World-wide discussions about the success of city centres are focused on their accessibility. Generally, it is understood first of all as the accessibility for driving and parking cars. There prevails the attitude that this demand should be met without any restrictions. Therefore, there is a trend to continuously increase the infrastructure for car traffic. Regularly reoccurring shortages are not understood as a sign of a wrong concept but, to the contrary, a directive to continue the expansion. The common sentence "no parking no business" is misleading because it diverts the attention from the fact that first of all the excellence of a place determines the decision where to drive to. If a city centre is run down, even abundant parking will be unable to revitalise it, as can be seen in the USA.
In Germany, in contrast, city centres were able to defend their prime role. This is due to the combination of various public and private measures. The city administration, on one hand, improved accessibility by public transport, because it realised that this was the only means to bring large numbers of visitors to a densely built up area; it also improved attractiveness by a good design of the public open spaces now free from car traffic. The landowners and retailers, on the other hand, made the best use of this chance by investing in a better business and improving city marketing. Nowadays, in Germany even new shopping complexes mainly choose integrated city centre locations!
The discussion of the role of accessibility generally is focused on the access from outside to the city centre, including parking. It underestimates the role of "internal accessibility", i.e. the walk from the place of arrival to the various activity locations and then back to the place of departure (mostly a public transport stop or off-street car park) (Fig. 1). The main reason for this is the orientation towards the "one-stop-shopping" of a suburban mall and the neglecting of the fact that most city centre visitors, at least in Europe, go to several destinations within the centre and like walking to them.
The discussion of traffic infrastructure furthermore neglects the fact that it does not necessarily determine travel decisions as such but by the way that it is perceived. As a consequence, the marketing of accessibility is important. Unfortunately, for a long time complaints of retailers on poor car-accessibility have resulted in a negative perception among the citizens. However, surveys show that visitors rate accessibility much better than retailers believe.