Avoid, Shift, Improve
Germany’s goals and strategies apply critical components of the “Avoid, Shift, Improve” approach to planning, such as targeting changes in land use and urban form to shorten trips (avoid), disincentivizing the use of cars and encouraging more walking (shift).
The framework sets the goals of reducing car ownership to 150 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in all cities with over 100,000 inhabitants. It also proposes reducing the average parking space area per person from 4.5 square meters to 3 in urban areas.
The framework aims to achieve these ambitious objectives through promoting coordinated efforts between city planning and transport departments. Changes to land use and zoning criteria will encourage more accessible, compact, mixed-use developments, with restricted parking that incentivizes more walking and less driving.
There are many barriers to walking in cities today. Increased travel distances make it seem unfeasible; lack of connectivity means you can’t easily string together different modes of transport and destinations; more traffic crashes make it more dangerous; the romantic allure of the car is still alive and well, especially in fast-growing economies; and urban policies and investments often favor more affluent and politically powerful drivers over poorer pedestrians.
But many cities are recognizing the wisdom of a more active, multi-modal approach to mobility that can lead to major economic dividends, safer streets and more equitable cities. Low-carbon urban development could generate more than $24 trillion in value by 2050, according to research from the Coalition for Urban Transitions.
National governments have a critical role to play in supporting more walkable cities, and Germany’s policy framework is perhaps the most ambitious attempt yet to pull together the various land use, infrastructure, financial, legal and other instruments that national governments can bring to bear on the problem. Development of a strategic policy document based on this framework will soon start with a legislative process. Hopefully, the final policy will reflect the precedent set here, which is already a strong starting point for any national planning effort to get more people on their feet.