Today, the Unter der Linden street–which is home to many tourist attractions, including the Brandenberg Gate–is simultaneously filled with tourists, and choked with traffic. It’s one of the least pleasant spots in the downtown Mitte neighborhood, especially at its western end where it meets the Gate. If any street should be closed to cars, it’s this one. And in 2019, says Germany’s minister for urban development and the environment Andreas Geisel, it will be.
The street, a wide boulevard named after its linden trees, is currently undergoing massive construction work, squeezing out pedestrians even further, but in 2019 it will be open only to pedestrians, cyclists, buses, taxis, and diplomatic traffic (several embassies are located just off Unter den Linden).
Closing the street won’t be quite the big deal it might seem. Thanks to the ongoing subterranean construction that has narrowed the street, only 8,000 cars a day are passing through, compared to the previous average of 30,000. And the surface will have to be remodeled anyway, and paid for by the BVG (Berlin’s transit company), because it tore up the street to put a new subway underneath.
Berlin recently held elections for its city government, and the new “red-red-green” coalition (a mixture of the Green party, and two socialist parties) has promised to further improve the roads for pedestrians and cyclists. Measures include “cycle paths on all main roads, more cycle lanes and disarmed crossroads intersections redesigned to favor cyclists.”
Sadly, though, Unter den Linden won’t be completely pedestrianized. While diplomatic traffic might be small, there are enough buses and taxis to continue terrorizing pedestrians. Still, if you ever attempted to walk along Unter den Linden and hold a conversation at the same time, you’ll be happy of even this partial relief. Perhaps these measure will even bring locals back to this tourist-blighted area of the city.