Monday, June 02, 2008


Berlin - where proximity fits bicycle culture

Imagine calling a friend in a city of 5 million people and they say, "I am at work and have bicycle. I will meet you for dinner in your neighborhood."

Everywhere you go bicycle lanes are filled with people of ages and all kinds of bicycles traveling at a broad range of speed, everyone less than 20mph. Shops and gathering spots for food & drink are no more than a few 100 meters apart

That's the capital of Germany. When I ran across this post quoting Paul Krugman (NYT) on the Carfree USA Blog comparing Atlanta and Berlin, I was reminded of the great people friendly qualities of this large German capital. As the Krugman quote says,

Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.

Cars are like cancer once they move into the vital arteries of a city, take over and kill its ability to serve the needs of the organisms that it was designed to serve in the first place. The big difference is Berlin is a modern city and Atlanta is well, hooked on phony logic, just like most US cities who were deluded into believing "cheap oil meant community doesn't matter."

Think about that, 5M people, going to work on a bicycle. That implies a great deal about how a city manages its people moving responsibilities. I don't know what Atlanta might be doing but the Twin Cites of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota have made some great strides in the past few years. The Transit for Liveable Communities is the kind of comprehensive set of alternatives to driving that is needed to counteract the diabolical ills of an automobile culture: 3 acre lots, McMansions, SUVs. entertainment news, obesity, strip malls, 2 hour commutes, need we go on?

We visited many carfree areas in European cities and as we traveled through rural Germany by train, everywhere we looked there were people on bicycles riding down country lanes or stopped at places along the trails and paths to enjoy the outdoors.

What a reminder of how so many of us have lost the capacity to enjoy what we have in our own local areas. In a word, proximity.

Proximity is what makes where you live special. What is it that you don't yet know about your place? When we value where we live, we make it better. The slower we go the better it gets. The better it gets, the more we want to make it a better place to live and discover new ways to enjoy what it has to offer.

That is how we discovered birds. Click here and look at the posts below to see what I mean.

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