By Andreas Hoenig and Christian Ebner, dpa
Berlin (dpa) – Greenpeace is predicting a surge in cars on the road in Germany and therefore an increase in pollution, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many people are avoiding public transport out of fear of catching the novel coronavirus, while also generally being advised to stay home, according to a study by the environmental protection organization.
As lockdown restrictions ease, Greenpeace predicts more people will get behind the wheel.
As a result, the number of kilometres travelled by car in large cities alone could increase by up to 20 billion per year, the activists said. This would cause a “traffic gridlock,” while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could rise by an additional 3 million tons.
“To prevent coronavirus from creating a traffic surge, cities must now create more space for cyclists and pedestrians,” Greenpeace traffic expert Marion Tiemann said.
This is a “huge opportunity” to make progress in switching to safe, clean and climate-friendly modes of transport, he added.
In contrast to other industries, CO2 emissions in the transport sector have hardly fallen at all in recent years, partly because of higher traffic volumes.
Greenpeace hopes a debate could now gain momentum on taking space away from cars in cities – in favour of cyclists and pedestrians.
To achieve climate targets and improve the quality of life in urban centres, two out of three cars in Germany would have to be replaced with alternatives in the long term, Greenpeace said.
But there was some good news on Tuesday for environmentalists hoping that the coronavirus crisis will encourage cleaner modes of transport.
Bike retailers and repair shops in Germany are confident that they can recover from the closures, now lifted, that hampered business since mid-March, according to an industry body.
The ZIV bike association said two thirds of sellers and 69 per cent of workshops and other services were confident of bringing in at least the same revenues this year as last year.
For 54 per cent of bike shops, business had already returned to normal.
Industry experts noted that cycling is also now appealing to new target groups, after being seen as a safe way to travel during the pandemic.