In Berlin, motorists pampered by the town hall


Unlike Paris but also other German cities like Tübingen, a pioneer in this area, or Hanover, which has great ambitions in this area, Berlin will not go on a crusade against SUVs, these heavy, polluting and bulky cars which, for the first time in 2023, represented more than half of new vehicle sales in Europe. “We have no plans to increase parking rates for SUVs. More generally, we do not plan to impose new rules on their owners”announced Tuesday, February 6, the deputy mayor of Berlin in charge of transport.

To tell the truth, this development surprised no one. Two days after the “citizens’ vote” organized in Paris, during which the tripling of SUV parking rates was approved by a narrow majority (54.5%) and despite a very low participation (5.7%), the The real surprise would have been if Berlin proposed a similar measure.

For a year, the German capital has in fact been run by a great friend of cars. Candidate for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the municipal elections of February 12, 2023, Kai Wegner even made it one of his campaign arguments: “Berlin is for everyone, even for motorists,” could we read on one of the posters of this former insurer. “Berlin, don’t let cars be banned”, we could read on another. On election day, the CDU came well ahead in the peripheral districts, those where the rate of households owning a car is the highest. On the other hand, it was clearly ahead of the Greens in the central districts, where the number of cars per inhabitant is the lowest.

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Disastrous communication

The first right-wing mayor elected at the head of Berlin since 1999, Kai Wegner wasted no time in wanting to make his mark. In coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), he set out to unravel what the latter had done in terms of transport in previous years, when they ruled the city with the Greens and the party left-wing Die Linke.

The big thing was that of the cycle paths. In June 2023, two months after the inauguration of the new mayor, his deputy for transport decreed a moratorium on current projects, the idea being to give up reserving lanes likely to be used only for bicycles. “slow down car traffic”. After the bitter setback suffered by the previous majority, which had its decision concerning Friedrichstrasse, a major shopping street whose pedestrianization had turned into a fiasco, overturned by the administrative justice system, this overhaul seemed to be the result of common sense.

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