Volker Wissing and his bicycle policy at a snail’s pace – Politics
Even on a Sunday, Stefan Gelbhaar is busy with his political heart issue: He takes part in a bicycle demonstration against the further construction of the A100 in Berlin. The dispute in the traffic light coalition between the Greens and the FDP is currently a lot about how quickly and how extensively new kilometers of motorway and rail should be added.
Something almost goes under that there are also crunches on the subject of bicycles in the coalition. “Transport Minister Wissing is at a crossroads: Does he shy away, meaning lots of words and little action, or will there finally be more mobility options, including beyond the car,” says Stefan Gelbhaar, spokesman for transport policy for the Greens parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
Due to the climate targets, but above all due to the high fuel costs and developments in the field of electric bicycles, the pressure is growing to build new cycle paths faster and with less bureaucracy than before. A further 390 million euros are to be made available by the federal government by 2030 for the promotion of cycle expressways.
“Currently the FDP is only fighting for Autobahns”
But Gelbhaar misses a large overall plan from the Minister of Transport Volker Wissing (FDP), for example, there is still great potential for cycle paths on federal roads. “In the case of the cycle paths on federal roads, some planning acceleration can be achieved both in executive and legal terms. At the moment, however, the FDP is only fighting for motorways,” taunts Gelbhaar. Good planning management needs human and financial capacities, “here the transport minister is visibly cautious.”
In addition, a stronger combination of bike and train could become a “game changer”, as in Amsterdam and Utrecht. “The interface is bicycle parking garages at train stations. There is planning development and municipal initiatives here, but the Ministry of Transport is still financially reluctant.” With a motion in the Bundestag, the Union now wants to reveal that there is not enough progress in cycling policy overall, at least on this point the largest opposition party and the Greens, as a co-government party, agree.
The expansion of cycle paths is usually a matter for municipalities and states, but the federal government sets the overall framework. “Combined with the highest budget funds ever decided in this country in the amount of 1.5 billion euros for the years 2020 to 2023, the promotion of cycling by the previous government was raised to a new level,” says the CDU/CSU motion for the ” Bicycle country Germany”, which is to be debated in the Bundestag on Wednesday.
The main accusation against Wissing: With the National Cycling Plan 3.0, he had many projects to promote cycling. Contrary to the announcements in the coalition agreement, however, “the federal government has not yet submitted a single legislative proposal”. To further implement the cycling plan, Wissing has now launched a call for funding with a volume of 15 million euros for new projects, and he has also set up an advisory board for cycling. “I want to make Germany a real cycling country,” he likes to say. In addition to supporting states and municipalities in the construction, conversion and expansion of the cycling infrastructure, he also wants to create more bicycle-friendly intersections, he announces.
The pandemic has changed urban transport
And like the Copenhagen model, more bicycle bridges are to be built across the country to avoid dangerous intersections. Last year, for example, Wissing gave the city of Eberswalde a grant of 6.5 million euros to improve the connection to the main train station via bicycle bridge. According to Wissing, this saves detours of up to 2.8 kilometers. “A very good offer, also for the many commuters to Berlin.”
The pandemic in particular has changed many cities, nowhere is the increase in cycle paths – due to the reduction in car lanes – as clear as in Berlin. But ten cyclists also died here in 2022 in accidents, several times by trucks turning off – this also shows that a long-standing Autostadt cannot simply be converted into a cyclist’s paradise.
The transport policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Thomas Bareiß (CDU), criticizes that far too little has come from Wissing. “Contrary to full-bodied announcements, the federal government has so far distinguished itself above all by one thing when it comes to cycling: inaction,” he says. “With the ‘National Cycling Plan 3.0’ created by the Merkel government, Wissing would have a ready-made master plan on the table. He would only have to implement it.”
The Green cycling expert, Gelbhaar, finds that too short-sighted, he sees the problem elsewhere, but the addressee of the criticism is also the Minister of Transport. “The reform of road traffic law is pending in the Ministry of Transport,” he criticizes. “This reform is needed to build a good cycling infrastructure with cycle lanes, protected and wide cycle lanes as well as neighborhood blocks.” Street land could then be reallocated more quickly, other uses of the street space could be made easier and priority given to bicycles in the means of transport could be given more easily.