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Why did so many people think Hamburg was declaring a car-free City Center?

This one continues to be a head-scratcher!

Last year, many in the transportation world thought Hamburg, Germany was making plans to declare a car-free city center. I, too, had read many articles such as this and this that reported of it.

Even Copenhagenize which lists Hamburg as its #19th Most Bike-Friendly City on their biennial index was hoodwinked (make sure you read their addendum.)

When guest Streetfilms journalist Joe Baur was headed to Hamburg a few months ago he asked if I'd be interested in a story on the city's plans to become car-free. But when he dug deeper residents told him it just wasn't true! (See the above excerpt on what some of told him.)

As Joe wrote, "Basically nobody had any idea what I was talking about. One of my initial contacts said that the story was started by a British journalist who obviously got the story wrong and then every other outlet from there just picked up the story without fact-checking. The only thing anyone agreed on is that they wish it was a true story." We invite any readers who know more or have any instinct as to what happened to please leave information in the comments.

Regardless, Joe was still able to put together a nice piece for Streetfilms about Hamburg which you can watch here.

By the way, let me just include a few words about Mr. Baur who is a travel writer and filmmaker by trade. He's been car-free for the last four years and lives with his wife in Cleveland who gets that constant "How do you live without a car?" query from suburban family and friends.

He recently spent a year in Central America and promises to be uploading travel videos to his site and putting together a podcast focused on a mixture of travel, urbanism as it relates to travel, and simply talking to interesting people. So if you are "interesting", drop him a line!


1 Comment
  • Roger87

    "The only thing anyone agreed on is that they wish it was a true story."

    I think that captures it, doesn't it? When you pitch an untrue or misleading story to a audience that wants that story to be true, and perhaps isn't well acquainted with the particular facts, you can be fairly certain that people will latch onto it without much scrutiny.

    This is usually done inadvertently by writers who fall victim to their own credulousness, but can be easily exploited by those with more cynical motives. For instance, the so-called greenwashing of autocentric projects, whereby a city or developer will tout some "green" aspect of a project (whether true or not) to distract the sustainability crowd, hoping that they'll go nuts about it and hopefully pay less attention to the larger downsides.