Most Germans want to be less dependent on their car

Bike and Person on a Bridge in BerlinClick to enlarge
The majority of car drivers can imagine doing without their car, given the right conditions
Source: Laiotz / Fotolia

A majority of German citizens would like to become less dependent on their car, says a representative survey on environmental awareness by the Federal Ministry of Environment (BMUB) and the German Environment Agency (UBA). 91 per cent of the people surveyed said that life would be better if they did not have to depend on a car for mobility. 79 per cent favoured an urban development which strengthens alternatives to car transport in their town or municipality.

Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said: "People are prepared to do without their cars but they need viable alternatives. Fewer cars, better and cheaper local public transport, good and safe cycling paths – these are what many people wish for, because it means an improvement of quality of life and protection of the environment. That is a strong and clear signal for environmental politics and urban development. It will provide the momentum for our efforts to shape the compact city, to create new cycling paths and sustainable mobility." 

According to the survey, the car remains the most important means of transport in Germany. 70 per cent of those surveyed use their cars several times a week. Nevertheless, a large majority of car drivers say they can well imagine walking or use their bicycles more often under certain conditions. Depending on the size of their city, 46 to 61 per cent of car drivers said they could imagine making a switch to buses and trains. 

UBA 's President Maria Krautzberger said: "Clean air and more green spaces in the city are goals which can only be achieved with more buses and trains and fewer cars. Local public transport is the backbone of urban mobility. We must strengthen it and ensure in particular that it is adequately funded. We will be successful when we finally phase out environmentally harmful subsidies and invest more in local public transport." UBA has calculated that environmentally harmful subsidies in the transport sector currently amount to more than 28 billion euros per year. 

The concept of sustainability has become firmly established in mainstream society. Environmental protection is no longer considered an isolated policy field but rather as a part of the solution to the grand economic and social challenges we face. 67 per cent of those polled consider protection of the environment to be a necessary condition for meeting future tasks such as globalization. Large segments of the population say environmental protection is a foundation for prosperity (58%), competitiveness (51%) and new jobs (48%). There is less of a connection made with social justice in this context (37%). 

The survey also shows that environmental stresses are especially prevalent in socially disadvantaged areas. 40 per cent of the low-income people surveyed said noise was a particular disturbance, compared to only 27% in higher income brackets. Similarly, people in lower incomes (45%) feel more affected by air pollution than those with higher incomes (28%). Ambitious environmental protection is therefore tantamount to health protection and contributes to social equity. 

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