Sustainable mobility for Wuppertal
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrike Reutter
Civil Engineering

Photo: Michael Kaufmann

"Achievable everyday destinations without your own car".

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrike Reutter on speed cameras, a climate-friendly speed limit and sustainable mobility for Wuppertal

"I live car-free," says Ulrike Reutter, Professor of Public Transport Systems and Mobility Management at Bergische Universität, "which means I'm on the road either on foot, by bike, by public transport, by train or sometimes by cab." According to a Berlin-based law firm, Wuppertal is now the city of speed cameras. With an average of 48 speed cameras per day per 1,000 hectares of road, the city in the Bergisches Land region has the highest density of speed cameras in Germany. 6.5 million euros flow into the city's always cash-strapped coffers and provide a lucrative extra income. These controls are obviously necessary, says Reutter. "In public transport, this is completely normal: the valid ticket is checked. Even when I park, they check whether I've paid or not, and speed regulations have to be checked in the same way, because firstly, they make sense and secondly, they would otherwise hardly be adhered to." The scientist finds it unfair that exceeding the speed limit is a misdemeanor, while fare evasion on public transport is a criminal offense. "Fare evasion can even be punished with imprisonment if you don't pay the fine beforehand. In my legal opinion, this is completely disproportionate and should be changed urgently. "

Slower driving reduces pollution levels

We encounter speed limits everywhere, but many drivers are critical of them. Yet slow driving not only prevents accidents, it reduces pollution, cuts traffic noise, curbs land use, improves the quality of life and overall helps make cities more livable, she says. "In terms of the different types of pollutants, we distinguish between those that have a local effect, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, and greenhouse gases, which have a global effect," Reutter explains. "The exhaust fumes and the brake, tire and road abrasion, which are often underestimated in the public discussion, have a direct effect in the road space. Nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other pollutants from these sources of motorized traffic are highly hazardous to health and attack the respiratory tract - especially of children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems." Add to thatCO2 as a climate-damaging global problem that is closely linked to our energy consumption and thus the speeds we drive. "Vehicle speed plays a big role in both local and global pollutants - which is why slow speeds in urban traffic and monitoring them are absolutely right and sensible."

The cars on our roads, on the other hand, are not only getting faster and faster, but also wider, longer, taller and heavier - every pedestrian knows the encounter with an SUV that you can't avoid. "However, it cannot now be the case that roads and cities are being rebuilt for these vehicles; instead, the vehicles must be adapted to the existing structural and urban design. This means that narrow city centers, winding urban neighborhoods, residential streets where children play would have to be prohibited for these large SUVs, because the quality of our cities is not compatible with these vehicles. And on all other roads, the speed must be slowed down in a way that is compatible with the city. To reduce accidents, pollution and traffic noise, to save energy, to protect the climate and to adapt our cities to climate change, I am clearly of the professional opinion that we need a significantly zoomed down speed level: 30 km/h in built-up areas, 80 km/h outside built-up areas, and 100 to a maximum of 120 km/h on the freeway. A reduced driving speed for motorized individual traffic is a correct measure in any case," says the expert.

Car-free zones: Example Laurentiusplatz

Instead of penalizing inner-city speeding violations with high fees, one could also create large-scale car-free zones that could completely protect inner cities from pollution. In Wuppertal, the car-free Laurentiusplatz offers an example. "We need such zones as at Laurentiusplatz, if only as a positive example, because it shows what urban qualities are associated with them." In the meantime, he says, we know from nationwide studies that many people who live in such neighborhoods often no longer even own a car, but Reutter is clear that motorists* who want to keep their vehicles must also be taken into account in these neighborhoods. This transformation process, which is a long road, requires a lot of participation and public relations work in order to implement the concept of car-free city centers. Reutter uses the example of a neighborhood resident's route to the public transport stop to explain how this can be achieved. This route should not be longer than the route to the parking lot or the neighborhood garage. Of course, he said, there are exceptions, but they can be defined. "You can define times when you can drive in. Or you can define access only for certain vehicles, e.g. for residents, people with limited mobility or for loading and unloading, but no longer for parking. Instead, parking takes place in existing parking garages or neighborhood garages," explains the spatial planner. In order for the alternatives to car traffic to become attractive and tangible, one thing is needed above all: time and the opportunity to try them out.

Theft-proof bike racks and green inner-city areas

At the moment, many bicycling neighborhood advocates are asking themselves where they can safely park their often expensive bikes. Weatherproof, ground-level, and theft-proof storage facilities are few and far between, as are nearby neighborhood garages for passenger cars. "We need such bicycle parking facilities in the street space," Reutter demands, in order to strengthen the attractiveness of such spaces. "It should also be normal for streets to be better landscaped. There are already trees on Laurentiusplatz, but that is not yet a matter of course everywhere. If we think about the whole issue of increase in heat days and hot spells alone, we urgently need cooling zones in the valley as well. That's where plants can be very helpful." An interesting urban planning concept that is already being implemented in Freiburg is the so-called sponge city. Here, rainwater that accumulates in cities is no longer channeled and drained into streams and rivers, but stored and returned to inner-city green spaces.#

Changes through simpler structures in public transport

Ulrike Reutter researches the basics of understanding change processes in public transport and knows that any change takes a long time. Moving special bus lanes or lanes for express buses are just two examples that involve reallocating road space, not to mention the financial requirements. "So you have to be brave and dare to allocate both road space and money in transport in a very different way," she formulates. The different public transport fare structures of the cities and states would also have to be simplified and made more user-friendly. The scientist is therefore enthusiastic about the introduction of the nationwide 9-euro ticket. "If you give such a simple ticket to the world, it shows that then public transport is also gladly accepted by people who have not used it before. That's why I think politicians would be well advised to keep this simple structure - even with a slightly higher price than 9 euros a month: with a ticket that allows me to use public transport, without having to think much about the previous jungle of fares, in Wuppertal or Dortmund, but also in the Hunsrück, Kassel or Leipzig."

Sustainable mobility

"For me, sustainable mobility means that people can be mobile without their own car if possible," says Reutter, "that they can get to work easily, do their shopping, that their children, can go to school on their own and that attractive leisure facilities, parks and local recreation areas are easily accessible by public transport, even on weekends. Especially with our current challenges of energy conservation, climate protection and climate adaptation, the transport sector must also make its contribution."

Restrictions on car traffic are essential for this, he said, and passenger cars in city centers should no longer be given priority over more sustainable modes of transport. "For example, greenfield shopping centers where I can only get there by car are not sustainable. Or even going to the bakery by car means a huge energy expenditure, and all that to buy maybe three rolls? If we want to come to a definitely more sustainable use in public transport, walking and cycling, we need good offers for the means of transport of the environmental alliance - i.e. walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing - and at the same time restrictions and costs for the use of the car."

Showcase examples already exist

There are already cities, the scientist knows, that are best implementing the traffic planning, legal, political and sustainability requirements of the public transport of the future. "For many years, of course, the city of Zurich in Switzerland has been one such example of success, showing that staying power in public transport planning pays off. Zurich has been very well positioned as far as public transport is concerned for decades." Freiburg im Breisgau is also one of them. In Freiburg, he said, the consistent policy is to build a streetcar line there first, before any new residential area is planned. "When people move in there, high-quality public transportation is already available for use. That service shapes the habit of using environmental transit from the start." And then there's the small town of Offenburg, he says, where there have been quite a few "mobility points" for several years. "These are places, special bus stops, where I can easily change from one means of transportation to another without having to wait long periods of time," explains Reutter. "This works in conjunction with bus and train, cab, bicycle parking garage and bicycle rental, e-scooter rental and car sharing - depending on the size of the linking point. In NRW, the umbrella brand for this is called "Mobilstation". And in the best case, all services, such as a parking space in the bike garage, renting a pedelec or calling an on-demand bus, can be booked via a single app. In very concrete terms, we are currently working on a research project in which we are developing a concept for Elberfeld's Nordstadt district together with partners and will implement a first mobile station in Mirke."

The scientist knows that nothing works in the area of sustainability without the participation of the population and says: "We need car-free, low-car and traffic-calmed neighborhoods. And we need role models who make the advantages of the sustainable city tangible and tangible. This can only be done in democratic processes with participation formats, participatory actions and public relations work. Then attitudes can change in people's minds and hearts, and with them their behavior."

Uwe Blass

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrike Reutter is a spatial planner and heads the teaching and research area "Public Transport Systems and Mobility Management (ÖVM)" in the Faculty of Architecture and Civil Engineering.

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