Student blog: Fresh Brains in Kassel

Fresh Brains improving and promoting cycling in Kassel

Blog by Marija Satibaldijeva, first year student International Spatial Development (ISD), NHTV Breda

This trimester of International Spatial Development (ISD) course is mainly about mobility issues and focused on improving and promoting cycling. It was a great opportunity to choose one topic out of four for your LAB project. And I decided to try myself as a part of “Fresh |Brains” team and I don’t regret it. We, four students of ISD course, Marija, Viesturs, Wanja and Adriansyah in this “Fresh Brains” session had to cooperate together with 4 students from Wuppertal University to bring new ideas to the municipality of Kassel in Germany to improve cycling situation in the city.

Exploring places and communicate with locals

The project was amazing because we could experience everything in the real life by exploring places and communicating with locals, sharing ideas and making a great team with German students and not by sitting in the class and googling the necessary information. As everything in the course is completely new for me, I have learned a lot about mobility and road network in just only one week. Working in such project brings you a lot of fun with group and teachers and, in my opinion, it’s the best way to broaden knowledge not only about spatial planning, but also develop your communication skills.

Kick-off with co-mates of Wuppertal University

Our new trimester’s LAB has started with meeting co-mates from Wuppertal University with supervisors in Breda and showing them the city on bike tour and having discussion during lunch in Water tower of Belcrum. (It was fun because we had to develop this area in our first LAB project and we’ve never been on the top of Water tower! :D ) Even though our journey to our workplace Kassel was long (about 6 hours) it was exciting because we had a chance to look a bit of German metropolis Frankfurt. We decided not to spend boring awaiting time at the station, so went to enjoy some sunny minutes walking nearby Central Business District.

Photo 1: Street view Frankfurt

Frankfurt station
Photo 2: ISD-students exploring train station   

Kassel, a city with a rough landscape

Kassel, the city where we had this project, has almost the same population size as Breda but it is completely different by it look & feel. You can feel it when you take step of train and just look at the streets. No cyclists and everywhere are cars. It was already confirmed that we will have a challenge in the project - how to promote cycling in the city. In Kassel I had new experience in cycling up on hills, because the city has rough landscape. In Kassel our transport was Konrad’s company rental bike, what was funny experience for all of us. I think that Konrad will remember our squad for quite long time because we had struggles with unlocking them during the first days, but at the end of week we made progress and problems were gone!

Parked Konrad Bicycles

Photo 3: "Konrad Bicycles"

Our team conducted research about the situation in Kassel with H-O-S Concept methodology, what was new practice for all of us. From the first view it seems complicated, but it really helps to develop further concept of your ideas. Our vision consists of the three pillars: Hardware, Orgware and Software. (You can see our vision in the booklet) We explored city by riding around with bicycle and could easily recognize lacking functions of city roads for cyclists, and we have faced disrespect from drivers’ side. It is a big problem for the safety on the road. But Municipality of Kassel has already started to think how to make city infrastructure better and safer with realizing projects.

Cycling Kassel 
Photo 4: observation research

Getting introduced by Municipality of Kassel

Before we could start work on our task, we had introduction presentation in Municipality of Kassel, where we saw some examples of infrastructure improvements and had guided tour around the city on cycling routes. And also we took look into office of Stadtteilbüro at Friedrich Ebert Straße where we could see how mobility specialists realized their project of Friedrich Ebert Street and made city’s infrastructure better. It was really interesting to look at the projects of the Stadteilbüro and see the result outside – the street.

New Friedrich Ebert Street |
Photo 5: New Friedrich Ebert Street (Kassel)

King Konrad on a Bicycle

FreshBrains in Kassel presented ideas to popularize cycling with “biKing Konrad”. It was integrated program with several aspects – infrastructure, organization and community. BiKing Konrad program’s concept says that it will put cyclists in the throne on the roads and bring back Kassel’s founder King Konrad cycling on the bike.

The whole team’s work was divided between three groups on distinct topics like respect for cyclists, parking alternative and dealing with e-bike sharing and companies. And each group had its own street of Kassel to develop according to the topic and I was in the group about respect for cyclists. The project has taught also that you have always be ready that you might change your topic and vision due to gained research material. But it was really interesting way to find answers by cycling around the target area and interviewing locals because their opinion matters and helps to bring new innovations in your project. Also we understood mobility situation better by travelling by lovable transport of Kassel –a tram. ISD course ’’tourists’’ explore cities by taking pictures of roads and using public transport! Our group developed the strategy how cycling can be promoted in the city of Kassel with different tools.

Mountain Hercules
Photo 6: view from mountain Hercules

Busy days and full schedules

Our usual project day in Kassel started with breakfast in the hostel and arrival to our workplace at Uni Kassel. We usually had brainstorms and discussions in the morning, where we developed ideas and received feedback from the rest of the team and supervisors. I was in the team of thinking how cycling can be improved in Kassel with the help of marketing. So my group went to do research outside the walls of class by cycling in the city, interviewing cyclists and students in the area of University campus. Our whole team developed vision according to Hardware – Orgware – Software method.

The first pillar Software was about events such as bike races to promote cycling and gain attention and education - the cycling school for children. The second pillar Orgware was to improve bicycle rental organization’s Konrad-app as a helpful tool to make cycling more fun and efficient. The third pillar Hardware was about improving the infrastructure and improve the parking garage and create bike cafés. Our busy work at the University was always rewarded with delicious dinner at the restaurant in the end of the day, what was a different place daily.

Presentations and positive feedback!

Even though we had a busy schedule and a lot of work to do, especially last days in summarizing research and making the presentation, we made it! What was a pleasant feeling when you presented ideas with the team to the Municipality of Kassel! And best thing is that, experts liked our ideas and told us that even they used to seem extreme it is possible to use and implement them in real Kassel! We are glad that we could show City Hall that cycling situation in the city can be changed and Kassel has the power to become more sustainable city.

Final Presentation Kassel
Photo 7: final presentations of outcomes

Fresh Brains, we gained a LOT of new knowledge

In general description about the experience as participant of “FreshBrains” in Kassel, I want to say that in one week we gained A LOT of new knowledge and work was enjoyable with the whole team and amazing supervisors. I think it is the trip what nobody will forget especially because it was more great thanks to delicious food we had and “free time” in getting know with road network and Kassel itself. Everyone is happy about the results and has put some new memories in the box.

I woud like to thank Breda University of Applied Sciences, “FreshBrains” supervisors and especially Ineke Spapé for this opportunity. And thanks to Viesturs, Wanja, Adriansyah, Dominik, Hamit, Julian and Thomas for being the great team and for valuable tips from Simon Knappe. Hope that there will be more projects like this at ISD course! It was best experienced LAB where we could combine work with fun and make city better with cycling!

Fresh Brain Team
Photo 8: Fresh Brains team NHTV / Wuppertal University

See the end-result in the attachment!