Berlin’s Popular Shopping Streets Will Go Car-Free

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CityLab: Berlin is finally getting a fuller taste of the car-free trend that’s taking hold in other European cities. This summer, the German capital has announced plans to pedestrianize some vital central streets starting in October. One experiment will ban cars from the main section of Friedrichstrasse, a long, store-filled thoroughfare that, before World War II, was considered the city’s main shopping street. Another will test daily closures on Tauentzienstrasse, another key retail street, with a view toward going permanently car-free in 2020.

Since reunification, Friedrichstrasse has almost regained its pre-war reputation as a primary shopping destination, and it’s worth watching to see if that actually happens when its department stores and boutiques are accessible only by foot, bike and public transit. Tauentzienstrasse, meanwhile, is one of western Berlin’s main competitors to Friedrichstrasse — a broad boulevard that’s home to continental Europe’s largest department store. At Tauentzienstrasse, the street is wide enough for a more radical makeover. If it’s fully closed for good, it could accommodate cafes and what Germans call “lying meadows” — lawns intended for lounging and sunbathing — in its median. Such changes probably make as much sense commercially as they do environmentally. While some stores may worry that restricted vehicle access could deter shoppers, in the age of online shopping, it pays to make the location of your store pleasant enough to lure people who simply want to hang out. There are efforts to go even further by banning cars in inner Berlin by 2030, after an interim congestion charge.
CityLab also notes that this Saturday a group of activists who favor a city-wide car ban “are planning a demonstration intended to temporarily shut down Western Berlin’s Sonnenallee, a long avenue bisecting the fast-gentrifying working-class district of Neukolln.” The demonstration is hoping to pressure policymakers to free the space from private cars, as traffic can be deafeningly loud.

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