Problems afoot as Berlin plans to make central thoroughfare car-free
Berlin's local lawmakers have agreed to a plan to make the famous Unter den Linden street car-free, but not everyone is on board with the city's vision.
The plan would make the street accessible only for pedestrians, cyclists, and buses after 2019. The vision, according to Berliner Zeitung, is to show the world that Berlin is serious about changing its transportation systems, similar to how other grand cities like Paris or New York have worked to make their tourist-heavy hubs along the Seine and in Times Square more pedestrian friendly.
The city development minister Andreas Geisel also predicts that once the re-construction of the former Berlin City Palace is complete at the end of the boulevard, it will attract double the regular number of visitors by foot to the area, according to broadcaster rbb.
But as the Berliner Zeitung reported on Thursday, the exact details of the plan still need to be worked out. For example, it’s not yet clear to what extent all private car traffic will actually be forbidden. The impact on transit in the area must also be measured.
The city will launch a pilot study to examine the feasibility of the plan in the second half of the year in order to make informed decisions about implementation. The study will analyze traffic data as well as how blocking off the boulevard would impact its surroundings.
Already there are doubts from local Berliners outside the government about what the car-free street will actually achieve.
“To have a Disneyland traversing from Pariser Platz to the Forum Fridericianum will be a catastrophe - and provincial to an extent we cannot imagine,” said architect Hildebrand Machleidt, who specializes in city planning.
Guido Herrmann from the association Die Mitte, which represents 170 businesses and institutes in the central neighbourhood, said that the plan will make the street into an event arena.
“For whom are we doing all this? It’s not about the Berliners,” Herrmann said, adding that people will be stuck in traffic jams as a result.
“I am for reducing motor vehicle traffic, but we still have to deal with it,” asserted Friedemann Kunst, formerly part of the Berlin transportation department. “Otherwise we will have an urban space that we didn’t want.”
Bernd Wilde of the Association for Foot Traffic (FUSS) said that Unter den Linden could become a promenade mainly for walking, with wider walkways and an attractive middle section. But he added that his group had nothing against cars still being able to drive across the boulevard at intersections.