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The Carfree Tree

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A car-free tree, in Dhaka.

It is so difficult to imagine cities without cars, people can easily just reject the whole idea. So I am working on different ways of getting people to see the incredible number of advantages that would accrue if we could “simply” get rid of the cars. One of those activities is the “Carfree Tree”. People write a benefit of a carfree city on a leaf, then pin it on the tree. We’ve done this activity twice now in Dhaka, most recently in preparation for this year’s World Carfree Day (22 September).

A couple of the big benefits are dramatic reductions in climate change and the near elimination of deaths and serious injuries from road crashes, which currently kill well over a million people a year. But why stop there? Tremendous savings in national and personal transport expenses; vastly more space for everything else that matters, including affordable housing and parks and playgrounds; less smog, less noise, more jobs, less inequality, less obesity, more independent movement for children; better conditions for walking, cycling, and public transit, and thus less traffic congestion; more attractive cities (minus the parking lots, big roads, and billboards and ugly architecture intended for those going at top speed), more rural space thanks to movement by rail instead of highways, and more convivial cities.

We can attempt to address each of those issues individually and not get very far—or we could address them together and make incredible improvements in health, environment, and quality of life. Isn’t it just a tad wimpy to shrug and say, “Can’t be done”?