Green urban living, in Germany and elsewhere

Sat 23 Dec, 2006 01:42 pm
Interesting effort here -


GOING TO TOWN: A youngster pedals over the tram tracks that lead to Freiburg's center.

New German community models car-free living
By Isabelle de Pommereau | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the December 20, 2006 edition

FREIBURG, GERMANY - It's pickup time at the Vauban kindergarten here at the edge of the Black Forest, but there's not a single minivan waiting for the kids. Instead, a convoy of helmet-donning moms - bicycle trailers in tow - pedal up to the entrance.
Welcome to Germany's best-known environmentally friendly neighborhood and a successful experiment in green urban living. The Vauban development - 2,000 new homes on a former military base 10 minutes by bike from the heart of Freiburg - has put into practice many ideas that were once dismissed as eco-fantasy but which are now moving to the center of public policy.

With gas prices well above $6 per gallon across much of the continent, Vauban is striking a chord in Western Europe as communities encourage people to be less car-dependent. Just this week, Paris unveiled a new electric tram in a bid to reduce urban pollution and traffic congestion.

"Vauban is clearly an offer for families with kids to live without cars," says Jan Scheurer, an Australian researcher who has studied the Vauban model extensively. "It was meant to counter urban sprawl - an offer for families not to move out to the suburbs and give them the same, if better quality of life. And it is very successful."

There are numerous incentives for Vauban's 4,700 residents to live car-free: Carpoolers get free yearly tramway passes, while parking spots - available only in a garage at the neighborhood's edge - go for €17,500 (US$23,000). Forty percent of residents have bought spaces, many just for the benefit of their visiting guests.

As a result, the car-ownership rate in Vauban is only 150 per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with 430 per 1,000 inhabitants in Freiburg proper.

In contrast, the US average is 640 household vehicles per 1,000 residents. But some cities - such as Davis, Calif., where 17 percent of residents commute by bike - have pioneered a car-free lifestyle that is similar to Vauban's model.

Vauban, which is located in the southwestern part of the country, owes its existence, at least in part, to Freiburg - a university town, like Davis - that has a reputation as Germany's ecological capital.

In the 1970s, the city became the cradle of Germany's powerful antinuclear movement after local activists killed plans for a nuclear power station nearby. The battle brought energy-policy issues closer to the people and increased involvement in local politics. With a quarter of its people voting for the Green Party, Freiburg became a political counterweight in the conservative state of Baden-Württemberg.

At about the same time, Freiburg, a city of 216,000 people, revolutionized travel behavior. It made its medieval center more pedestrian-friendly, laid down a lattice of bike paths, and introduced a flat rate for tramways and buses.

Environmental research also became a backbone of the region's economy, which boasts Germany's largest solar-research center and an international center for renewable energy. Services such as installing solar panels and purifying wastewater account for 3 percent of jobs in the region, according to city figures.

Little wonder then, that when the French Army closed the 94-acre base that Vauban now occupies in 1991, a group of forward-thinking citizens took the initiative to create a new form of city living for young families.

"We knew the city had a duty to make a plan. We wanted to get as involved as possible," says Andreas Delleske, then a physics student who led the grass-roots initiative that codesigned Vauban. "And we were accepted as a partner of the city."

In 1998, Freiburg bought land from the German government and worked with Delleske's group to lay out a master plan for the area, keeping in mind the ecological, social, economic, and cultural goals of reducing energy levels while creating healthier air and a solid infrastructure for young families. Rather than handing the area to a real estate developer, the city let small homeowner cooperatives design and build their homes from scratch.

In retrospect, "It would have been much simpler to give a big developer a piece of land and say, 'Come back five years later with a plan,' " says Roland Veith, the Freiburg city official in charge of Vauban.

But the result is a "master plan of an ecological city ... unique in its holistic approach," says Peter Heck, a professor of material-flow management at Germany's University of Trier, pointing out that this was a community-wide effort involving engineers, politicians, city planners, and residents - not just an environmental group's pilot program.

Today, rows of individually designed, brightly painted buildings line streets that are designed to be too narrow for cars. There are four kindergartens, a Waldorf school, and plenty of playgrounds - a good thing, because a third of Vauban's residents are under age 18, bucking the trend in a graying country.

As Germany's population ages - and shrinks - experts say Vauban's model will become more important as officials increasingly tailor-make communities in an effort to attract citizens .

"We have fewer young people. What you need now is a good quality of life with good services, a good infrastructure for kids and older people," says Thomas Schleifnecker, a Hannover-based urban planner.

Across Europe, similar projects are popping up. Copenhagen, for instance, maintains a fleet of bikes for public use that is financed through advertising on bicycle frames.

But what makes Vauban unique, say experts, is that "it's as much a grass-roots initiative as it is pursued by the city council," says Mr. Scheurer. "It brings together the community, the government, and the private sector at every state of the game."

As more cities follow Vauban's example, some see its approach taking off. "Before you had pilot projects. Now it's like a movement," says Mr. Heck. "The idea of saving energy for our landscape is getting into the basic planning procedure of German cities."
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 3,065 • Replies: 10
Topic Closed
No top replies

Sat 23 Dec, 2006 06:44 pm
Wonderful stuff.

We have cat free and dog free urban developements but nothing like this.
0 Replies
Sat 23 Dec, 2006 06:51 pm
I wonder how they deal with deliveries of furniture, and various maintenance services - perhaps like some old historic centers in Europe that are generally pedestrian oriented zones. Cool that the trams go back and forth...
0 Replies
Sat 23 Dec, 2006 07:25 pm
I've seen these traffic free zones, and it is so nice, as one can observe
that people are out and about sitting on the park benches or watching
the kids riding their skates, bicycles and what not. It just brings out
more people and makes the neighborhoods more lively.

As for deliveries, trucks, and emergency vehicles, they do have access through special entrances, provided just for them.
0 Replies
Sat 23 Dec, 2006 07:27 pm
A friend of ours used to live in the Baldwin Hills Village Green project in Los Angeles. This was not as extensive or as well thought out, I don't think, as the Vauban area, but did have parking only on the periphery. I'm sure there are many projects like it worldwide by now.


An article on Village Green and Aliso Village, with photos -
0 Replies
Sat 23 Dec, 2006 07:31 pm
I recall reading an artical about one of the channell islands. No cars only horses and a (i think) communal tractor with a trailer set up for passengers that doubled as a bus.
0 Replies
Sat 23 Dec, 2006 07:40 pm
You are probably talking about Catalina Island, but I'm not sure it is counted as one of the Channel Islands -

My ex and his wife have a house there, that is to say, it is a family house of hers. I haven't been to Catalina in years, not so much for that reason, as I once turned green on the 26 mile boat ride, the boat missing at least one engine. (Twenty-six miles across the Sea, as the song goes..)

0 Replies
Sat 23 Dec, 2006 09:49 pm
ossobuco wrote:
You are probably talking about Catalina Island, but I'm not sure it is counted as one of the Channel Islands -

My ex and his wife have a house there, that is to say, it is a family house of hers. I haven't been to Catalina in years, not so much for that reason, as I once turned green on the 26 mile boat ride, the boat missing at least one engine. (Twenty-six miles across the Sea, as the song goes..)


I was thinking of an island in the english channell near Jersey and Gurnsey island. They have one of the last fuedal political systems in the world.
0 Replies
Sat 23 Dec, 2006 09:54 pm
Aha, something new to learn..
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Sun 24 Dec, 2006 01:52 am
Vauban actually is the biggest example of what can be done with former barracks - and certainly the best.
0 Replies
Wed 29 Mar, 2023 02:07 pm
Reviving this old urban planning thread:

The 15-Minute City: Where Urban Planning Meets Conspiracy Theories

Is having all of life’s amenities within a 15-minute walk convenient? Or is it a government leash? We explain.


He Wanted to Unclog Cities. Now He’s ‘Public Enemy No. 1.’

Researchers like Carlos Moreno, the professor behind a popular urban planning concept, are struggling with conspiracy theories and death threats.


QAnon Anonymous – Episode 223: Attending the 15 Minute Cities Oxford Protest with Annie Kelly

A very long episode out in the field! Annie Kelly headed to Oxford (UK) to attend a protest against "15 Minute Cities" and figure out how boring city planning issues became a fresh vehicle for the so-called "freedom movement" and its wide collection of attached conspiracy theories. These include fears of "climate lockdowns", a New World Order government instituted by Klaus Schwab and the WEF, Adrenochrome, Aliens, bug eating, "Britcoin" as a control mechanism, and much, much more.

0 Replies

Related Topics

  1. Forums
  2. » Green urban living, in Germany and elsewhere
Copyright © 2024 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 05/29/2024 at 10:32:12