads take more land and use more asphalt and concrete. Rethinking of vehicles as an architectural element instead of a transportation issue could revolutionize our choices for better cities and more efficient transportation systems.

For example, a standard two-lane highway could be expanded to a microcar three-lane highway without needing additional surface area, and resulting in no additional storm water runoff. This would mean a gigantic reduction of the cost for expanding freeways and interstates.

Cities like New York City could keep its four lane Madison Avenue, and have plenty of area of green space or new bike lanes. Other throughways like Fifth Avenue could become a microcar haven making where it meets 59th Street (a tourist hotspot) more walkable and safer for visitors and New Yorkers alike.

Perhaps the day that micro-cars rule the planet isn’t around the corner, but it is very apparent cars affect the environment by more than their tailpipes. The alternative fueled options in the market today like the Prius and VoltIt are the same size as standard sedans vehicles. They only try to fix one problem. Micro-cars could attempt to solve multiple problems at the same time. Maybe we should start considering how better automobiles are also smaller vehicles.

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