Berlin, 12th October 2016. The initiatives Volksentscheid Fahrrad (Berlin’s Bicycle Referendum) and Volksentscheid Retten (Save the Referendum) protested the sabotage of civil political engagement by Berlin’s governing coalition (the Senat). They sent a message to the responsible politicians by taking a dive into the Spree River in business attire. They rode their bikes directly into the cold river to send Berlin Mayor Michael Müller a message as he got aboard his flight to the United Nations conference on sustainable urban development: “Direct democracy, climate Protection and sustainable mobility tank in Berlin! The world cannot support more global babble and local inaction.” The Senat has missed another deadline today for the assessment of legality of the legislations proposed by each of the two initiatives, the Volksentscheid Fahrrad, and Volkesentscheid Retten. Thereby, the administration is hindering that the referendums take place alongside the 2017 German Federal Election. The Bicycle Referendum would provide an inexpensive reduction of carbon emissions, and Save the Referendum would ensure its legislative longevity, as well as further citizen engagement.
On Wednesday, Mayor Müller left Berlin flying to the UN-Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador. As host of the German Habitat Forum in June, he spoke about how Berlin offers great examples of participatory and sustainable urban development. That even though more than 100 leading scientists from the disciplines of mobility and sustainable urban development openly called on Mr. Müller to quickly implement the Radverkehrsgesetz (Berlin’s Bicycle Bill), the legislation proposed by Berlin’s Bicycle Referendum. In fact, the delay of the referendums carries the signature of the Senat, especially through Traffic Minister Andreas Geisel of the Social Democrats (SPD). The Senat is putting the brakes on citizen initiated referendums wherever they can.
“Global babble and local inaction cannot be accepted from the responsible political authorities any longer, otherwise climate protection and bicycling will tank,” says Katja Täubert, an activist with the Volksentscheid Fahrrad, “By jumping into the cold river Spree, we demand that Mayor Müller not impede Referendums in Berlin any longer, and not talk big at UN conferences but act productively at home.”
Today numerous activists from Volksentscheid Fahrrad dressed in business attire rode their bicycles right into the 10⁰C Spree River. Activists from Volksentscheid Retten waited ready with towels. They protested against the sabotaging of referendums by the one-sided advantage of the Senat in referendum law.
“Two citizen-initiated referendums have been delayed by the Senat, because the Senat has no deadlines for the assessment of proposed legislation, and they take strategic advantage of that fact. When referendums are not allowed to coincide with planned elections, it results in extra costs of two million Euros. The Senat speculates, that the referendums will fail because the 700,000 necessary voters will not be able to be mobilized to take an extra trip to vote.” remarked Margarete Heidmüller from Volksentscheid Retten.
The Senat has been in the process of assessing the legality of the Berlin Bicycle Bill since the 14th of June. External judicial assessment would require only two to three weeks. The time plans and goals of the two initiatives, to have their referendums coincide with the Federal Election in 2017, have thus been effectively sabotaged by Mayor Müller’s Senat. The Volksentscheid Fahrrad and Volksentscheid Retten are thus required to mobilize a quorum of at least 700,000 Berliners to vote on their respective legislative proposals separately, even though many more than are expected fill out a ballot for the Federal election anyway.
“Bicycling is good for the climate, and it’s good for Berlin,” says Heinrich Strößenreuther from the Volksentscheid Fahrrad, in a sopping wet suit. “’Think Global’ concretely means ‘act local’ – take up the Berlin Bicycle Bill as part of the coalition-agreement for the new Senat, and make it law by March 2017. Mayor Müller should be ashamed of himself for flying to the UN-Conference Habitat III on sustainable urban development and at the same watch how sustainable urban development is sabotaged here in Berlin.”
Further Links and Sources:
International Coverage of Volksentscheid Fahrrad
Our presentation of the “Towards the New Urban Agenda statement” of 60 German scientists asking the Mayor of Berlin to act:
the New Urban Agenda Statement https://volksentscheid-fahrrad.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/160530-en-The-New-Urban-Agenda-Statement-fin.pdf,
the presentation https://volksentscheid-fahrrad.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/160530-en-presentation-New-Urban-Agenda-fin-1.pdf ,
and the Press release https://volksentscheid-fahrrad.de/2016/05/30/scientists-publicly-urge-berlin-mayor-michael-mueller-to-support-berlin-bicycle-referendum-1999/
Informationen on Volksentscheid Fahrrad: https://volksentscheid-fahrrad.de/english/
Press releases online: https://volksentscheid-fahrrad.de/presse/pressemitteilungen/
Further pictures: https://www.picdrop.de/volksentscheidfahrrad/Presse
Contact Team Volksentscheid Fahrrad: Heinrich Strößenreuther, 0160 – 9744 2395, firstname.lastname@example.org