Driving cars out of cities

There may come a time when cars are no longer welcome in most cities. Already there are signs around the world this is starting to happen. The question is whether or when Sydney will stop its love affair with the car.


Bicycles are an obvious choice in many cities because they are small, easy to park and non-polluting.

  • Amsterdam – 48% of trips in the city centre are on bicycles
  • Copenhagen – there are now more bikes than cars (265,700 v 252,600)
  • London – there are now only 2 cars for every bike.

In the last 5 years or so, the number of cyclists in the City of Sydney has supposedly doubled. Some dispute the figures. Winner of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans, claimed he would never ride a bike in Sydney because of its narrow streets, volume of vehicles, lack of cycling infrastructure – and lack of respect for cyclists in Sydney.


Most vehicles are polluting, particularly when they are densely packed in small spaces. The OECD says, while 1,280 people die on the roads in Australia, another 740 die because of vehicle emissions. The yearly cost of all air pollution in Australia is estimated to be $4 billion.

Paris has recently decided to make all drivers display an anti-pollution sicker on their cars, trucks, motorcycles and scooters. There are six coloured stickers representing the age and cleanliness of their vehicle. Some older vehicles will not be able to go into the city at all between 8am and 8pm during the week.

London will introduce later this year a new 10 pounds toxicity charge, or T-charge, for diesel and petrol cars with certain polluting engines. This is on top of the 11.50 pounds congestion charge.

Car sharing

Another contributor to removing cars from cities is car sharing. About 15% (20,000) of residents of the City of Sydney now share cars using GoGet and Car Next Door. There are 805 vehicles available for sharing. If one shared car replaces 10 private vehicles, that drives nearly 10,000 vehicles from the council’s area.

The infrastructure firm AECOM predicts, by 2036:

  • 300,000 Sydneysiders sharing cars
  • Driving 180 million fewer kms per year
  • Freeing up 1.2 million sqm of street for bike lanes, markets and parks.

By 2036, car sharing will not be the only option and driverless vehicles, public transport, and all forms of “mobility as a service” will be available together.

Parking-free areas

In our blog, Should parking spaces be SUV-sized?, we said some cities are creating wider parking spaces for SUVs, but others are eliminating parking altogether. For example, Zurich developers who want to create new parking spaces have to remove the same number from the city’s streets.

City of Sydney says it aims to cut the number of new parking spaces by 50% before 2030. Colliers, the real estate company, says Sydney has added only 766 parking bays since 2007. Throughout Australia, many car parking stations are already being demolished to put up office or apartment buildings.

The small German town of Vauban, does not allow cars in its city centre. But residents who choose to have cars can park them in a multi-storey car park outside Vauban for 18,000 Euros a year, so all residents can live in a parking-free area. People who choose not to have cars get cheaper housing or free use of the tram.

What next?

There may be other ways of making cars unwelcome in cities but AECOM says car ownership in Sydney is not likely to decline for another 20 years. By then there could be 4 million cars on the roads and, given the congestion today, it won’t be a pretty sight.

Get your green slip here.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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