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Parked car towers over markings: Conflicts over space in cities intensify

Photo: Andrea Reidl

Cars need more and more space. If you count the exterior mirrors, most models are now wider than two meters, as the ADAC determined – even compact cars such as VW Golf or Peugeut 308. According to this, the VW SUV ID.4 with exterior mirrors comes to around 2.12 meters, while the manufacturer - without mirrors - only 1.85 meters are specified. A BMW X5 off-road vehicle with mirrors even reaches just under 2.23 meters (without: 2 meters).

This means that parking lots are also becoming increasingly crowded, as they do not grow with the new models. But that is exactly what they are supposed to do now.

This is because certain new parking spaces are to be wider in the future, according to a set of rules that the Research Society for Roads and Transport (FGSV) has now published. Among traffic planners, the measure had been controversially discussed in advance.

According to the FGSV, this applies to new parking spaces in vertical and inclined positions, in multi-storey car parks and underground car parks as well as in street space. Instead of the previous 2.50 meters, 2.65 meters are now recommended for these. This recommendation does not apply to longitudinal parking spaces at the roadside – but according to the regulations, these should be 2.15 meters wide instead of 2 meters, provided that sufficient space is available (after all, there are also minimum dimensions for roadways and sidewalks). Existing parking spaces do not have to be changed due to the new regulations.

FGSV: Only »Recommendations«

The reason for the wider parking spaces is that the so-called design vehicle has become larger, according to the FGSV. This is a statistic that reflects developments in the passenger car market – and vehicles there have been getting longer and wider on average for a long time.

"This is a development that we do not welcome, on the contrary," says Petra Schäfer, Professor of Transport Planning at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, in a statement. She heads the responsible working committee at the FGSV. "Public space should be used as little as possible for parking and certainly not further restricted by even larger parking spaces." In the same area, there would even be fewer parking spaces if they were laid out a little wider.

Schäfer emphasizes that municipalities will continue to decide on public parking space and that the rules and regulations only contain recommendations for action. However, these are recommendations with a signal effect: The FGSV is an influential body, it draws up the guidelines that decisively shape what roads in Germany look like and how space is distributed there.

The German Environmental Aid appeals to the cities not to follow these recommendations. But they would probably do so anyway, out of fear of being held liable if they did not plan according to the "current state of the art", says traffic expert Robin Kulpa. The increase in the standard widths for parking spaces is a capitulation to the automotive industry." Cities should consistently tow vehicles that are too large for existing parking spaces when they protrude into sidewalks, bike lanes or intersections, Kulpa says.