The change of traffic is an important aspect in the fight against climate change. A team from the university of hamburg is investigating how a car-free everyday life could succeed. Project manager prof. Dr. Katharina Manderscheid introduces the current research project and the opportunities for participation.
Traffic and mobility are very emotional topics in germany. How to research it?
We recently noticed how emotional this topic is at a mobility day in lokstedt, where we got into conversation with residents on the street. The proposal to temporarily close some roads to other uses almost makes the world collapse for some people. These emotions would actually be a research topic in their own right. For our projects, however, we do not primarily address these convinced car users, who are also difficult to reach for alternatives. We are more interested in those who are anyway considering whether they could do without a car.
A so-called real-lab experiment is currently underway in hamburg-lokstedt. What are they doing?
We accompany households that voluntarily agree to do without their cars for a total of three months. instead, we will provide you with several other mobility options. We cooperate with car-sharing and e-scooter providers as well as with the hamburger verkehrsverbund, which provides us with monthly tickets. It is also possible to use bicycle services such as stadtrad. We regularly talk to individual households during the trial and see what alternatives are found for trips that were previously made by car.
the experiment is part of a large collaborative project led by prof. Dr. Anita engels, in which we ask ourselves how the district of lokstedt can become climate-friendly. There are many different approaches and activities on the ground – and our area is mobility and traffic. In the first phase of the project, the difficult relationship between traffic and public space became clear again and again. How is land used – for recreation or parking?? Should car traffic have priority on the roads?? These questions are of concern to residents, and they are perceived as a problem – in other parts of Hamburg as well, by the way.
What do they want to find out?
The subproject also focuses on the transformation aspect, i.e. the question: how can we succeed in getting people to get rid of their cars?? Basically, we want to bring our findings from lokstedt into the discussion on traffic measures – within the scope of our possibilities. Often these are political decisions for which we can only make recommendations. But our partners, the HVV for example, are very interested.
The idea of living without a car often fails because of individual everyday situations.
But let’s take a step back and ask: why is it so difficult for households to organize their car journeys differently?? What are typical problems? In the public discussion, the focus is often on a more technical perspective when it comes to the topic of traffic, it is about new traffic offers or other drive technologies. In the discussions with the participating households, on the other hand, everyday logics emerge that are very complex and go beyond technical questions.
What does that mean in concrete terms??
At the moment, for example, there is the corona pandemic, which has given the car a new meaning. Many journeys previously made by public transport are now made again by car. Another sticking point is actually children. If not only the offspring but also other things have to be transported, you basically need two people with a cargo bike and a child trailer. Often, people also mention trips to the surrounding area, for example, because the in-laws need care or the grandparents are supposed to look after the children. If these areas are not well connected, it becomes difficult. But there are also individual cases, such as the musician who regularly has to transport his drums. These aspects are easily overlooked in the discussion about technological solutions for traffic, but it is precisely in these everyday situations that the idea of living without a car often fails.
That makes the approach certainly difficult.
Exactly. In addition, one of our basic assumptions is that very few people will change their behavior for the sake of climate protection alone. There still needs to be an additional benefit, a gain or interest – and this depends on the situation.
One might assume that those who want to live without a car form a homogeneous group, but that is not the case. There are the very rational ones who have consciously decided against the car and have directly explored all the alternatives. Others are involuntarily in the situation without a car because they lost their job and thus their company car was gone. Still others opt for the bicycle as a means of losing weight. The individual types then also stand for different population groups, which are approachable in very different ways.
Therefore, one aspect of our research is that we ask people what they want to find out for themselves in these three months. Does the wind in hamburg really always come from the front?? How often does it rain? What new places do I get to know?? When do I miss my car? How many steps do i take in a day?? interests are very different and this can be used later for strategies.
How can such laboratory conditions be transferred to reality for everyone, for example in terms of costs??
We have broken down the costs that are spent monthly on a car. Very few people realize that it’s not just about fuel, but also about insurance, repairs, taxes and, of course, purchase costs. For a two-person household, that’s just under 280 euros per month; for a family of four, it’s almost 500 euros. These are average figures, but we take that into account in that we base what we provide on these amounts and don’t offer things that would be out of proportion. At the end, we will also discuss this with the people and compare the figures.
Are similar approaches conceivable for districts structured differently than lokstedt??
Our results will certainly also be applicable to districts that are structured similarly to lokstedt, i.e. already well connected, but not entirely inner-city. The city bike, for example, is much more scarce here and the car sharing and e-scooter providers also have only a few stations. A district that lies even further on the outskirts has completely different challenges. This would have to be looked at separately.
Participation in the real lab
Further participants from the lokstedt district are still being sought for the project. Interested households can use various transport services free of charge for up to three months and in return give up the use of their cars. The alternative uses are to be documented; in addition, the experiences are discussed several times with the research team. A subsequent application is still possible up to the 18th month. August 2021 by mail ( fabian.Room "AT uni-hamburg.De ) possible. The experiment starts at the beginning of september. A residence in lokstedt is a prerequisite. All information about the application and the form are available online.
Research project "climate-friendly lokstedt
The current experiment is part of the project "climate-friendly lokstedt" – a joint project of the university of hamburg, the district authority of eimsbuttel, the burgerhaus lokstedt e. V. With the zukunftswerkstatt lokstedt. Together with the citizens of the hamburg district, approaches are being developed and tested to combine climate protection and local quality of life, to promote sustainable forms of mobility, and to develop new participation opportunities for urban planning. the project is funded by the federal Ministry of education and research and comprises two sub-projects: "district climate work in public spaces" and "car-free mobility. More information can be found on the project website.