Car-free city centres – A qualitative research on diminishing car flows within and around city centres through behavioural change measures

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Several studies have been conducted on beneficial effects of implementing car-free areas in cities. Car-free city centres have gained popularity in recent decades for improving air quality and as a response to congestion in urban areas. This suggests that implementing car-free zones is an effective strategy to create more liveable and sustainable cities. However, decreasing car-accessibility is a frequent objective of these kind of implementations. Practice shows that the negative externalities of car traffic are likely to shift to surrounding areas, because cars are pushed away from city centres. An example of a Dutch city experiencing the problems regarding car traffic is Breda. The ring road around the city centre (Singel) was heavily congested and congestion was the order of the day. The municipality argued that the problems around the city centre due to car traffic were not only due to inadequate infrastructure, but mainly to ingrained behaviour. Therefore, the municipality advocated a set of car-free measures that were strongly focused on influencing behaviour, which turned out to be effective. This research focuses on the application of behavioural influencing measures in the implementation of car-free inner cities. It investigates to what extent and in what way municipalities apply them. With the knowledge and insight generated, an overview of Dutch cities’ car-free policy is presented. The study shows that large Dutch cities particularly focus on restrictions on car traffic and parking, redesigning space and promoting walking and cycling. In practice, the application of behavioural car-fee measures mainly comes down to applying positive and negative incentives to stimulate desired behaviour. However, recent privacy legislation restricts the application of behavioural interventions based on collected data, which limits the possibilities and future prospects. Key words: car-free, city centres, car-free policies, behaviour-influencing mobility measures
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen