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Traffic | Noise

Mobility is a lynchpin of our economy and a basic human need. But it can also be harmful to the environment and human health in many different ways.

The transportation sector in the EU accounts for more than one third of the energy used in the Community and is responsible for more than 25 percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions. Steadily growing levels of traffic, particularly in the commercial transport sector, in all probability cancel out the savings that can potentially be realized from improved engine technologies and the use of alternative fuels. Traffic generates not only greenhouse gases, but also particulate matter and NOx, which constitute a serious health hazard. It also generates noise, which at high levels is disturbing or even unhealthy for many people, not to mention its negative impact on quality of life.

Around five percent of Germany’s surface area is currently used for traffic – which means that we’re very far from the goal of cutting land use to 30 hectares daily for human settlements and transport infrastructures.

The fact that traffic noise occurs virtually everywhere and all the time is mainly attributable to increased transport, plus the growing number of noise pollution point sources such as lawn blowers and large outdoor events. Another factor is that many people have become much more susceptible to environmental pollution, particularly when it comes to noise. Noise pollution from cars, trains and aircraft can only be substantially reduced by implementing a broad and harmonized range of measures involving vehicle and road technologies, tax regulations, and traffic and urban planning.

A comprehensive sustainable mobility plan would need to (a) prioritize persuading all concerned to use eco-friendlier means of transportation; and (b) include emission reduction measures that use latest generation technologies. Such measures should aim to promote the use of quiet, low-emission vehicles, low-emission driving techniques, and eco-friendly driving routes. Supremely important in this regard is adjusting emission limits to today’s advanced technologies. Our goal is for spatial planning to be coordinated far more closely with traffic related considerations than is now the case. This would improve the quality of life in both urban and rural areas and would at the same time enable us to reach our air quality and noise reduction objectives, among others.

Energy consumption in the transportation sector should become a more important feature of the debate over the post-fossil fuel era and the shift from non-sustainable to sustainable energy resources. To this end and in the interest of reducing our carbon footprint, we need to incrementally increase our supply of renewable energy for the transportation sector.

The continuous monitoring necessary to achieve this energy supply objective, as well as scenarios for greener transportation in Germany, will be enabled by instruments such as the Transport Emission Model (TREMOD). This tool provides a key database for transportation sector emission reporting within Germany and internationally, as well as for various environmental representations for the scientific and business communities, in that it allows for analyses of all transportation modalities. TREMOD also lays the groundwork for the elaboration of concepts that embrace all forms of transportation such as multi-modality, increased energy efficiency, and innovative ways to power the motor vehicles of tomorrow.

In view of the fact that one of the mainstays of sustainable mobility is without a doubt the bicycle, at the behest of the Federal Transport Ministry and under the aegis of Germany’s national bicycle transportation master plan, since 2008 we have been lending our support to and overseeing projects such as publicity campaigns, research, traffic safety improvement programs and much more – all with the aim of getting our fellow citizens to use bicycles as much as possible for their daily transportation needs.

Our nation needs to adopt an environmentally sane and sustainable attitude toward vehicular traffic and the noise and pollution it generates. This necessitates a dialogue involving all sections of society concerning both urban and rural development in Germany – a dialogue that we at the UBA intend to be active participants in, in keeping with our responsibility to safeguard public health and the environment.

Green and 'polluter pays': only the distance-based toll does it

lorries on a motorway

A distance-based toll makes it possible to set differentiated charges for infrastructure and other costs incurred by society as a result of road traffic. Frequent drivers pay more than occasional drivers, resulting in positive ecological and traffic steering effects. The time-based vignette is not a meaningful solution, since it amounts to a flat rate charge for frequent road users. read more

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E-bikes equal greater mobility

E-cycles on a field path

Pedelecs are all the rage. There are now 1.6 million e-bikes on Germany's roads. A new background paper by UBA discusses the environmental impact of pedelecs. This knowledge is now available to an international audience in an English language translation of the paper. read more

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The Umweltbundesamt

For our environment