City news: Hamburg – how to tame walkers and cyclists

3 March 2021

Hamburg is testing new ways to defuse conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. The city district Eimsbüttel has introduced ‘fairness zones’ to mark danger points at busy intersections. Big yellow letters on the tarmac remind people to show respect and look out for others.

Fairness zone in Hamburg

The experiment runs in three phases: in February, the text graffiti were painted on the floor. One week later, arrows and markers were added, and in the final phase simple barriers will separate the zones. The effects on the behaviour of road users are monitored to decide how to proceed in the long term.

Classic points of conflict

The experiment was initiated by elderly people in the neighbourhood who had been interviewed for the EU project ‘Green Silver Age Mobility’ (GreenSAM). They identified “classic points of conflict that are now being examined,” says district mayor Kay Gätgens. The field trial continues for another week and will then be evaluated.

A local newspaper already criticised the fairness zones as “swindle” because they favoured car drivers and forced pedestrians and cyclists to “subordinate themselves to car traffic”, as it leaves the division of public space untouched. The newspaper points at a section of a road where cyclists have in total four metres of space and pedestrians eight metres, while about 33 metres are reserved for cars. The newspaper concludes: “Fairness zones are old thinking.”