Maybe you know this: there are these groups of people…
From the 16th to the 22nd of September Dresden took part in the European Mobility week to discuss and promote a mobility mix for the city. The idea is to not only consider cars to be a viable transport mode in urban areas but to seek for more inclusion of pedestrian, bike and any other form of human mobility modes in city planning.
Arranged with a wide array of cooperation partners the city organized eleven events throughout the week. The start was made last Friday with a safety training for elder people using their walking frames on the public transport system of Dresden. Parallel two local initiatives took up the idea of the international Park(ing) Day, reclaiming parking lots along the roadside in two different spots in town. Cars are mostly a convenient mode of transport but they also come with major disadvantages. One of them is that they take up space, while in use and while parking. In some cities, the space reserved or designed for cars takes up to 60-70% of the total space available. Is that worth it? The Park(ing) Day tries to show people the usable potential of their streetscapes, if they would not be filled with parked cars all the day.
The Saturday was filled with the bike convention “Fahrrad/Stadt/In Sicht” (“Bike/City/In sight”) where activists from local bike associations, cyclists, city planners and government officials exchanged about the possibilities of bike highways and better bike parking systems in town. After that participants could use the combined ticket of Dresden’s public transport company DVB to ride with their bikes in trams and buses to enjoy the open night in many museums of town. The Sunday could be used for walking and bike tours throughout town and into the countryside.
The week started with an awareness campaign aimed at families, who bring their children to kindergarten and school every day by car. This trend has increased during the last years causing traffic jams around schools, more accidents involving kids and stressed families especially in the morning hours. The campaign will expand beyond the mobility week until September 30th and explores alternative and safe ways to bring children to their destinations while spending some quality time together.
On Tuesday a new car sharing station was inaugurated in the center of the city, which is in convenient distance to many local shops, offices and businesses. Companies could also attend an information event at the same evening talking about climate friendly modes of travelling for their employees, for instance by using so called Job Tickets rewarding public transport use.
On the second last day of the mobility week the theme seemed to be bikes vs. cars, not necessarily in an antagonistic way though. Throughout the day, residents and visitors could test-drive electric cars in the city center or get their bicycle frames coded to be better prepared in case of bike theft. In the evening a local cinema screened the crowd funded film “Bikes vs. Cars” portraying and compairing car cities like Los Angeles and Sao Paolo with bike friendly cities like Copenhagen. The film followed activists working for a friendly coexistence of people in cars and on bikes, facing deadly accidents, economic powers and political obstacles. It was a simultaneously daunting and encouraging film, showing the global and personal scope and impact of cities built for cars. One sentence that stuck with me was from a city planner in Sao Paolo, who said that the traffic jam is the most effective awareness raiser for alternative ways of commuting and that more roads only lead to more cars.
After the film two traffic experts joined for a panel discussion, bringing the focus back from the global perspective to the situation in Dresden. Here the audience and the speakers were quite clear, that the situation for bikes in town is promising and has increased in the last years. By now about 17% of people in town commute by bike, a number that could be increased by 3% through just renovating older existing bike lanes. What is missing though is a plan for the city planners stringently considering bike and pedestrian traffic. Also priorities could be set to invest only in bike lanes instead of building bike lanes as an accessory matter when building a car road. Here it needs more political will and demand by citizens.
The Mobility Week in Dresden will end today with an event dealing with enhancing and smoothing the active pedestrian traffic in Dresden and it’s interlinks between public transport, car and bike traffic. It will be also the closing ceremony of this themed week, held by the environmental mayor of town, Ms. Eva Jähnigen.
So this week of information, inclusion, reflection and activity targeting citizens with very different mobility needs. I am hoping and confident, that this promising format will be repeated next year. This way a multilevel discussion can further develop our city into a place of friendly coexistence of humans, no matter if they move on foot, by bike, by public transport or in a car.