German tradesmen’s association opposes car-free city centres
Germany’s main association of skilled tradesmen says cities must find ways to reduce traffic and vehicle emissions without banning cars and trucks from city centres, arguing that such bans would create insurmountable barriers for small businesses, newspaper Die Welt reports. In a position paper cited by Die Welt, the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH), which represents primarily small and medium-sized companies in areas ranging from the building trades to metalworking and graphic design, says that its members rely on their own vehicles to conduct business, and car-free city centres would make that impossible. The confederation nevertheless calls for increased public transportation, bike and pedestrian infrastructure to reduce overall traffic, as well as the deployment of more low-emission vehicles. “Shifting some car traffic to lower-emission forms of transportation should be the goal, but completely car-free inner cities are neither appropriate nor realistic," the ZDH says in its position paper, according to Die Welt. "Due to their specific transport tasks and complex fields of activity, the craft trades themselves remain dependent on their own flexible, multifunctional vehicles."
The debate over air pollution from vehicles in Germany's inner cities has been fuelled by the dieselgate scandal as well as by repeated warnings by the European Union that many cities exceed acceptable limit values for nitrogen oxide (NOx) and other pollutants. A court ruling in early 2018 found that driving bans for older diesel cars are an appropriate measure to bring down emissions in risk areas, which many cities in the country since had to implement to abide by EU limit values. However, the driving bans have been highly controversial from the onset and many city adminstrations kept restrictions to an absolute minimum and included exceptions, for example for tradesmen.