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Strictest environmental zone in Europe

Berlin citizens have submitted a draft law that would virtually ban car traffic within Berlin's S-Bahn ring. According to the bill, not even electric cars would be allowed to enter. The initiative is likely to face a lot of opposition.

The initiative "Volksentscheid Berlin autofrei" (Berlin car-free referendum) wants to ban driving for citizens in the urban area of Berlin over an area of about 88 square kilometres. The aim of the initiative is that citizens should generally no longer be allowed to drive a car, with the exception of twelve periods of use of 24 hours each per year. Later, this number is to be reduced to six. These exceptions could then be used, for example, to transport things or to go on holiday. To register a ride, one would download a QR code from a website, which one could then carry with them. According to the initiative, there should be exceptions for driving in the zone for the fire brigade and police, but also for craftsmen, care services, mobility-impaired people, taxis, car sharing and delivery vehicles. The aim is for the streets to belong to pedestrians and cyclists again. According to the initiative, the law is necessary "because the Senate has failed in the traffic turnaround".

Starting in April, 20,000 signatures are to be collected in support. However, the initiative can also expect a lot of headwind from the population. The Berlin Senate around Green Party politician Regine Günther wanted to allow only purely electric vehicles within the ring road by 2030. So the citizens' initiative's demands go much further.

In contrast to Berlin, citizens in Halle have campaigned against the ban on cars in the city centre. For example, a legislative proposal by the city administration to ban more vehicles from the city was blocked by a citizens' petition with over 9,000 signatures. The decision on a car-free zone in Halle's city centre will now probably be decided by a referendum of the citizens.

The Berlin initiative could end up in a similar situation, as there are probably many people in Berlin for whom driving is too important or who see no alternative in public transport. The implementation of the law, and also the support of many citizens, will only be possible if public transport and car sharing services offer enough alternatives to daily car travel.

So a lot would still have to happen in Berlin for a green, car-free inner city to become a reality and thus for Europe's largest environmental zone to come into being.