“Cities should have a dream” Freiburg takes liveable and sustainable cities to the next level

One of the great things about going on a well organised planning study tour is not just that you get to see great liveable places first hand but that you get to hear directly from the experts that helped create them.

Freiburg was a real highlight in this regard as we got to hear from Prof Wulf Daseking who was pivotal in Freiburg’s transformation. Prof Daseking was a planner in Freiburg from 1984 to 2012 and former a powerful collaboration alongside Mayor Breuer who was in his role for 20 years to make Freiburg into one of the most liveable and sustainable cities on the planet.

Prof Wulf Daseking started with a quote he attributed to Jamie Learner: “Cities should have a dream”. Freiburg’s dream was to be a city of short distances, missed use, quality public transport, diverse housing, community engagement, and quality green spaces.

To do this Freiburg is built around green fingers with rail transport at their centre as Prof Wulf Daseking is explaining here:


I will go into depth in relation to the amazing new development areas of Vauban and Rieselfeld in the next post. In this post I want to focus on Freiburg as a whole and why it is such an inspiring, sustainable, and liveable city.

Energy is where the Freiburg story starts. The publication in 1972 of Limits to Growth followed by the 1973 oil crash were very influential on the thinking of Freiburg Council. This was also a time in which 17 new nuclear power stations were proposed for Germany including one in Freiburg. This issue brought the Freiburg community together to reject nuclear power and show it was not required as investment in renewable energy could ensure future energy demand was met more sustainably.

Following decades of major investment in renewable energy and infrastructure Freiburg reduced its CO2 emissions by 21.7% from 1992 to 2012. It met its Kyoto target easily at a time when Australia’s CO2 emissions rose by around 8% for the same period

Today 80% of Freiburg residents choose to buy green (renewable) power. The wind turbines around Freiburg are part owned by Freiburg citizens. Football fans can buy PV solar panels on stadium roof of their football team and the few high rise buildings there are in Freiburg operate as small power station as they are covered in PV:

PV side to office building

Transport. Cars optional. Prof Wulf Daseking started by saying that for public transport to be successful it must be safe, quick, fast, convenient,  and clean. And Freiburg has done this very well. As a result 38% of young people in Freiburg do not even bother to have a driver’s license as they just catch public transport or cycle.

Freiburg is on track to almost double trips by public transport and bike to 20% and 35% respectively whilst almost halving car use to 20%. As a result, there is 84% cost recovery from public transport fares for Freiburg public transport. In contrast the German average is 77% and Perth is as low as 23%!)

This investment in public transit in Freiburg has been made possible as the German state government will by 80-85% cost of new tramways. It extended light rails to areas before the people even moved in.

Public transport was so mainstream in Freiburg that most hotels (including ours) even offer as a matter of course free public transport tickets to all hotel guests. You can bring your car to Freiburg if you like the CBD of Freiburg is vehicle free except for deliveries between certain hours. Instead they provide multi-level car parking on the ring road around the Freiburg central area.

freiburg parking

Freiburg is a city that works really well on every level. Despite a smaller population it was a buzzing centre, no doubt assisted by the thousands of university students that live in and around Freiburg’s centre. Prof Peter Hall describes Freiburg as “the city that did it all” and I was truly inspired.

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One Response to “Cities should have a dream” Freiburg takes liveable and sustainable cities to the next level

  1. freoishome says:

    Sent you an e-mail attachment with some more detailed thoughts.

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