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Time to get rid of cars in Copenhagen’s Old Town

By Peter Sorgenfrei, CEO of Autonomous Mobility

On the 18th of October in Magasinet KBH, Anders Ojgaard presented his vision of how to bring Copenhagen to the forefront of sustainable urban development. His suggestion is simply to remove all cars from the oldest part of town (which dates back to the Middle Ages). It’s not the first time this idea has been brought to public attention, and although people generally seem to like the idea, it doesn’t sit well with everyone. This probably has something to do with the fact that business owners and others in need of motorized transport do not yet know of the alternative solutions that are available today. But other solutions do indeed exist.

When I look into my crystal ball, I must admit I don’t see a lot of cars in the cityscape either.

24 months ago we started developing shared, electric, self-driving vehicles. We want to understand how they can affect the future of traffic and mobility. We’re currently the only company in the North with a sole focus on combining carpooling and self-driving technology to better connect cities and societies.

But not for long. The advantages of shared, electric and self-driving solutions are so great that private and public operators will undoubtedly invest heavily in the field. We don’t think that private individuals will even purchase cars in 20 years’ time. When that time comes, transportation will be a service you buy from fleet owners and some of the public services we have today.

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Utopia?

It might sound a bit utopian considering how much space cars currently occupy on roads and in cities. And that’s the challenge we always face when we’re trying to imagine a future that isn’t here yet. To me, it’s obvious that the future won’t be a place of cars. And in an increasing number of places around the world, attempts are already being made to rethink transport in new ways. In our own little corner of the planet, this is what’s going on:

In the Nordhavn area of Copenhagen, a sustainable district is being developed. Here, having a car – and a corresponding parking space of course – will be almost as expensive as buying an apartment. Instead, tiny self-driving buses will be bustling around, transporting people to and from stations, around the neighborhood or from a parking spot on the edge of town to their final destination.

In Gothenburg, Sweden, the goal is to abolish all parking lots in the inner city. This will free up space for new buildings – or green spaces – and cars will be exiled to locations away from the places where people live and go about their daily activities.

In Aalborg, Denmark, an extensive renovation of an - in their own words - socially challenged residential area is currently taking place. The municipality intends to introduce three self-driving buses to ensure that marginalised residents, in particular the elderly, can enjoy better social cohesion, safety and increased mobility.

What I’m talking about here is urban development that’s already happening and which will only grow in strength and scope over the next couple of years. It’s not just some utopian future.

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When the medieval part of Copenhagen becomes a car-free place (which it will, sooner or later) we will have taken another step in the direction of having car-less lives. We will have helped ourselves to change old habits. And, as Anders Ojgaard points out, the Old Town will be surrounded by four metro stations by 2019 anyway, making it possible to live in the area without having to use a car to get to your front door. As a society we will decrease our CO2 emission significantly by utilizing shared modes of transport, and as individuals we will spend less time behind the wheel and more time being with our families, engaging in creative activities or simply relaxing.

But that’s not all: several times in his article, Anders Ojgaard mentions the very narrow sidewalks that currently make it unsafe to walk around the area with children. This danger will be considerably reduced once cars are out of the picture and partially replaced by self-driving buses running at low speeds, as well as more safely (90% of accidents are due to human error). Since they are fully electric, they will further ensure cleaner air and reduced noise levels.

Over the last 16 years, I have lived in Vienna, Paris as well as New York and London, and have personally witnessed how urban development can sometimes be at the expense of people living in those places. In this respect, Copenhagen is a unique, cosmopolitan patch of green. Let’s make sure it stays that way – getting rid of card in the medieval part of Copenhagen is a good start.

Link to the article by Anders Ojgaard:
https://www.magasinetkbh.dk/indhold/sadan-kommer-bilerne-ud-af-middelalderbyen-naesten

Anne Rosa Simonsen