Car free ambitions in the City of Ghent
In 1996, the Belgian city of Ghent developed a car-free city centre as a solution to tackle various problems in the city. The main reasons for developing such centres were to address traffic management platforms, pedestrian and cyclist safety, air quality, proper public transportation, city livability, and the attractiveness of Ghent to citizens and tourists.
Earlier, major parts of the city were congested for several hours each day, and despite the fact that there was already a large pedestrian area, parked cars ruined many beautiful streets. The local government was convinced that establishing a car-free city centre would benefit the economy, the environment, livability, and tourism. However, at the outset of the development of such centres, local shops and retail companies protested, while environmental and mobility organisations supported the idea. Following the implementation of the plan, the car-free city centre in conjunction with shared mobility systems proved to be a huge success. Riversides and squares, for example, became important gathering places for residents, and the city centre became a safer place for cyclists and pedestrians.
According to available data, car journeys in Ghent decreased from 55% to 27% in 2020, which resulted in a more peaceful, people-friendly urban environment by encouraging shared mobility systems as part of a car-free city centre action plan. Other significant outcomes of developing a car-free city centre included fewer road traffic accidents, an increase in the use of public transportation, an 18% reduction in air pollution, and an increase in the number of cyclists from 22% to 37%. 
Overall, sharing mobility systems promote a more deliberate decision-making process regarding how to travel. People are thus encouraged over time towards changing travel behaviour, particularly the transition from owning a private car to using shared transportation. The bottom line, the impact of developing a car-free city centre was enormous, resulting in a high-quality experience. Instead of focusing on traffic, people could enjoy the abundance of historic buildings, cafés, and shops.
Special thanks to the University of Ghent for providing this news insight on the city of Ghent.