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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Transatlantic‹  ›Lifestyle‹  ›EN‹   –  02.01.2012

Carfree and walkable: Venice for Urban Planners

Venice evokes many different images:  romantic gondola rides, impressive  palazzos, a picturesque maze of tiny alleyways connected by countless bridges. The city, spread out over 118 islands, is an art historian’s dream come true – but interestingly, it also holds the key to future urban planning. A look at to the ultimate carfree city.

boat traffic on teh Canal grande
It all began about ten years ago, when I read J.H. Crawford’s book on carfree cities. In it, he outlines a blueprint for an urban environment designed to human scale - instead of, as in most US-cities, to suit the needs of a society dominated by the automobile.  His yardstick, as he called it, for such a design was Venice.  So, in addition to all the usual reasons one might have for visiting Venice (before it sinks into the sea, yes, yes…), I was also highly curious about it from an urban planning point of view.

pedestrians in VeniceTo this day, the densely populated island-city provides all the necessary services without the internal use of the automobile – an impressive feat, considering the millions of tourists the city has to cope with on a year-round basis.  And yet, despite those masses of people that have to be herded through tiny alleyways and who easily fill huge public squares, Venice remains a pleasant environment for pedestrians. No motorized traffic to look out for, no car noises, no exhaust fumes. Not even a single traffic light - you just go.

While there are, of course, the famous vaporettos (ferries which in effect act as the city's buses),walking is by far the easiest and best way to get around town. As you drift along the narrow streets and take in the views from each new bridge, or enjoy a cappuccino overlooking one of the many squares, you can marvel at how this city works. Without cars.

delivery boatsFirst and foremost, there is the delivery of goods, which is all done by boat and – for any address not located directly on a canal – by hand truck. Especially in the morning you see guys pushing carts piled high with boxes and crates through the streets, winding their way through throngs of tourists or pedestrian commuters, up and down the steep bridges with their many steps. Then there is the disposal of garbage, which is also done manually. The bags are simply placed in front of the buildings to be picked up daily in special carts which are then pushed to certain places along the canals where the garbage is transferred to special boats. Probably one of the world’s most expensive garbage removal services – but apparently also one of the most effective ones as the city is remarkably clean.

Be sure to poke around the areas away from the main tourist paths, where the Venetians live, shop, congregate and go to work. That’s where the beauty of carfree urban design really comes to life. And stay tuned, there’s bound to be more on this issue (see: the original ghetto)

For more info on carfree cities, see
world carfree network
carfree city USA