The following video was shot in the summer of 2015 and the street scenes were filmed at an information afternoon organized by the “Citizen’s inititiative of Biebricher Strasse” campaigning for the space in their street being available for all citizens, not just prevailingly cars.
We from the initiative were astonished that day, how stubbornly the “We want to park in front of our doorstep” group of residents refused any exchange or consideration of improvement, but what really surprised us was that our offers to obtain information and to exchange ideas with others was barely acknowledged, even by those neighbours who had shown an interest in a better use of the public street space in previous discussions. On those occasions, quite a number of ideas for improvement had been expressed, be it in the interests of security and the interests of the many children living in the street, be it considering accessibility for disabled, or a more general interest in housing and quality of life in our street. And there were even voices that had in mind their own contribution to a more sustainable lifestyle in regard of climate change.
In hindsight, it became clear to us how some of the residents who refused to reflect on the matter from the outset had acted with rumours, misinformation, and even personal objections to our initiative, provoking an “us and them” attitude at an early stage. The pattern was quite simple: “Whoever thinks about change in the road is against cars, who is against cars, is against us and who is against us, is disturbing our good neighbourhood”. Many such neighbours then retreated behind their curtains on this matter.
It’s now summer of 2017. Improvements in the safety and the quality of our street are no closer. A formerly lively neighbourlyness has given way to a somewhat precarious co-existence, with the cars still a safety risk for most other road users, and a silence on the issues we have raised.
There is much more to report about the past two years; as an initiative we have developed further, we have repeatedly spoken in the local political committees, we have come to know the overwork and the impotence of the officers, we have seen the silent consent of the security officers to tolerate the current state and we spoke to people who, in their turn, triggered change processes and led them to success. We could report on all these experiences at a different time.
For now, two issues stand out:
Regarding one’s own car, thinking stops working in many people (for some, it is their only thinking), the car-fixated character of the high-growth years is terrifyingly dominant among many: climate change by CO2? But not because of my negligible contribution! Pedestrians? They can fit in everywhere! Public space? No matter, what counts is that my car is at the door! Illegal parking? Well, this will be “tolerated”! Children? Must learn early to survive with car traffic! Empathy with the weaker? Yes, yes, but not here and now!
The efforts of politicians to make day-to-day cycling more attractive, to improve public transport, to appeal to people to renounce unnecessary trips by car in favour of an improved quality of life in the urban areas, with offers for mobility advice, etc., only reach those who are open to change, who enjoy thinking and acting beyond their own immediate interests.
Those who feel very comfortable in the “it’s just as good as it is” need clear political commands. They need to be told in no uncertain terms that public space is vital for our living together, a space for social encounters, a space for serious neighbourly coexistence. Bremen needs a comprehensive management of parking space both in the inner city area as well as in residential districts. The unspeakable so-called “toleration” of the illegal parking of vehicles that has destroyed much of that public space must end. What we need instead is proper monitoring of our streets, which identifies and appropriately punishes infringements. There are excellent examples in neighbouring countries who have successfully regained public space for their citizens.
For example, look at Graz, where
135 employees are responsible for compliance in BLUE and GREEN zones, thus ensuring that parking-seeking drivers save time and money.
Only an organised and supervised parking area provide sufficient parking space on public roads.
Only organised and supervised parking space grants the mobility standard from which WE ALL benefit :
• Increased traffic safety
• Fluid transportation
• Comfortable parking