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Hamburg to become Germany's largest car-free zone?

An initiative wants to turn the Hamburg district of Eimsbüttel into a "children's room on the street". Pedestrians are to have priority, and cars will only be allowed to drive at 10 km/h. This is how the district plans its own driving bans.

The initiative "Kurs Fahrradstadt" is planning something big in Hamburg's Eimsbüttel district: cars are to give way to people. The initiative is taking its cue from cities like Barcelona and Paris, where many streets are already car-free and pedestrians and cyclists are slowly reclaiming the streets.

According to the initiative, play streets and green spaces are to be created around Rellinger Straße in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel. Cycle paths are to be extended. Car traffic is to be largely replaced by alternative services. The initiative hopes to transform the district into a "children's room on the street". In this room, a wide variety of activities should be possible on streets that are currently dominated by cars. Children should be able to play, people should be able to sit on benches, and the whole thing should take place under trees and in parks. In addition, the clean air and the reduction of car noise should contribute to an increase in the quality of life.

As one of the few large cities in Germany, Hamburg continues to operate without an environmental zone. Only two busy streets have diesel driving bans for older models. The initiative does not ask for a green environmental zone in the city centre, as they exist in most major German cities, it takes a much more radical approach and plans its own car-free zone.

Unlike the role models Barcelona and Paris, Hamburg, like many other cities in Germany, has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to alternative mobility. In big cities, the cycle paths are usually poor; for Hamburg, this was also shown by the ADFC Bicycle Climate Test. Germany is car country, the key German industry with brands like VW, Mercedes and BMW has shaped our love and pride in cars more and more over the last century.

While many people, especially young people and families, demand more space for cycle paths, parks and playgrounds, other citizens are very attached to their cars. Be it for reasons of necessity, prestige or the fun of driving. This divides society.

Only when German politics addresses this problem and understands that the car is still partly necessary, but that people in big cities also suffer from the dominance of the car, they even get sick from it, can something change. In Barcelona, car-free zones have already given citizens about 200 days more to live. Similar to there, thoroughfares in Germany could continue to belong to cars, but side streets could become oases of recreation.

To achieve this, however, politicians would have to give up their love for the German car industry to some extent. Perhaps Eimsbüttel can become a model city and show what tomorrow's mobility could look like in Germany.