I had the pleasure of traveling to Germany last Winter to attend the European Conference on Mobility Management and after that to take an extra field trip to Freiburg im Breisgau, one of Germany’s greenest cities. It was my first opportunity to see how Europeans, and the Germans in particular, have accepted and lead the world in the challenge of greening their cities and transport infrastructures.
I won’t go into much detail here, as specifics regarding the development and operation of sustainable transport in Freiburg are quite well captured in this downloadable 2011 paper by Buehler and Pucher; Sustainable Transport in Freiburg: Lessons from Germany’s Environmental Capital. This article is a very accessible account of Freiburg’s now forty-year quest to reduce motorization rates and encourage a more balanced approach to urban and regional transport.
Today, the share of trips by automobile is down to 32%, and their economy is strong. Of paramount importance from a safety standpoint, Buehler and Pucher report that “Travel is also safer in Freiburg than in Germany as a whole: 3.7 traffic fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants vs. 6.5 in Germany and 14.7 in the USA [10.7 in New Zealand!].” Some key factors in their success have been sustained commitment, citizen involvement, accommodation of all modes, strong policies with long-term support across the political spectrum and awareness of where they wanted to go, major investments in public transport, promotion of active transport, restrictions but not total bans on car use, joint development of transport and land use planning, and widespread coordination among regional entities.
The result, I can personally attest to, is a wonderfully vibrant and liveable city. It is a city the residents are proud to display to the world and one in which almost all lifestyles and affluence levels gain in multiple ways from access to multiple affordable forms of mobility for play, work and daily life. Here a few pictures I took to try and capture some of these qualities. But they don’t really do it justice, you have to see it to believe it.