16 Jun 2023, 13:49
Carolina Kyllmann

Ruling conservatives in city of Berlin aim to halt cycle lane projects to save car parking spaces

Tagesspiegel / Berliner Zeitung

The conservative Cristian Democrats (CDU) who lead the new government coalition of the city of Berlin aim to freeze all new cylce lane projects if their construction threatens to take away even one single car parking space, newspaper Tagesspiegel reports. The state’s new CDU-led transport administration under senator Manja Schreiner told traffic management departments in Berlin’s districts to temporarily suspend cycle path projects that endanger any existing parking space or result in the removal of car lanes. “The new house leadership of our senate administration will set different standards for road allocation in the future,” the traffic administration told districts in an e-mail seen by the newspaper. It added that no more statements, reviews or hearings would be made on cycling plans at the moment. Raed Saleh, the head of the CDU's coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD) in Berlin, said his party had not been informed of the transport department's plans. "We want more and safer cycle lanes. That's the path we agreed on in the coalition," Tagesspiegel reported.

After election day irregularities caused Berlin’s 2021 election results to be declared invalid, the city elected a new government in February this year. The CDU gathered the most votes in an election where transport and housing were high on the political agenda. The election laid bare a divide between voters in the dense city centre, which mostly voted for the Green Party, and the German capital's outskirts, where many residents rely on their cars for daily transport and most voted for the CDU. While new CDU mayor Kai Wegner said supporting the transport transition with an expansion of public transport options and climate action will be key goals of the new government, he argued that “demonising” cars is the wrong approach during the election campaign, and endorsed further investments in auto-related infrastructure projects to achieve a balanced "togetherness" of cars and other road users. Cycle lanes in the city had been expanded in the past few years in a bid to increase road safety for cyclists and improve air quality and reduce emissions by encouraging more people to use bicycles.

Transport senator Schreiner had told Berliner Zeitung that “from my point of view, it does not always make sense to take lanes away from motor vehicles in order to convert them to cycling facilities across their entire width," adding that the lanes' effects on traffic flows still had to be analysed further. In her view, more cycle lanes could be built on wide pavements or side streets. Berlin will lose one of its car-free streets – the centrally located Friedrichstraße that was meant to serve as a lighthouse project for the mobility transition in the city – from 1 July, as Schreiner mandated in April already. Cars will be allowed to drive through the street again, a section of which had been closed off to traffic and covered with flowers, benches and restaurant tables.

Cycling could play important role in the decarbonisation of the transport sector, whose emissions have remained stubbornly high for years. Across Germany, more and more people are using bicycles in their everyday lives, a survey by bicycle association ADFC showed.

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