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SEXISM

‘Women-only’ parking: sensible or sexist?

Frankfurt Airport is one of many places in Germany to offer women their own 'bigger and nicer' parking areas. Is this sensible practice or plain sexist?

'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Regulations for women's parking spaces differ from state to state across Germany. Photo: JG-NF / Wikimedia Commons.

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.”

“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

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DRIVING

EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

The popularity of electric scooters in Germany has exploded in the last few years, but many people still aren't sure what the rules for driving them are. We break them down.

EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

Germany is currently the world’s second-largest market for e-scooter rental after the USA, which might explain why you have the feeling that you’re seeing the electric vehicles everywhere these days, at least in cities. 

According to a recent survey by ADAC,15 percent of people in Germany aged 16 and over regularly use e-scooters. Of these, 45 percent own their own scooter, while 55 percent rent the vehicles from sharing services.

Here are the rules for driving an e-scooter that you need to know.

Who can drive an e-scooter?

Anyone over the age of 14 can ride an electric scooter and you don’t need to have a driving license to use one. However, many of the traffic rules for motorists also apply to e-scooter riders, and misbehaving on a scooter could end up costing you points on your driving license or even getting you a driving ban.

READ ALSO: Driving in Germany: Eight German road signs that confuse foreigners

Can more than one person ride an e-scooter?

No. Only one person is allowed to ride a scooter and if you are caught riding in two, you will get a €10 fine.

Although it might be fun, riding side by side on two scooters is also not allowed and can be punished with a fine of between €15 and €30. Instead, you and your friends have to ride in single file.

Where can you ride an e-scooter?

E-scooters are principally allowed on bike paths and in bike lanes and you can only drive them on the road if there is no bike lane available. If you do drive on the road, you must keep as far to the right as possible and you are not allowed to ride in bus lanes.

It’s also forbidden to ride an e-scooter on the motorway – doing so will get you a €20 fine. 

Riding an e-scooter on the pavement, in pedestrian-only zones, or in one-way streets against the direction of traffic is also not allowed and can land you a fine of between €15 and €30.

However, e-scooters are allowed on one-way or no-entry roads which have a “cyclists free” sign.

A no-entry sign with a “cyclists free” sign underneath. This sign also applies to e-scooters. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Kalaene

Which traffic light rules apply to electric scooters?

E-scooter riders have to abide by traffic lights just like motorists, and the fine for ignoring a red light on an e-scooter is between €60 and €180.

However, if there is also a traffic light for bicycles, e-scooter riders can follow this one instead.

Is there an alcohol limit for electric scooters?

Yes, the same alcohol limits for motorists apply to electric scooter riders.

This means that anyone who drives with a blood alcohol level of between 0.5 to 1.09 is liable for a fine of €500, a 1-month driving ban and 2 points on their driving license.

It’s a criminal offence to ride an electric scooter with a blood alcohol concentration of at more than 1.1, as is causing an accident with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.3.

Under 21s must be completely alcohol free – with a blood alcohol level of 0.0 – to ride an e-scooter.

Where can e-scooters be parked?

E-scooters can be parked at the roadside, on the pavement and in pedestrian zones with designated e-scooter parking areas. However, e-scooters must be parked in such a way that they don’t obstruct or endanger pedestrians or other road users. 

Parked e-scooters in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt

Which rules are there for e-scooter owners?

If you’ve upgraded from renting to owning your own scooter, there are certain requirements you have to be aware of. 

Firstly, it’s mandatory to have liability insurance and a special sticker (similar to a license plate) stuck to the scooter to show that it is insured.

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Haftpflichtversicherung

E-scooter owners also have to make sure that they have two independently working brakes and lights. 

Which other rules should I be aware of?

As with driving a car or cycling, you are not allowed to use your mobile phone while riding an e-scooter (which is pretty challenging anyway). If you’re caught doing so, you’ll get a €100 fine and a point on your driving license. 

It’s not mandatory to wear a helmet when riding an e-scooter, though it is recommended. 

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