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Think before you drive: Cutting CO2 by cutting short trips (Germany)

By News Editor / Updated: 12 Dec 2014

The Federal Environment Ministry of Germany (BMU) is running a public information campaign called “Head on: engine off”, which aims to change travel behaviour on short trips and achieve an overall reduction in CO2 emissions. The key message is that not using the car for short journeys will protect the environment and improve health.

Background & Objectives


The Ministry is promoting the campaign in four cities across Germany and aims to convince drivers to walk or cycle short trips instead of using the car. Statistics suggest that a modal shift to walking and cycling could cut total journey lengths by 3.8bn car-km nationwide every year. Furthermore, this modal shift, which requires no technological developments or long lead times, could save approximately 350m litres of fuel a year, reducing carbons emissions by nearly 1m tonnes. The positive effects on health, noise and air pollution should help increase the trend away from the car and to walking and cycling.




The creative mind behind the project is the “fairkehr” agency, based in Bonn, which will monitor the nationwide campaign in cooperation with Berlin-based “velokonzept” for two years.

In its first phase in 2009, the project helped thousands of citizens in Bamberg, Dortmund, Halle (Saale) and Karlsruhe successfully switch to cycling and walking. A nationwide competition to pick cities for the next phase in 2010 saw Berlin, Braunschweig, Freiburg, Herzogenaurach and Kiel selected to take forward schemes. Separately, Karlsruhe is funding a continuation of its project beyond the original timeframe.




The cities are increasing awareness via billboards, cinema and radio commercials and adverts. Public events have been organised by the municipalities advertising and promote cycling and walking. see


Costs & Benefits


The campaign cost around € 1.2m in 2009 and was funded by the Climate Protection Campaign of the BMU. This corresponds to an expenditure of € 1 per inhabitant or a cost of € 88 per tonne of CO2 reduced. A 2007 study by McKinsey & Company suggests that this was very favourable compared to other initiatives in the transport sector. For example, the hybridization of car engines was found to cost up to € 4500 per tonne of CO2 reduced.







These results were part of an investigation by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (WI), which identified the effects of the campaign via a survey of 1200 households done by forsa (society for social research and statistical analysis).
If the results were extrapolated nationwide, it would imply that approximately 950,000 people recalled the campaign. Of these 83 percent were influenced by the campaign in some way. 26% of respondents had begun to walk or cycle trips that were less than 5 km.




  • The four cities of Bamberg, Dortmund, Halle an der Saale and Karlsruhe reduced journeys by 60 million car-km across a few months of the project.
  • This prevented 13,650 tons of CO2 emissions within the four cities.
  • An expanded nationwide one-year campaign could cut 3.8 billion car- km or about one million tons of CO2.
  • 11.6 % of respondents agreed to change their behaviour.
  • 36.6% of respondents felt supported in their frequent cycling and walking.
  • 8.7% of respondents began to reflect through the campaign
  • Only 17.1% of respondents remained uninfluenced by the campaign.


For further information see

Mobility management
Moritz Kammerlander
campaigns (large scale)
measures - awareness raising
MM for cities & Regions
30 Jul 2010
12 Dec 2014
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