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Model city en route with 30 km/h?: Speed limit throughout Bonn has little chance of success

Model city en route with 30 km/h? : Speed limit throughout Bonn has little chance of success

Federal Ministry of Transport refers to the valid standard speed of 50 km/h in cities. Following a Bundestag resolution, it is to get easier for municipalities to put in place 30 km/h speed limits.

Bonn has submitted its "application" to become a model city for 30 km/h speed limits. As both the Bonn press office and the Federal Ministry of Transport announced on request, the letter of justification for a nationwide trial was received in Berlin last week.

In response to a specific question about the contents of the letter, the Bonn administration remained vague: "The legal requirements for a citywide model trial of 30 km/h as the standard speed and the responsibility for permits are the subject of the letter to the federal government." But the request does not promise any early success. According to reports from the CSU-led ministry, Bonn will receive a similar response to that received by the cities of Freiburg and Darmstadt, namely a rejection.

Politicians will not be surprised by the rejection

It can be assumed that neither the politicians nor those in the Bonn administration will be surprised. After all, what sounds like a sponsored project in view of the chosen term "model city" is not one. There is no orderly procedure at the Federal Ministry of Transport (for) under which the city could officially apply. And so Ingo Strater, spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Transport, announced: "Area-wide speed 30 model tests cannot be ordered, as this would deviate from the regulations of the Road Traffic Act - in this case: the standard speed of 50 km/h."

OB Katja Dörner reiterated her position to the GA: "I support the introduction of Tempo 30 in inner-city areas in Bonn. Tempo 30 should become the rule, Tempo 50 the exception. Noise, (i)emmissions can be reduced in this way and traffic safety increased. That's why we are lobbying the federal government to become a model municipality."

It is quite conceivable that their wishes could become feasible if the federal Greens were to be part of a government of any kind in September. Their election platform states, "We want to enable municipalities to reverse the rule-exception relationship in closed localities." The Greens also recently initiated such a debate in the state parliament.

In principle, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has stated in a study on the effect of 30 km/h: "According to current knowledge, the existing 30 km/h regulations on main roads have predominantly positive effects." Accompanying studies have shown that "in most cases there are gains in traffic safety, noise and air pollutant reduction, and improved quality of life" without unduly restricting car mobility. However, the authority also said that traffic research had so far paid little attention to the effects.

Opposition fears creeping traffic through residential neighborhoods

There are some concerns. In the past, the city's bus and rail utilities expressed that they expect longer trips. Bonn's CDU believes that Tempo 30 should be "set up wherever it makes sense, and not imposed across the board on the entire city area." Like the CDU, the Bonn Citizens' Association assumes that an extension to main roads will result in undesirable slow-moving traffic through residential areas. Also the reprogramming of the traffic lights costs money. Jannis Vassiliou, chairman of the retail association, fears a negative effect, also for the city centers: "Regulating the flow of traffic at the same time, narrowing roads or closing them completely, cannot solve the commuter problem." Instead, he said, the city has a duty to expand mass transit and park-and-ride lots.

On these points, city spokeswoman Monika Hörig said the administration does not "assume major negative effects on bus traffic" and is counting on further public transport priority switching at the traffic signals. Safety-relevant changes to the signal systems are not necessary, and the coordinated switching of neighboring systems may have to be adjusted. "This cannot be ruled out, but it is also not mandatory; for example, the introduction of 30 km/h speed limits in Reuterstraße did not change the traffic light circuit," Hörig said. The administration does not expect a shift of motor vehicle traffic to side streets as a result, since developed priority roads remain more attractive than small residential streets.

On May 21, the Bundestag, with votes from the grand coalition, passed a CDU/SPD motion aimed at improving traffic safety. The parliamentarians demanded, without being more specific, "to make it easier for municipalities, by changing the legal requirements, to order the speed limit of 30 km/h for individual streets in built-up areas, irrespective of particular hazardous situations, without this leading to comprehensive 30 km/h speed zones" (see "The laws"). What this means for Bonn, whose own urban road network already has a 30 km/h speed limit on 70 to 80 percent of its streets, according to Hörig, is impossible to estimate at this time.


The law provides for a maximum speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour in built-up areas, from which, however, exceptions may be made. The traffic authorities of the federal states can order a speed limit of 30 km/h (or walking pace) for reasons of traffic safety and order, such as in streets which have many accidents or where kindergartens and elementary schools are located. They must be able to prove that the situation is dangerous. For daycare centers, hospitals or nursing homes, proof is just as unnecessary as for 30 km/h zones in residential areas or with a high density of pedestrians or cyclists and many crossings. At a recent meeting of the Alliance for Modern Mobility, Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and the President of the Association of German Cities, Burkhard Jung, emphasized that they wanted to expand the scope of action for municipalities, but maintain the standard speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour. They both reject nationwide trial models, such as the one Bonn wants to introduce.

For Tempo-30 zones, the city says that no priority roads are possible there. "Above all, speed 30 zones must not extend to district, state or federal roads, even in built-up areas."

Original text: Philipp Königs
Translation: Mareike Graepel