It is rare that local government offices serve as a place of pilgrimage, but the new town hall in the city of Freiburg, southwest Germany, is in a class of its own. A futuristic circular structure clad in solar panels and locally sourced birch, it is said to be the only public building in the world that is carbon positive — that is, it puts more energy back into the power grid than it takes out. Freiburg, said Horn, is a “bicycle city”. Cars are banned from much of the historic centre and restricted on some other roads to 20kph (12½mph). The proportion of people walking, cycling or using public transport for trips within town is the highest in Germany at 79% — compared with an average of 50% elsewhere. Von Zahn, who used to live in Düsseldorf, recalls the odd looks at the Ikea there when he took away his purchases in a cart attached to the back of his bike. “Here in Freiburg you can see five carts in front of the store, because everybody goes to buy furniture by bicycle,” he said.
Times 22nd Sept 2019 read more »