Ruhr valley on the right path to greener mobility

By transforming former industrial land and investing in green infrastructure, an EU-funded project in Germany’s Ruhr region has demonstrated how industrial heritage can be adapted to suit the environmental and economic needs and concerns of the 21st century.

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From left: Ulrich Carow, Dr. Ursula Kessler, Jens Carow, Juergen Harks and Uwe Ramthun use the information boards set up on the cycle path created as part of the Alley of Change project in Herten, Germany. RegioStars 2016 © Associated Press From left: Ulrich Carow, Dr. Ursula Kessler, Jens Carow, Juergen Harks and Uwe Ramthun use the information boards set up on the cycle path created as part of the Alley of Change project in Herten, Germany. RegioStars 2016 © Associated Press

" Continuous cooperation between local administrations within the Ruhr region has been crucial to this project’s success. City partnerships mean that local knowledge and resources can be shared. "

Michael Schwarze-Rodrian, Ruhr Regional Association

Industrial regions throughout Europe are reinventing themselves as attractive places to live and work, where sustainability actively contributes to a high quality of life. The ongoing transformation of the Ruhr region in Germany is an excellent example of this. The integrated strategy will boost environmentally-friendly mobility within the Ruhr region and help connect potential new sectors of economic and sustainable growth. 

Thanks to the Alley of Change project, which received EUR 4 890 003 through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), a former mining railway track has been transformed into a 10 km bicycle lane. An app for the Alley of Change project was created by a local start-up company with the help of secondary school pupils. The app provides information along the lane, explains urban transformation, the change from coal to renewable energies and aims to encourage young people to protect nature. 

Regional cooperation

The Alley of Change is a key element of the integrated strategy “Green Infrastructure Ruhr" in which local and regional blue-green infrastructures are combined with green urbanism, a network of bicycle lanes (for low emission mobility) and with local initiatives for climate protection and adaptation. 

Cities within the Ruhr region have cooperated for years on projects to boost economic renewal and structural development. The project makes a valuable contribution to the region’s Emscher Landscape Park (ELP) which is situated at the heart of an agglomeration of around 20 cities. The ELP acts as a platform for integrating green development projects and connecting urban centres, for example the new bike lane links the nearby cities of Recklinghausen and Gelsenkirchen. 

Indeed, the project is a good case study illustrating effective cooperation at the municipal level. The cities of Herten and Gelsenkirchen have worked together with their utilities on green district heating based on mine-gas and solar-thermal panels. By working together, both cities aim to be part of the greenest metropolitan agglomeration in Europe. 

On the path to change 

The Alley of Change project has demonstrated how integrated development can directly benefit citizens. One result has been the “New Mine Westerholt” masterplan which was the outcome of a competition of international planners and architects and aims to redevelop the whole former coal mining site between Herten and Gelsenkirchen.

Another practical example of the attraction of the new bike lane is the planned location of a new railway station in Herten. Some 40 years after the closure of the former railway station, a decision has been made to open a new station by 2019, linking up with the Alley of Change and New Mine Westerholt.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Alley of Change – Allee des Wandels – Green Infrastructure for Sustainable Urban Development” is EUR 9 780 006, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 4 890 003 through the “North Rhine-Westphalia” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date

09/09/2016