Picture children playing games of football on major urban thoroughfares. Tourists stood in the middle of the street nonchalantly taking photos. Restaurants spilling out onto small squares – and not a car, moped or bus in sight.
Such are my memories of Venice, the only car-free city I have ever been to, when a friend and I visited during a student hitch-hiking summer holiday. The Italian city is, of course, unique in that it is built on a series of small islands – yet it is a refreshing experience being able to wander around without dodging in and out of traffic.
For the last 100 years, the car has come to dominate the urban landscape. Streets have been widened in many cities to accommodate automobiles, and huge amounts of space are given over to parking them. Private vehicles have revolutionised mobility, but they have also introduced many ills, from air pollution to traffic accidents. And today a small but growing number of cities are trying to design the car out of the urban landscape altogether.