AYF Alumni Club founded in Freiburg
AYF Students in Concert

Cycling for Climate Change

Greetings from Vauban to the Paris Climate Summit

By Brendan Hanrahan, AYF 15-16

Living in Vauban has revealed to me again and again precisely why this city markets itself as “Green City Freiburg” and, as of yet, nothing demonstrates this more than my experience on the 28th climate change bikes 01 bikesof November this past year. Following a satisfying Thanksgiving dinner and night of casual no-stakes poker with fellow AYFers, my over-capacitated stomach and I were fully prepared to sleep in that morning. However at around 8 a.m., I was awoken by the Klingeln of my doorbell followed by the Klingeln of my roommate’s doorbell. As I mustered the energy to unwrap myself from my blanket cocoon, my roommate—also an AYFer—barged in to make sure I’m awake, still in boxer shorts and bed head. “That was our neighbor, dude. Apparently he needs our help to set up speakers for an environmental Demo-thing. I guess we need to meet him in Vauban’s Market Square like right now.”

I chuckled at the fuzzy the details surrounding the invitation but I was immediately intrigued. Primarily because our neighbor is a famous personality in the Vauban student community, known for tinkering with solar cells, urban-gardening, a preference for reggaeton electronic music and especially his red hair (No joke. Those who don’t know climate change bikes 02 generatorhim by name, call him der Rothaarige). Being called upon by der Rothaarige was sure to make for an interesting time, regardless of how vague he had conveyed what we were actually getting ourselves into.

After throwing on clothes, I quickly grabbed a Brötchen for an on-the-go breakfast and made my way to the Marktplatz. Once there, my roommate and I encountered a group of maybe 40-50 Freiburgers of all ages already out despite inclement sprinkling rain brandishing posters calling for action against climate change. Our neighbor and his roommates greeted us with broad grins, happy we had joined them. We were led to a crazy contraption, essentially a pedalable quadricycle pulling a trailer with two mounted old bicycle frames. The chains of the mounted bikes were connected to a rear axle generator which harnessed the mechanical energy to produce electrical current. This current was then used to power speakers that blasted techno music to pump up the demonstration participants. “Damit kann man eine ewige Party machen! – With that thing, the party can go on forever!” our neighbor proudly declared. “Your job is to keep it going.”

climate change bikes 06 james and brendanI would be lying to say this was an easy task. To provide an adequate current for the speaker both people pedaling had to maintain a pace certainly beyond leisurely. But fueled by the energy and passion of our fellow demonstrators we were not fazed in the least and set to work. The march started in Vauban, continued down Merzhauserstraße, went up Lorettostraße, until a left on Günterstalstraße led us to Johanneskirche. Here we met another group of demonstrators and what was 40-50 was now 300+ strong. Continuing up Kaiser-Josephstraße, we picked up even more people as we went past the University and Stadttheater. The final destination was the Stühlinger Park where 1500-2000 people had gathered to raise awareness and demonstrate support for the coming climate talks in Paris (Klimagipfel).

climate change bikes 07 demoThe Badische Zeitung reported the next day that similar demonstrations had occurred in Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Mannheim. Apparently more people were expected, but the rain kept numbers down. Even so, 2000 people raising environmental awareness is quite impressive. And although I am no stranger to demonstrations, almost a daily occurrence in Madison, WI, never had I seen so many people gather for an environmental cause. As someone who studies Botany and Environmental Studies, this really resonated with me. I truly felt at home, surrounded by people who feel as passionately as I do about finding a solution to the climate crisis. My roommate and I were so thankful to be part of such an event. This is an experience we will never forget and further confirmation that our decision to live in Vauban—and even to come to Freiburg in the first place!—was worth it a hundred times over.