Sustainable Transport that Works

Lessons From Germany


World Transport Policy and Practice, Vol. 15, No. 1


This paper describes how Germany has balanced high levels of car ownership with safe, convenient, and integrated public transport, cycling, and walking alternatives. Germans walk, bike, and take public transport for 41% of their daily trips, four times more than the 11% share of the green modes in the USA. That helps make urban transport far more sustainable in Germany than in the USA. Since the 1970s, German cities have improved environmentally friendly alternatives to the car while restricting car use. To illustrate how such policies are implemented at the local level, this paper presents a detailed case study of Freiburg, which is widely considered Germany's most sustainable city. The innovative transport and land use policies introduced in Freiburg offer useful lessons on how to increase transport sustainability: First, policies and planning are fully integrated across modes of transport and coordinated with land use policies. Second, public transport systems provide modern, convenient services with deeply discounted fares for frequent riders. Third, planners have implemented controversial policies in stages over an extended period. Fourth, government officials effectively communicate the benefits of sustainable transport to the public. Finally, policies restrict car use and make it less convenient, slower, and more expensive, especially in centre cities and residential neighbourhoods.

Filed in: Promoting Walking and Bicycling, Plans and Policies, Funding

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