Vauban, Germany is almost completely car-free, except for the tram that chugs along main street. Most residents don’t own cars and half sold theirs to move here. This upscale suburb on the outskirts of Freiburg was established in 2006 and boasts no street parking, driveways or garages. Owning a car is allowed, but it must be purchased along with a home (and a parking space) in one of two public parking garages on the edge of town, to the tune of $40,000. Vauban is part of a growing trend in Europe and some parts of the United States called ‘smart planning’.

People’s dependency on cars is a main component of greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to global warming. So far 5,500 residents inhabit row-style housing, designed to reduce heat loss and maximize energy efficiency – free standing homes are forbidden. Not only does banning cars help the environment, but it makes the streets safer for people, especially children. Many residents have commented that they don’t worry about their children playing outside because there is little to no danger of being hit by a moving vehicle.

Some suburbs of Oakland, California are looking into adopting this way of living. But will it work in the United States? Are we too dependent on our vehicles to even consider living without them? Does the simple fact of geography or city planning prohibit us from walking or biking everywhere?

But the bigger question remains: would you live in towns like these?

(photo from Resilient Cities)