Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online

The idea is pure Green city planning and if its backers get their way, it will be applied with consummate Teutonic thoroughness in the German capital’s trendiest borough.

For one month next summer, cars with conventional diesel or petrol engines will be banned from a square kilometre section of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district. The area’s 20,000 residents will be ordered to remove their estimated 3,500 vehicles.

They will be replaced by a fleet of electric cars which inhabitants will be encouraged to share along with additional electric trams, vans and bikes. The project, backed by Germany’s Green Party, has been dubbed the Eco Mobility Festival.

It is an attempt to highlight the advantages of using electric cars rather than their carbon-emitting petrol counterparts .

Berlin’s tourist board is already euphoric about the project “ It exactly fits the image the world has of Berlin,” a spokesman said. Big business finds it “exciting” and even the reform Communist Left Party is sympathetic. But not so Berlin’s two main governing parties: the conservatives and the Social Democrats.

The latter has dubbed the idea “ forced enjoyment”, the former argues that it is unworkable because some families need their carbon-emitting cars every day.

Even Berlin’s “enlightened” newspaper Der Tagesspiegel has described the project as “being told what to do – under the banner of progress”. But the man behind it, Prenzlauer Berg’s Green councillor Jens-Holger Kirchner is unperturbed: “ In Berlin, everyone is anti – at first,” he claims.