A car in Stuttgart in late December. Photo: Radfahren in Stuttgart/DPA.
In an increasing number of large German cities, parking offenders are being punished by more than just the towing services. Residents in Stuttgart for instance have been taking matters into their own hands.
“Children can’t cycle on the sidewalk to kindergarten or elementary school because they can’t get through the corners,” says city councillor Christine Lehmann.
Lehmann lives in a densely populated area of southern Stuttgart. According to her, many cars in the neighbourhood block pedestrian areas and park on the sidewalk.
“During the day the situation is more relaxed, but in the evening when there are more parked cars on the streets, a person in a wheelchair for instance isn’t able to reach the local pub,” Lehmann adds.
Just before Christmas, locals in the Baden-Württemberg city wrapped a car that was falsely parked in clear film with a note attached to it, stating in capital letters: “Parking like that – it’s just crap.” A number of other vehicles in Stuttgart received similar treatment as part of the initiative.
A sign left on a wrongly parked car in Stuttgart. Photo: Radfahren in Stuttgart/DPA.
In other major cities, locals, pedestrians and cyclists have increasingly been pointing out the misconduct of drivers parked where they’re not supposed to be.
In 2016, the city of Heidelberg pasted thousands of Post-it notes on one wrongly parked car.
Last summer a Twitter user in Cologne turned the tables around by posting a photo of a bike in the middle of the street. For approaching motorists, the resident had attached a note to the bike saying: “Gone to the bakery.”
But people who park on sidewalks across Germany have been finding stickers on their cars stating “Don’t park in our way” for years now. These colourful stickers can be ordered online and highlight a range of actions which violate parking regulations: the blocking of entrances, the unauthorized use of disabled parking spaces, parking in private property, etc.
From quickly unloading the groceries to zipping to the post box, “there are a thousand reasons to park one’s car somewhere for a very short period of time,” according to the German Cyclist’s Association (ADFC) in Lower Saxony.
Still, ADFC emphasizes, parking offences are “not trivial” in that they can “endanger others.” The association recently launched a campaign in which parking offenders are to be informed of their misconduct with signs clamped under their windscreen wipers.
But are actions from residents and cyclists like this considered legal?
A car in Stuttgart that violates parking regulations. Photo: Radfahren in Stuttgart/DPA.
“No car was damaged in any way,” the Zweitrat Stuttgart cycle group said on Twitter of the latest intiative. “The initiative is deliberately non-violent.”
When it comes to whether this could be considered damage to property, “it all depends on what it takes to remove the film,” says a police spokesperson in regards to the cars wrapped up in Stuttgart.
There have been no reports from the people whose cars have been affected, adds the spokesperson.
In the south German city, motorists who park where they’re not supposed to may soon face harsher punishment.
“The city will intervene more strongly in the future,” says a spokesperson. In the city of 345,000 registered automobiles, about 1,500 of them are cuurently towed annually.
But this should rise to an annual figure of 2,200, says the spokesperson. Currently six staff members who are entitled to initiate towing processes are active on the city’s roads investigating parking complaints. A further four positions of a similar nature will be added in future.
“Anyone who thinks they can park incorrectly in Stuttgart is very much mistaken,” says the spokesperson.