On my first visit to Germany I stayed at Esslingen-Am-Neckar, in the valley of the Neckar river. At the time, the town was still pretty car-dominated: The bus and rail stations exuded shabbiness: the station in particular was a rather dingy hole: my main memory of it was the darkness cast by an ugly canopy grafted onto the formerly grand building. The station was fronted by a busy road, so pedestrians and cyclists had to scuttle across as and when they could. The bus station was in a similar state, and likewise cut off from the town, while people driving could park under the centre, which gave a clear message about the value of people who came by public transport. On the other hand the bus and trains ran on time and were integrated with through ticketing, and a large part of the old city was pedestrianised, which put the town many years ahead of the UK at the time.
Since then vehicles have been largely banned from the high street and several side roads have been blocked and turned into mostly pedestrianised areas. Now the gradual improvement has reached the railway station. The road which currently blights the front of the station will be moved between the building and the railway track ie: out of the way, leaving the was clear for people and bikes to get to the network of pedestrianised roads in the centre. Obviously this will make a lot of space available, and this will become a large square (ie: space for people) with a new bus station.
In the first week of January, the diggers were already at work demolishing the old buildings, and to my lasting satisfaction, the canopy has been partially removed which has made a dramatic difference to the station building. There’s already more infrastructure and bike parking (And I’ll blog about that sometime), and of course bikes are allowed into the centre of the town while cars have to skirt around the outside for the most part, so the future of pedal power looks good.
Hopefully the politicians of Ostfildern are taking notice. I’ll keep taking pictures as the work continues.