German cities: 30 kph speed limit?

The German parliament is debating the issue of safety for bicyclists. Deputies from the government coalition have therefore brought up the idea of a 30 kilometre-per-hour speed limit for motorists.

The parliamentary factions of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union and Social Democrat (CDU/CSU and SPD) coalition want the government to do more to assure the safety of bicyclists.

On Friday the Bundestag, or parliament, debated a legislative proposal which welcomes the efforts by Transportation Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) in which he is seeking changes in the road traffic regulations to improve the situation for bicycle riders. But for the coalition factions this aim does not go far enough.

Among Scheuer’s ideas, one concerns laying down adequate safety distances for motorists in overtaking bicyclists. The law would prescribe a distance of at least 1.5 metres within town limits and two metres outside of town. In addition, vehicles that weight more than 3.5 tonnes would be required to reduce their tempo to walking speed when turning a corner.

The CDU/CSU and SPD factions would additionally call for tests to see how traffic would be affected if a general 30 kilometre-per-hour (kph) speed limit inside towns and if a 50 kph limit were to be prescribed for main roads.

CDU traffic policy deputy Ulrich Lange said that one must be open to new ideas in order to see how it would affect the daily interaction of all traffic participants. The 30 kph zones in residential areas date back to a model project in the city of Buxtehude in 1983.

In the SPD’s view, a reduction of the speed limit would increase traffic safety. “Till now such reductions have always taken place in a targeted area and as a rule not in larger areas,” SPD traffic policy expert Kirsten Luehmann. In order to gain valid data, a testing phase of at least two to three years was needed.

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