Move over, Copenhagen. Hamburg is following you into the 21st century by deemphasizing the role of the car.
Almost half of Germany’s second-largest city already consists of green areas, parks, gardens, squares, cemeteries, and sports facilities (see map). Hamburg plans to link two large green areas in the north and south with bicycle routes and pedestrian pathways that interconnect with other parts of the city.
The city is working on eliminating cars from its center in just 20 years. Closing strategic streets to car traffic and limiting other streets and squares to pedestrians expedites the process. By fanning out from the center and linking existing green spots in the outlying areas, the city can cut down on the number of vehicles substantially. The ultimate hope is that the next generation of residents and visitors will be able to explore the city exclusively on bike and by foot.
“Other cities, including London, have green rings,” says city spokeswoman Angelika Fritsch, “but the green network will be unique in covering an area from the outskirts to the city centre. In 15 to 20 years you’ll be able to explore the city exclusively on bike and foot.”
Hamburg’s overall “Green Network Plan“also involves taming the city’s somewhat unruly climate. Hamburg’s average temperature has risen several degrees F. since the mid-20th century. Also, new natural spaces rather than impervious urban development will reduce the city’s risk of flooding, which has increased with local sea level rise.
“To ensure that the plan integrates the entire city, the core team will work with one person from each of the seven municipalities of the metropolitan region. Uniting these spaces will ensure that all residents can enjoy access to nature and a sustainable commute.”
Besides Copenhagen’s Strøget section, Tripoli, Fazilka (India), the canal city of Venice, Italy, and its namesake in California are known for doing without cars. So are parts of urban Krakow, Rotterdam, Budapest, Vienna, Dubrovnik, Hong Kong, Moscow, Melbourne, and Sydney. Masdar city outside Abu Dhabi, the “Great City” near Chengdu, China, and cities involved in the Venus Project have been planned to be carless or combustionless, as were Arcosanti and Bicycle City, SC. Eight mountain cities in Switzerland allow no or few cars. In addition, many of the world’s small island cities have no vehicle capacity and have never allowed automobiles.
Walled and ancient cities such as York, England, Ghent, Belgium, Málaga, Spain, East Jerusalem, and Fes-el-Bali, Morocco, often prove ideal locations for carless city plans because they were designed for pedestrians, carts, and riding animal traffic. So are port cities like Hamburg, some resorts (seven in Germany, for example) and historical reproductions such as Jamestown, Virginia and Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Congestion charges, such as those in London, also play a part in bringing crowded urban areas down to earth and improving them for pedestrian and bike travel.