So today I went to the meeting of Autofreies Kreuzberg about the traffic calming of the Manteuffelstraße between Skalitzer and Naunynstraße.
I’m not an inhabitant of the area, but I like to sit at Görlitzer Bahnhof cafe quite regularly and the car and traffic situation in that street is pretty bad.
I found out recently that there is an initiative underway to close that street off for traffic which would solve the problem of passing traffic going to Köpenicker Straße passing through and also the double parked cars that are endemic in Kreuzberg1.
In brief: at the meeting die Grünen were well represented and the fact that they are well represented in local politics makes this initiative almost a certainty. It will need to go through channels which means this probably won’t happen this year, but it probably will happen.
The meeting was held to present the results of a neighborhood survey and solicit ideas what to do with the resulting space.
First we got a presentation about car free zones in Berlin and outside of it and there are quite some already. I myself have lived in a car free area twice in the Netherlands and both times it was a fantastic experience as an inhabitant.
We were attended to another initiative that wants to make 30kph the default speed limit within cities. Something well worth supporting, so sign that initiative here.
The neigborhood survey had a return rate of 15 which is not very high but it showed some interesting things especially that most people living in the area already do not use motorized transportation.
The biggest objection came from one guy who was worried that making the street car free would further increase the gentrification that is happening in Kreuzberg. To that the politicians responded that the situation is already quite bad and beautifying this street is not going to create a significant change in that respect2.
There is a group of people in Berlin who try to deter new entrants by making parts of the city worse to live in. There have been campaigns of throwing trash and dog shit on the streets. These actions are of course futile. In the current climate these things only add to the ‘authentic’ Berlin feeling that so many tourists come here for.
I agree with these people that the rampant speculation in both houses and rents needs to stop, but the solution is not to hunker down and try to weather it with local ultra-conservatism. Protests against rent increases also don’t serve much of a function other than to reinforce the idea that nothing can be done. They have become rituals more than demonstrations of change. What is needed is something with concrete results3.
We also got the story how they managed to convert Crellestraße (in my part of the city) to a car free zone back in the day. It used to be the quickest way to circumvent a bunch of traffic lights and get from Schöneberg to Kreuzberg and there were several taxi operations and a gas station. Currently it is a very nice part of the city with playgrounds and terraces and generally hardly any cars.
I would like them to fix Oranienstraße4 next, but due to some quirk it turns out that its not the local council that is responsible for that street, but the Berlin council and that will prove a much more difficult change to implement.
- It is a mystery to me why the Ordnungsamt does not do anything about this. ↩
- One comment added that people with money prefer to have space for their cars nearby. That is why most new developments in the area come with their own garage space. ↩
- I have some ideas which will probably all prove impossible because of the terrible German bureaucracy/conservatism, but we’ll see. ↩
- Oranienstraße is blockaded by cargo loading/unloading most of the day and during the day and night the driving by (criminal) people with large cars is absurdly agressive. You really fear for your life there. ↩