Thousands back radical private car ban proposal in Berlin

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More than 50,000 people have signed petition to ban both ICE and electric cars from German capital

More than 50,000 people have signed a citizens initiative to ban private car use in a 34-square mile zone around central Berlin.

The initiative, started by campaigners Berlin Autofrei, would have motor vehicles removed in an area surrounded by the S-Bahn ring trainline, forming what would be the largest car-free urban area in the world. The proposed exclusion zone is the same size as the total area covered by London travel-zones one and two. 

Drivers would be allowed 12 rented car journeys per year in the area, but looser restrictions would apply to drivers with restricted mobility, delivery drivers, emergency services and those who require vehicles for commercial purposes. 

The ban would come into effect after a “reasonable transition period”, with the goal of improving health, air quality and safety. The plans would also have parking spaces turned into flowerbeds in a series of modifications aimed at creating a more social street environment for all ages.

Electric vehicles would also be banned, as the campaign group says these pose some similar issues to their ICE counterparts, including pollution through tyre wear. 

“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,” campaigner Nik Kaestner told The Guardian. 

“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.”

As part of the campaign, Berlin Autofrei is also requesting cheaper public transport (with hopes of it becoming completely free in the future), comprehensive parking management, additional green spaces and the promise of no new expressways in the city. 

The campaign has so far received 50,333 signatures.

The group is making use of a form of direct democracy with a three-part process. Stage one requires 20,000 signatures and stage two 170,000 signatures. The proposed law is then sent to public vote if the government refuses to enact it.

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