I knew I should have written this post earlier: Christoph Chorherr’s German language blog recently linked to a survey of the residents residents of Floridsdorf, a car-free section of Vienna which was built about ten years ago, to see how the place was getting along. I was going to read the report a couple of times then impress you all by telling you about it, but I’ve been busy lazy over the last week and the highly readable “Cycling is good for you” blog got there first with a great translation and summary, and a vast amount of ‘further information’ links all of which you can read by clicking on this link. Go on. I’ll still be here when you’re finished.

Welcome back. By now you’ll have worked out that Floridsdorf was planned carefully: it’s not just about not having parking, but a whole different approach to mobility and livability. It’s also good to persuade people not to get a car and park it around the corner on the sly. I especially love the idea of  the shared spaces, so instead of the rich people living on top in a penthouse flat with their own pool, the pool is shared by everyone, as are the community gardens, workshops, and other facilities.

Yet whenever this sort of thing is proposed, it’s accused of  ‘Social Engineering’. or worse. It seems that making public transport available or a building a walkable neighbourhood is ‘forcing’ people to live a certain way,  instead of allowing people the choice of living how they want, and apparently that’s mile after mile of car-dominated sprawl, which where residents choose to be forced to own an expensive car or be  sentenced to virtual imprisonment in in the suburbian gulag. Of course all those people driving require more roads: , so we  “choose” to make cities car friendly, and the people who live in them have streets polluted and clogged by car traffic, because that’s What People Want: and forcing them to live otherwise would be ‘social engineering’ after all. Get off my car yer socialist.

One thing: I don’t see one of these around Floridsdorf or Vauban to keep the discontented masses or from leaving. In fact as Anna of “Cycling is good for you” attests, free apartments in Floridsdorf are almost impossible to get hold of because of the high demand. Hmm… Perhaps ‘What People Want’ is a bit more a case of ‘Not wanting to change’.

Either way those pesky socially engineered places are catching on. Vauban caused a little stir a few months ago on the Blogosphere, but very similar schemes exist or are being planned in a few places- Amsterdam has one just around the corner from Henry’s workbikes, Düsseldorf and Tübingen are planning similar and there’s a brand new one in Köln, just off our route along the Rhine. Perfect for a visit in fact, so we’re going to drop by and see what it’s really like.

I’ll let you know if they have to surround the place with Razor Wire and hunt down escapees trying to breathe the heady exhaust-tinged air of suburbia.

Watch me get scooped on this one.