I am a Brighton resident living this year in Jena, Germany. Jena is a town of about 100,000 people in central/eastern Germany. Most importantly for this blog, our family of four is here without a car. Over the next nine months, I will be posting about our experiences with active transportation (biking, walking) and public transportation (bus, streetcar, train).
So far, it has been unequivocally great to be car-less. Part of what makes it possible is our physical situation:
- The children’s schools are a 4-minute and 7-minute walk away. My husband’s office is a 20-minute bike ride away, 90% of which is on bike paths.
- There is a grocery store basically next door to each of their schools. (And with a refrigerator that’s probably 1/6 the size of our NY frig, there isn’t any temptation to buy lots of food that would then be difficult to lug on bike or foot.)
- The center of town is about 15-minutes away by foot, with safe sidewalks the whole way.
- We are a 6-minute walk from a stop that is served by two streetcar lines and a bus. I don’t think we’ve ever waited more than ten minutes to get into town. This is in contrast to the bus we can take to work in Brighton, which is a 15-minute walk away and runs every 40-60 minutes weekdays and not at all on weekends. The transit isn’t cheap, but it’s especially handy when the weather is rotten or one is carrying a heavy, bulky instrument (which we do twice a week to lessons).
- Jena is in a river valley (the Saale, for the geographically inclined), so where we live and most of the places we go are FLAT. There are steep hills all around the city, which are beautiful and are where a lot of people live. If we were living up in the hills, we’d be getting a lot more exercise but would have needed more expensive bikes than the used ones we bought (see picture) , and we might not trust our children to bicycle independently as much as we do.