The Fight Against Cars Takes to the Streets of Berlin

Time doesn’t stand still: In a daring approach to pacifying the inner city of Berlin and restricting the amount of motorized traffic, the Berlin senate – featuring a governing coalition of Greens, SocDems, and Left – have passed a rather interesting resolution, as German center-left paper taz reports.

Among other changes, parking dues for bikers (of any kind of bike) will cease to exist. This includes bipedal bikes, e-bikes, and motorized bikes. Already, cars in Berlin are not solely entitled to the city’s public parking space. Prior to this resolution, however, hardly any biker knew they could also use these spaces, even though they would have had to pay the same dues that car owners would. Thanks to the new resolution, however, the culture war will hit the streets shortly and, looking at online comment sections… dang will it hit. The new resolution, enabling bike users to reclaim public space by parking bikes without paying dues, has brought attention to the fact that it has, in fact, always been legal. Activists could, hypothetically, simply claim all of Berlin’s parking space (given they can provide the labour and number of bikes). Car owners cannot displace parking bikes, that would be illegal. Of course, this doesn’t prevent car owners from taking to the internet and threatening all kinds of counter-activism against an expected wave of anti-car activism.

Resonating through online comment sections is the argument that this, rather than providing a positive solution, simply exacerbates an ongoing conflict, pushing it towards real escalation this time. People say it is a politically sponsored culture war move, and it is. But does it matter? Any democratic society, even one that aims to be such, should on the one hand be accustomed to conflict. Diversity and pluralism imply conflict and conflicts drive conclusions.Wouldn’t we have to rely on such conflict to achieve political patronage because resolutions depend on gates closed by the state to be opened, given true freedom of association enabling modes of peaceful resistance, many more conflicts would much earlier reach the light of day and eventually be sorted. Also, how many politically sponsored culture war moves has the conservative to reactionary side of the political landscape pulled the last 80 years, thanks to such state patronage? In a statist society, the government keeps the gate for all substantial change. A gate has been opened. I, for once, look forward to seeing this conflict here unfold in all its greatness.

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