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Town Planning: The Male City


Many cities are built by men for their needs: the main thing is efficient work. Bad luck for everyone with stroller, shopping bags or wheelchair. Does it have to be like that?

This article is part of the ZEIT-ONLINE focus "If possible, please turn to Mobility" from our Department X. You can find a selection of other topics here.

Actually, it's funny: people build something for people, and out comes a place where man as a living being is apparently not intended. The street under the Yorckbrücken in Berlin for example, named after a Prussian Field Marshal. Four lanes over which push cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles, left and right a narrow footpath. Pedestrians avoid a construction site on the road, smooth walls throw back the noise. On the steel of the bridges dangling pigeons, on the ground blow leaves and garbage. Only the people in the car probably does not care for all this. You have a kind of tank.

The cyclist with the trailer has none. The packed woman who rushes to the S-Bahn, not even as little as the mother with the stroller. And there is the other mother. She calls after her child, but the child runs and runs to the curb, only then turns to his mother and laughs at his prank. "Never do that again," she says, dragging the kid back to the footpath on the jacket, "that's dangerous!"

The road is generous for some, but merciless for the others.

But who are the ones, who are the others? There may also be a gap between the sexes on this issue.

Of course, it's easy nowadays to point to the man. But according to Kraftfahrtbundesamt nunmal 62 percent of the cars are allowed on men, only 38 percent on women. According to the study Mobility in Germany , on average, men drive twice as much by car (29 kilometers per day) as women (14 kilometers per day). Even young men drive significantly more car, but the most extreme difference is among the 50- to 59-year-olds. If women use the car, then they rather go with, in the passenger or back seat.

The question is: what was in the beginning, the man or the car?

Call Meike Spitzner, she is a traffic researcher at the Wuppertal Institute. For decades she has been working on sustainable and gender-sensitive perspectives in traffic and urban planning. The fact that the sexes move differently, that the mobility opportunities are unequaled, has for them with dominant images of masculinity, which have been raised to scale for all. And with an economic system that evaluates gender roles differently. The city planning and choice of transport are seen in this way only a logical consequence.

The road can be generous to some, but merciless to the others. © Sina Niemeyer for TIME ONLINE

Spitzer says: "In the 1950s, an economic model was staged and underpinned by legislation that put the nuclear family at the center and provided a clear division of labor for the couple." And this, even though this was the time when Germany had been a society of single and single mothers like never before, as many men did not survive the war and National Socialism. The model provided for a "breadwinner," that he would do paid work and gain access to public space. The housework was assigned to a "housewife" who was responsible for the unpaid reproductive work and should stay home. Men earned the money, and they built cars, roads, and parking lots so they could move forward as quickly as possible. Women should take care of household and family. It was not intended for them to be mobile at all. When they had to go out to shop or take children away, it did not seem like much urban planning to make their job enjoyable and efficient. And since their work did not bring immediate money, there was no economic incentive to improve their situation.

So, one could say, the male car city came into the world.

You do not even have to look at Le Corbusier's painted vision for Paris, the gigantic, bare concrete blocks arranged at right angles and the straight streets without people. Even at that time, the once optimistic design was fast becoming a dystopian framed art. Take instead Rudolf Hillebrecht, one of the most influential German city planners after the Second World War and a passionate motorist. As a city councilor he over-planned, for example, the heavily damaged by air raid Hanover. His idea was the "car-friendly city". In an early speech, he warned that his city could otherwise become a "human trap". A crowded intersection reminded him of a "cauldron". He wanted: intersection-free highways, roundabouts, elevated highways and sub-paved railways.

Hillebrecht had demolished for his plan still preserved historic buildings, the Flusswasserkunst and the Friederikenschlösschen. Thus, the City-Ring, a freeway-like ring around the city center, was quickly opened from all directions. The population protested, other cities followed Hillebrechts example, and newspapers praised the conversion. The Nürnberger Zeitung chose Hanover as the "model for city builders", the world wrote about the "most modern structure of all German cities" and the Spiegel dedicated its 1959 title to its title page: "Wunder von Hannover".

In the US, the process had begun earlier. The most notorious figure is the man who rebuilt New York to his will: Robert Moses. "Cities were created by and for traffic," he said. Under his influence, more than a thousand kilometers of highways were built there. Half a million people had to leave their homes for it. And Moses' dogma made school nationwide.

Maybe it is in the urban and transport planning, as Virginia Woolf once described it for society itself: "The man looks straight into the face of the world, as if it were there for his liking and designed to his liking look at her with a sidelong glance that is full of profound thoughts, yes, full of mistrust. "

A dream of many urban planners is today: more people than cars © Sina Niemeyer for ZEIT Online

It was a woman who denounced this dehumanizing development of the cities in the US. As early as 1961, journalist Jane Jacobs wrote a book about the death and life of big American cities - a provocation. She was soon insulted for her appearance and insulted as a housewife. Meanwhile, their demands are a standard in modern, urban planning: mixed and busy neighborhoods, short distances, more people than cars.

But until today, says Meike Spitzner, traffic science, transport planning and transport policy are primarily concerned with improving automobility - not the mobility of all people. That was a problem: "The car-oriented city and traffic planning leads to spatial discrimination, expropriation of time, strengthening of structural violence and mental degradation," says Spitzner. In other words, those who do not sit in the car, get the small, bad ways and therefore takes longer for everything. And those who step on the street as a woman without a metal armor are an easier target for everyday harassment, for the temper, for the whistling from the car window and other drive-by- sexism.

New traffic concepts, such as more electric mobility, would not change the basic problem. Small improvements, such as bike paths or surveillance cameras, says Spitzner, would only fight symptoms, they would not affect the problem at heart.

In some places made for man, it does not seem to be foreseen. © Sina Niemeyer for TIME Online

Source: zeit

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