Freiburg prides itself on being a “green” city, and one of these points is that more people travel with bikes or public transportation than use cars. My host family doesn’t even own a car!
I live in the western-most section of Freiburg, Rieselfeld. Freiburg is relatively compact, though, so my apartment is only three miles from the city center. One thing I’ve learned about living in a city, however, is that distances are longer than they seem! I’m from the “Motor City”, where everyone has a car and three miles isn’t far at all, but here it takes me 35 minutes to commute to class every day. Luckily, because I live at the end of the line, I always get a seat during the morning rush hour!
To use the trains, I had to buy a semester ticket. This ticket allows me to ride around the city unlimited from April to August, but was relatively expensive. Usually you just hop on and off the trams without anyone checking your ticket. However, occasionally officials walk through the tram and check tickets, and if you’re caught riding the public transportation without a ticket, you incur a 60 Euro fine!
No one checked for my ticket at all for the first month I was in Freiburg, but then the transit system did its massive, city-wide crackdown on Good Friday. Luckily, I had my ticket with me! A friend of mine was caught without hers, though, and was fined. She was able to go to the transportation center and present her valid semester ticket the next day, and the fine was reduced to only 8 Euros. The crackdown caused mass panic throughout the city, though, as regular Schwarzfahrer (fair dodges, lit. “black riders”) were caught with fines. While I was sitting in the packed Munster before the Good Friday service, a woman stood up from the congregation and shouted to everyone “Hey! Listen here! Today is the crackdown on the public transit! Everyone, buy a ticket!”
Bikes are also a very important mode of transportation in Freiburg. International students are able to buy a bike at full price, but then sell it back to the same shop for as much as 70% of the price at the end of the semester! Biking can also be faster than using the trams, especially on weekends where the trams only run every 15 minutes or less.
Bike paths are an integral part of the city’s infrastructure, and they’re well used.
Finally, you always have the option to walk! In fact, sometimes that may be your only option. Last Tuesday, the public transportation workers went on strike, which meant that no trams or buses were running in the entire city. Instead, I had to walk to class and back, which took me a little over an hour each way. Luckily, the strike only lasted 1 day, and I managed to avoid walking during the hail storm.