Hannover has unveiled a radical plan to create an “almost car-free” hub that will eliminate street parking and traffic lights in the northern German city.
The green mayor, Belit Onay, elected with a “car-free” formula in 2019, yesterday presented her new vision for the city of half a million inhabitants. It plans to progressively eliminate some 4,000 on-street parking spaces and transfer cars arriving through dead-end streets to eleven public garages.
“No cars means for us not having too many cars,” explained the Green Party mayor, who stated that he wants the project to be completed in 2030. He said he wants Hannover to be a “place to have fun and walk” in .
Work is expected to begin in the middle of next year on several key roads.
The approximately 4,000 inhabitants of the center of Hanover will continue to park their cars in private parking lots.
Hanover, which was largely leveled by Allied bombing during World War II, was rebuilt in the following decades as a “car-friendly” city.
Hannover’s green mayor wants to make the city center almost completely car-free
The plans will be presented to Hannover city council on Tuesday.
“It often feels like we want to restrict movement,” Mr. Onay said. “Quite the opposite: there will be more movement and less traffic in the city center.”
Councilor Thomas Vielhaber explained that the plans were aimed at making Hanover more walkable.
While most Old Town streets will no longer be accessible to most cars, taxis, delivery vans and disabled drivers will still be able to access the city centre. Direct traffic will be completely eliminated.
Speed limits of 20 km/h (12 mph) or 30 km/h (19 mph) will be established on streets that remain accessible to cars, while the number of places to safely park bicycles will be expanded.
Hannover is also working on planning twelve cycle routes and creating thousands of new bicycle parking spaces.
The project, which has been underway for two and a half years, also foresees that the center of Hannover will be “largely free of traffic lights”, so that pedestrians and cyclists spend as little time as possible waiting at red lights.
“The time for experiments is over, now is the time for implementation,” Mr. Onay told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.
Onay hopes that his ambitious urban plan for the center of Hannover will be completed in 2030
Hanover, which was almost entirely destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, was rebuilt in the following decades as a model automobile city surrounded by motorways.
Onay says he wants Hanover to be a role model for other German cities as they transition their urban plans toward more pedestrian-friendly models.
“For those who depend on the car, in the future it will be easier to get to the city because there will be less traffic of competitive cars,” Mr Onay promised.
It is planned that the city center will be better connected to the surrounding area by expanding routes through the Hanover ring road.
The ambitious plans are expected to cost millions of euros, but there is no exact cost projection yet. Onay said Hannover had already secured funding from state and federal governments worth more than €20 million.
Mr Onay said Hannover had gained “acceptance of this approach” thanks to experiments and consultations carried out in recent years. “We’re not starting from scratch,” he added, describing the changes as a “huge opportunity” for the city.
Hanover’s main streets have been suffering from competition from online retailers, and the city hopes that a redesigned urban plan can help revive the city’s economy.
Onay promised that, thanks to his vision, Hanover would become a “resilient commercial center.”
In recent years, the future of the automobile has become politically sensitive in several German cities. In Berlin, the Greens lost their re-election race to a pro-car candidate from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) after trying to discourage their use in the German capital.
Onay’s plans have already drawn criticism from his right-wing opponents. CDU councilor Felix Semper said the Greens were “taking an ax to the future viability of the city”.
Semper claimed that restricting vehicle traffic would hurt local businesses and cause more buildings to sit empty in central Hanover.