Cars seems to be everywhere in most cities and they create a lot of problems.

For example:

  • dangerous pollution
  • traffic accidents
  • pedestrian/cyclist insecurity
  • less human contact
  • health/obesity problems
  • congestion and less space for people
  • fewer green areas

Say you want to get rid of the cars, i.e. make your city car-free.

What could you do to accomplish such a goal if you:

  • are alone and not part of any organizations etc.
  • doesn't have any political position/power
  • have a normal job, so you don't have endless time/energy
  • have a tiny budget (say less than $10,000)
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ London's congestion charges are a first step - not perfect but a start. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ A few of your problems are with current petrol powered human driven cars. In 2016 we're not too far away from the answer being to use your 10k to open your cities first electric self driving car dealership. $\endgroup$
    – Nathan
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ Fill it as full of cars and traffic as it can possibly be but leave nowhere to park that doesn't cost less than $100/day, just like in a real city. Nobody with a car will accomplish anything on time or at a reasonable cost (also just like in a real city). Over time people will wise up and stop trying to use cars inside of large cities (this one doesn't seem to happen in real cities, for some reason). $\endgroup$
    – aroth
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @aroth: The problem with your solution is that it won't completely eliminate cars. Rather, some people will choose alternatives, which reduces the congestion so that cars once again become practical for some other people. Which is what we see in real cities, as some people choose public transit, bikes, walking, or telecommuting. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 18:36

11 Answers 11


As with all things that seem impossible, like eating an elephant, the trick is to do it one bite at a time. So...

Start by using your 10,000 to get yourself elected to your district's city-council seat. Hopefully you are in a small city with district rather than at-large elections, and the 10,000 is enough. Mind you, you get above 100,000 people, and the 10,000 probably won't cut it. But you also need to be sure to follow a good strategy that will take years to implement, even to just get on the council.

Then start with small steps. Maybe start to encourage that the historic downtown get cordoned off for vehicles, so that people can park on the outside, and walk in. Change the roads to being for bicycles or other non-motorized transport. The city builds a parking garage right outside the cordoned off area and gets income from the parking fees.

Then start growing the idea. Just growing one spot may prove undoable, as it would be difficult to grow it large enough to make mass transportation viable, before people get too leg-sore to accept the change. So grow it by building on the success. The first spot is doing so well, that we cordon off another spot, in another part of the city. Maybe create a large park area on the outside of the city - trails, outdoor amphitheater - and/or maybe your city has a river, away from the historic downtown, so you convince the council to move towards developing a river-walk a la San Antonio river-walk.

Then add in mass transportation. You can start by adding it between the two spots that were pedestrian only. Can do some shopping and sight seeing in historic downtown, then zip over in the electric trolleys to the river-walk for more shopping and dinner.

Then start making spots in between the two areas, in the trolley's route, also pedestrian only. Now you have mass transportation and the community starting to get used to the pedestrian-only areas, so you can start growing it more.

Mind you, you'd have to be one crazy good demagogue. People are going to be incredibly reluctant and push back every step of the way. If you were someone with the charisma of an Obama or Bill Clinton (I may or may not be against disagreeing with their politics, but cannot deny their charisma), you may, one chance in a million, get the plan through.

But that would make for a good story. Someone with that kind of charisma who rather than going for power, decides to simply transform his own community for the better.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I had the same thought: do it piecemeal. I've been in many cities which restrict automobile access to one or more small areas, permitting only pedestrians, bicyclists, and cable trams. Increasing the number of these spaces rather than their size will gradually warm people up to the changes necessary to access the businesses in these areas, and will allow infrastructure to organically adapt itself to match. Eventually you can merge these areas together slowly, and one day they might all merge together to form a car-free city. $\endgroup$
    – talrnu
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JPhi1618 - never assumed people lived downtown. I assume people live in neighborhoods all over town, and keep their cars to drive to this closed-off downtown and their jobs and whatever else. Eventually, as the areas that are closed off grow more numerous and larger and merge, there will be less and less reason to have a car, especially once every neighborhood has their own public transport stop that is at most a few blocks from any home. Why bother with finding parking and all those hassles when you can take a little walk to a trolley stop and be to your work or shop or whatever in minutes? $\endgroup$
    – user11864
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 18:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I love how this answer starts with 'go win an election.' $\endgroup$
    – The Nate
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 5:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ “Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.” - According to Terry Pratchett you're almost sure it'll work $\endgroup$
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 12:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Check out the history of cities like Groningen, The Netherlands. They did this, though the process was difficult. The city center is in large parts cut off from traffic, and there is an excellent bike infrastructure, like in most parts of the Netherlands. $\endgroup$
    – MauganRa
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 16:09

it depends on how committed you are to ridding the cars from the city, learn how to make bombs, put bombs in car-heavy people-light locations (car parks!) and make then inaccessible.

In addition, call in bomb threats/make more bombs and plant them on major roadways.

Then call up the local radio stations and announce that you hate cars, that anyone driving a car is a valid target and that you won't stop.

Then stop... for a while and keep committing these acts that hurt as few people as possible and make as much impact on traffic congestion.

Make sure that local transport is completely unaffected by your bombs...

Then it's just a case of not getting caught...

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Get ISIS to fund and help you. Tell them it's for the greater Islamic good since they won't have to suffer from higher temperatures now. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Skye the reason to not get others involved and limit the damage to the population is that you don't want to draw too much attention... if you recruit extremists more people will die and the response will be much more forceful when it comes... I prefer to captured by Navy Seals instead of executed and have my body dropped into the sea $\endgroup$
    – Chris J
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ I understand that, but if you went around putting bombs everywhere... the FBI CIA or an equivalent organization is gonna hunt you down anyway. Doesn't this plan sound a bit extremist as well? I'm not condemning this answer though, it's fun. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Skye they will hunt you down eventually, this plan is very extreme but I figure it's the only way one person could make it work... You'd have to spend years ahead of time building bombs and planting them so you aren't caught planting them, ideally making loads of dummy ones as well to lead investigators astray $\endgroup$
    – Chris J
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisJ How do you create traffic congestion which stops cars and doesn't stop buses? If you frighten people from using the roads, then surely you'll also frighten them from using buses which travel those same roads, drive past those same car parks, and so on? $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 14:03

I don't own a car (and don't particularly want to). So I have to get to everywhere I want to by walking or using public transport. Here's what you would have to do in my small city to make people abandon their cars for walking/public transport. It'll cost way, way, way more than £10,000.

Make public transport really cheap, really frequent, really efficient... and really go everywhere people want it to. Buses/trams/tube trains/local trains which run every 5 or 10 minutes all day, every day and on every route to myriad destinations are what the public wants. They don't want to stand for long periods in the rain, with them, their children and their shopping getting soaked while they wait for a bus/train.

But because the bus companies are trying to maximise profits, they don't do this ultra frequent, ultra efficient timetabling. So there are buses which only run once an hour. Buses which don't run after 19.00. Buses which don't run on a Sunday or on public holidays. Buses which do run every 10 minutes but are so packed no more people can get on board. And Grud help you if you want to go from one side of the city to another - that'll meaning changing buses/trams in the city centre. Lucky you - you get to stand in the rain twice! Maybe 3 times if you live in a really big city. Then you get to do the same on the way home! :-)

Redesign your public transport. Parents with pushchairs want to use buses. People in wheelchairs want to use buses. People with luggage or big parcels want to use buses. Oh dear, 2 prams, 1 wheelchair user and 1 person with an enormous suitcase are waiting at the bus stop and the bus only has room for 2 of them, because of the way it is laid out. More waiting in the rain...

Redesign buses to have more room for families with prams, people carrying enormous stuff from Ikea, kids with scooters, etc. You'll have to sacrifice seating to do this, so you'll have to run MORE buses to compensate. Train and tram carriages should be the sort which can carry bicycles and lots and lots and lots of prams/wheelchairs. And have decent luggage racks, not the stupid little ones which barely fit a briefcase.

Completely redesign the layout of your city. All sorts of things in modern cities have been designed with cars in mind. Edge of town/out of town shopping centres, cinemas and/or industrial estates, for instance. When public transport is intregrated into these, it is usually as an afterthought: Ooh better ask the bus company if they want to run a bus to the new multiplex... Oh, they don't. Ah. well, never mind.

So don't let anyone build anything without incorporating a railway or tram line or tube line as part of it! Rail transport indicates you really mean it. Buses are a poor alternative.

Crash house prices and drop rents. People are commuting further and further by car, because they can't afford to live in or near the city centre. Housing estates are built on greenbelt land because it is cheap. If you make the centre and inner parts of the city affordable, people can walk or take a short bus ride to work.

Invest your $10,000 in a physics professor's research project and hope he invents teleportation. Public teleportation is pretty much the only way to sort out my city's transport problems!

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know in what city you live in, but you should defintely speak to your mayor about bus shelters :) $\endgroup$
    – Loufylouf
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Loufylouf - the shiny new bus shelters we've got are designed to display video adverts and be too awkward/uncomfortable for homeless people to sleep on the benches. Keeping the rain off passengers scores a poor third. :-) The old fashioned ones are better. Lots of stops don't have either. Neither kind is big enough to shelter all the commuters on a busy route. $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ I believe that instead of wasting 10,000 dollars on some professor who has really, really slim chances of inventing teleportation device, you'd be better off at gambling or buying and selling market shares. This way, you have at least some chance of earning money, instead of just losing it. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ Cheaper solution. Move to Europe. $\endgroup$
    – user24000
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ @user24000 I'm already in Europe! Well at least until Brexit... $\endgroup$
    – DrBob
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 15:21

To make a city car free you need popular support. You simply won't get that unless you provide replacements that are perceived as being superior.

Some alternatives already exist, which can be reasonably perceived as being superior, but in many cultures they are perceived as being inferior. Change the perception *.

A combination of bikes, public transport and road pricing works well in practice, in several cities. Removing cars altogether doesn't really work well in any cities yet (how do you restock shops or move furniture?), unless limited to a tiny area where some kind of motorized vehicles still are allowed, e.g. Zermatt.

*This is something an individual can help with in countless ways.

  • $\begingroup$ I think this is outside the bounds of 10,000 budget, unless you can provide more details on how to achieve it $\endgroup$
    – Chris J
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 10:44

There is a boring but non-violent and, what is more, actually feasible possibility, that even has the benefit that you can keep your bucks.

Join a political party.

Work your bum off.

Find like-minded people, team up.
Develop a concept that provides an alternative to individual motorized transport. Find more like-minded people, and team up more. And work harder.

And then, maybe, after two or three decades, you might just be able to achieve what you are trying.


Motorized transportation is an actual necessity in many cases. While it is a commodity for a large part of shoppers, and even commuters, it is (almost?) impossible to replace for delivery, for anybody who carries heavy tools to work, ambulances and whatnot.

Also, such a drastic change requires time for people to accept, even when the alternative is already provided.

So, no, in a reasonably realistic world-setting, i don't see a different way given your setup.


Naturally there are, in the real word, people and organisations who have $10k and who all else being equal would prefer their cities to be car-free. They have not achieved it just by wishing it so. To do it without any allies, time, political power, or resources, is going to require an immense amount of serendipity, or else some form of power other than explicit political power or money.

Assuming that what you want is for some character to achieve this (or to have achieved it in the past) with minimal effort, then I would suggest they rode the crest of a wave not of their own making. That is to say, the city was already well-populated with people who did have time, money, dedication, and influence, and the character in question somehow catalysed them.

For example, perhaps some little old lady gets knocked off her bike three times in the same week and "accomplishes her goal" of getting rid of cars by soliciting enormous sympathy and outrage. The populace has to be on the verge of banning cars anyway, because a city in which driving is the primary means of transport would much rather cripple a few little old ladies than cripple its own infrastructure.

Another way would be someone who has no money or political position of their own, but has influence over someone who does. So for example the child of an autocratic mayor makes a passing remark that cars are stupid and should be banned, and the autocrat decides to make that wish come true at any cost.


Well, I know that you didn't give a reality-check tag, so based on some fictional world there's always the possibility that $10,000 can go much further than it does in our contemporary world.

Assuming that you mean in something based on our current reality, it would be virtually impossible.

Some ways that a city could be mad car-less would be:

  • Other forms of mass transportation: subway, light rail, trolley, even moving sidewalks could take the place of cars, but something would have to be available in their stead, and older, real examples of this (horse-drawn buggies) are not efficient in a modern city for the sheer volume of people that need to move about.

  • Applicable city zoning and residential regulations: residential areas would be more strongly intertwined with commercial and industrial zones, and people would be required to live near their jobs. This, of course, flies in the face of liberty and also would create hardship if someone left their job, a company closed, or if for any other reason they needed to be closer to a different zone. This would also make it difficult for a successful company to grow.

  • Replace cities with Arcologies (Arcos): this removes the need for #1, and really shores up #2, but the difficulties of #2 still remain. The idea of a self-contained metropolis is very appealing from many aspects, but there are a variety of reasons that none (of any useful scale) exist today.

All of these options require a significant amount of money and planning and time, and would require a large number of people to be on board with the idea and planning.

  • $\begingroup$ All "reality-check" denotes is suggesting an idea, and asking 'is it plausible' with an implied yes/no answer, per the tag's description. It doesn't imply any specific level of scrutiny or realism. To quote the tag's opening sentence, the tag is for: "...questions asking whether or not a particular concept is realistic in a given context." $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ Right, and the context provided (though without a reality-check tag) didn't make this plausible. I was specifying that if the OP had included that, it wouldn't be plausible, however, here are some ways that a city COULD be made car-free without all of the specifics from the original post. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 14:00

It's only going to be possible if you have one or more of the excluded list.

Cities need transportation in order to bring in commerce and jobs. Simply stopping cars/trucks from entering the city will cause huge problems in terms of overloaded public transportation and there being little way of distributing goods to anywhere not directly adjacent to a rail station.

In order to create a car-free city, you'll need to build the infrastructure that's going to support the whole city. For that, you'll need money and/or political clout.

And a lot of charisma too.

  • $\begingroup$ Screw the charisma, get Pablo Escobar :D $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 12:52

Giant Travelators

Basically I'm picturing two travelators going through the middle of the city, each going the opposite direction. These platforms are wide, with seats along the side, so you can either sit on the seats like on a bus and be carried to where you want, or you can walk to where you want, along the moving platform.

This means we get back to walking, which is healthy, and the travelators boost our speed by a good 5-20mph (you could have a few of varying speeds).

How can one man do such a thing with $10k? Kickstarter!

Too hard for electricity? Make some manmade rivers, and use their current as the underlying base.

If cheap travelator technology was developed, I can imagine cities as they are, but instead of static concrete, the streets are moving platforms you can use at your convenience.


Revisiting the need of car free city

I don't feel making city car free is really needed, because

  • It presumes cars are behind all/most issues that you noted
  • Everything has some purpose / good purpose and I feel cars do provide some such purpose...

Solution: Education!!!

Education is the only source of prolonged and self-enduring change.

We need education because

  • to tell people that we REALLY REALLY don't need to have car when we are commuting alone (of course there are exceptions...say in India at very late hours in villages where there is really no means of public transport, we just need personal commuting option. But then it may be a car or a bike depending upon the need and situation. So here we have genuine case where cars do serve good purpose. Simply force fitting one rule to all can never be wise action.)
  • to teach people to not to interprete car (and any other possessable thing) as a luxury/status symbol. This is simply ill-interpretation. Prolonged practice of such perceptions makes our mind unhealthy. Our mind get caught in perception which when vanishes makes us miserable. Simply put we becomes slave of our own wrong-formed perception. The funniest thing is that we form such perceptions by practicing them for decades!!! And it becomes absolutely impossible to completely abandon such perceptions at the time when they fail to satisfy and we become miserable. Best thing to have schools which will teach us what is actually sensible to practice / to instead of just teaching maths and science.
  • to tell people that it bring happiness to bring more happiness to others in exchange of some pain to ourselves, to make world more cleaner/greener in exchange of some inconvenience/discomfort.
  • because education is (at least decade) long procedure to mold brains in sensible manner so that they will know
    • when is right time to take out personal car
    • when to follow public transport
    • when to take some discomfort and go by public transport
    • when to do right thing, in right manner, at right time (in general)
  • not to mention to give willpower to our politicians to honestly put efforts in building public transport and to do any other thing that they take up as their responsibility
  • last but not least, it educates Me. So change can start from Me!!! (I prefer this one over above)

We cannot achieve enduring, perfectly balanced solution to any issue overnight. We need to have long plan to ensure stuff will just work forever. We might build innovative zero emission transportation solutions...but then building them everywhere on earth wont be feasible. But educating people over a period of time is very much possible. And they will then do only right things, not just deciding about how / when to travel.

I believe proper education is the key to every problem. Today's education is centered towards employment, not empowerment (again of course there are exceptions, but I feel this is what a major outlook of current education). That's why after so many "Empowerment drives" we still feel world's misery is not yet over. (Some may feel its increased.) Pollution and other issues are just different forms of misery arising out of ill-education.


Ok so this answer may be a bit more... extreme/silly, but it is very fast and efficient and your rules don't explicitly say anything against it.

Using your tiny budget (the more the better though) self-manufactor or buy explosives and then use them to destroy parts of the roads or throw it into a large area of cars.

However, the plan could be altered to have less evidence pointing towards you as the basic idea behind it is to remove the necessary infrastructure for cars, as well as cars themselves. Simply destroying the cars by tinkering with them when their owners have gone would also be viable, however the explosives idea would also remove a large amount of infrastructure needed.

It would sure get a lot of cars off the road, and hate too...


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