German suburb finds car-free life quite carefree

Have you ever heard of Vauban, a small suburb in Germany? I hadn’t until recently, but after reading an article in yesterday’s New York Times“In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars”—I’m ready to pack my bags and hop on the next plane there.

Vauban, completed in 2006, sits on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden, and Vauban’s streets are completely car-free, except for the main thoroughfare and a few streets on the outskirts of the suburb.

You may be asking yourself, How is this working out for the 5,500 residents of Vauban? Quite well, it seems. From the article:

The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home. Stores, restaurants, banks and schools are more interspersed among homes than they are in a typical suburb. Most residents…have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or children’s play dates. For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vauban’s car-sharing club.

Moreover, parents in Vauban rave about the safety that goes along with having no cars on the streets. Children can run free without their parents fearing for their safety as they would if their kids were playing on a busy street corner. Check out this interesting slideshow of Vauban.

Vauban is part of a growing suburban trend many are referring to as “smart planning.” In the U.S., the EPA is beginning to promote “car reduced” communities and experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year. Currently, most zoning laws in the U.S. still require two parking spaces per residential unit. Hopefully, Vauban’s success will lead to many more car-reduced cities and suburbs.

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2 Responses to “German suburb finds car-free life quite carefree”

  1. ieverett Says:

    I would be interested to see some other statistics on Freiberg. I would imagine that being mostly car free would also lead to a reduced crime rate, and much lower rates of asthma in kids.

  2. Craig Says:

    Interesting speculation. Asthma and respiratory disease declines and lower crime rates. Hmmm. I couldn’t find out anything about that, but here’s an abstract study on the area’s sustainability initiatives: http://www.vauban.de/info/abstract.html

    They’re incredibly progressive in more ways than just reducing car ownership and usage.

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