Mobility is the topic about what we use when we have to get around in our hometown, village, and city. That is why we started the day with thinking about what we usually use in our everyday life. Bikes? Cars? Trotros? The answers varied a lot depending on where our group members were coming from. Obviously, Ghanaians and Togolese use different means of transportations than Germans – these cultures are totally different as well as the quality of the streets. However, even looking only in Germany, the possibilities vary from city to city.
As we are staying in beautiful Bremen, of course we had to check out the ways of transportations this city has to offer. Bremen qualifies as a “biking city” and they recently developed a “bike quarter” where cyclists are being pushed into the centre of attention. Cars have to let the cyclists and pedestrians go through first. The members of traffic, who usually are considered the weaker link, therefore take over and can have the roads to themselves for once. Fortunately for us, we got a guided tour through the bike quarter and because of that were able to notice details that would have surpassed us otherwise. It’s impressive how little has changed but what a huge impact these actions have on ongoing traffic. Simple measures like taking away a little parking space or changing the road material can make a great improvement on the security of both cyclists and pedestrians. After all, as Lisa, our friendly guide, pointed out: a city is not made for the cars but for the people. Apparently, cars are standing still for 23 out of 24 hours of the day, being useless and just taking up space. In the bike quarter, the people have started to recapture that space. This includes highlights like a new area to sit, meet and talk to people at the university, a new repair café, where people can drink coffee as well as work on their bikes, and added traffic lights to secure and simplify the cross paths in the city. Thankfully, the city of Bremen has not stopped their projects for improving traffic but according to Lisa are even planning to add more bike quarters as well as new bridges for pedestrians and cyclists. Thanks again for this very informative tour!
In the afternoon, we continued the topic of mobility through a discussion about the subject. We learned that traffic actually adapts to the space given to it, so if we open up crossroads because of traffic jams, only more cars will choose that intersection which will lead to new traffic jams etc. So enlarging the roads does not make traffic go through more easily but just takes away valuable living space. As a protest to cars taking the space, people have started a worldwide movement of protest: a day where the citizens take over parking spaces and redesign them for a few hours. This is supposed to make all of us realize what certain places could look like without cars. After all, we can change the situation if we really want to and sometimes it’s easier when we know what we are looking for.
In the evening, the first cultural evening took place. The Germans prepared a game evening including “1,2 oder 3”, “Reise nach Jerusalem” and other fun party games. We learned many random facts about Germany, e.g. how many different bread varieties there are (answer: over 3000!). After much arguing about points, ambition and laughing, the winners got a little price. But also the other team of course got a price for participating.