Road traffic psychology: why the traffic turnaround is failing

Who dares to cycle in front of cars? This is how it is thought on this street in Frankfurt, bicycles and cars share the lane and cars are not allowed to overtake wheels. What road users consider a cycle path here is the “dooring zone” of the parking lane.
Image: Lucas Bäuml

Why do we find it so difficult to keep car traffic in its place? In any case, it is not due to the lack of findings in traffic science. Psychologists provide the answers.

UTo capture the current state of the traffic turnaround, all you have to do is step outside. Not fewer, but more cars than ever before are filling our cities and villages. They speed and roar through the streets, park up residential areas, occupy side streets and play streets, become wider, longer and higher – and even tolerated where they really have no business: on sidewalks, bike paths, grass verges. Because otherwise there is no more space, it is said in many cities.

Andreas Frey

Freelance writer in the science of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Authorities call parking pressure the acute shortage of parking spaces for cars, the phenomenon affects all cities. And with the argument of parking pressure, politicians and traffic planners justify the preservation of parking spaces or even the designation of new areas. Those responsible are preventing a traffic turnaround. This is not what any cycling associations say, it has been the consensus in traffic research for decades. The space has to be redistributed, even the automotive industry has recognized that. “In overcrowded urban centers,” VW boss Herbert Diess recently tweeted, “the car – including the emission-free e-car – will only be accepted in future if the bike has enough space in the mobility mix.”


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