Building cars, driving trains, planning cities: the mobility industry is a male domain.

Only four out of 16 state transport ministries are headed by women, around 90 percent of executive boards in the automotive industry are male.

But some women want to help shape mobility, in large corporations or in small, innovative companies.

In the series "You move something", ZEIT ONLINE introduces some of them.

When Regine Günther looks at the miniature city center of Berlin, she sees a car-friendly city.

Günther is Senator for Transport, Environment and Climate and is committed to ensuring that the model in the Senate will soon be out of date.

"I want to turn Berlin into an ecological model city in Germany," says the Green politician.

Günther no longer wants to see Berlin as a car-friendly city.

© Maria Sturm for ZEIT ONLINE

To understand how mobility that does not focus on the car works, the Senator has been to Copenhagen, London, Moscow, Beijing, Paris and Brussels.

"Everywhere people ask themselves the same question," she says: "How can we guarantee seamless mobility in cities in a space-saving and environmentally friendly way?"

Each city has found different solutions for this.

Moscow is building a huge S-Bahn ring, Brussels is limiting the speed in the city center to 20 kilometers an hour, and Paris is closing the banks of the Seine to cars.

Impossible to please everyone

Many German politicians are also talking about the need to make traffic more environmentally friendly.

But concerns about making themselves unpopular prevent most of them from restricting motorists' freedom.

Günther, on the other hand, says: "As a transport senator, I do not expect a popularity award."

In order for politicians to achieve their goals, above all they need money.

Günther's most important currency, however, is square meters. Nothing is as competitive in traffic as area - and Corona has made the situation even worse.

Cyclists, pedestrians, bus and train users: you all now need more space to keep the distance requirements.

It is impossible to please everyone.

What Günther gives to one road user, she takes from another.

Drivers want to keep their privileges, others want a new mobility system for the entire city as quickly as possible.

In addition: For many people, getting around means freedom, so discussions about mobility quickly become particularly heated.

If you ask the senator what her job is all about, she says: "In addition to the willingness to shape it, you also need perseverance and taker qualities - and a certain fearlessness to get into conflict when necessary."

You could also say: everyone is hacking at you.

It doesn't go fast enough for cyclists

Even those who share Günther's goals criticize them again and again - because it takes too long for them. Frank Masurat, for example, board member of ADFC Berlin, accuses Günther of not implementing the mobility law quickly enough.

It was created in 2018 under pressure from citizens' initiatives and stipulates that cyclists, pedestrians and local public transport should be given preference over car traffic when planning.

It also makes very specific announcements, for example: There must be a cycle path on every main street.

"The Mobility Act lays down legal requirements as to what has to happen, but it happens too little and too slowly," says Masurat.

"In Berlin, for example, the cycle network should have been completed last summer."

Günther, who has been in office since 2016, is also annoyed by the "sluggishness of the system".

In Berlin in particular, change takes time.

"Austerity has prevailed for the past 15 years, the administration has saved wherever possible, and now there is a lack of staff," says Günther.

In addition, the Senate's design options are limited.

He decides on the traffic concept, but the districts build.

Long planning is often required, and when the work finally begins, this leads to even more traffic jams and dangerous spots, especially for cyclists.

Günther experienced her most difficult time in office not because of her transport policy, but because of a personnel issue.

In 2018, she put her Secretary of State Jens-Holger Kirchner, who was suffering from cancer, into temporary retirement.

In his absence someone was missing to hold the strings together, said Güntherder

Berliner Zeitung


"It was definitely the toughest decision I had to make so far."

Many accused her of being heartless.

Even some members of the Greens asked her to leave her post.

She stayed in office and wants to continue her mission.

"I am encouraged by the great support from so many people," says Günther.

"These people want a modern transport, urban and climate policy that changes the previous orientation and redistributes the limited area."

The senator has allies.

Civil society initiatives that work for environmental and climate protection and for the transport transition.

But also representatives of the economy who wanted to offer skilled workers an attractive living environment, she says.