The Federal Council has approved a new road traffic regulation that will give municipalities greater authority in planning, climate protection, and safety. The Mariannenpark in Leipzig is a diverse area with expansive grassy areas, a large picnic area that is bustling with people in the summer, children playing, and the occasional grill emitting smoke. Slacklines are strung between trees, and to the west lies an allotment garden colony, while to the south is a rose garden.

Along the edge of the park runs the Schönefelder Allee, a road that is not a main thoroughfare but generates considerable noise from the cars that travel on it. Despite the residential area opposite the park, the speed limit on the street is 50 km/h. There was a proposal in the Leipzig City Council to introduce a speed limit of 30 km/h, but it was unsuccessful.

Now, with the approval of the Federal Council, there is hope for a new opportunity. The reform of the Road Traffic Ordinance (StVO) is significant, as it will give municipalities more flexibility in traffic planning. With the new StVO, they can strengthen local climate protection, mandate a bike path, designate a lane for buses only, or install a pedestrian crossing to make a school route safer.

Previously, both the law and the road traffic regulations prioritized smooth traffic flow for cars. This often made it difficult for cities and municipalities to implement traffic planning measures such as pedestrian crossings, roundabouts, or speed limits unless a location was proven to be dangerous or had already experienced accidents.

The new legislation now expands the goals beyond just facilitating smooth traffic flow for cars. Projects can also prioritize health, climate protection, or urban development, all of which are now firmly anchored in the law. This shift towards more holistic planning was welcomed by many, including the ADFC, which praised the opportunities for a more environmentally and people-friendly street design.

In Freiburg, Mayor Martin Haag has been grappling with a patchwork of speed limits in different areas of the city. The inconsistency in speed limits has made it challenging for residents and visitors to navigate the streets safely. Mayor Haag is looking to introduce a uniform speed limit of 30 km/h throughout the day, leveraging the new StVO and the freedoms it provides for municipalities.

Despite initial opposition from some federal states, the latest reform of the Road Traffic Act now includes an explicit clause that new traffic planning measures must not compromise road safety. While the goal of Vision Zero, to reduce traffic fatalities towards zero, did not make it into the text, there is a renewed focus on ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists in traffic planning.

Although some environmental organizations feel that the new legislation does not go far enough in granting municipalities additional freedoms, there is overall optimism that the reforms will empower local governments to create safer and more sustainable urban environments. The focus now is on how municipalities will leverage their newfound flexibility to implement long-awaited projects and improve traffic safety and environmental friendliness in their communities.