In order for mobility to become cleaner, more people should switch from cars to buses, trains or bicycles – but what is the best way to get them to do so? The minister responsible relies on incentives instead of pressure.

In the debate about more climate protection in transport, Transport Minister Volker Wissing opposed a course with general deterioration for certain forms of mobility – for example with less space or parking space for cars in large cities.

“If we want to convince people of a different form of mobility, we have to make them attractive, climate-neutral alternative offers that meet their needs and convince them,” said the FDP politician to the German Press Agency. «Transformation should be seen as progress, not as a limitation.»

Wissing: Enable instead of forbid

The challenge is to achieve climate neutrality through attractive offers, not through bans, requirements and government restrictions. “Of course, in the end we have to see that pedestrians, bicycles and cars share a limited street space that cannot be expanded at will,” said Wissing. “But we must not play the modes of transport off against each other.” You have to come up with good solutions on the spot. “If many people want to ride their bikes, we need more well-developed cycle paths. Where there are many cars, we need adequate car lanes. And where there are many pedestrians, we need safe footpaths.”

The minister emphasized: “I want to enable, not forbid. We need to remove barriers that prevent people from using a particular mode of transport. I’m thinking, for example, of gaps in the cycle path network. There’s a lot to do there.” It is important to compare the different mobility needs in society with the best possible offer, and this must be climate-neutral.

Debate about car use in cities

There has long been a debate as to whether space should be taken away from cars, especially in large cities, for reasons of climate protection. For example, the German Environmental Aid is in favor of raising fees for resident parking due to limited parking space. The cycling club ADFC calls for a different distribution: there must be less space for cars in cities – and more space for other users such as pedestrians and cyclists. The ecological traffic club Germany also criticizes that cars dominate the cities.

For example, Wissing pointed to quiet and clean buses that can travel 550 kilometers electrically and are perfect for use in local transport. “People perceive such offers as improvements without having to forego mobility. At least that’s what convinces me,” he said. “We have to have respect for the people who choose private transport for reasons. For many, the car is of central importance for their everyday mobility and thus a piece of freedom. An intervention in personal mobility is an intervention in the individual opportunities for participation and self-development.»