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Thomas Howie: British Expatriate Wants to Get Cars Out of Berlin

A movement called Referendum Car-Free Berlin has a big goal: It actually wants to throw most cars out of Berlin within a few years. Today, the group started collecting signatures for a referendum on the matter. Thomas Howie is part of the project.

Berlin, April 25th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — Leipziger Strasse in Berlin’s city center was closed to motorists today. Instead, it was invaded by cyclists, musicians and playing children for an event that could be described as a mixture of a street fest and a protest. Several organizations were part of it, including Referendum Car-Free Berlin. The activists who belong to this group insist on banning most cars from Berlin.

Far-Reaching Goals

Thomas Howie, a British expatriate, is a spokesperson for the project. He told The Berlin Spectator, Referendum Car-Free Berlin wanted a transformation of the city which would make the streets cleaner and safer (watch video above, with Howie’s statements). The goals the group picked are definitely far-reaching. While the Berlin Senate is working on a much slower traffic transition, Thomas Howie and the organization he is part of intend to throw out most cars within the next few years.

The movement collected signatures on Leipziger Strasse on Sunday. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Within Berlin’s S-Bahn train ring, 80 percent of all cars are supposed to vanish. In order to make the endeavor sound a little more harmless, the movement says it intends to create “car-reduced streets”. Cyclists, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs and Berlin’s public transport are supposed to “be in the foreground”. But motorists will still be allowed to use the ‘Bundesstrassen’, Germany’s federal highways that run through Berlin, with privately owned cars.

Allocation of Space

Referendum Car-Free Berlin also wants to allow “necessary car trips” on the “car-reduced streets” it envisions. What this means is that public transport and delivery vehicles will continue to move around freely, if the new group gets its way. But using private cars is supposed to be limited to six to twelve trips per year, but only if residents need to move big items. Moving vans will be legal in the kind of city the organization wants to create.

So, why would they get rid of most cars within the S-Bahn ring? The activists say, they want to reduce the number of accidents, get the air pollution and the noise level down and allocate the city’s space fairly. They say 60 percent of Berlin’s traffic area was used by driving or parked cars, in spite of the fact that they are being used for one in four trips only. Of course, not everyone in Berlin will support the referendum or the radical goals the movement has. It will have to expect a lot of opposition.

Record Number of Cars

For now, the number of passenger cars in Berlin is not decreasing, but skyrocketing. In 2020, there were 1.22 million of them. It is a record number in this city of 3.8 million inhabitants.

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