miércoles, septiembre 29, 2004

Berlin, the eco-city.



Reflexiones sobre ecoturismo urbano y Berlín como un ejemplo para ello, una participación que tuve en un foro en inglés.


After having read some texts on urban ecotourism in a forum held at the internet (http://forum.planeta.com) I went outside and smoked a cigarette. What could be an eco-city?, said to myself, so I put off the rest of my no-eco attitude in an ashtray I found in a trashcan. I didn’t pollute the area where I live and with this unconscious movement I realized that Berlin has in almost every corner this kind of modern trashcans. Ok, they don’t look modern at all because they’re as ugly as every trashcan in every city with this orange blinding color, but they have this little spot where one can put off a cigarette and then dispose it with the rest of the garbage. If the ashtray in question is not filled up, one can let the butt there.

Trashcans in Berlin are part of one of the campaigns of the city to keep the environment clean. The government has even put some advertisement in every orange disposal where one reads “use me, it’s not complicated”, “this is one of a 245,000 subsidiaries around the city” or “open 24 hours”, as though they were ATM or 7 eleven stores.

Of course not everybody use them and one find sometimes areas such as metro stations’ entrances where there are thousands of cigarette butts all over the floor in an exaggerated way that one could speak of a new form of art. In Berlin everything is art, by the way.

Eco city, I thought, it’s this consciousness somebody, i.e. a person, a group of persons or the government itself, is trying to inject with little actions that are not necessarily related to the use of green areas, but to keep the whole urban area as a good place to live.

In this vague concept comes as well the use of bicycles, which in Berlin are as important as in Asia or Canada, but don’t appear to be a huge contemporary-art-installation full of metal wheels with no direction. In other words, there are no bicycle traffic jams. Not yet. Every city tend to grow up and Berlin is still a livable urban area, the biggest in Germany by the way.

Paths for bicycles are as important as streets for motorized vehicles, metro lines and sidewalks. They are running along every avenue and, where not, the government has set them within the streets with a special line as the one buses have. There are even special traffic lights for cyclists. This has come into a situation where a strong regulation is needed, because cycling has gone far beyond of making a promenade or touring the city, and they feel themselves with even more rights than everybody else in the street, even more than chauffeurs. It’s more likely to see a bicycle running over bicycles, pedestrians or bicycles crashed by cars or trucks (cyclist included).

The partially state/privat Deutsche Bahn, the enterprise managing regional trains, has set up an innovative way of moving around Berlin. It put in service some bicycles one can lease outside a metro station without signing or talking to anybody. One comes up from the metro station, grabs a bicycle and send an SMS to unlock it. The charge goes to the bank account related to the person who is sending the SMS (mensaje de dos vías, en México) and the code to unlock it comes right away in a reply the company send to the same cell phone.

Of course there are easier ways to grab a bike and these are hailing bicycle taxis, located as we see in Mexico City in the main tourist areas such as Potsdamer Platz or Brandenburger Tor here in Berlin.

Eco city, I kept wondering during my times off away from the forum, could be not only a means of transportation or disposing the garbage in right places, but also hearing classical music in metro stations, because that’s the right form to reduce or take away the epidemical stressful rhythm of the city… and to think clearly of what eco means in ones environment.

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