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5 GUESTS "Mobility"

We get around our towns and cities in all kinds of ways - on foot, by train, by bicycle, by bus. And, of course, by car. And, more and more, our transport systems connect together.

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2010/08/05

"Sustainable City" Atsushi Murakami

Freiburg
Freiburg is said to be the "greenest" city in the world

What is your ideal means of getting around?

I think there are two separate ideas that make up 'the ultimate transportation'.

The first is comfort. A chauffeur-driven limousine, or very high-quality public transport might make that possible. Imagine that you could talk, read, work, watch movies, or even dine and enjoy good food and wines in comfort while travelling. And being able to enjoy the scenery in peace, and shut out extraneous thoughts is important too.

The second idea is the pursuit of pleasure. Mountain-climbing with a top-of-the-range mountain bike, or jogging on a scenic route that could be enjoyed as much by walking, might be examples. Or imagine driving along a scenic route in a high-performance car, or on a motorcycle.

In reality, of course, it's not always possible to have both, depending on where you're going, or what you need to take with you, etc.

What are the plusses, and problems, with mobility in Freiburg?

The most fantastic aspect of the city of Freiburg in Germany is its intermodal transportation infrastructure, and its broad application of multimodal transportation. Intermodal transportation means transportation involving more than one method of transport. Freiburg has such a well-planned, well-maintained transportation infrastructure for cyclists, that it's possible to cycle safely and quickly to a tram stop, park one's bicycle in the bicycle parking lot and board the tram without any interruption or waiting.

In Freiburg, municipal measures have been taken to eliminate automobile traffic from city centers and residential areas, but the infrastructure of the main roads has also been improved even beyond that of main roads in Japan's smaller urban centers, so it is also possible to quickly get to one's destination by car as well. The citizens of Freiburg are able to enjoy the multimodal transportation infrastructure and chose their preferred mode of transportation, according to their destination and current situation.

However, having only a small university as its main industry, Freiburg's financial difficulty in maintaining the roads and public transportation infrastructure is more and more conspicuous.

Freiburg has also not been able to fully prepare the necessary infrastructure to handle traffic coming from the small villages and towns in its outlying suburbs. Although municipal zoning, traffic planning, tram track extensions, park-and-ride bicycle lots etc. and other design and planning have already been completed, it seems that actual development may take many years to complete due to the recent downturns in the economy. With a third of all traffic in the city center being bicycles, the large number of accidents involving bicycles, as well as the bad manners displayed by cyclists in general (ignoring traffic lights, not using bicycle headlights etc.) also needs to be looked at. The city is making an effort, but little real progress has been made.

How should we approach mobility to protect the environment?

Whenever the weather is good, walking or cycling whenever one is traveling distances of less than 3 km should be emphasized not only in consideration of the Earth but also for one's personal health, as well as reducing any preventable noise, pollution and danger to other travelers that may result from using one's car. A grim fact is that the average office worker in Tokyo walks more than employees working on large-scale farms in the Japanese countryside. In Japan's smaller urban centers, door-to-door sales staff should avoid using cars. I think they would feel a real difference in their life if they were to use high performance bicycles instead. Talking about positive effects on "The Environment" can come later.

What can each of us do to improve sustainable mobility?

Instead of attempting to address the highly abstract problems of pollution and the environment, we should first consider the happiness of ourselves, our family, friends, co-workers and the people around us. If the happiness of individuals around us is not secure, any attempts to reliably continue measures to address environmental problems will be impossible.

Investing in renewable energy is important, but before that I believe that investing time in one's family has a greater overall effect when looking at things from a broader perspective. From my perspective, it seems that the citizens of Freiburg are happier than a majority of Japanese. I believe that instead of happiness derived from ego, status, or material possessions, when people discover true happiness in their lives is when people are able to make contributions towards addressing the environmental problems of our planet.