Accelerating the mobility transition

More and more cities and municipalities are committing themselves to climate protection and to ensuring that mobility is environmentally friendly and socially just. However, all too often the project fails when it comes to practical implementation. Among other things, this is due to the sluggish and inadequately defined administrative processes of the municipalities. This slows down both planning and the commissioning and implementation of corresponding measures. This is also evident in Berlin.

Despite an ambitious mobility law, the capital lags years behind its own goals for the development of cycle lanes. The same applies to parking space management: A court settlement for clean air between the state of Berlin and the DUH agreed on the comprehensive management of parking space within the S-Bahn ring by the end of 2023 – but this goal will probably also be missed by years.

What we have learned from this: well-intentioned resolutions or innovative concepts are not enough to get the urgently needed mobility transition rolling. Within the framework of the project, Environmental Action Germany (DUH) discussed the obstacles and opportunities for the acceleration of the mobility transition with a wide range of stakeholders from Berlin.

From Planning...

Although the federal and state governments can adapt legislation, optimise financial and funding structures or eliminate the shortage of skilled workers, there is great potential for accelerating the mobility transition in the municipal administrations.

In Berlin, the Senate and the districts share responsibility for transport planning as a subordinate level. While the Senate Department for the Environment, Urban Mobility, Consumer Protection and Climate Action (SenUMVK) is responsible for the planning requirements and the predominant financing of, for example, cycling measures, the districts in their capacity as the authorities responsible for construction are responsible for the detailed planning and implementation. Structural problems are repeatedly cited as the main reason for the slow progress of the mobility transition – both within the district administrations and at the interface between the Senate and the district. There is a lack of regulated processes, responsibilities are unclear. In addition, depending on the project, many different stakeholders are involved, such as the municipal transport companies, the police, the municipal water companies, the district and the SenUMVK. Various coordination loops drag out processes. Ambiguities in public participation are also repeatedly cited as a braking factor. Against this background, it takes about two years from planning to the implementation of a single zebra crossing in Berlin, and often between two and five years for cycle lanes.


To tackle the problems, fundamental changes are needed in the administrations. In addition to extensive digitisation, there is an urgent need for interdisciplinary objectives, a clear distribution of roles, active communication and functional coordination between the various administrative bodies. Beyond standardised and transparent processes, this also includes the monitoring of the impacts – ideally through systematic data collection and evaluation. And last but not least, committed individuals are needed both in leadership positions in the administration and at the political level.

..to implementation

Nevertheless, there are individual municipalities that are already trying to exploit their possibilities. For example, pop-up cycle lanes have been created that brought new momentum to the mobility transition in 2020.

But why temporary pop-up cycle lanes and not conventional, long-term cycle lanes? After the test phase, pop-up cycle lanes are ideally made permanent, i.e. converted into properly protected cycle lanes. They are therefore only a first step towards being able to provide cyclists with infrastructure in the short term. Valuable knowledge gained from practical experience simplifies and shortens detailed planning thus saving further costs. In addition, (temporary) provisional pop-up cycle lanes can be an important bridging measure. There are sometimes understandable reasons for delays in conventional cycling infrastructure: If, for example, foreseeable repairs to the sewage system under a road or a replacement of the road surface are planned in the next 2-3 years, it is economically inefficient to redesign the road beforehand. The same applies to construction sites, where a direct and safe alternative route is rarely considered if existing cycle lanes and footpaths are blocked.

The provision of pop-up cycle lanes follows the same rules as the provision of conventional cycle lanes. Both are exempt from presenting a qualified risk to the safety of road users. Administrations only need to explain the dangers of the current traffic situation, which can be done, for example, on the basis of traffic volumes or accident statistics. For the rapid implementation of measures, the initially temporary arrangement is suitable solely for the practical reason that a short-term establishment is possible through adding yellow markings to the road surface without the original white markings having to be removed directly. Improvements can be implemented at short notice and the routing of cycle lanes can be adapted without having to commission costly civil engineering works.

The pop-up approach can also be transferred to other measures such as pedestrian zones or climate streets. Temporary pop-up measures do not compete with long-term concepts and coordinated local mobility plans. Rather, they complement and accelerate them.

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