The initiative to ban car use in central Berlin would create the largest car-free urban area in the world.
As a society, we have begun to prioritise communal urban spaces by looking at ways in which we can reinvent our streets. The pedestrianisation of streets is gaining traction in many cities, and this momentum has been pushed with more urgency during the pandemic as demand for outdoor spaces has shot up.
Many cities have decided to adopt plans to ban cars from their centres (see our article on the demise of auto-centric cities), providing space for residents to reclaim the streets. Berlin might join the cities on that list. Citizens there are promoting a car-free zone within the ‘S-Bahn Ring’, which covers an area larger than Manhattan (88 sq km). The petition, put forward by campaign group Berlin Autofrei, has more than 50,000 signatures, which is more than double the signatures needed. Those who depend on their cars because of impaired mobility, trade, or emergency services would be exempt from the bill. Everyone else would be allowed up to 12 car journeys a year for special circumstances (such as moving).
Breaking the hold cars have over our cities as a major form of transport is not easy. For many, commuting by car seems like the only option. Those who are opposed to banning cars argue that they are convenient, fast, and get you where you need to go quickly. On top of that, there are electric cars that are far better for the environment while still maintaining all the benefits of regular cars. Unfortunately, far more people would need to actually use electric cars to have a significant impact on transportation emissions. Only 1.3% of vehicles in Germany are electric in a country that has one of the highest number of vehicles per person: about 574 per 1,000.
Cars also pollute the earth, take up space, and endanger human lives, whether they are electric or gas. Air quality sees a massive improvement in cities with less traffic. A 2014 report from Berlin found that 58% of traffic space was taken up by cars (as opposed to 3% for bikes) and parked cars took up about 17 sq km. This isn’t to mention the number of road accidents in a year. The only solution to these issues is to cut down on driving itself.
Apart from the environmental benefits, creating a space dedicated to walking and biking could offer residents great comfort, socialisation, and safety. Nina Noblé, one of the campaign organisers, stated, "Our law improves the quality of life for all Berliners. We want people to be able to sleep with their windows open and children to be able to play in the street again.”
Urban planners and governments alike must come together to develop more efficient ways of transporting people around a city and help residents reclaim their streets to build more accessible neighbourhoods that prioritise community spaces over car parks. The campaigners estimate that their plans would save the city €420 million, or £350 million, every year. Here at Vonder, we understand that cycling is the future, which is why we have bike storage in some of our living complexes in London, Berlin, and Warsaw.
Vonder’s communal spaces and events provide you with a built-in, local community. Cut down on travel time while spending more time with people you care about in the best locations. Prioritise community spaces with all-in-one living.