A citizen-led initiative to ban private car use in central Berlin is gathering momentum. If the campaign succeeds, the region would be the world’s largest car-free zone. A group known as Berlin Autofrei started the initiative and now has a petition with over 50,000 signatures to kickstart the referendum.

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Although only a few people in Berlin use private cars, these cars occupy 17 square kilometers of parking space and are responsible for heavy traffic within the city.

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If implemented, the private car ban would exempt people who depend on their cars due to physical impairments. Emergency service providers would also be allowed to use vehicles in the car-free zone. The rest of the public will be allowed to have 12 rented car journeys a year.

According to the group behind the initiative, banning private cars would help Germany meet its emissions targets much faster than relying on electric cars. As Nik Kaestner, one of the campaign leaders, said, “We would need about half of cars to go electric next year in order to meet the federal government’s own targets for transportation emissions. That clearly isn’t going to happen – currently only 1.3% of vehicles in Germany are electric. So the only solution is to reduce the amount of driving that’s happening, not just to change how we drive.”

Further, Kaestner says Berlin residents would be happy traveling without a car. “The federal environmental ministry did a study recently and 91% of people said they would be happier without a car. Moreover, only a third of individual Berliners actually have a car,” said Kaestner.

Manuel Wiemann, a spokesperson for the initiative, elaborated on the issues with cars. Apart from carbon emissions, cars also shed tires and “occupy far too much common space and unnecessarily endanger human lives, whether electric or diesel.”

According to a report commissioned by the regional parliament in Berlin, 58% of city traffic is dedicated to private cars, even though private vehicles only account for a third of the vehicles on the streets.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Pexels