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Former New York transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan ‘car-free city’ planning


Former New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan argued on behalf of what she called “car-free cities” to combat climate change while appearing on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” Sunday.

The former Bloomberg adviser was part of a segment that suggested cities could work to move away from cars and other vehicles in the wake of climate issues. Host Fareed Zakaria introduced the topic, noting that several European cities have already started considering bans on cars.

“Many cities in Europe are flirting with banning private cars from the roads, and many more have at least partial bans in place. There is the obvious reason to combat climate change, but car-free cities are also leading to a better quality of life. Without cars, there’s less smell, less noise, more space to walk, to dine outdoors, to play,” Zakaria said.

Sadik-Khan went further to suggest that the movement has accelerated after the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s so interesting because people talk about the future of transportation is driverless cars or drones or flying taxis, and the most inspiring trends we have seen both before and during and after the pandemic has been the rise of something called the car-free city, which is actually sort of a misnomer since these aren’t exactly car-free cities. But what we’re seeing here is people-first districts in cities. So there’s still streets and sidewalks, police cars and fire trucks and buses and delivery trucks and people driving. But what’s changed is the design of our streets. They can be used as more than moving things from point a to point b as fast as possible,” Sadik-Khan said.

NYC traffic
The former transportation commissioner Sadik-Khan stopped short of promoting sale on cars.
Corbis via Getty Images

Her description of “car-free cities” comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to ban new gasoline-powered cars from being sold within his state. The plan by California regulators would in theory, cut car emissions in the state by half in 2040, though older models would still be allowed in the state.

Sadik-Khan stopped short of promoting sale bans but applauded actions from city, state and country leaders to promote other “options” besides driving cars.

“I think what we need to do is be more like neighbors. We need to live together. It’s not anti-car. It’s really pro-choice and options. We have to make spaces where people want to be and not just drive through. So the strategies that cities and mayors around the world are embracing are ways to make it possible for people to get around easier on bike and foot and bus and creating spaces people want to be,” Sadik-Khan said.

The governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin
The governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin.
Getty Images for The LEGO Group

She added, “So they understand that’s the future of sustainable mobility, and you’re not going to improve the city by building more and more car lanes and accommodating roads with more and more cars. That’s like, you know, looking to solve obesity by loosening your belt. It just doesn’t work.”

Virginia is supposed to adapt the California car ban due to a 2021 law signed by former Gov. Ralph Northam, but Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is looking for ways around it. The ban will also likely affect Massachusetts and Washington as they also follow California’s emissions rules.


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