Freiburg-im-Brisgau  - Quartier Vauban : commerces et immeuble
Vauban, Germany: but where are the cars? photo by adeupa de Brest

This New York Times article describes a place that I had thought only existed in wild fantasies: a modern suburb with few cars.

Vaubhan, Germany – Residents of this upscale community are suburban pioneers, going where few soccer moms or commuting executives have ever gone before: they have given up their cars.

Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here. “When I had a car I was always tense. I’m much happier this way,” said Heidrun Walter, a media trainer and mother of two, as she walked verdant streets where the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor.

Amazing, I highly recommend you read the whole thing. From the look of this photo spread by Adeupa de Brest, it does seem like Vauban is much more dense than most American cities, but from a bit high up, it seems a plenty verdant and suburban.

17 Replies to “Car Free Suburb”

  1. I’m ready to move to Deutschland now…

    Here’s a bird’s eye view too- in addition to the housing, in this view you can see the parking garage, the tram stop (with tram), and a bus all right there. Cool stuff.

  2. I’d heard of Vauban but didn’t know the extent of it. I’m about ready to cry. That’s exactly the setup I want my kids to grow up in.

    From the Nearly Car-Free: More Photos:

    “Many people move to Vauban not for environmental reasons, but because they feel that a car-free environment is far better for children. Indeed, children are everywhere! With no cars on the streets, many residents call Vauban a children’s paradise, where youngsters wander from a young age in safety. Even some residents who say they miss the convenience of a car at their doorstep have concluded that it is worth the tradeoff.”

    1. It’s likely really safe for children. I was hit by a car riding my bike as a little kid…

  3. It’s cute. The whole car free zone looks to be 800m x 500m; about 90 acres (the UW Seattle Campus is 700 acres). It reminds me a bit of the short stint when I lived in base housing in Germany. Good times but I think I’m done with dormitory living.

    1. Cmon, Bernie, “dormitory living?” The NYT calls it upscale so I doubt those lowrise condos have shared toilets and open showers. It was a French base but the barracks and mess hall are long gone. :)

      Speaking of college campuses, though, we clearly do know how to design these in the US but for whatever reason they’re limited to the 18-24 set… and don’t have grocery stores.

  4. Cool. Only thing is, where are all the people? There was almost no one around in most of those pictures.

  5. An interesting and noble concept, but is this place really a suburb by American standards? With a density of 5500/square mile, it’s more tightly populated than most American cities, and in the photos, the housing appears to be primarily apartments. As result, seeing this experiment through the eyes of Sunbelt America, this really appears to be suburbia in name only. It’s a somewhat pastoral setting removed from a the “big city,” but the density and housing stock are quite urban.

    Personally, I like the concept, but I see it as having limited appeal. A more realistic goal for most of the U.S. would be suburbs with walkable town centers rail transit park-and-rides, allowing families to consolidate around one car per household rather than one car per adult.

    1. Those densities seem different if you have few jobs, but yes, it is certainly more dense than most suburbs in America.

      But it;s not that far off from the Eastside. Kirkland is in the ~4000pp/sqmi Bellvue and Redmond are both in the ~3000pp/sq mi. So it’s not totally nuts.

  6. hey, i was just there!

    the whole city of freiburg is pastoral, vauban is about 8 minutes from the altstadt by light rail. vauban is about 50% denser than the altstadt. you can walk from one side of freiburg to the other in about an hour, it’s not large.

    it’s not really car-free. several “streets” aren’t accesible by car but most are. part of vauban is student housing (s.u.s.i.) and doesn’t look as nice as the “family area”

    there are amenities and groceries within walking distance. you absolutely don’t need a car to reside in freiburg.

    freiburg has a very fast and extensive NODAL transportation system utilizing light rail and buses. this is in addition to the s-bahn which serves more regional ‘burbs. bicycles are used extensively, even in winter.

    freiburg is also the heart of the green community in europe. several local architects are doing great things with sustainable/plusenergie projects (in vauban and surrounding city)

    i’m thinking a larger community similar to this in the port area would be phenomenal.

    1. It would be cool to live there, since you’re about 45 minutes from strasbourg, france (and thus a TGV away from Paris), and about an hour or so from Zurich

      1. it’s about 2-2.5 to zurich (via basel)

        fastest way to paris, fbg>offenburg>strasbourg>paris, it was around 4 hours.

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