• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?

The Local · 30 Jul 2015, 15:10

Published: 30 Jul 2015 15:10 GMT+02:00

Frankfurt Airport has a special announcement for female drivers on its website. Want to bag yourself a parking space that's "bigger, nicer and close to the terminals"? Well, you'd better reserve your place in one of the airport's 'Ladies Parking' areas.

These reserved spaces are "colour-coded and easy to find."

Germany's main air hub is not alone in this practice. In some states it's a legal requirement that as many as 30 percent of parking places are designated for female drivers.

“It's very patronizing for women to be singled out in this way," Geraldine Herbert, editor of Wheels for Women magazine told The Local in reference to parking spaces being advertised as wider.

"All this does is reinforce the stereotype that women are bad at parking.”

Instead of these "sexist parking spaces," Herbert said, parking spaces in general should be made larger, "as many are simply too small for modern cars."

A safe space for women

The idea of women-only parking places in Germany originated in the 1990s, when it wasn't so much women's convenience that was up for discussion – but their safety.

Women felt at risk from sexual assault in underground car parks, it emerged – and as part of a policy to reduce this sense of risk, special parking spaces were introduced.

The spaces were near to car park exits, well-lit and often under video surveillance.

Nowadays, regulations for women's parking spaces differ from state to state across Germany. Whereas in Brandenburg 30 percent of spaces must be designated for women, in Hesse - where Frankfurt is the largest city - it is 5 percent. 

Yet women aren't forced to use the specified spaces – and there's nothing in the German traffic code that prevents men from using these spaces too.

'Men are better at parking'

But, in 2012 a Black Forest mayor caused controversy when a new car park opened in the town of Triberg.

Alongside women's parking spaces, the new car park also included spaces specifically for men – which were harder to maneuver into.

Mayor Gallus Strobel explained the decision as natural, claiming that men were simply better at parking than women.

"We found that two places were not rectangular, at an angle to the road and placed between walls and pillars," he told Der Spiegel. "This makes parking difficult so we decided to allocate them to men."

Again, though, the gendered parking wasn't legally stipulated – and women were welcome to try and use the men's spaces, Strobel said.

Frankfurt Airport meanwhile defended itself against charges of discrimination.

"Hessian garage regulations stipulate that at least 5 percent of public car park spaces must be specified women's spaces," a spokesperson explained in an email to The Local. "And we have more than fulfilled this quota."

It's up to the female drivers themselves whether or not they use these spaces, she added.

"We have extremely high security measures across our car parks, which we have made even higher in these designated female spaces – through brighter lighting, quick access to exits and extensive CCTV surveillance."

"The measures we have taken do make female drivers feel safer in our car parks, and add to the quality of customers' stay here."

Story continues below…

"Both our male and female customers also expect us to provide such parking spaces," the spokesperson added, "so in our view they're necessary."

An ongoing debate

The German Automobile Association (ADAC) echoed the view expressed by Herbert that parking should be made safe and convenient for both genders.

"We believe that in car parks, every parking space should be a "women's" parking space," they told The Local.

"This means making sure every space and stairwell is well-lit, avoiding blind spots and corners and installing sufficient electronic security systems - most importantly, video surveillance and emergency call systems."

The creators of women-only parking in Germany may have had safety in mind – but some still see these gendered spaces as unacceptable.

Reporting by Hannah Butler

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Analysis
How Merkel reacts to crises better than other leaders
Photo: DPA

It is of critical importance for a country how a leader chooses to react to an act of terrorism. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cool head sets an example for the rest of the country.

Turkey demands Germany extradite Gülen supporters
Fethullah Gülen. Photo: DPA

Ankara called on Germany on Thursday to extradite supporters of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of plotting a failed coup earlier this month.

German police raid 'hotbed of radicalization'
Police entering one of the residences. Photo: DPA

A mosque and eight residences were searched.

Germany boasts Europe's best value beaches
This beach just got named Europe's cheapest. Do you know where it is? Photo: DPA

Forget Mallorca or the Costa del Sol - the best beach bargains can be found in Germany. But where?

After rampages, Merkel says again: Wir schaffen das
Photo: DPA

Speaking for the first time after a Syrian refugee blew himself up in southern Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed her commitment to helping refugees on Thursday.

The Local List
Germany's five most mind-boggling conspiracy theories
What's the point of this mysterious tower at Tempelhof Airport? Photo: DPA.

Think that wacky paranoid types only exist in the USA? Here’s a few crazy German conspiracies to prove you wrong.

Munich shooting
Gunman's friend arrested for 'planning school attack'
File photo: DPA

Police found chemicals and instructions for making explosives, as well as evacuation plans of his school in the youth's possession.

Bremen mall evacuated due to escaped psychiatric patient
Police outside the mall. Photo: DPA

The man had reportedly made worrying statements relating to Isis and last week's shooting in Munich.

German ambassador to Turkey left out in cold
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: DPA

The Turkish government has been giving German ambassador Martin Erdmann the cold shoulder for weeks, after German parliamentarians passed a bill recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Ansbach suicide bomber was interviewed by Bulgarian TV
Photo: DPA

A Syrian who blew himself up outside a German music festival at the weekend was interviewed twice by Bulgarian television while living there in 2013, footage showed on Wednesday.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
11,008
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd