Strasbourg is bikes

Article published on Feb. 27, 2008
From the magazine
Article published on Feb. 27, 2008
With the inauguration of the TGV to Strasbourg, the city is staking its claim for modernity and the environment. The bicycle rules in this city that wants to overtake Fribourg as model of sustainable growth

Railway station, Strasbourg

An imposing nineteenth-century building by Berlin architect Johann Jacobstahl, Strasbourg’s spectacular railway station is covered –or concealed, according to some nostalgic travellers– these days by tons of glass and steel. With the opening of the French TGV East, it has become a clear example of what one of the capitals of Europe wants to be: hundreds of years of history serving as both bridge and axis to the Old Continent but modern makeup. When the light is good and you look hard, it is just possible to make out what is hidden behind imposing panes of laminated glass.

It is also where, recently arrived in the city, you can rent bicycles and start your tour of the city. The bicycles of Strasbourg are not like those of Peking: they are not for kids from the provinces come to work as messengers (as it was a few years, at least); neither are they like those of Amsterdam, swapped back and forth. But they are an essential part of the city

In the heart of Europe

The River Rhine made Strasbourg one of the most important cities in northern Europe. Since the seventeenth century, the city has been pre-eminently bourgeois and mercantile, with an important taxation and customs houses. Its economic power allowed it to remain independent during the Carolingian Empire. Nevertheless, it was the coin of exchange for the Franco-German wars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its symbolic importance in representing the need for peace and conciliation was rewarded in 1949 when it was chosen as the seat of the European council. Today it is also known as home to the European parliament, one of its principal tourist attractions

Window on the cathedral

That said, the majority of tourists still meet opposite the city’s ‘one-armed cathedral’, Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg, which has only one tower since its foundations would not support another. The window of nearby shop offers us a special view of the building: in front of the principal portal, ultramodern bicycles parked in readiness for tourists’ use

The woman, the doll ... and more bikes

If we allow our bike to follow one of the numerous, silent, unused tramcar lines, we will find ourselves among the flea market and antique and second-hand stalls of the Petite France quartier of the city, a pedestrians’ dream

Barges and modern art - under a bridge

The legend has it that whoever painted the horse that served as a model for the sculpture glowing in the patio of the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCS, Museum of modern and contemporary art) in Strasbourg died in a cave and is now forgotten. Nevertheless, every morning, this horse greets those who live on the old barges –like modern floating caves– moored on the canals

Girl on a bridge with ARTE

The city also has old bridges, people of the street protected against the cold with nothing more than cartons of cheap wine and bottles of beer, delightful old neighbourhoods, both loved and up for sale… But as a symbol of the avant-garde, the central studios of ARTE (the building in the centre of the photo) house the only entirely bilingual television network (German and French) in Europe

An eco-logic-al plot

Strasbourg is bikes; it is tramcars; but it is also urban projects aimed at creating small self-sufficient, ecological communities; such is the project ‘Éco-logis’ (eco-housing) that will be developed in the Neudorf neighbourhood over the next few years, following in the footsteps of the German city Fribourg. Cars: your time is up!