I am very honoured to be one of the first to hear about the „Second Miracle of Hanover“ from Belit Onay himself and City Planning Commissioner Thomas Vielhaber. Last week I was a guest at the New Town Hall in Hanover and was able to get a preview of what fantastic things Hanover will become. I very much hope that this city leader will inspire many to finally start the mobility revolution.
We still have a lot of catching up to do in Germany compared to other European countries. Many cities have been on the way to becoming people-centred for decades. Because that’s where our cities, but also our rural areas, come from. The force with which we have driven the car into the centre of our society – in Hanover, churches and beautiful half-timbered houses were sacrificed after the Second World War in order to literally give the car free rein – requires a force of vision and energy to reverse precisely this wrong development. This is now being launched in Hanover. With the target year 2020.
More life and diversity in the city, inviting urban spaces and traffic-calmed streets, more space for playing children, gastronomy and culture. An increased quality of stay in the city centre with a radiating effect throughout the city and the surrounding area. That is the goal of Hanover’s inner city development.
Car-friendly becomes future-friendly.
After the city council of the state capital adopted the concept for the development of the city centre until 2035 in autumn 2022, an integrated and comprehensive mobility concept is now available. In the future, Hanover’s city centre will be almost car-free. The aim is to upgrade the core of the city centre – i.e. the area between Friedrichswall, Schiffgraben, the main railway station, Kurt-Schumacher-Straße and Steintor – in a first step, to reorganise traffic and to redesign parts of it. Plans have also been drawn up for the Lange Laube: this bicycle lane is to function without cars in future. As far as I know, this is one of the first REAL bicycle streets in Germany!
Parking spaces for cars in the public space of the city centre are to be largely eliminated – the cars will find space in the numerous multi-storey car parks. All this is to give more space to people who walk or cycle. The city administration wants to implement the concept by 2030.
Mayor Belit Onay: The time for experiments is over. Now it’s time for implementation. We are working intensively on the transformation of the city in connection with the necessary mobility turnaround. We are starting with the city centre. The city centre is getting a tailwind for sustainable and climate-friendly development through the measures presented. We are strengthening the centre as a resilient retail and business location – you can’t get attractive lounges in online retail. And we give people planning certainty about what’s coming.“
Celebrate and stroll.
The guiding principle of a liveable city with short, barrier-free and safe routes places pedestrian traffic at the centre, starting from the previous pedestrian zone! In the future, significantly more space for strolling and spending time will be created beyond this core area. Cycling traffic will also benefit from the project, both driving and parking situations are to be significantly improved. Gaps in the city’s cycle path network will be closed and public transport will also benefit from the new concept. Access for people with limited mobility to the city centre will be made easier overall – for example, through barrier-free reconstruction of many streets and an increase in the number of disabled parking spaces.
Fast, safe and stress-free access to the city centre
The removal of parking spaces in public areas in favour of pedestrian and bicycle traffic or for urban greenery, newly designated pathways and good coexistence in traffic-calmed areas will make the city centre accessible quickly and stress-free. The maxim of consideration applies to safety. The weaker the road users are in a shared space, the more consideration must be shown to them. For this reason, motorised traffic will be guided at an appropriate speed in the future, i.e. a speed limit of 20 km/h or a maximum of 30 km/h will apply wherever possible – especially where spaces are used by different road users. Public transport will continue to provide access to the city centre at all central points and will be given more space for an attractive range of services. Delivery traffic into the city centre will of course remain possible, but it should be much less stressful. Cars will be routed directly from the Cityring to the centrally located car parks, which have so far been far from being fully utilised, and will also be routed back again.
City planning officer Thomas Vielhaber explains: With our concept, we are supporting the change in the city and taking a path that other European cities and metropolises are currently following. In view of the major challenges such as climate change or economic difficulties in trade and commerce, our concept is more than just an important signal of departure. People should be able to get into the city centre without any problems and have a good time and a more pleasant stay here.“
Asked whether a car-free city would mean that there would be no more car traffic in the city at all, Onay replies: Car-free means that there are no cars too many in the city. Residents could of course continue to park in their private parking spaces. Taxis would also continue to come into the city, and delivery traffic anyway. Parking facilities for people with disabilities would even be extended and the multi-storey car parks would all remain accessible via cul-de-sacs. For those who depend on cars, it will be easier to get into the city in the future because there will be less competing car traffic – but overall, the number of parking spaces will gradually be reduced significantly.“
Background info: the mobility concept in detail
Far-reaching changes to traffic routing are planned at Steintor. For example, Münzstraße will no longer be passable for motorised individual traffic in the future. Thomas Vielhaber, the city’s planning and building officer, commented: The square will be upgraded once again by the new traffic regulation. The tram and buses will continue to run as before, but there will be hardly any traffic noise in future.
In addition, the cycling axis from the City-Radring into the Lange Laube will be significantly strengthened. The removal of the separating effect of the streets ideally complements the upcoming reconstruction work on Steintorplatz and makes the northern row of buildings on Münzstraße the new edge of the square.“
In addition, the Lange Laube will become a real bicycle street. Only residents will be able to access their properties by car. Otherwise, the Lange Laube will be crossable by car, but no longer passable. There will no longer be any parking spaces there, so that conflicts between car and bicycle traffic will be avoided in the future.
The traffic situation around the main station will change fundamentally. The two tunnels next to the main station will be closed to motorised traffic. Cycling and walking will benefit from this. The List and the city centre will be more closely interwoven in this way. Thomas Vielhaber comments: The tunnels currently have a deterrent effect on many people. They are noisy, dirty and poorly lit. This is exactly where we come in and make them more attractive.“ This makes particular sense, he says, since the Post Tunnel will also be used in future for transferring rail passengers. The station forecourt will remain accessible by car via Joachimstraße and Kurt-Schumacher-Straße.
As is usual in many old towns, car traffic is to be minimised here. Streets such as Burgstrasse, the „Golden Angle“ or Schmiedestrasse in the still-pending construction phase in front of the Marktkirche will then no longer be accessible to cars. Vielhaber emphasises:
„Our intention is to keep car traffic out of the old town as far as possible. To achieve this, we want to work out solutions that are also suitable for the residents.“ For example, parts of the Schmiedestraße multi-storey car park could be converted into a neighbourhood garage. Around the Kulturdreieck, motorised individual traffic will be almost completely eliminated. The major cultural institutions will be offered space for permanent or temporary events and events. The plans for Prinzenstraße include sustainable rainwater management, an attractive row of trees and inviting places to stay. The plans will be presented shortly.
The central axis from Kröpcke via Georgstraße and the street am Georgsplatz to Aegidientorplatz will then be used exclusively by public transport, walking and cycling. The multi-storey car parks at the Opera and Luisenstraße will remain accessible via Theaterstraße.
In the future, Karmarschstraße will take on a different, new role within the urban fabric: as a connecting element between the previously separate areas of the old town, it will be crossable for pedestrians along its entire length and will have additional outdoor catering areas in the area of the Historic Town Hall and the Market Hall, among others. At the same time, the urban development plans for the Köbelinger Markt and the old administration building on Leinstraße are being advanced. A car park will then become a lively place to linger and come together.
The areas around the Aegidienkirche will be traffic-calmed and given a square-like character. In this way, this central memorial site will be appropriately upgraded and become more present in the cityscape.
The plan is to start the first conversion work as early as mid-2024 after the resolution has been passed, presumably with Schillerstraße. Schillerstraße will be redesigned according to its function as a city cycle ring, the access to the Galeria underground car park will remain, but the current backside character of the street will change significantly.
Even though the planning is currently focussing on the core of the city centre, the neighbouring quarters are already being considered. The Odeon quarter is being redesigned as part of the development of the Postscheckamt – the transport policy course for the city centre is also being transferred here. The plans for this impulse-giving inner city quarter are to be presented in the coming months. With a view to the area between the railway line and Berliner Allee, an urban development study is currently underway that is intended to achieve a far-reaching redesign around the city’s central „arrival point“. There should then no longer be a „behind the station“.
After the basic consultation and resolution of the integrated mobility concept by the city council, the city administration plans to carry out further studies and subsequent detailed planning for the individual streets and measures. For this purpose, individual documents will be submitted to the committees in the appropriate sequence. In the course of this, there will be further opportunities for public participation.