Hamburg Plans to Become Car-Free By 2034

But should there really be zero cars?

Photo: Marcia Taylor

Hamburg, Germany, recently announced plans to convert 40 percent of the city into car-free pedestrian zones within the next two decades. According to Inhabitat, existing green spaces will be linked to converted roads, forming a "green network" of promenades, bike paths, parks, play grounds, sports centers, cemeteries and gardens. 

Hamburg's motivations for undertaking such a radical transformation are multiple. There's the obvious impetus of reducing green house gase emissions. Additionally, over the past decades, the waterfront city's sea levels have risen by 20 centimeters. The green spaces, Inhabitat reports, will also act as flood buffers. Hamburg also wants to increase the quality of life for its residents by providing them with more green spaces and readily accessible recreational opportunties. 

As BBC Future writes, Hamburg is not alone in prioritizing these things: 

Banishing the car from urban areas is becoming a common trend in many European cities. London imposes a “congestion charge” on private vehicles entering the city centre during peak hours. The Danish capital Copenhagen is building bicycle superhighways radiating out from the city centre.

The extent to which Hamburg's plans actually come to pass, however, is another question. What about large deliveries, emergencies, transportation for handicapped persons or travel during very bad weather, for example? As Michael Sivak, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, told BBC, absolutely zero cars is probably not a literal or realistic goal, but "it is good to have a target that you are driving towards.” 

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.