Kiezblocks – a Berlin way to redistribute public space and improve public health

Inspired by the Superillas in Barcelona, we wondered how Kiezblocks would work for Berlin. The Superillas or superblocks are a way to reclaim the streets from motorized traffic, reducing noise and pollution, and saving hundreds of lives that might otherwise be lost due to heavily polluted air. In the dense city of Barcelona, air pollution is omnipresent and green areas are scarce, while the amount of car traffic is growing. Barcelona has created six superblocks so far, and the city council is planning to install hundreds more of them. 

Research data from London shows that about two years after the implementation of Low Traffic Neighborhoods (LTN), citizens begin driving less and are even getting rid of their cars. Political support for car-free lifestyles and, importantly, car-free city planning subsequently grow. 

Berlin is not Barcelona, but the problem of motorized traffic causing congestion, noise and air pollution is no less pressing here. For many decades, urban transport policies in Germany have been neglected, and traffic emissions have increased instead. As a civic mobility organisation, we promote the idea of the superblock as a way to improve the quality of life and the health situation in the city. 

Changing Cities is in a unique position to support and coordinate a decentralized, bottom-up movement for the urban mobility transition driven by citizens. Changing Cities was instrumental in passing the Berlin Mobility Law (Berliner Mobilitätsgesetz). From the campaign’s start, it took less than three years to achieve this feat. The law contains almost all major goals the campaign wanted to see, including safe bicycle lanes on all main streets, one hundred kilometers of cycle highways for commuters, and secure bicycle parking, to name only a few.

We started the campaign ”180 Kiezblocks für Berlin“ in 2020. “Kiez” is the Berlin word for a local residential area or neighborhood. Our goal is to implement fifteen residential areas cutting off traffic flow in each of the twelve districts of Berlin. All local Kiezblock campaigns use communal-level direct democratic levers, and they all focus on the elimination of motorized traffic in their respective neighborhoods. Changing Cities integrates these civic initiatives, widening a city-wide movement out of the rising number of local campaigns, currently amounting to over 40. With thorough planning and a strong grassroots network, this campaign is focusing on the Berlin Senate elections at the end of September. With the Kiezblock movement, we are putting the mobility transformation on the political agenda to make change happen.

Find out more about kiezblocks here (in German) .


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