Car Free Towns
24 Feb 2009
Britain’s Green Belts are under threat from everywhere. From the developers and home builders’ associations, from the central government and from the local authorities.
Regardless of how these pressures play themselves out against all the forces trying to protect our precious Green Belt land, let me offer one suggestion. Make sure that all new housing developments in Green Belt areas are pedestrianised.
The developers won’t like this at first sight but, once they realise that this regulation applies to all their competitors as well, and once they realise that the home buyers will accept this condition as well, and once they realise that pedestrianised communities will be more profitable for the developers, they will love pedestrianised new communities.
And of course our amenity groups will also love pedestrianised new communities, even in Green Belts if that is necessary.
Let’s look at the facts. First of all, every human being should and will support reduced use of cars and the enhanced global warming air pollution that cars produce.
Also, a pedestrianised community in a Green Belt locale will mean less land use per housing unit because pedestrianised development design means residential units can be more compactly constructed for they have eliminated the need for car space, on and off street parking as well as garaging for there will be no cars in the first place.
Furthermore, pedestrianised communities will be more ‘people friendly’ because they will be safer, especially for children, but also the reduction of thieving (thieves love ‘get away/cart away’ vehicles) and because pedestrianised homes will mean less noise and less pollution. And of course a Green Belt location will mean easy, immediate access to the countryside for walking, cycling, picnicking, etc, etc. No-one living there will need to get into a car and drive on congested and polluted highways to reach nature.
Economically for the home owner it can also be a blessing. Today the average British citizen is reported to be spending more on car related ownership than on home ownership.
But now we come to the immediate objection. How can one conceive of surviving without a car? Some people can and already do. But what about present car owners? Here is where a bit of arrangement and ingenuity is needed.
Firstly, a whole community which is pedestrianised implies a shared need for transport. And so we locate our pedestrianised ‘Green Belt’ communities as satellites of larger living sites which contain all of civilisation’s ‘needs’ and we link these together with a variety of facilities starting with ‘pedestrianised community’ controlled public transportation or else perhaps, in some cases, shared transport facilities, say, by locating our community adjacent to or on the route of another transit dependent community such as a Green Belt sited university. Our community may have, say, 3,000 residences and the university 8,000 students and staff. Both parties can benefit from a shared transit system into town.
Then we can supplement our basic transit system with a Car Share Club whereby community residents can have a car when they really want or need one. Then of course we can have access to taxis when appropriate. (I sold my car in Bath and find the use of taxis and my feet costs one third what my car did and my doctor says I’m healthier.) As to groceries and heavy items, stores and shops deliver, they really do, if you ask them to, lots of their customers do all the time. Most of us are just used to car-centred living. And, where appropriate, a pedestrianised satellite community might organise its own shoppers’ drop-off point in town for goods to be delivered for a small fee to your doorstep.
This is the best way forward for our Green Belt developments if they are to occur.