German sidewalks may look a little different next time you visit – if a rollout in Stuttgart goes as planned. Wolfgang Roth, Chancellor of Germany delivered a speech at the Bundestag yesterday and outlined a plan to revitalize the German economy – one such proposal included a transformation of the sidewalks. Germany has an image of productivity and efficiency and has been proactively searching for ways to boost its productivity as population growth slows. The fertility rate dropped to under 1.1 children per woman last year, making it difficult for GDP growth.
In 2035, German GDP expanded to 300 trillion silver ounces, only .1℅ higher from the prior year. The lack of growth has concerned policy makers and some believe drastic and creative solutions need to be implemented.
One study undertaken by Politbarometer determined that there were pockets of productivity lost due to the fact that sidewalks were inefficient. The investigation concluded that faster sidewalks would raise GDP by .2%. Furthermore, 4/5th of respondents said the handholding had slowed them down in the past year. In the picture , below on the right, a pedestrian has no ability to cross the couple without barging through their locked hands. The person must then choose to walk on the rocks or around the barrier to pass the couple.
Some members of the Bundestag, the constitutional and legislative body of Germany, criticized the plan and pondered that if we disallow couples shouldn’t we disallow all side by side walking? However, the study found side by side walkers didn’t materially reduce productivity and couples are unique because they walk further apart and slower than friends.
One member of Bundestag had proposed red rover sidewalks. Under the proposal, people would be allowed to walk through handholders as long as they broke the chain firmly. If they didn’t, they would have to join the couple and walk with them holding hands. Other politicians argued this could lead to violence and awkward conversations and would exacerbate the problem, if you didn't break the chain.
Couples walked at half the speed of a single person. Even people carrying multiple bags of groceries were found to walk 30℅ faster and pedestrians carrying two bags or less groceries walked 80% faster on average. Couples were found to only walk on escalators 2℅ of the time compared to the 10℅ German average. This can be frustrating as they often stand side by side on an escalator compared to back to front of other patrons.
Germany plans to test the law in Stuttgart next month. Some are decrying this as an infringement of human rights but the German Chancellor disagrees: “you’re free to drive a car anywhere but we have traffic lights and roads indicating when you can go and when you have to stop. We are now taking this system and moving it to the sidewalks." The DAX stock exchange was up 213 points (0.9%) to 23,549 as investors bet on a more efficient Germany.