A car free future? Polling shows half of Londoners want a city without cars

More than two thirds of people polled in London, Paris and New York favour a reduction in cars, survey shows

Cycling in London
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A car free future is seen by many as a necessity in this age of climate crisis, and it seems like it is supported by many across three major global cities.

Polling of residents of London, New York and Paris by Survation for the pressure group Car Free Megacities (opens in new tab) showed that around half of people favour their city centres going car free, with exceptions, and more than two-thirds support a reduction in the number of vehicles in their urban areas.

The data showed that from a sample of 1,073 people in London, 1,095 in Paris and 1,085 in New York, 72%, 66%, and 72% of the population respectively support cutting cars in the city.

Moreover, giving more space to cyclists and pedestrians as an alternative is seen favourably by a majority in all three global cities - 68%, 70% and 71% respectively - which is a boost to those who support a future built on active travel.

“People are clearly in favour of more car-free spaces in our cities,” Hirra Khan Adeogun, Head of Car Free Cities at climate charity Possible (opens in new tab), which is linked to the Car Free Megacities organisation, told Zag Daily (opens in new tab). 

“Reprioritising space for people over cars will not only drive down pollution and emissions, it also means more space for communities to thrive, for businesses to draw in customers, and for pedestrians, cyclists and disabled people to travel through cities unimpeded.”

Meanwhile, there is at least a significant minority of support for making city centres completely car free in London, New York and Paris, with 51%, 49% and 45% of those polled respectively agreeing with this statement. There are exceptions for car clubs and the disabled, an inclusive policy that would still mean a significant reduction in vehicles, and therefore emissions. Paris and Brussels are already planning moves to limit cars in the city centre.

The primary reasons behind the desire for less cars were cited as air pollution, carbon emissions and dangerous driving.

Cathy Lamri of Paris Sans Voiture, and Project Manager for Car Free Megacities in Paris, said: “They [residents] want to live in a peaceful city, where their children can move around safely, breathe clean air, and where nature and biodiversity have their place. All these things will help us build resilient cities that will be able to adapt to climate challenges – the need and the desire for traffic reduction are universal!”

The Car Free Megacities campaign is a collaboration between Possible, think tank the New Weather Institute, Paris sans Voiture, Brooklyn Spoke, Transportation Alternatives, the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy, and Glimpse, supported by the KR Foundation and Brompton.

Simon Munk, the campaigns manager at the London Cycling Campaign said that Transport for London (TfL) data showed that most car journeys could easily be done by other modes, making a car free future possible.

“Survey after survey shows a huge appetite across the UK and in our cities for reducing and restricting car use and enabling alternatives," he told Cycling Weekly

"We know from TfL analysis, that a majority of motor vehicle journeys in London could be done relatively easily by other modes. There’s far more single occupant, short, daylight journeys carrying light loads in cars than there are folks moving fridges or taking their grandma to hospital. We also know what the cost is of listening to a noisy minority who don’t want fewer cars: climate emissions, inactivity, road danger and pollution crises. 

"That’s why LCC is working across London not just to enable more people to cycle and feel safe cycling, but also to help roll out ‘Climate Safe Streets’ where people can ditch the car (and not own a car), walk and use public transport as well as cycle.”

Meanwhile, cyclists in Milan protested against continuous car incursion into cycle lanes in the Italian city by forming a human chain along the infrastructure earlier this month. 300 people took part in the action, which prevented cars from moving into painted cycle lanes.

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