Written by Samantha Borges and Emily Spack
Tuesday June 7, 2016
We had a jam packed past two days! On Tuesday morning, we went on a bike tour through Freiburg. Since Freiburg is known for its public transportation and bike friendly streets, it only seemed fit to experience the city like one of the locals. We focused on the Rieselfeld and Vauban neighborhoods, which were discussed in the previous day’s presentation by Wulf Daseking, former city planner of Freiburg. These parts of the city especially highlight Freiburg’s vision for the future of sustainability in an urban setting.
We rode through the small, carless streets of Vauban, which serve many purposes. Since speed limits are set very low and cars are not allowed to permanently park in neighborhoods, streets are a safe play area for children; we saw a lot of chalk art during our tour! These traffic calming strategies make driving the most inconvenient form of transportation, therefore, decreasing noise pollution and encouraging people to use other forms of transportation such as the tram. While riding our bikes, it was amazing to see how easy it was to navigate and travel throughout the streets with minimal effort. We stopped many times along our tour to discuss features that were at first unnoticeable such as a neighborhood of houses with solar panels on the roofs.
After our bike tour we had some free time and then reconvened at the main tram station where we took a tram to the VAG public transport company and listened to a presentation by Mr. Hildebrandt about the public transportation in the city. He discussed why the system in Freiburg is so successful and how it has improved in efficiency and ridership over the years. For example, they use incentives such as sporting events tickets and concert tickets as a free pass for all of the public transportation in the city. After our lecture we went directly to the Kartoffelhaus (which translates to “Potato House”) where our group ate… you guessed it, potatoes!
Wednesday June 8, 2016
On Wednesday the 8th, we met in the morning and discussed the possibility of implementing Vauban transportation strategies in the Northern Virginia area. We were split into groups of stakeholders concerned with transportation in the US: Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), American Automobile Association (AAA), American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and America Walks. Our groups then walked through the neighborhood to analyze which designs would be effective in the DC area and which were unnecessary or too radical.
At around noon, we said goodbye to Freiburg as we boarded the train to our next destination, Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. The train ride through the Alps was breathtaking with views of towering cliffs and crisp lakes.
Once in Riva, the group walked to the Steger Center, Virginia Tech’s European campus center and base for operations and support of its programs in the region. The students are housed in the Villa Maderni, a beautiful building built in the 1770’s. We moved into our rooms and were given a tour of the facility by Daniela Doninelli, the Managing Director. In the evening we had some free time to explore the town, we have high hopes for the next leg of our trip!