Germany’s Greens propose speed limit on Autobahn if elected

The Green party want to enforce a general speed limit on Germany's renowned Autobahn if they get into government after the planned 2021 elections.

Germany's Greens propose speed limit on Autobahn if elected
Greens are pushing for a 130km speed limit on the Autobahn. Photo: DPA

It is one of Germany's most controversial questions: should a general speed limit be put in place on the Autobahn network which is famous for having zones with no speed limit restrictions?

Now the Green party has vowed to introduce curbs on speeding as a “first measure” if they get into government after the 2021 elections.

When Green co-party leader Robert Habeck was asked by news portal “The Pioneer” whether the Greens would introduce this a general speed limit he replied: “Yes. at 130”, reported Spiegel on Tuesday.

This initiative would be a dealbreaker for the Greens in a coalition agreement. “This is probably the first measure of a new government, if the Greens are involved,” Habeck said.

READ ALSO: How our readers feel about imposing a speed limit on Germany's Autobahn

He said all that was needed was a change in the law to move to a maximum speed of 130 kilometres per hour.

Habeck said the mood of the country regarding driving had changed in recent years.

There are now more people who want the speed limit, Habeck said. “Even the ADAC (Germany's biggest motoring association) is for it. Who is actually still arguing against it?” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has also changed people's view on the issue, he argued. “The accusation that a speed limit is an undue restriction of civil liberty on the Autobahn now somehow sounds even more ridiculous than it already does – now that churches, schools and so on have been closed down,” he said.

Habeck slammed the fact that in Schleswig-Holstein, among other places, there are stretches of road which speeders go to, “in order to drive 250 km/h for 40 kilometers”.

“That's not justifiable,” he said. Everyone should have their hobby, “but not endanger others in order to have fun”.

Why is it controversial?

Germany is a country known for its love of cars and driving – and that passion, many say, is reflected in its freedom to drive fast on parts of its highway.

For lots of people outside Germany, the speed limit-free motorways are a strong part of the country's auto culture and history.

In a survey by The Local, just over 70 percent of readers rejected the idea of imposing a general speed limit on the Autobahn.

However there are growing calls for the move. A speed limit of 130 km/h could save around 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 per year, according to a a study presented by the Federal Environment Agency in February.

Do the Greens have a shot at governing Germany?

Perhaps. In the last two years the Greens have been enjoying a surge in German politics.

But during the coronavirus crisis Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats have gone up significantly in opinion polls, with one survey showing the Union (CDU/CSU) would get 40 percent of the vote if an election was held.

READ ALSO: 'Surfing the Zeitgeist': How the Greens won over Germany

That poll suggested the Greens are the second most popular party in Germany with 19 percent of the vote, ahead of the Social Democrats with 15 percent.

It remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect the behaviour of voters when the country goes to the polls next year.

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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.