Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Healthy Cities Are a Reality: Old Cities with Old Ideas Can Offer a Future

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Healthy Cities Are a Reality: Old Cities with Old Ideas Can Offer a Future

Article excerpt

With the relentless tide of global urbanization can a city with a thousand year history offer a vision of a possible future? Modest yet self-confident, Muenster in the North Rhine Westphalia region of Germany has been the site of visionary innovations. The protodemocratic socialism of the Anabaptists of the 16th century and as the major site for the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th century, which laid the foundations of international law, this city has demonstrated what can be achieved by small but significant shifts in perspective.

The registered population of 300,000, swelled by nearly 50,000 students, make more journeys by bicycle than by car to take the title of the most bicycle orientated city in bicycle-friendly northern Europe. There is barely a road in the city without a dedicated route for cyclists. There are flocks of cycles on every street huddling together like urban pigeons. Large portions of the city's roads are used for cycle freeways displacing motor traffic as a second class inconvenience. Amongst the cycles are designs built for every need from 'sit-up and beg' reliables to new designs for every age and pocket.

Muenster has expanded around a radial distribution of access roads connected by dual carriageways and ring roads. These star-shaped corridors interdigitate with 'green zones' defined by trees and city natures which feature rabbits rather than foxes. No trams and no metro, but a reliable system of buses support the bicycles with security racks at bus stops promoting the use of both forms of transport for integrated journeys. In the background there is the gentle purr of huge barges carrying hundreds of tons of freight via the canal network that links the major river systems. …

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