An article in the New York Times yesterday gives some credence to the idea of viable car-free suburbs. This of course is the type of development people tend to look askance at even the suggestion of. According to our conventional history, after all, the explosion of the suburbs in the middle of the 20th century is closely tied to the popular availability of the automobile. The very idea of the suburb is so closely tied in our minds to famous car-based developments such as Levittown that the notion of a car-free suburb seems, well, self-contradictory.
Levittown, NewYork, the image of the suburb (thanks to riowight)
The community of Vauban, outside of Freiburg in Germany proves otherwise.
Vauban, Freiburg,Germany, a new sort of suburb (thanks to mattwyn)
Built on the site of a former German (and then French) military base, this suburban development, apparently completed in 2001, is a mixed-use community (pop: 5000, employed: 600) oriented towards pedestrians and ‘alternative’ means of transport such as bicycles and mass-transit. The cars, for people have not entirely given them up, are kept in large parking structures on the outskirts, but as of 2009 (according to Wikipedia), 70% of the residents had in fact given up their personal cars entirely. Transit into Freiburg is accommodated by a form of light rail, and residents also use car-sharing organizations.
Trolley station in Vauban (thanks to Kafeeinstein)
Because the community is laid out on the site of a former military base, never meant for navigation by private automobile, it seems to have something of a collegial feel to it – which you can only imagine would be strengthened by the slower and less alienating means of transit that its population has adopted. The layout also works well with the light rail system which runs through it, the layout accordingly elongated along the tracks so as to minimize the distance between any unit and the train.
At any rate, the development seems like a great precedent for communities of the future (the Times article reports on a similar project planned for California). Eliminating cars from neighbourhoods like this one not only makes them more sustainable but also makes them far more livable.
A bicycle garage in Vauban (thanks to adeupa de Brest)