Last evening I met up with some old friends from New Zealand – they are Germans but we all met when I worked in Auckland at a Backpackers there and they where guests at the hostel.
On my way to the meeting I walked from the old part of town to the “new part” which is still a couple of hundred years old.. and crossed the river and past some local government buildings (the finance ministry for one).
What struck me was how efficient public transport and also pedestrian and cycle friendly Dresden is. In fact in front of almost every building there are places where one can “park” a bicycle – and there are special lanes for cyclists and even special traffic lights.
Of course I knew all this as it was like that before I left – but perhaps back then I took it for granted – or it was not as good. It seemed like every person owns a push bike. Of course there are also those who take the word “bicycle” to a whole different level – as we noticed when we met this fellow on his really cool semi motorized bike.. he even took me for a ride – yeah!
So cycling and walking are two things that are very, very common and safe here – just when the New Zealand Herald had a article on reducing the death toll of cyclists – perhaps they could look to Europe for some answers? NZ Herald – article on cylists death toll
Speaking of looking to Europe for answers – the other big topic back home – especially in Auckland – is of course public transport – or the lack thereof. Now Dresden has no less than 12 different tram routes with a total of 131,4 km – encompassing all suburbs. The first electric tram operated in 1893 the first horse drawn tram in 1872!! In addition they have 29 city owned bus routes and numerous privately owned routes, covering almost every corner of the city but also the towns nearby.
Everybody I talk to either takes the bus, tram or bicycle to work – hardly anybody uses their car – and if they do – they car pool.
The city is actually expanding their tram network to cover new suburbs – so unlike Auckland where roads are built first – here they build the tram lines first – then the houses and roads. As a result I am yet to experience a traffic jam in rush hour due to to many cars… that is not saying they don’t have traffic jams or rush hour here – they do but mainly caused by road works (which are needed to upgrade – not widen existing roads) or the recent flood.
One could argue that Dresden with it’s 500.000 + inhabitants is much smaller than Auckland and that is the reason it works so well – but it also works in big cities like Berlin or Munich – and if it works there – why not in Auckland? That is of course my very personal opinion on the matter and I am sure there are others who have equally compelling reasons for supporting roads and rely solely on buses as mode of public transport – but hey – that’s why I moved out of Auckland and to the lovely Bay of Islands – to escape all of that…