CHANGING CITIES

The mission of Changing Cities puts an emphasis on livable cities. Creating awareness of civic problems, they implement creative actions that inspire people to initiate change themselves by supporting them in getting involved in a variety of campaigns and initiatives.

They bring their expertise into the political discourse to create the framework conditions for the transport transition locally, at the neighbourhood level, to the state and federal political level.

Atelier Gardens caught up with Changing Cities when they moved to the Atelier Gardens campus last year. For more information, you can learn more about what they do here.

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On a snowy February day early this year, nearly 40 fully packed cargo bicycles arrived on site. They are Changing Cities—the newest tenants on the Atelier Gardens campus. The organisation, which some people may still remember from the bicycle referendum in Berlin, was founded in 2016. The members’ primary motivation and goal? To make cycling comfortable and safe.

Ranghild Sørensen, spokesperson for Changing Cities, says that the association collected 100,000 signatures for the referendum within just three and a half weeks. The government also recognised that the city was ready for a change in mobility and passed the Mobility Act shortly thereafter. Changing Cities set an important movement in motion with the referendum: today, almost 7 years later, over one million signatures have been collected all around Germany for another 54 bicycle referendums. According to Sørensen, this is one of the association’s greatest successes: “Transport policy is no longer left to the experts, but is debated in public discourse.”

Towards the Redistribution of Public Space

Changing Cities quickly realised that passing the Mobility Act was not enough. “You need political consent and willingness to implement it. And there isn’t enough of that at the moment,” says Sørensen. Of the 2.698 kilometers of cycle paths that should be built by 2030 according to the Mobility Act, merely 113 kilometers had been completed by January 2023—a scant 4.2 percent. This observation comes from a bicycle network monitoring.

New ideas and actions are needed, and therefore the association pulls up their sleeves and starts from scratch. Once again, a bottom-up approach to the redistribution of public space is at the centre of action, starting with citizens. Inspired by an initiative in Barcelona, the Kiezblock campaign was born: transit traffic should be kept out of the neighbourhoods, which in turn should improve the quality of life of residents. The Changing Cities association pursues a similar idea with the school zone campaign. Simple measures should be taken to ensure that children are safe on their way to school. “There are schools that have fought for a crosswalk for seven years and are still waiting,” says Sørensen.

Large demonstration against the stop of cycle path expansion, July 2nd, 2023

A Shared Vision & Philosophy

The twelve-member team feels right at home in the new offices south of Tempelhofer Feld. The association identifies with the campus’ motto, “Soil, Soul, and Society,” because it reflects its ambition to redefine public space. Especially in terms of social issues, Sørensen sees an overlap with Changing Cities’ attempts to change the way we live together.

As Changing Cities is a relatively new resident, there haven’t been that many points of contact with the Atelier Gardens community yet, but the association has high hopes for the green spaces outside the offices, particularly in the summer. “We want to hold meetings with volunteers here, and possibly host conferences in the future,” says Sørensen. The in-house cinema also offers interesting possibilities.

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