One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in Freiburg is how many bicycles there are. As soon as you walk out of the Hauptbahhof (main train station) there are bikes EVERYWHERE. Right next to the Hauptbahnhof is a parking garage for bikes with parking spaces for 1,000 bikes, plus other parking all around. People were speeding by on bicycles right alongside the cars, and even small children had were trailing behind their parents on small bikes with streamers and bright colors. My initial surprise by how prevalent of a mode of transportation the bike is quickly wore off as I learned more about the Fahrradkultur or bike culture that is a very important part of Freiburg.
Freiburg is a very green city and as such it make sense that its citizens will choose to take the more environmentally friendly route. So that, coupled with a very well planned biking infrastructure, has led Freiburg to have a large population of bicycles. Primarily there are two bike high ways that run through the city that allow people who are commuting into the Innenstadt (inner city) to travel very quickly. There are also many other bike paths that connect to the highways and all around the city. Plus the bike lanes on the roads, especially busier ones, are very clearly marked. In some places cars are not allowed, but pedestrians or bicyclists are. It is really easy to get around the city on bike.
As someone only staying a semester I really did not want to buy a bike, but I wanted to experience this side of Freiburg. Thankfully I was able to find a place to rent a bike for only 15 euros per month. Although I do enjoy riding my bike and am a fairly confident bicyclist I immediately felt out of my element biking here. I think what I didn’t truly realize as a pedestrian watching the bikes fly past me, is that people here aren’t just riding their bikes for fun. The bike is a legitimate mode of transportation and as such people ride fast. For the most part, they aren’t out for a leisurely ride through the countryside, they are riding to get to work or the market or home. That really threw me off when I first tried to merge onto the bridge back to my apartment after getting my bike. People were flying past me and I felt like I couldn't ride fast enough. That first bike ride was a little more stressful than I expected to say the least.
I haven’t actually ridden my bike as much as I expected to before I rented it. I have used it at least a few times a month, mostly to go quickly to the grocery store and back or to the bus station. A couple of times I have ridden it around just to explore and enjoying being on a bike, but as I said before that is not the general viewpoint of people biking here and I have always come home from those rides a little tense from trying not to get run over or in someone’s way.
What I misestimated with my plan of how often I would bike is how much more comfortable I am walking or traveling with the Straßenbahn (tram). Most distances are short enough for me to walk or longer ones are easily accessed with the Straßenbahn. Biking falls into a weird middle ground that becomes slightly more of a hassle than if I was to have walked or jumped onto the Straßenbahn. However, I do not want to dissuade anyone from biking here. There are many people in my program who also have bikes and ride them almost everywhere, every day. For them it works really well and they have truly become a part of the Fahrradkultur of Freiburg. I was never that big of a bicyclist, but still wanted to engage with the culture here and try it out. I don’t regret my decision to rent a bike at all, but I can see now that I also would have been totally fine without it. At the very least I tried it out and got to experience Freiburg from a new, fun, and often fast paced perspective!
German Word of the Day: The German Word of the Day is das Fahrrad or the bicycle. Mutliple bikes are called die Fahrräder. Fahrrad is also sometimes shortened to just das Rad. Someone who rides a bike is der Radfahrer.
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<p>I am a sophomore German and Secondary Education major at Susquehanna University. Some of my favorite activities include reading, hiking and being outside, running, and yoga. I am actually a certified yoga teacher! I want to be a German teacher after I graduate. My favorite word in German is Glühbirne which means light bulb, but translates literally to "glowing pear"!</p>