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Saudi Arabia plans 170 km long environmental zone

A green city of millions is to be built on the Red Sea, where there are no conventional roads and cars are completely banned. The project is controversial, but it could be a blueprint for the mobility revolution in large cities in Europe as well.

The Line, a metropolis of millions, is to be built in just a few months. It is to be built on the Red Sea in the north-west of Saudi Arabia on the border to Egypt and Jordan and, at 170 km long, will be about the size of Belgium. The special feature: the residents of the city are to be able to reach all facilities of daily life within five minutes on foot. Cars are completely banned in the city. Travelling within the city to other areas that cannot be reached on foot is to be made possible by high-speed transport. The journey through the city is to take a maximum of 20 minutes. The trains are to travel underground, the city above belongs to pedestrians.

The project has drawn much criticism as people who previously lived in the area have been displaced to implement the plan. The city itself is also likely to become a home for the super-rich and tourists, but will have no place for the very people who lived there before.

Among other things, the city will have an artificial moon, glow-in-the-dark beaches and flying taxis controlled by drones. All this seems a bit too futuristic. When you consider that cities in Europe have been struggling for years to ban old diesels from city centres.

Nevertheless, the idea of a car-free metropolis can be seen as groundbreaking for other cities. The project will first show whether the concept of a car-free city is really possible and whether it could also be transferred to European cities. How can goods be transported, how can the infrastructure be maintained? In The Line, many things are to be taken over by artificial intelligence. Even the concept of being able to do all the things that are important for daily life within five minutes sounds illusionary at first. For this to happen, there would have to be a large number of schools and daycare centres, doctors' offices of all kinds and pharmacies, but also shops and restaurants and cultural facilities. This would reduce travel within cities to a minimum.

The Line could therefore demonstrate what cities should look like in which people are no longer dependent on cars. But there is still a long way to go until then, and we will continue to be accompanied by environmental zones and diesel driving bans in European cities in order to make city centres at least a little greener.