The explosion in private transport is a major problem for our cities. A growing number of cars are increasingly dominating our public space, pushing cyclists and pedestrians to the edge. Bremen is no different. However, unlike a number of other European cities, here the struggle for space is left to people on the ground, inevitably benefitting the strongest – car traffic.
Take for example the Bremen district of Schwachhausen. Parked vehicles can be found everywhere. On pavements and cycleways, at junctions, in pedestrian zones and in green areas. Illegal parking and parking on both sides of a street, despite being prohibited by road traffic regulations, is openly tolerated by the administration. But also parking that impedes access and causes dangerous situations rarely suffers any sanctions. Local police admit they fail to monitor parking in the area. The municipal authorities rarely get involved in the area. The problems for pedestrians are obvious, especially the elderly, disabled and children.
The most common reason given for tolerating illegal parking is that parking space is not sufficient for legal parking. However, an expert opinion from the planning workshop BMO, Hanover, on the parking situation in the district around the Georg-Groening-Strasse in Bremen revealed that the parking space requirement in this area was 2,404, the number of legal parking spaces offered at 2,470 (cf. Meeting of the Committee of Experts “Transport” of the Advisory Council Schwachhausen of 14.03.2017 under http://www.ortsamtschwachhausenvahr.bremen.de/schwachhausen/fachausschuesse/protokolle_2017-21038) Rather, illegal parking is apparently based on car drivers insisting on a parking space directly in front of their door.
Cyclists also suffer from parked cars. Illegally parked vehicles often block cycleways, but so do legally parked vehicles in streets where there is no coherent parking regulations. For a study in Schwachhausen, the ADFC drew up a list of roads in which cycling is associated with obstructions and dangers. Remarkably, there are also three cycle streets on this list: Buchenstraße, Straßburger- / Lothringer Straße and Parkallee.
Parking space management as a solution
The first step towards ensuring a more rational and fairer balance is a concept for parking space management.Aussagen zur Entwicklung des Verkehrsaufkommens in der Innenstadt differenziert nach Nutzung und Verkehrszweck in den vergangenen fünf Jahren liegen nicht vor.
The Bremen Senate’s response to a small request from the FDP of January 10, 2017 shows that “detailed statistics on how traffic has developed over the past 5 years in the city centre simply doesn’t exist”. But we do know from data in the transport development plan (VEP- page 55), that the availability of parking in the inner city is adequate: the assessment of the VEP is that there are already more than enough spaces. However, the VEP suggests that there should be an expansion of parking space management in the inner city (p. 169). On the other hand, there is no detailed data on the number of short-term parking spaces in the city centre, which are operated by parking ticket machines.
The situation is different in those neighbourhoods close to the inner city with housing built in the 19th century. Here there is often significant pressure for more parking space. (VEP pg. 55) The level of demand seems to be clear, at least the VEP suggests this (see the diagram for specific parking space demand in the area around the city centre on page 55) so the basis for the development of parking management exists. Seven areas are managed already, but any other applications by local councils are regularly turned down by the city administration.
How it’s done in Hamburg
Unlike Bremen, Hamburg has a more comprehensive approach to managing parking space. Especially in the inner city of Hamburg and the centres of the individual districts, many parking spaces are managed. This means that parking is only allowed for a limited period, and parking fees are often payable. The aim is to have as many short-duration parking spaces as possible. The parking duration and fees depend on the location of the car park. However, they are always marked by appropriate parking signs and the additional information at the parking ticket machines. As a general rule, parking spaces in the public street area are payable on workdays (Monday to Saturday) from 09:00 to 20:00. Residents’ parking, even in residential areas, ensures that local residents find easy parking spaces near their homes in highly frequented areas.
The lack of a parking management concept in Bremen is usually justified by the fact that the creation and equipping of such a concept and the monitoring of compliance with traffic regulations are too expensive, and Bremen, given its perilous financial situation, is not in a position to do so. Another interesting reason brought forward is that supposedly there are not enough legal spaces for the locals, so any management is against the law.
The Push/Pull Concepts of the European Union
A look at our European neighbours shows that the solution is quite simple. The so-called push-and-pull concept of the EU aims to implement a financing mechanism in cities that provides revenue from parking spaces in order to refinance the costs of a parking management concept while at the same time financing sustainable mobility. The aim of this approach is the introduction, expansion and improvement of parking space management in municipalities (PUSH measures) as well as the improvement of the situation of sustainable mobility (PULL measures). This is achieved by the fact that public space is “monetised” through parking space management, challenging the existing free use of public space. A positive side effect is that public space is thereby given a higher appreciation. The redesign of streets and squares in favour of a different distribution of services is one of the preconditions for cities that are worth living. The approach takes account of the fact that parking space management does not function without mobility management.
The effectiveness of the measures is illustrated by the example of Amsterdam. Although Amsterdam has had managed parking space since the 1960s, it was only after the infringement of parking regulations was no longer seen as a criminal offence, but as an urban tax. As a result, the penalties no longer migrated to the state, but to the city’s budget, thus becoming revenue.
The income derived from managed parking spaces (approx. € 160 million / year) has been used to finance mobility measures such as cycling or public transport, as well as the management and maintenance of the park management system. (Source: The Amsterdam Mobility Fund). The effects can be seen. Between 1990 and 2008, the share of car traffic in Amsterdam declined by 8 percentage points from 39% to 31%. In the city centre of Amsterdam a drop of 30% in car use was recorded. (See more here Http://www.depomm.de/download.parkraummanagement-und-mobilitaetsmanagement-fuer-lebenswerte-stawei-twid-einer-medaille.60.htm)
The advantages of a comprehensive managed parking system are clear. Not only can it lead to a more rational use of public space, not only can it help protect cyclists and pedestrians from the incursions of parked cars on pavements and cycleways, but it can also lead to a reduction in motorised traffic in the city. Clearly, Bremen has failed to take such an approach in the past. What, we wonder, is stopping the city from doing so now?