For decades, German motorists were kings and queens of the road – often cycle lanes and pavements, too. Now, cyclists and pedestrians are now longer getting mad: they’re getting even.
Anyone who visits the online service Weg.li can photograph the offending vehicle and file a complaint with the local authority against the “Falschparker” or parking violator.
The service uses geo-positioning to file the complaint with the relevant local authority. At 4,000, registered municipalities and counting, the crowdsourced Weg.li is – depending on your perspective – a triumph of people power or a denunciator’s charter.
Software developer Peter Schröder says he had the idea for what he calls “do-it-yourself traffic transformation” after he noticed just how many risks his son faced through illegal parking on their way to kindergarten each morning.
“I realised how asocial it was and how citizens had no way to strike back,” he said. “In Germany, I think we have a problem with motorists and their exaggerated notion of freedom, which they like to act out at the expense of others,” he said.
Other factors include fines as low as €10 and what he calls a brand-specific “asshole factor”, with statistics indicating BMWs and Audis most often parked illegally.
Though still a crowdsourced pilot project, Schröder has had queries from local politicians all over Germany. In Berlin’s central Mitte district, the Green Party councillor Almut Neumann – responsible for public order, streets and parks – has urged residents to report illegal parking using Weg.li.
“People don’t ‘park incorrectly’ – they knowingly place their cars where it is illegal,” she wrote on Twitter. “I don’t understand how this is played down. Illegal parking kills.”
One such case happened in May 2021 when a 35-year-old cyclist was killed after she swerved around a van parked on a cycle lane – and was hit by a truck from behind.
Ms Neumann’s Twitter appeal to use Weg.li has sparked emotional debate, welcomed by some and attacked by others as a “typical Green invitation to mass denunciation”.
Developer Mr Schröder says there are no statistics on how many complaints filed by Weg.li lead to fines. German traffic authorities defend their competence jealously, he says, even in Berlin where sporadic reports indicate that few or no staff are employed to process illegal parking complaints.
“Berlin once again carries the loser crown here,” said Mr Schröder. “They don’t do their job but don’t want anyone else doing it for them either.”