Western Harbour Malmo

In Freiburg city, it’s clean and pretty

Michael O'Hare - May 30, 2009

Said the German poet Johann Peter Hebel many years ago. But why?

I don’t know, but I do know that Johann would probably say exactly the same thing today. Freiburg gets called Green City Freiburg, Solar City Freiburg and Sustainable City Freiburg by many commentators.

Freiburg – A City for People

What makes Freiburg a city for people?

Freiburg was unfortunately devastated during World War 2, like many cities in Europe. But since then, Freiburg have done something astounding, something green and something to be proud of.

When rebuilding themselves in the 1940s, 50s and 60s many European cities built for the auto mobile.  Freiburg didn’t – they built their city for people, not for cars. Pedestrianised streets, bike lanes and excellent trams were at the heart of the city’s development. Plus the unique Freiburg Bächle, small canals that run down each central street.

Freiburg Green City

Freiburg’s presentation to the EU Green Capital competition gives some facts and figures about the city. I particularly like slides 10 and 11 that show that 70% of locals walk, cycle or take public transport when travelling. How does that compare to other cities, I wonder?

Freiburg has done some inspiring work with Solar City development too, particularly in the Vauban area. You might like to watch this video:

Martin Hoyer, one of the residents of Vauban, says he generates three times more power than he needs from the solar cells on his home, and makes about €5000 per year selling the excess energy. Sounds good?

Maybe, but his wife, Barbara Shweer, is still unsure whether the revenue makes up for the higher price they had to pay for their house in the first place.

If you ask me, it is not so important that it is clearly cost effective.  The fact they had the option to buy a beautiful home in a beautiful area where they can generate and sell their own energy is a sign that Freiburg truly is a city for people. The district reminds me a lot of The Western Harbour, Malmo.

Next week, I’d like to discuss some of the lessons that I think we might be able to learn from Freiburg.

Will you join me?


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