There was an article in today’s Austin American Statesman titled “Europe makes driving unpleasant to discourage car use”; you can view the entire article here: http://www.statesman.com/news/world/europe-makes-driving-unpleasant-to-discourage-car-use-1564129.html.
The article is certainly thought provoking, especially when compared to some of the recent initiatives that the City of Austin has sponsored.
The article cites European cities such as Vienna, Munich, Copenhagen, Paris, and Barcelona as examples of places trying to encourage drivers “toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation”. These cities have reconstructed or otherwise restricted certain streets and/or entire sub-districts of their cities in order to making driving miserable enough so that their residents and visitors chose alternative methods of transportation.
In Austin, you see similar, albeit more benign initiatives. Downtown you’ll see extra wide sidewalks meant to encourage pedestrian activity. Streets which used to be two lanes in each direction, such as W. 2nd Street (Willie Nelson Boulevard), are now one lane in each direction, with a wide (12-ft) sidewalk on one side, and an extra-wide (18-ft) sidewalk on the other.
Throughout other places in the City, you’ll see traffic calming devices disguised as landscape planters. You’ll also notice that the City of Austin has taken to striping former 4-lane roads into 2-lane roads with bicycle lanes and parallel parking spaces; East 12th Street for Example has been reconfigured in this manner.
In the United States in general, the design trend has traditionally been geared towards encouraging or accommodating the vehicular environment. Austin is on the forefront of trying to reverse that trend.