Germany’s presence in the motoring landscape is enormous, from the ongoing ‘Ring Time contests between the world’s automakers and their halo cars, to the famed Autobahn that connects Nürburg — and other cities in the country — with each other. Yet, the nation’s second-largest city, Hamburg, will eliminate Porsches, BMWs and Fords from its city center by 2034, when its car ban goes in effect.
Dubbed the Green Network by city planners, the urban sustainability plan will promote travel to the city center through walking, riding and mass transit along a series of green thoroughfares now in development. In turn, people who would normally be in their cars could instead explore the many restaurants, parks and shops they would have otherwise may have missed, as well as enjoy activities such as swimming, biking and boating.
When completed, Hamburg’s Green Network will connect parks, cemeteries, playgrounds and other green spaces throughout the entire city with each other, covering 17,000 acres — 40 percent — of the city’s entire area. The ultimate goal behind the project is to help the city become carbon neutral while heading off storm flooding; Hamburg’s median temperature has gone up 1.2 C (34 F) to 9 C (48 F) over the past 60 years, while sea levels rose 20 centimeters during the same period.
Currently, the only other European city to ban cars from its center is Copenhagen, Denmark, which is undergoing a plan to establish 26 bicycle superhighways connecting the center to the outskirts of the city in an effort to become carbon neutral by 2050.
While the Green Network has its critics — based mainly upon boosting the city’s economy by using the proposed green spaces for housing and business development — supporters of the plan claim the network will boost the economy anyway by attracting the highly educated into the city. A further claim adds that Hamburgers are willing to abandon their cars for the Green Network, a rare move in a nation defined in part by their contributions to the automobile.