Car-free estate in Cologne: Traffic-calmed oasis in the middle of the city

On the site of the former railway repair workshop in Cologne’s Nippes district, people drive go-carts, not cars. The history of this car-free estate started here over ten years ago: a traffic-calmed estate in which ideas for residential living have been implemented and transportation plays a significant role in the overall concept.

Construction of the estate started in 2006, the first residents moved in, and all construction work has been completed and the apartments occupied since 2013. This car-free estate in Cologne is one of only four districts of its kind in Germany and of those it is the second-largest. A variety of living arrangements ensure a diverse mix of residents: both privately and publicly funded rental apartments, privately-owned apartments, detached houses, townhouses, solar passive houses, apartments for assisted living for the mentally handicapped and a multigenerational house. With 455 residential units, the car-free estate offers around 1,550 residents an attractive living environment.

Engine for progress:

  • CO2 emissions caused by transport 50% below the national average per capita
  • Individual cars replaced by a clever combination of means of transport
  • High quality of life due to good microclimate and little noise
  • Strong social cohesion

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Photo: Private

The entire estate is a dedicated pedestrian zone. Cycling is permitted within certain speed limits. Cars, on the other hand, have to stay outside (with the exception of emergency services vehicles). For relocation purposes a special permit can be obtained.

Car-free – with transportation still available

The entire estate is a pedestrian zone – the residents go from place to place on foot or by bicycle and many children travel via go-carts available on loan. Cars can only be driven in the estate in absolutely exceptional situations. Even more importantly: when they move in, the majority of residents contractually undertake not to own a car. Only 80 households are permitted to own a car, these have parking spaces at the periphery of the estate. Thus, there are less than 0.2 parking spaces for each household in the estate. The national average is 1.0. The total CO2 output caused by transportation is 50 per cent less than the national average per capita.

To guarantee full mobility despite this, there are good connections to the local public transport services and two car-sharing stations with a total of 20 cars. In a mobility station, various carts, bicycle trailers, tandems, go-carts and pedal cars are available on loan to the residents. The new loan system for e-cargo bikes in Cologne, Donk-EE, is also setting up a station with two bikes in the car-free estate.

The apartment buildings are equipped with specially designed underground bicycle garages. Each apartment has its own parking spaces. The residents can cycle straight in and out via ramps. Like in an underground car park, the doors open and close automatically.

Initiative originated by citizens

The car-free estate can be traced back to citizens’ engagement. An action group was already campaigning and fighting for such an estate ten years before construction started. The ’Nachbarn60 e. V.’ residents’ association now ensures cohesion, creates offerings for residents and is contact and messenger to the outside.

Reduction of use of space enables affordable building

The few car-parking spaces are all located in an indoor car park at the periphery of the estate. This means above all that streets can be narrower and buildings more densely consolidated – allowing for the overall use of space and infrastructure costs to be reduced by up to 20 per cent.

A popular district

The car-free estate in Cologne offers its residents a high quality of life and pleasant surroundings. It is exceptionally popular among families with children and is in great demand. There are long waiting lists, but fluctuation is low. Specifically, the residents benefit from the improved microclimate and less traffic noise in their immediate environment.

Photo: Private

“The car-free estate shows that effective climate protection and a good transportation offering do not have to be a contradiction. And this with fabulously pleasant surroundings: the car park at the periphery of the estate makes for a large car-free area within the estate.”

Hans-Georg Kleinmann, residents’ association board member

Partners and sponsors

  • Handwerkerinnenhaus
  • Familienzentrum Kita Lummerland
  • Nippeser Radlager
  • Naturstrom
  • Arbeitskreis Autofreie Siedlung Köln e.V. / Nachbarn60 e.V.