Many cities are trying to reduce automobile dependence, encourage walking and cycling, and ramp up public transit. By de-emphasizing cars, they hope to create healthier, more sustainable places and cut commute times in the bargain. These four cities were chosen by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, a New York City-based think tank that makes annual awards for sustainable transport. Below are 2014’s winners, starting with the overall winner.
Argentina’s capital, a city of three million people, recently introduced two major bus rapid transit services. The old 20-lane Avenue 9 de Julio–the widest avenue in the world–now has just 10 lanes for cars. The rest is taken up with a “surface subway” that combines aspects of a conventional bus service with the comfort of a subway. “It used to take more than 40 minutes to cross the city. Now it takes an average of 14,” says ITDP.
Suwon, a city south of Seoul, organized a month-long festival to help residents imagine what a car-free environment might feel like. The EcoMobility World Festival 2013 asked people to go car-free, leaving more space for walkers and cyclists and “showing that basic needs can be fulfilled without being dependent on an automobile.” It has since kept some of the infrastructure and introduced car-free weekends in the neighborhood of the festival; other areas are thinking of doing the same.
Lanzhou, in Northwest China, also introduced bus rapid transit in 2013–Asia’s second-largest system. ITDP praises the five-mile-long corridor for its integration with a bike share system (14,000 docks planned), bike parking, and greenways.
“Like many Indian cities, Indore is facing a growing population, increasing congestion, and environmental degradation due to ever-higher vehicle use,” says ITDP. Its 6-mile iBus BRT is a downpayment on a much larger 70-mile-plus network. Some politicians aren’t happy that it takes away car space. But the Institute argues that “it will continue to improve traffic conditions in the city and enhance the overall quality of life” for residents.