Cities declare war on cars as more auto bans stop traffic

New York City fired the latest salvo in the war against automobiles Wednesday.

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The City Council passed a $1.7 billion plan that will fundamentally change how the citizens of the Big Apple bike, bus, and walk through Manhattan, Queen, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. The five boroughs in the next five years will see the building of 250 miles of protected bike lanes, 150 miles of dedicated bus lanes and create additional pedestrian plazas.

Two weeks ago, San Francisco unveiled a $604 million project to ban cars from their busiest thoroughfare, Market Street, where a half-million pedestrians walk on what is one of the most dangerous streets for traffic accidents, executive director of Walk San Francisco Jodie Medeiros recently told Curbed San Francisco

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“It’s a war on cars, number one, bottom line,” Car Coach and automotive industry expert Lauren Fix told FOX Business. “It’s what’s called a road diet, restricting roads to force people to use mass transit, which is horrible! It’s filthy, never not on time, not in the U.S. at least, and it’s not safe. The city allows pan handlers and drug addicts to sleep on the trains and beg for money. I’ll take an Uber or a cab before I take public transportation.”

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who mounted the ambitious new plan in the Big Apple disagreed. "We need to do everything we can to encourage sustainable modes of transportation, especially with the realities of climate change growing more dire every day," he said at a Tuesday press conference.

San Francisco’s plan, with a current expected date of completion sometime in 2025, will allow for city buses, emergency vehicles, and medallion taxis (i.e. not Uber or Lyft vehicles) but no personal cars allowed on Market Street.

More and more of America’s biggest cities and several abroad are looking to do away with cars or at least limit them. Paris’ city center, is car-free on the first Sunday of every month. In Madrid, cars are banned in city center and Spain is looking to expand the ban to other regions. Down in Colombia in the capital city of Bogota bans on 75 miles’ worth of roads every Sunday.

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Human and health costs are also driving this anti-car push. “Roughly 4.5 million injuries, 40,000 deaths a year come from car accidents alone, $1.5 trillion goes to repairing people after accidents," futurist Thomas Frey told Fox Business.

Time is also money as the old adage goes. The cost of congestion was $87 million in the U.S. in 2017 according to INRIX. Individually it costs drivers $1348. Boston (164 hours lost due to congestion) and Washington D.C. (155 hours) ranked as the most congested cities. Boston drivers lost up to $2,291 per year due to congestion, drivers in the nation's capital lost $2,161.

"Car bans force those who need to drive to commute to work to take side roads, which in turn causes massive traffic congestion. Any way you look at it, people working in the city lose out,” said Fix

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With San Diego being the next U.S. city looking to implement a car ban by closing down Fifth Avenue in the city’s downtown with an eight-block pedestrian plaza, the tradeoff between safety and convenience seems to be leaning towards pedestrian and automobile safety, putting the future of personal car use in cities in serious jeopardy.

According to Fix, the consequences of banning cars in metropolitan areas will have a broader impact on the cities themselves, namely the desire to live there.

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“(Car bans) will cause people to flee the city, it will hurt taxes,” Fix said, with Frey adding that 20 to 40 percent of city revenues come from taxes from car sales. “It’s a buyer’s market right now for this very reason, and the same thing will happen with San Francisco and any other city that chooses to punish car commuters.”