Urban planners and designers in Hamburg, Germany are working on a plan which aims to eliminate the need for cars in the city over the next 20 years. The project will help to turn the city into a one-of-a-kind, integrated system that could well be adopted by other major cities around the world.
While cars have become a serious cause of environmental, social and aesthetic problems in modern cities, Hamburg’s Green Network Plan will create pedestrian and bike lanes to connect the city's existing green areas, providing safe, car-free commuter routes.
The plan will be developed over the next 15 to 20 years and will connect major parks, playgrounds, community gardens, and cemeteries in Germany's second-largest city. The resulting network will cover 40 per cent of the urban area and should enable commuters and tourists to move around the city entirely by bike or by foot.
Rapid population growth within urban areas is leading to growing traffic congestion, which has many side effects. One of the most pressing problems is parking, especially in city centres. Long delays getting to and from work causes frustration, which leads to more accidents.
But the most serious problem caused by cars is the air pollution they produce, which exacerbates global warming. In the case of Hamburg, over the past 60 years they city’s average temperature has increased by 9° Celsius. Sea levels have risen by 20 centimetres and they are expected to increase another 30 centimetres by 2100.
The proposed car-free plan was created to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while the expanded green spaces the plans suggests along the new, green paths will also help to alleviate flooding in the event of heavy rainfall and big storms.
The new green network also aims to improve the overall health of the city and its inhabitants. City of Hamburg spokesperson Angelika Fritsch explained the project will offer people opportunities to hike, swim, do water sports, enjoy picnics and restaurants, experience calm and watch nature and wildlife right in the city.
“That reduces the need to take the car for weekend outings outside the city,” she said.
The project is part of a growing trend, particularly within Europe, to create cycling networks that spread beyond city centres, connecting cities with their suburbs.
Brussels, the capital and largest city of Belgium and one of Europe’s most congested cities, is also contemplating going car-free. Brussels' plan is to turn the city’s central axis into a pedestrian zone, transforming an existing four-lane boulevard and a string of squares into a long, café-filled promenade.
The new zone will be connected with an existing pedestrian area in the narrow streets around the city's Grand Place and Rue Neuve, turning Brussels’ core into a spacious, rambling open-air meeting space.
Denmark capital city, Copenhagen, has undertaken perhaps the most ambitious of these plans with the construction of 26 bicycle “superhighways” that extend out from the city centre as part of the city’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.