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Although Germany may be known internationally for its environmentalism, over the past 20 years German cities have chronically underinvested in transportation networks, both for public transport as well as non-motorized options. The lag in the development and expansion of sustainable options combined with the rapid growth in private automobile ownership (itself the result of automobile-industry-friendly policymaking) means that cities like Bremen have been left behind in terms of transportation planning. As in America, SUV sales continue to increase despite considerably narrower streets, particularly in cities.
Nowhere is this more visible than in Bremen’s Neustadt, a dense neighbourhood with the most children under ten years old, per capita, of any neighborhood in the state. Motorized traffic, much of it commuter traffic and deliveries, continues to increase with a resulting increase in noise and air pollution. Bremen’s elected officials and transport authorities are actively resisting parking controls, pedestrian crossings, traffic calming measures, measures to ensure safe routes to school, and lower speed limits; seemingly because of fear of losing votes.
Increasingly concerned neighbors are working on speed limits for a residential street. So far two official applications for a speed limit reduction from 50 Km/h (32 miles per hour) to 30 (approximately 19 mph) have been denied. A petition gathering signatures has also been denied, supposedly because there is no evidence to prove the benefits of reduced speeds, although the federal government’s own studies have shown this over and over. Our current project is for parking management and control, for example stopping cars parked illegally on sidewalks; public reception has been mixed but an open discussion is happening.
The question remains as to how citizens can actually influence and steer transportation politics in order to create real, sustainable change.
Anne Kirkham has been a passionate cyclist since 1994, participating in the early days of Critical Mass and the bicycle activism in California and Washington State and working as a bike messenger, bicycle and environmental activist, as well as a brief stint as a cyclocross racer. In addition to being active in the globalization movement, she has taught womens’ self-defense and is a henna artist who loves cultural exchange and especially sharing music, food, and art with friends from around the world. Anne has her master’s degree in Political Science, focusing on theories of social and environmental justice, and is currently researching the social justice aspects of transportation in Germany for her dissertation in transportation politics.
Urban transportation -- Planning, Transportation -- Forecasting, Transportation industry, Transportation -- Planning, Urban transportation -- Forecasting
Transportation | Urban Studies
Kirkham, Anne, "Citizen Advocacy for Safe Streets in Bremen, Germany" (2018). TREC Friday Seminar Series. 145.