Transport and Energy
Bucking the trend

Freiburg’s green transport policies are central to the city’s development, reports Rolf Böhme

For over three decades, the city of Freiburg im Breisgau – the regional capital of one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations and one of the country’s fastest growing major cities – has pursued an environmentally friendly urban development policy in which transport plays an important role.

The ‘global transport concept’ – with a transport infrastructure that is friendly to people, the environment and the city – is intended as an integral part of the development of the city, which now has 202,000 inhabitants. It includes reinforcing the city as regional capital, developing a ‘quickest route to the city’ campaign, preserving cityscape and urban spaces, and reducing pollution.

The concept was approved in 1969 and, since then, the city has developed many pioneering plans and measures, including establishing cycle lanes, banning traffic from the city centre, introducing Germany’s first transferable flat-rate travel card, and building a city and suburban railway (see end of article). Its objectives are:

  • To reduce traffic in the city and give priority to local public transport, cyclists and pedestrians.

  • To create a rational balance between all modes of transport.

  • To create global traffic calming and concentrate private vehicles onto well constructed main arteries.

  • To control parking in public places.

Comparing figures for 1982 and 1999 for the three modes of transport – motor vehicles, local public transport and bicycles – clearly shows the positive effects of the concept. Local public transport increased from 11 to 18 per cent, and bicycle use from 15 to 26 per cent, while motor vehicle traffic decreased from 38 to 32 per cent, despite the increase in the issue of motor vehicle licences. This result is in complete contrast to the trends observed in practically all other Central European cities.

The cornerstones of the transport concept are:

1. Traffic calming. The first important and far-reaching step in Freiberg’s environment-friendly transport policy was transforming the city centre into a pedestrian zone in 1973. After several years of preparation, the city centre was closed to all motorized vehicles. The provision of public transport was optimized, with tram routes running north-south and east-west through the city centre.

Planners of public spaces calmed traffic further by using the natural stone surfaces traditional to Freiburg, the classic Rhine pebble pavements and, above all, the city’s historic Bächle (gullies) in designing roads. Similar measures were gradually introduced in the districts around the centre. Then, in 1990, a 30 kilometre per hour speed limit was introduced to all residential areas, except those on main roads, which now covers the neighbourhoods where 90 per cent of residents live.

2. Concentrating traffic and improving roads. Bündelungsstrassen (roads on which traffic can be concentrated) are still needed, even after restrictive traffic calming and traffic avoidance measures, improvements in local public transport and encouragement of cycle use. Meanwhile, creating new routes makes it possible to improve inner city street networks.

One example is the rerouting of Trunk Road 31 through the eastern end of the city, due for completion this year. The politically controversial road was routed via two underpasses beneath the eastern part of the city, without any detrimental effects. This provided the opportunity to put in place road improvements and traffic calming measures meeting the objectives of sustainable urban development, within the framework of a local urban development scheme for Freiburg East. Continuing the route westwards through the projected city tunnel will divert traffic away from the city’s centre and from one of the its most striking locations, the bank of the River Dreisam.

3. Managing public highways and adjacent land. Public highways and adjacent land in the city centre and the surrounding area are controlled and there are paying car parks. Controlling parking is a key feature of the transport policy, so there is no free, uncontrolled parking in the city centre or the immediate area. Parking is subject to a sliding scale of charges and regulations, from the city centre outwards to encourage commuters to park-and-ride on public transport.
The global transport concept is intended as as an integral part of the development of the city
4. Public transport. The city promotes the use of public transport, especially trams, which are the classic means of transport in cities the size of Freiburg. The city council decided to preserve the tram network in 1972 and three new routes have come into operation in recent years.

Of course, this means that vehicles and timetables must be made attractive to passengers. A regional environmental card (travel card) has been introduced at a standard rate of DM71 per month (approximately $35), valid both for the city and the two neighbouring districts. There has been a very positive response and the number of passengers has increased by more than 100 per cent since 1980.

It is vital for the future to link the city and the region as a whole. The city has set up a special unit with the two neighbouring districts to develop an integrated regional transport concept, in collaboration with the Breisgau S-Bahn (city and suburban railway) 2005. Plans provide for the integration of Deutsche Bahn’s rail network, the tram network, and both city and regional buses into a unified system. The cost of implementing this over some ten years will be around DM800 million (approximately $400 million). The Breisgau S-Bahn 2005 will form the backbone of a regional development programme. The public transport policy already implemented in the city is thus being logically extended to the region.

5. Bicycle use. In Freiburg the bicycle is an essential mode of transport for short and medium distance journeys. At relatively small expense, people can be encouraged to cycle – through promoting bicycle use for the benefit of the environment in a targeted way.

A cycle lane plan was first drawn up in 1970. Then there were only 29 kilometres of cycle lanes, which were not interconnected. Now there are more than 500 kilometres of interconnecting lanes. There are some 5,000 parking spaces for bicycles in the city centre, with more at tram stops – for bike-and-ride. There is one for 1,000 bicycles, with a range of other cyclists’ facilities, at the main railway station – the most important hub for local and long-distance public transport – built at a cost of DM4.5 million ($2.25 million).

Freiburg is conscious of its historic role and seeks to maintain and reinforce its position as a socially diverse and commercially important social, cultural and economic centre. So it is essential not to allow avoidable traffic to build up and to promote environment-friendly practices, while allowing for necessary and unavoidable commercial traffic and managing it in a city-friendly manner. Furthermore, the urban solutions must in future be extended to the whole region, so that boundaries between city and countryside are no longer important

Dr. Rolf Böhme is Mayor of Freiburg im Breisgau.

PHOTOGRAPH: Stuart Cohen/The Image Works/Topham

Freiburg’s milestones

1969 Approval of the global transport concept

1970 Initial plan for cycle lanes

1972 Decision to maintain and improve tram network

1973 Total ban on traffic throughout the city centre to create a pedestrian zone

1979 Global transport plan giving equal importance to all modes of travel: walking, cycling, public transport and private motor vehicles

1985 Introduction of Germany’s first transferable flat-rate city travel card

1989 Approval of integrated transport concept aimed at reducing traffic and promoting sustainable environment-friendly transport

1990 Introduction of 30km/h zones throughout the city

1991 Introduction of the Regio-Umwelt-Karte (regional environmental card), a flat-rate travel card for use on public transport, valid in the city and two surrounding districts (now known as regioncards)

1997 Building of the Breisgau S-Bahn (city and suburban railway) 2005 begins

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Driving change | Clearing the bottlenecks | Commuting sustainably (Singapore) | Transported to the future (Curitiba, Brazil) | Bucking the trend (Freiburg, Germany) | Message from the UN Secretary-General | Message from Cuba | Message from Turin | Competition | Breaking free | Calling for change | Reaching the unreached | Greening the screen | Taking the lead | Wanted: more good reporters | On the dot | The city century

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on Human settlements 1996, including
Jaime Lerner: Change comes from the cities
Herbert Girardet: Giant footprints
Gerhard Berz: Insuring against catastrophe (Disasters) 2001