Design principles for a car free city area.

Specific design principles have to be paid attention to in order to maximize the benefits of the advantages of a car free city area and for optimal conceptual functioning. The undermentioned design principles are applicable to a city area which is comparable in size to the city area researched.

  1. * Location.
  2. * Structure.
  3. *Non residence functions.
  4. * Distribution and gradations of car property.
  5. * Mobility/accessibility
  6. * Layout and elaboration.


The city area should preferably be an autonomous entity, in the sense it is accessible by means of a limited number of entry points. A great number of entrances would necessitate a kind of security service in many places to prevent entry of non admissible motorized traffic. For cyclists and pedestrians the number of entrances and exits may of course be larger.

The setting of entrances and exits in the city area must be tuned to the most important points of origin and destination directions. In particular, attention is required for the routes of public transportation and the point of origin and destination direction of emergency traffic (police, firebrigade, ambulance) so as to limit possible detouring to a minimum for this category.

For low velocity traffic a proper linkage to bicycle and walking routes outside the city district is of importance. The location is not tied to a specific shape, as long as it is not very elongated or a complex L or Z shape.

* Structure.

In a relatively large section (90% at the research location) of the car free city area inhabitants do not possess cars any longer. For their movements they must rely on other transportation means.

Especially for the movements covering a greater distance public transportation will be called upon more often. Thus short walking distances are required to the stops and an efficient line scheduling of busses and streetcars. This entails density articulation for urban development structure of the car free city area, in which as many people as possible live as close as possible to public transportation stops. Eg by increasing the amount of stacked housing and to concentrate this type of housing in the vicinity of public transportation stops density articulation may be reached. In addition an adequate public transportation structure itself is required: "long range" line scheduling and at the same time a short travel time span in the city area.

Further it is of importance to construct in the city area a clear and hierarchical road structure. To make a large section of the city area car free signifies the "car-infrastructure" as an important element determining structure is no longer operative. This may have a certain levelling off effect on street characterization.

The manipulation of different profile widths and the differentiation of profile stratification is required to prevent image poverty.

In the car free area of the city area only inevitable goods and services traffic is allowed. For this traffic is available a limited and rough grid road system. As a consequence - with the exception of emergency traffic - the allowed motorized traffic cannot stop right in front of every residence.

The shorter the remaining walking distances, the less cumbersome this will be for the inhabitants as well as goods and services traffic.

The city area structure should be so, while a limited road system is available for motorized traffic allowed, a reasonable accessibility of every residence is guaranteed. For that purpose, for example, street lengths should not be too long.

* Non residence functions.

Preferably, the car free city area should have at its disposal its own facilities to provide daily sustenance requirements: centrally located, linked to public transportation stops and to the main system of walking and cycling routes.

The elementary schools are within walking or cycling distance, if one school is available for every 1000 to 1500 residences and equal distribution is effected over the city area. Siting in close proximity of public transportation stops is not required. In addition the presence of schools in the immediate vicinity of stops would sacrifice the desired residence density in that area.

Establishment of enterprises and offices seems quite feasible however particularly in car free sections restrictions are applicable. The character and scale of such non residential functions, the relationships to the outside world and the mobility profile must fit within the characteristics of the car free city area.

* Mobility/accessibility.

The fact that no private cars are present in the largest section of the car free city area does not imply in this section all passable road hardening can be left out. Residences in this plan should in the least be accessible for emergency traffic. That is to say road hardening in the residential streets should be able to support loading by motorized traffic, even if such traffic - certainly in respect of heavy traffic (moving truck, fire brigade) - arrive in residential streets only on a very incidental basis. Standard goods and services traffic is allowed to enter the car free section, but this traffic has a limited road system at its disposal. For this category of motorized traffic the regular residential streets should remain closed off, resulting in an effectively car free area. By this the inevitable (but limited) motorized traffic in the car free section of the city area is concentrated in a number of roads only.

It is self evident this 'distribution grid' should coincide with public transportation routes.

* Layout and elaboration.

The layout should make use of clear and above all consistent idiom of layout tools: street furniture, paving method, street (traffic) markings and facilities to impede or to 'filter' the passage of specific vehicles. This will increase clarity about which streets and areas are accessible for which categories of traffic participants. Velocity breaking facilities such as thresholds, axis jumps and the like will remain necessary, as the low intensity of motorized traffic may cause high speed driving.

* Distribution and gradations of car property.

For the research location examined 'car free' has been interpreted as follows: one continuous section completely car free (the inhabitants do not possess cars) and some (smaller) sections in which standard car property is applicable. On the whole the city area is therefore car free.

Hybrid forms such as a low car property level distributed over the city area is not thinkable without sooner or later encountering problems with regard to management and enforcement.
The same applies to gradual transitions of standard car property to non car property. This signifies the option for a clearly defined border between area sections with and without car property is inevitable. Compared to a completely car free city area, a city area having also a few section areas with standard car property has advantages. Handicapped people, professionals or hobbyists who require a car may also take up residence in such a city area. By this, the population composition of the city area as a whole will diverge less from those in standard city areas. A second advantage is purchasing or disposing of a car does not signify inhabitants should move to another city area.

This renders a certain internal flexibility to the city area. For inhabitants in the car free section this may effect in lowering the threshold (again or as yet) for car purchasing, but this is opposed by a proper functioning car free section in its turn resulting in threshold lowering to exchange car property for other benefits.

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