On Saturday's Good Morning America, ABC touted a German city that has rid itself of all cars. Complimenting the citizens of Vauban, reporter Jim Sciutto cheered, "And residents don't mind one bit." GMA weekend co-host Bill Weir wistfully introduced the segment by musing, "What if you could start everything over? Making over, not just your home, but your entire town?"
Describing Vauban, which relies on bicycles, Weir enthused, "Getting rid of all the carbon emissions, the energy wasters, even the cars? Well, one town has found a way to do it." Neither journalist explained the potential downside to not having automobiles. (What is one to do in the event of a heart attack?) Instead, Sciutto tried to find lessons for America: "So, what can we learn from here that would actually be followed in the States?"
The segment featured Sciutto taking a bike ride with some of the residents. The ABC correspondent then chided, "Of course, no one loves cars as much as Americans do. But if this can happen in Germany, home of Mercedes, and BMW, and the high-speed Autobahn, then maybe more Americans can go two wheels. After all, we did." However, it’s rather absurd to take something that a city with 5300 residents does and attempt to extrapolate it to the United States.
This is the same network that has touted the efforts of an environmentalist who has given up toilet paper in an effort to be carbon neutral. So, it would seem that, by comparison, forgoing cars would be a small compromise.
A transcript of the August 29 segment, which aired at 7:40am, follows:
BILL WEIR: What if you could start everything over? Making over, not just your home, but your entire town? Environmentally friendly, getting rid of all the pollution, and noise. Getting rid of all the carbon emissions, the energy wasters, even the cars? Well, one town has found a way to do it. Here's ABC's senior foreign correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
JIM SCUITTO: As a city, Vauban, Germany, has everything. The tree-lined streets. The perfect houses. Everything except for that one, urban fixture of the last hundred years of so, cars. And residents don't mind one bit.
HARTMUT WAGNER (VAUBAN RESIDENT): We lived with a car. My wife had a car. I had a car, for I think 40 years, at least. I don't miss it at all.
JIM SCIUTTO: For the Wagners, it's a perfect place to relax and retire. I join them on a shopping run, Vauban style. [They go bicycling.] So, this is traffic?
WAGNER: Yeah, this is traffic.
SCIUTTO: For Gerlinde Schuwald and her twin boys, it's a perfect place to raise a family.
GERLINDE SCHUWALD (VAUBAN RESIDENT): I go to, to my work with bike. And my kids go by bike.
SCIUTTO: One of the first things you notice here is just how quiet it is, without traffic noise. You hear birds singing, bicycle bells, children's voices. But you don't have that hum of cars in the background. And it makes a huge difference in your stress level. I think I can actually feel my blood pressure dropping. Bikes are almost religion. Kids pick them up even before they can ride one. But it's about much more. Vauban is an environmentally friendly city of the future, with organically grown food, renewable energy and carbon-neutral homes.
ANDREAS DELLESKE (VAUBAN RESIDENT): People make more money by selling electricity to the grid, than they pay for their, for heat and hot water and electricity.
SCIUTTO: So, they produce more energy than they use?
DELLESKE: Exactly, yes.
SCIUTTO: Vauban was nearly 20 years in the making. Built on the site of a former military barracks, which residents and the local government bought and totally redesigned. Now, it's attracting attention from around the world. Like the class of students from UC Davis we ran into, part of Professor Jeff Loux's sustainability course. So, what can we learn from here that would actually be followed in the States?
PROFESSOR JEFF LOUX (UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS): Yeah. Well, from my point of view, the technologies are all transferable. I think what's difficult for us to, to really get a grasp on, especially in the American west, is the density.
SCIUTTO: Of course, no one loves cars as much as Americans do. But if this can happen in Germany, home of Mercedes, and BMW, and the high-speed Autobahn, then maybe more Americans can go two wheels. After all, we did. For "Good Morning America," Jim Sciutto, ABC News, Vauban, Germany.