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Part of central Berlin set to be closed to traffic for six months

A section of one of the capital's busiest streets will be car-free for six months in an experiment aimed at attracting more pedestrians and cyclists to the area.

Part of central Berlin set to be closed to traffic for six months
Friedrichstraße in Berlin. Photo: DPA

The pilot project will see a large part of Friedrichstraße, in the Mitte district, closed to traffic.

From the beginning of June until the end of November this year, a car-free section between Leipziger Strasse and Französische Strasse is planned, as well as a 'traffic-calmed' area at Checkpoint Charlie.

The aim is to find out what effects this will have on pedestrian, bicycle, car and delivery traffic in the area and what users of Friedrichstraße will gain from it.

The street forms part of the city's main shopping district and is a magnet for tourists.

Berlin's local government presented the plans for the first time to residents, businesses and other interested parties on Wednesday.

They are to be analysed and discussed afterwards. As reported by the Berliner Morgenpost, the project also aims to make the sidewalks (pavements) twice as wide as they are currently.

Meanwhile, bicycle lanes will also be widened out.

According to the Berlin Senate, the aim of the traffic experiment is to increase the attractiveness of Friedrichstraße – for Berliners and tourists – and also to strengthen the city's trade and retail sectors by increasing footfall.

The traffic initiative Changing Cities welcomed the news.

“We are very pleased that by making Friedrichstraße, more attractive, ecological issues and the reorganisation of commercial traffic is also being addressed,” Stefan Lehmkühler said. 

But not everyone is happy.

Oliver Friederici, transport policy spokesman for the Berlin CDU faction, warned against a hasty closure of the street, saying residents and businesses needed to be more involved with the proposals.

READ ALSO: Berlin the latest German city to experiment with going car-free

The move isn't the first time that the idea of pedestrians reclaiming the streets of Berlin, and other cities in Germany, has been discussed.

In 2018 Friedrichstraße was closed to traffic for several hours in December and there have been several

Traffic was stopped at the nearby Brandenburg Gate in 2002, while plans were announced in 2017 to restrict traffic on Unter Den Linden from 2019. Hamburg has also considered making areas of the city car free in the not-too-distant future. 

The Berliner Morgenpost reported previously that the Berlin Senate had recommended banning vehicle traffic around the Checkpoint Charlie section of Friedrichstraße – only a few hundred metres south – for safety reasons. 

More than 26,000 foot crossings are made across the street in the Checkpoint Charlie area daily, with restrictions recommended to all traffic other than taxis, bicycles and night buses.

Previous plans have included turning Friedrichstraße into a 'Sunday Shopping Street' by closing it to vehicle traffic on Sundays.

Vocabulary

Car-free – autofrei

Traffic-calmed sector – (der) verkehrsberuhigter Bereich

Pavements/sidewalks – (die) Gehwege

Senate administration – (die) Senatsverwaltung

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

 

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WORK

Commuting: How many people in Germany travel to another federal state for work?

The number of people who travel long distances to get to work in Germany has been rising in recent years. How could petrol and public transport costs change - and will the pandemic affect working habits?

Commuting: How many people in Germany travel to another federal state for work?
Drivers on the Autobahn 7 in north Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bodo Marks

Nearly 3.4 million people in Germany travelled to work in a different federal state than their place of residence last year. 

That’s according to current commuter figures from the Federal Employment Agency (BA), which were requested by the Left Party, and made available to DPA.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in commuter numbers in Germany. In 1999, only 2.1 million people didn’t have their place of work in the state in which they lived.

The BA figures do not show, however, how many people temporarily did not have to commute because of coronavirus-related restrictions that have led to many people working from home.

In the statistics, a comparison is made between the place of residence and the place of work, a BA spokeswoman explained. “Whether the place of work is actually visited cannot be mapped out,” she said.

But the Federal Statistical Office previously conducted a survey on the influence of the pandemic on commuting behaviour, which gives us some insight. According to it, there was a decline in commuting from March 2020. In April, the decline became more pronounced, and in May 2020, more people were commuting again.

There is currently a lot of discussion about whether people will also be able to do more home working after the pandemic and therefore also have to commute less.

READ ALSO: Home Office makes employees more effective and happy, Germany study finds

Why is commuting being discussed in Germany right now?

This issue has come to the forefront because of the federal election coming up this September. Parties have been debating how to reduce carbon emissions, while also balancing out people’s car usage and Germany’s love of the automobile. There’s also been talk about the cost of public transport.

Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock has – according to her party’s draft programme – advocated to raise the tax on petrol by 16 cents a litre if the Greens were to win power, in an effort to push the country more towards carbon neutrality.

It would increase gas prices by around 10 percent.

Against the backdrop of the current debate on gas prices, the Left Party’s Sabine Zimmermann called for consideration to be given to commuters. It would be “cynical if the price of getting to work were to be pushed ever higher,” she told DPA.

Zimmermann added: “Employees are being asked to be mobile and, in some cases, to travel long distances to work. No federal government, not even the Greens, have wanted to change anything about that so far.”

As far as transportation is concerned, Zimmermann did call for an end to the internal combustion engine. However, she said, the government must keep the commute to work affordable. This includes the expansion of railroads with low-cost tickets and affordable electro-mobility options. 

Where are Germany’s commuters?

Compared to 2019, the number of people living and working in different federal states last year fell slightly, according to the BA statistics. There were 3.381 million federal state commuters subject to social security contributions in 2020. In 2019, there were 3.396 million.

According to the statistics, the most commuters between federal states in 2020 were 225,000 going from Brandenburg to Berlin, and the fewest were 41 from Bremen to Saarland.

The example of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, shows the extent of commuting beyond urban areas: 93,000 employees lived in North Rhine-Westphalia but worked in neighbouring Lower Saxony, 64,000 in neighboring Hesse. Meanwhile, 47,000 NRW residents worked in Bavaria and 38,000 in Baden-Württemberg.

In 2020, around 408,000 eastern German employees commuted to the west, according to the Federal Agency’s figures (2019: 415,000). Conversely, around 178,000 employees came from western Germany to work in the east, remaining unchanged from the previous year.

It is yet to be seen how the pandemic will impact long-term habits of commuting in Germany. 

MUST READ: Will working from home become norm post-corona crisis?

Vocabulary

Commuter/commuters – (der or die) Pendler

Place of work – (der) Arbeitsort

Comparison (der) Abgleich 

Against the background of – vor dem Hintergrund von

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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