City news: Berlin – more protection for pedestrians

2 March 2021

After being Germany’s first city to prioritise cyclists and public transport above private car traffic, Berlin will give better protection to its pedestrians through its law.

A new amendment to the city’s mobility law, commonly known as the ‘Pedestrian Law’, came into force on February 24, giving greater rights and protections to pedestrians – people on foot, in wheelchairs or otherwise – in the German capital.

Measures outlined in the law include aids to crossing streets, such as longer green crossing times and more direct routes, traffic calming measures, better lighting, and more sitting space and ‘play streets’.

Regine Günther, Berlin’s Senator for the Environment, Traffic and Climate Protection, said: “Having passed the first Pedestrian Law is a large step towards a more liveable Berlin. We share out public space more justly, design it to be more pedestrian-friendly with enough room and direct ways, and without barriers.”

The amended law will also afford greater protections to vulnerable pedestrians, such as older people.

It comes amid changing mobility habits due to the coronavirus pandemic. New figures from the Berlin Police show an overall reduced level of mobility in Berlin but increases in certain modes of transport such as cycling, which is up 20% in a year.

But this has also coincided with a 16% increase in pedestrian deaths in Berlin in 2020. The statistics, released on February 22, show that 19 pedestrians and 17 cyclists were killed last year, compared to a total of 30 in 2019. Including traffic collisions, a total of 50 people died on Berlin’s roads in 2020.

The original Mobility Act, ratified in 2018, was the first in Germany to give priority to public transport and bicycle traffic over private cars.

This new amendment is the continuation of the city’s work to shift the focus on Berlin’s roads away from private car traffic.

The new Act has won praise from local activists. “Slow defers to fast,” Roland Stimpel, the Berlin director of Germany’s Foot Traffic Association (FUSS), told the German press. The organisation has called the law a “milestone” that will improve the quality of life of all Berliners.