Building a Greener Future: A Conversation with Leipzig's Urban Planning Lead Ahead of Velo-City 2023

28.04.2023, Anastasia Sukhoroslova

As urban development continues to evolve, it is crucial to gain insights from those at the forefront of these changes. In the lead up to the world cycling summit [Velo-city 2023]( in Leipzig, All Things Urban sits down with Thomas Dienberg, the city's Deputy Mayor of Urban Development and Construction. With two decades of experience in urban planning, Dienberg discusses global city development trends, Leipzig's role in the green transition, and the essential skills for future urban developers. His unique perspective brings to light the challenges and triumphs of city-level action, and the potential of strategic urban planning for a sustainable future. # You have been working with cities for two decades already. Based on your experience, what are the most important global trends in city development? What role does sustainable mobility play in them? Climate protection and adaptation to the consequences of climate change are certainly the most important tasks of urban development today. Of course, sustainable mobility plays a major role in this - because we must take all possible measures to reduce our carbon footprint. On the other hand, it's about making our cities more livable. To achieve this, we must focus on ensuring that people can move around our cities easily, safely and comfortably. {{Pic 1: City of Leipzig © Stadt Leipzig}} # Throughout your career, you have been working for various municipalities and now you are leading Urban Development and Construction of a 0.6-million city of Leipzig. What is the most challenging in bringing the global trends to reality as a city planner? Our most important task is to involve everyone in the process of urban redevelopment. The global trends are not just about implementing individual measures, but about nothing less than a complete change of culture, away from a car-centric mindset. It's not just about changing the energy source, but about changing behavior. In order to achieve this, we need to involve as many people as possible. We must not build barriers, but bridges. # From desolate urban brownfields to lively neighbourhoods, from open-cast coal mines to lakescapes, Leipzig has undergone a striking process of urban transformation in just 30 years. Today, it is one of Europe’s most dynamic and liveable cities. Can you tell us about how the City of Leipzig has been leading the transition towards a greener future and how the bicycle became catalyst for sustainable urban transformation? By using the motto "careful urban development with our citizens", we have sought and found solutions for a wide variety of challenges, diverse communities and complete neighborhoods. One of the results of the path taken: in 2018, the Leipzig City Council unanimously voted in favor of the so-called sustainability scenario as part of the "Mobility Strategy 2030". This means: massive investments in public transport, among other things, and significantly less car traffic on the roads. Bicycle traffic and its promotion plays an important, if not the most important role of all modes of transport in this context. {{Pic 2: Mayor of Leipzig Burkhard Jung © Stadt Leipzig}} # This year your city is hosting the next edition of the [world cycling summit Velo-City](, putting a lot of effort into bringing hundreds of advocates, cities, decision- and policy makers, researchers and industry leaders to Leipzig to exchange best practices. Why do you find it crucial for your city and how would the summit help urbanists in bridging ideas into practice? The World cycling summit Velo-city is so important for Leipzig for very different reasons. Just to name a few aspects: we bring together a large number of experts from all over the world and from very different disciplines. Their exchange and cooperation is the prerequisite for learning from each other. This makes Leipzig an incubator for detailed solutions as well as for perspectives on the big picture. In addition, Velo-city helps us to create the necessary publicity for making our cities more sustainable in the future. # To bring any ambitious ideas and projects to life, urban practitioners would need not only knowledge and a deep understanding of the industry, but also a certain skill set. What advice would you give to those who want to build a career in urban development? What skills will be crucial in the next 5-10 years? As I just mentioned: new, sustainable solutions are very rarely found sitting alone at the desk. Networking skills are therefore required. More importantly, however, today's administration cannot simply decide on its own how to shape the further development of cities. In Leipzig in particular, it has been shown time and again that citizen participation is a real success factor. That's why the ability to mediate is increasingly becoming a hard skill. But here we are also experiencing a generational change: today's young professionals don't need my advice, they have grown up with a completely different mindset and know the challenge of our and future generations. {{Pic 3: City of Leipzig © Stadt Leipzig}} # What has been the most impactful measure for promoting cycling in Leipzig? I think in Leipzig it's not about individual, outstanding measures but about the variety of concrete solutions. It is about promoting bicycle traffic in all its needs and facets. In the public discussion of recent years, the two aspects of secure parking facilities and closing gaps were certainly dominant. Today, for example, you see countless bicycle racks throughout the city - parking facilities that simply didn't exist in the past. Right now we are looking at bicycle parking garages. As far as closing the gaps is concerned, a lot is happening, especially in the city. In addition, we already have continuous cycling routes from the city center to the recreational areas in Leipzig's floodplain forests or to the lakes in the south of the city. In this area in particular, we have set ourselves the goal of achieving much more. {{Pic4: This article has been brought to you through our media partnership with with [Velo-City 2023]( in Leipzig. }}