Often citizens stand in the way of projects for fewer cars in city centres. Only when the positive effects of such projects become apparent do opinions change. For example, city tolls and car-free zones have already been introduced in many European cities. Now citizens are more and more convinced. In Germany, politics is often too hesitant.
Halle's historic old town should have more space for pedestrians to stroll and discover. For this, 500 parking spaces were to be eliminated. The citizens fought back in a referendum and voted - albeit narrowly - by a majority against. Their fear was that the city centre would die out if fewer people came because of the lack of parking spaces.
This fear of change and the lack of imagination for what a car-free city centre or a city toll could positively achieve often means the end of such projects. If politicians implement such projects anyway, the citizens' acceptance usually increases as soon as the positive effects become apparent. When the congestion charge was introduced in Stockholm, most citizens were vehemently against it. As soon as the effects of the measure on life in the city became visible, two thirds of the citizens changed their minds. This development could also be observed in London, Milan and Madrid.
Moreover, the costs of city tolls usually go in favour of public transport or other alternative services, so that a positive feedback loop is created in which more and more people switch from the car to other options. In this way, the trend away from the car continues to intensify.
In Paris and Barcelona, where radical mayors are declaring more and more zones car-free, support for the measures is increasing as well. Life in the cities is becoming more liveable again. People experience this first-hand and enjoy the quieter, greener and cleaner city.
In Germany, on the other hand, many projects are like Halle. Politics is restrained. Many initiatives by citizens for car-free zones, such as in Hamburg and Berlin, are not supported by politicians and are even dubbed "unworldly" and "far from life". While the Ifo Institute considers a road user charge of 6 to 10 euros to be appropriate to offset the costs to society and the environment, the ADAC sees the toll as socially unjust because people with low incomes would be disadvantaged. Most people with low incomes, however, do not have a car at all. On the contrary, they would benefit from the expansion of public transport or other alternatives through the revenues of a congestion charge.
Politicians should therefore enforce unpopular measures more often and give citizens the chance to experience the positive changes for themselves. City tolls, car-free zones and stricter environmental zones would be a way to make Germany cleaner and greener and to finally really usher in the mobility turnaround in Germany. The local politicians in Munich do indeed want to introduce a city toll, but whether they will do so against the preference of the citizens remains to be seen.