Fines and speed limits: Germany votes on new traffic rules

Fines and speed limits: Germany votes on new traffic rules
Berlin, a driver in Mitte parks their car in a cycle lane. Source: DPA
More space for cyclists, higher penalties for prohibited parking and maybe even a speed limit on the Autobahn? On Friday Germany's Federal Council will vote on numerous new regulations which will affect drivers and cyclists.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) has proposed a whole package of reforms to the Road Traffic Act (StVO), which, amongst other things, aims to make city cycling safer and more appealing.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about changes to German driving laws in 2020

There are also plenty of requests for changes and additions from the Federal Council committees, including a proposal for a general speed limit of 130 km/h on the motorways.

Here is an overview of the most important proposed rules which have been put on the table.

Penalties for prohibited parking: The fines for parking in the second row, on sidewalks and bike paths, should increase from €15 to up to €100. This should also apply to stopping on protective strips for cyclists – for example, on bike paths that are painted on the road with a dashed white line. 

So far, cars have been allowed to stop here for up to three minutes. If someone is obstructed or endangered, something is broken, or if someone parks on the sidewalk or bike path for more than an hour, then they may incur a point on their driving license. 

Make an emergency lane and leave it free: Drivers have to make room for the emergency services and, in a traffic jam, they have to form a lane for emergency vehicles through the middle of the traffic.

Anyone who does not do so will be punished and could incur a driving ban in the future. It should also be possible to prosecute and punish people who drive through an emergency lane without permission. Such actions will be punished with fines of between €200 and €320, a one-month driving ban and two points on their license.

READ ALSO: Driving in Germany: What are the offences which can cost you points on your license?

Drivers form a lane for ermergency vehicles on the motorway. Source: DPA

New rules for bus lanes: Bus lanes in cities can already be used by taxis or cyclists. In the future, this right should be extended to cars carrying at least two passengers – the aim being  to make carpooling more attractive. This will ultimately be decided on a case by case basis. 

Protection for cyclists: The current rule is that drivers have to keep a safe distance when overtaking cyclists. In the future, this distance should be at least 1.50 meters in towns and 2 meters outside of towns. Trucks over 3.5 tons should only be allowed to drive at walking pace when turning right in towns, or face a fine of €70.

In dangerous places, a sign prohibiting cars and trucks from overtaking single-track vehicles should be put in place. A parking ban of up to eight meters should apply at intersections and junctions with bike paths to improve visibility.

Green arrow and other rights for cyclists: A green arrow allows you to turn right when a traffic light is red – but only if you firstly stop and are not endangering anyone.

In the future there will be a green arrow that only applies to cyclists. In addition to bicycle roads, there should also be entire cycling zones, where a  maximum of 30 km / h is allowed and bicycle traffic must not be endangered or obstructed.

The Federal Council will also vote on some more far-reaching amendments which have been proposed by its committees:

Speed limit: The Environment Committee has suggested that a general speed limit of 130 km/h should apply on motorways. The debate is continuing to gain traction with the Social Democrats (SPD) having mentioned Tempo 130 as a new initiative that it wants to discuss in the grand coalition.

But the Union is largely against it and the ADAC reneging on its strict “No” has also caused a stir. The Greens' push for the 130 km/h speed limit failed, as expected, in the Bundestag in October with most SPD MPs voting against it – as is customary in such opposition motions.

Resident Parking: The Federal Council's Transport Committee proposes to extend the price range for residents' parking permits in cities from €10.20 -30.70 to €10-240 per year. Scheuer is open to more localised leeway, but considers these proposals to be excessive. 

Further Proposals: There will also be a vote on proposals that e-scooter rental companies will need a permit in the future – including a plan for vehicle parking. Another proposal is for higher fines for parking without a parking ticket.


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