This article was first published in the March edition of Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends.
A movement towards greener, cleaner transportation is taking hold all over the world. European cities, many built thousands of years before the invention of motorized vehicles, are leading the pack when it comes to car-free metropolitan areas. Seeing as transportation accounts for up to 14% of the world’s total carbon emissions, it’s a worthwhile effort many are glad to see gaining traction.
Hamburg, Germany has recently announced a plan to become the world’s first “car free city” within the next 20 years. As Germany’s 2nd largest metropolis, urban planners here are gambling big on a citywide Green Network that covers 40% of the municipality, connecting parks, cemeteries, and playgrounds. Much like its nearly-neighbor Copenhagen, Hamburg’s plan relies heavily on increased cyclist traffic and re-purposed green spaces. In fact, huge swaths of land adjacent to the Hamburg’s A7 highway are to become housing plots and whole kilometers of the autobahn will actually be covered and planted, connecting neighborhoods that have been severed by the superhighway for 30+ years.
Compact Western Europe is now constantly using stopgaps to combat smog and overcrowding— remember when Paris briefly banned cars with even-numbered license plates last year? But forward-thinking regions are investing in long-term planning that will reduce car dependence and draw residents out of the suburbs and into the city center. Milan is dishing out free public transit vouchers to commuters who leave their vehicles at home, and Madrid is gradually expanding its car-free zone bit by bit each year. Even notoriously car-addicted Asia is getting in on the action; satellite city concepts like China’s Chengdu are being designed from day one with the end goal of walkability. And if China can convince its citizens not to drive, there’s hope for us all yet.
For advertisers, long reliant on idle-eyed commuters, what will happen when cities’ infrastructures change? Expect to see more outdoor advertising and easily-manipulated digital signage amongst pedestrian paths and a steady marketing saturation among “bike culture,” from technology to hangouts. The carpool may be slowly dying but the rise of pedestrian messaging platforms is only now getting started. Just watch where you’re walking, okay?