Stefan Räther and Lennart Pusch from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences attended the ESSENCE course Smart Sustainable Cities (September 2016 – February 2017). Stefan Räther is a student in Industrial Business Administration; Lennart Pusch studies Automotive Engineering. They both participated in the Alcoy traffic project.
Stefan Räther explains: “Spending time in Alcoy to help with solving the CO2 problem as a result of the dense traffic was an enriching experience. Being present in person really makes a difference. It changes your perception when you can see and feel the problem. That is very different from just reading about it, or hearing about other people’s experiences with regard to the problem. It was a challenge to identify the problems and to understand the inhabitants. We noticed how hard it is not to use a car in Alcoy. The challenge was to make it more attractive for the inhabitants of the city to walk, so they will use their cars less often than they do now.”
“We really felt like being consultants working on a project for our client, the local government”, Stefan Räther continues. “We elaborated some ideas the residents can use in a simple way, for example the idea of walking distance maps of the city. The city of Utrecht was our source of inspiration for this idea. By using a walking distance map of the Utrecht city centre you can actually judge by yourself how far a destination is when you walk instead of going there by car or public transport. There are circles on the map that indicate: this is a five-minute walk, this is a ten minute walk, this is a fifteen minute walk. People in Alcoy often suppose: oh, that is much too far to walk! We wanted them to be aware that their destinations are often much nearer than they think.”
“I liked the atmosphere of learning, because everybody could choose a topic for themselves and was really eager to dive into it”, Lennart Pusch explains. “It was interesting to have different approaches to learning from all over Europe. The fact that the teachers in Utrecht are very informal in their attitude towards the students was new to me. They would just hang out and talk to you. In Germany teachers are much more distant and we call them only by their last name. I liked it the Dutch way, but I have to admit that students might work a bit harder when there is more distance.”