A year ago, the city of Suwon in South Korea motivated people to encounter life from another vantage point. In the neighborhood of Haenggung-dong, residents practiced a car-free experiment that was a brilliant success.
The Eco-mobility World Festival encouraged 4,343 residents and car owners to volunteer to give up the use of their cars for the entire month. The residents agreed to exclude 1,500 cars from the streets. They found they experienced life a healthier, more sustainable, more environmentally friendly, and more pleasurable life as a result. The streets belonged to the people again. Bicycle companies provided bicycles to all the families cooperating in the experiment.
According to Sustainable Cites Collective, a report produced on the experiment found that: “Haenggung-dong residents discovered that in a neighborhood without cars, the space between buildings transforms from car parks and conduits to safe and green places to gather, to enjoy leisure activities, to linger in, and to enjoy.”
One resident stated: “If the Festival had not happened, we would still be living with a mindset that cars are the only way of adapting to an urban lifestyle. The Festival offered us an attractive, feasible, more sustainable alternative, and for that we are forever grateful.”
Considering efficiency Konrad Otto-Zimmermann suggest the obvious. He asks us to think of the fact that the current car comes in at approximately 20 times the weight of the person it carries — and that we carry all that steel with us as we drive often in order to transport nothing else. However, when you look at a bicycle, this is just 1/5 the weight of a person; nonetheless, it does carry a person (easily).
A collaboration between ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and the City of Suwon, under the caring and motivated leadership of Mayor Yeom Tae-Young, was responsible for the Festival. A 3-day conference attended by urban mobility experts from Japan, Mexico, Kenya, and 40 other countries, as well as organizations such as the New Cities Foundation.
The experiment has born some long-lasting results. Sustainable Cities Collective continues:
A citizens’ round table was hosted by Suwon City last November. Around 300 participants called for speed restrictions, parking controls and one-way systems to be instituted, and for the project’s area to be extended to include the entirety of Haenggung-dong. As a result, the immediate changes have been:
- No parking on Hwaseomun Street and Sinpung.
- Street speed restricted to 30km per hour
- Car-free weekends
- Residents allowed to have their free parking rights in parking lots renewed permanently with free rental of bikes
- Further street improvements to be continued.
“With this Festival, the City of Suwon has become a leader in advancing environmental and sustainability solutions,” believes Park Won Soon, Mayor of Seoul City.
Suwon might inspire other cities to become more progressive. Now they are entering the WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge, a year-long competition among cities to promote renewable energy and prepare for climate change.
Besides bicycling, walking is another friendly way to be happier. According to the National Association of Realtors, home values do 42% better when located near public transit. Walk Score points out that living near public transit saves you money. Transportation is the second-largest expense for American households. Living near public transit makes good sense and helps one avoid sitting in that steel machine stuck in traffic.
There were 1,000,000 visits recorded during the Eco-mobility World Festival. What other city will follow in Suwon’s footsteps? San Francisco has a car-free Sunday event that takes place around the city. In 2009, New York City banned cars in Times Square and on Broadway from 42nd Street to 43rd Street; they are not missed. Thanks to Suwon, we have a new standard to meet. Who is next for a car-free neighborhood for the length of a month?
“The goal is for the ecomobile neighborhood to be used as a prototype for other cities to replicate across the globe,” said ICLEI Global EcoMobility Coordinator, Santhosh Kodukula. ICLEI has the tools to transform your city; all they need in return is leadership from the city’s administration. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Featured Image by Cynthia Shahan All Rights Reserved. Visiting a Car Free City