Have you heard about the EcoMobility Challenge? The experiment aims at helping people imagine what a sustainable city would look and feel like and does so by trying to get people to give up their cars for a month. This October, the city of Johannesburg, South Africa tried to convince its residents to try this. Local officials in an attempts to encourage people, added new bike lanes and bus routes before the experiment.
So, what really happened? Check it out below.
The very first EcoMobility Challenge took place in South Korea last year in the city of Suwon center from where the cars were banned for a month. Over 4,000 residents stopped driving and the neighborhood became car-free according to Konard Otto-Zimmerman who is the creative director at The Urban Idea which helped in founding the idea.
This year the experiment was more challenging since Sandton, Johannesburg’s central business district has 50 times more commuters than Suwon on a daily basis.
The city didn’t ban cars altogether but rather tried persuading folks to opt for public transport instead. The city installed new bike lanes, wider sidewalks, light rail cars, park and rides, bike rental stations and even shut down certain streets.
Some lanes had to be closed down to allow for the new and faster bus route.
Response that came from bike, bus and train commuters was positive. Otto-Zimmerman says, “Most commuters had been complaining about congestion during rush hour. They appreciated that the city was finally moving on the congestion issue.”
The rest were not willing to give up their cars and opted for cars even though the trains and busses made the commute faster. The overall number of car commuters dropped by 22% during October though.
The city is hopeful that the experiment will help in changing how people commute.
Otto-Zimmerman says, “Most people feel anxious about any change, or to lose something they’re used to. This is why a different urban future is so important: people must be part of an exercise in their own local environment — real people in their real city in real time.”
The experiment is also a sign that Johannesburg is moving closer to joining the global car-free movement. Oslo recently became the first major city that has banned cars in its city center and Madrid has plans of shutting out cars from 500 acres of its center by 2020.
The experiment allows the commuters to experience how life would be with fewer cars, less CO2 emissions and improved public transit.
Otto-Zimmerman says, “If the automobile had never been invented, cities would look differently. There would be less urban sprawl, and far better infrastructure for walking and cycling. The task is to make decision-makers imagine an eco-mobile future — and to fight a mighty lobby of car-makers.”