Hard as it may be to fathom, there are places in the world where cars simply don't make sense. Many of these places are the centers of major cities. And while most major American cities are fairly easy to get through via car, that's because they've benefited from more modern city planning techniques, utilizing things like the grid system.

In Europe, where cities were laid out centuries before the New World was discovered, cars are a far more difficult proposition. Streets are narrow and curvy, making them too difficult to manage in a modern car. In Hamburg, Germany, this factoid is leading the city to ban cars within its city center. Instead, Germany's second largest city is launching a plan called the Green Network.

The Indpendent reports that the Green Network is a plan to remove all cars from the city by 2034, and to then cover 40 percent of the city's 292-square-mile area in an intertwining network that will connect parks and gardens. According to city spokeswoman Angelika Fritsch, it will allow citizens to "explore the city exclusively by bike or on foot," within the next two decades.

While the move to ban cars is ostensibly to improve the quality of life for the city's 1.8 million residents (larger than Philadelphia, but smaller than Houston), who are crammed into an area roughly the size of Lexington, KY, there's also an environmental goal. Banning cars and encouraging residents to use more sustainable means of transport will help the city offset and absorb some of its CO2 emissions. Hamburg has been ravaged by severe weather, and it's status as a major North Sea port means it's equally susceptible to rising sea levels.

What do you think? Would you accept a ban on cars in your city? Even if it were over a geographically small area? Let us know what you think about the Green Network by taking part in our informal poll below.



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  • 128 Comments
      mikeybyte1
      • 11 Months Ago
      This makes perfect sense for tightly packed cities, especially those designed and built before the age of the modern automobile. I recently moved from living in the country to smack in the middle of a city. It used to take me 10 minutes by car just to get to the highway so that I could then find life and do things like banking, shopping, etc. Now I live 3 blocks from a bustling city center. I can walk to the gym, shops, restaurants, banking, work. I use my car maybe 2-3 times a week. If you haven't lived in a city, don't try and tell others why cars are needed in them.
      fred schumacher
      • 11 Months Ago
      Europe and North America are very different places, on many levels: climate, property ownership patterns, space availability. Each adapted to its own conditions. In Europe, farmers lived in villages and walked or rode out to the fields. Because of government sponsored homesteading, farmers here lived on their land, separated from each other. As population and urbanization increased, more space was required for human habitation, either vertically or horizontally. In Europe, vertical was more practical, in America, horizontal was the lower cost alternative. Those patterns are now fixed and would be very difficult to change. Hamburg has the infrastructure and the lifestyle that would adapt easily to a car-free central core. The same could not be said for American cities, except perhaps for New York, Boston, Washington, and San Francisco.
      SpikedLemon
      • 11 Months Ago
      Having been to Hamburg: it's a very affluent city. Having decent public transit, as most of Europe as compared to America, will likely enable this to happen. Though I wonder how downtown residents will feel when they're not permitted to own a car (or, at least, store it close to home).
        Vlad
        • 11 Months Ago
        @SpikedLemon
        If you take on it slow and carefully (and something tells me Hamburg will, look at the timeframe), you can make it easy on everyone.
      DaveMart
      • 11 Months Ago
      Most American cities would need to be completely rebuilt to make something like this work, as they are too spread out. Their situation is utterly different to those in Europe.
      BraveLil'Toaster
      • 11 Months Ago
      I'm shocked it even took this long for them to figure this out. The problem was well-known by the 1960s.
      Ken
      • 11 Months Ago
      I assume there would still be a road network for deliveries, emergency services, construction, etc.?
      Dreez28
      • 11 Months Ago
      As long as the transportation infrastructure is in place to accommodate inner-city public needs, then absolutely. There is no indisputable right to drive downtown, and if we're all honest, driving through inner-city traffic is an absolute nightmare almost anywhere you go.
      kajohns1964
      • 11 Months Ago
      Teleportation NOW!
      Jim1961
      • 11 Months Ago
      According to city spokeswoman Angelika Fritsch, it will allow citizens to "explore the city exclusively by bike or on foot," What does this mean for people like me who need a wheelchair to get around? I started needing the use of a wheelchair about a year ago. I've learned something about using a wheelchair I'd like to share with all of you. It's way harder to go uphill than you can imagine. Even the slight incline of a ADA spec ramp is difficult to get up. The slightest incline feels like a mountain and I've got some well developed triceps (for my age)
        DaveMart
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Jim1961
        I don't know if you are American, but in Europe access for people with disabilities is heavily protected, at least in theory if not always in practise. For instance all London cabs are wheelchair capable, and most buses in England have platforms which the driver can lower to allow a wheelchair on. Or they might simply make an exception for cars adapted for people with disabilities.
          DaveMart
          • 11 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          jonny: Thanks for the correction. I have not been in the States for 30 years, and not being disabled take relatively little notice of facilities, beyond noting that they are much better here now than they were.
          jonnybimmer
          • 11 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          As an American who has stayed several months in London, I disagree. In the US, almost all buses in major cities allow for wheelchair access and there are taxis that are wheelchair accessible as well. But London is lacking still lacking in several areas. For an example, the Tube has a dozen or so stops that are wheelchair accessible, whereas in the US it is mandated that every stop on every source of public transportation is wheelchair accessible. In addition, every building must be accessible by wheelchair. Insert your jokes here about obese Americans and their love of scooters, but for those who are truly disabled it means a lot. It's understandable though, the buildings in London are considerably older and more difficult/expensive to convert for modern (relative to the date the buildings were built) disability access.
        Vlad
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Jim1961
        I'm positive it is possible to have interests of disabled people protected in a car-free city center.
        sparrk
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Jim1961
        You can always use the bus, tram or subway.
        SteveG
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Jim1961
        You think they will ban wheelchairs? Have you heard of electric wheelchairs?
      Chris
      • 11 Months Ago
      To answer the question, I'd love to live in a place with great public transit and is very pedestrian friendly. It's what I've always enjoyed about visiting cities such as Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With all of that said, I'd absolutely hate to live in a city where cars are banned. I'd rather enjoy the best of both worlds, walking and public transit for my mundane daily commutes and errands, or the occasional night out drinking, and one or two cool cars sitting in the parking garage all safe and snug that I only drive for enjoyment, or for the occasional trip to the veterinarian or times when I need to haul stuff. If this ideal setting I'm in suddenly bans cars, that would come a lot of issues of its own, like where do I store the cars, how much will it cost, how planning ahead will a simple drive require, and is the area where I'm keeping them safe?
        mylexicon
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Chris
        Car-free zones are actually a good idea, and since the government controls public roadways, they aren't that controversial. An area without cars changes everything from transportation patterns to real estate pricing models to marketing strategies. Turning a few blocks of congested inner-city into a car-free residential/retail zone is probably good for economic diversity and innovation.
        DaveMart
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Chris
        Autonomous cars should solve those issues and be ready to go by 2020. There would be no need for your own car or parking then, but point to point transport should be easy when needed. For public transport and taxis the biggest expenses are: Wages Maintenance Fuel Autonomy would solve the first, and electric cars greatly reduce the other two. So buses, taxis and hire cars should be cheap.
          DaveMart
          • 11 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Traffic here in the UK is too heavy and speed limits too strict to allow much of the joy of driving. I used to like driving fast around Wales decades ago, now I don't get much out of hacking through traffic around Bristol. I'd sooner get my pleasure walking in cities built not to be dominated by cars and their fumes, and maybe have a day out down the racetrack occasionally and drive a race car really fast - I'd recommend that if you have not tried it. As for owning a car, as long as you have somewhere to park it there is no reason why people should not chose to do so. People who don't bother would be able to save themselves a lot of money though, and still get where they need to go conveniently. Personally I would probably go for some sort of premium club, with strict conditions on the behaviour of those using it and frequent valeting. That would still be a lot cheaper than having a vehicle which sat idle almost all the time.
          Chris
          • 11 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          I guess that's fine if you're one of those folks who views the automobile as nothing more than a mode of transportation, appliance. As a lifelong auto enthusiast, the thought of riding around in an autonomous car sounds pretty boring. I actually enjoy driving, and there's something liberating about driving a badass car, like a Corvette or Mustang GT, of if you have the means, some high end exotic super car. Furthermore, I don't think I'd want to ride around in some community owned autonomous car as there would be no telling what the people who were riding in that car before me were doing in there all alone. I bet young teen couples would love them.
          Chris
          • 11 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          I see where you're coming from, so let me just clarify that my posts were in response to the question the writer was asking of whether I would support this measure in a US city that I'm living in. I understand that Europe is much more densely populated than North America where the land mass is much smaller, and their cities and streets much older. The population there tends to be more urban while ours tends to be much more suburban. Heck, most of our largest cities are that way with a few examples being, Houston, Phoenix, Nashville, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Detroit, Louisville, Columbus, etc. All of those cities either have very large land masses, were developed exclusively around the automobile, or both.
      Robt
      • 11 Months Ago
      More thoughtless idiocy. What if you are not physically able to walk, run, jump or bike? Are you to be effectively banned from the most vibrant part of a city?
        SteveG
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Robt
        What makes you think they would ban wheelchairs?
        Durishin
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Robt
        Rules made by government officials who will be able - no doubt - to continue to drive into the office every day. Probably urinating on the carless as they pass (bad pun) by.
        SteveG
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Robt
        You think the will ban wheelchairs?
        mikeybyte1
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Robt
        So what do you do when you finally get there in your car? Crawl?
      IBx27
      • 11 Months Ago
      Yet another reason to not live in the future, or in europe.
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