By Hannah Kemp
The day began with breakfast at Novotel followed by a short walk to the tram to Haus 37 in Vauben. The tram station outside the hotel highlights the multimodal nature of transport in Freiburg, with a network of bike bridges and lanes, tram lines, bus stops, and pedestrian walkways. As we watched out of the tram window, bikes whizzed alongside tram lines, pedestrians filled the streets and commuters young and old alike bustled onto the tram. There is a clear emphasis on public transit as opposed to automobile dependency. Not to say that there were no cars, just fewer and more consciously driving.
After we arrived at our stop, we walked past the Green City hotel, which is known for its environmentally sustainable design. It was wonderful to see how lush greenery on the outside of the building can be used as a means of improving the buildings energy efficiency.
As we sat in the public square in front of Haus 37 we were appreciative of the public water pumps and the cold breeze coming from the Black Forest, which provides a natural cooling effect for the surrounding areas. However, the highlight of the morning for me was a visit from Tara and Emma the adorable dogs of a kind woman passing by. The group’s encounter highlights the potential for public spaces and traffic-calmed areas to become opportunities for dynamic use and social engagement.
We began our lecture at Haus 37 by reflecting on our best and worst transportation experiences on the trip thus far. Whether it was almost getting closed in the tram doors, leaping over luggage to not miss our stop, struggling from boat to boat, or having a bus break down, our experiences thus far have helped to define what makes sustainable transportation. From the lecture and the discussion of our experiences we determined a that a sustainable transportation system should provide information legibly and in real time, infrastructure should be well maintained, and public transportation should be multimodal and well connected.
Our lecture highlighted examples of sustainable transportation in Germany. The two main lessons that can be derived from the lecture are: 1) that incentivized multimodal policies, as well as measures restricting private automobiles in cities, and policies that deter automobile dependency are crucial for improved sustainable transportation systems; and 2) that to implement effective policy it is necessary to gain support from higher levels of government, implement controversial policies incrementally, have long-term policies to create lasting impact, and integrate land use and transit planning.
Later in the day we met with Astrid Mayer who led a guided tour through Freiburg focusing on new developments in bike infrastructure, traffic claiming, and designated biking and pedestrian lanes. We also visited the University library as well as Riesefeld, a sustainable urban community development.
The implementation of sustainable urban communities was particularly interesting especially in the way it deterred automobile usage through minimal parking and incentivized multimodal transportation by establishing a convenient connection to bike and tram lines. It was also interesting to hear how residents were able to choose their neighbors when starting the community.
A resident of Riesefeld concluded the day’s lectures by giving us more insight on this sustainable living communities. It was interesting to learn how some communities got around minimum parking requirement policies by purchasing equivalently sized green spaces. We also looked at an impressive green roof garden as a possibility for sustainable design. The afternoon tour highlighted the importance of the multiple intersections of sustainability through an environmental, economic and social perspective.
After the tour, the group dispersed and spent the remainder of the evening exploring the many restaurants and shops or taking a short hike to watch the sunset.