Late last year, when the Dutch city of Utrecht unveiled its plans for a completely car-free neighbourhood, many took note. While Utrecht is specifically designing new infrastructures to make the community more bike and pedestrian-friendly, many Melbourne suburbs already have similar infrastructures in place, making low-car communities entirely achievable.
A low-car community has many benefits, including reducing harmful emissions, improved air quality, saving money, and creating a stronger bond with the community. University of South Australia’s urban planning researcher, Dr Hulya Gilbert adds another oft-overlooked element; “despite the common view across the world that cars provide freedom and flexibility, increasingly we’re seeing the priority given to cars in infringing people’s ability - and right - to get around without one.”
True to this sentiment, Neighbourhood is a rare off-the-plan development offering a more thoughtful and sustainable lifestyle. The development provides all the standard sustainable elements expected and offers numerous low-car initiatives that complement Brunswick East’s existing infrastructure - making the transition to a low-car lifestyle effortless.
Embrace the local connection on foot
Located only 4km from Melbourne CBD, Brunswick East boasts an incredible walk score of 94 out of a possible 100. This means the area is designed with daily accessibility in mind, where nearly all errands can be done on foot.
Neighbourhood offers over 120 secure bike parking facilities to encourage its residents to live more consciously within and outside the development. This, together with the local Council’s heavy investment in creating safe cycling paths, means cycling to and from daily errands is easier than driving. Residents will also have ample opportunity to exercise while reconnecting with nature along the Merri Creek bike trail.
While there’s rarely a need to leave Brunswick East, an excellent public transport network makes doing so effortless. Neighbourhood residents will be within minutes of the 96 tram line and several bus stops - both options offering easy access to the city without having to stress about parking. For those rare occasions when a car is necessary, Neighbourhood residents can find carshare services nearby.
While the environmental and health impacts of a low-car community are the more obvious benefits, there are also plenty of social gains. For example, regularly walking around the neighbourhood - instead of driving - puts residents in touch with the people and the businesses at the core of their community.
Brunswick East is full of exciting events that regularly bring its people together and strengthens the suburb’s village-style bonds. In addition, the local retailers carry a familial openness; Blackhearts & Sparrows on Lygon Street offers plenty of top-quality wines, spirits and craft beers with a focus on knowledge sharing, while Old Palm Liquor - also on Lygon Street - offers produce-driven dishes alongside a generous vinyl collection.
Take a walk in nature
Neighbourhood fosters its residents’ connection to nature - a luxury not usually afforded to apartment dwellers. Just outside the front door is direct north frontage to Balfe Park, and just a few minutes stroll will put residents at the heart of the spectacular Merri Creek.
Nearby, there is also the CERES Community Environment Park. The 4.5-hectare, award-winning oasis offers plenty to see and do through an education centre, a community garden, an urban farm and a social enterprise that also serves as a meeting hub for the community.
Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of a low-car lifestyle is the potential loss of convenience and accessibility to daily amenities. However, as Neighbourhood shows, this is rarely the case with the proper infrastructure and designs principles in place.
Neighbourhood has set out to be the ideal place where people can relax, work, and play in an environmentally conscious and healthy way - and it has certainly ticked all the boxes. Its perfect location, literally minutes from everything needed for a convenient yet sustainable lifestyle, makes for an incredibly forward-thinking community. For more information on living sustainably in a low-car community like Neighbourhood, click here.