Germany's cities show Britain how to do green

A A A

After a week in green Germany, returning to Britain brings more than the usual end-of-holiday bump. It feels like leaving a society humanely and intelligently engaged with the 21st century to one still groping its way through the last one.

This isn't being down on my home country: it's hard to be easily impressed by anywhere else after savouring a stretch of the Pennine Cycleway as I did earlier this year. When you take your bike off the train at Appleby-in-Westmorland and pedal with the prevailing wind to Berwick, it's hard to think there are better places in the world.

But the sturdy efforts of underfunded Sustrans to provide safe and attractive cycling options seem paltry when taking to the bike in Germany. Cycling routes criss-cross Berlin, linking seamlessly into the rest of the transport network, spectacularly so in the capital's new main rail station.

The S-Bahn and U-Bahn networks there and in other cities I visited readily accommodate cyclists. On Thursday I spent hours a with a friend's two-year-old as he rode his pedal-less bike safely and happily around suburban Hamburg. In how many British cities would that be possible?

Traverse the country and wind turbines are a routine part of the scenery as increasingly seems to be the use of solar energy. The sense one has is of a country whose environmental concern is not just civilised and eco-friendly but hard-headed and businesslike, too.

Investing in the technology to develop renewable energy sources plays an important part in the German economy. In Britain, what's left of manufacturing seems ridiculously dependent on the arms trade.

Between Berwick and Berlin I heard one of the drivers of this German revolution, the Social Democratic MP Hermann Scheer, speak in a large but crowded Commons committee room.

Scheer – styled by Time magazine as one of its five "Heroes for the Green Century" – had just five MPs in that audience. Two of them – both Labour MPs – shared the platform and his enthusiasm. Neither will be standing at the next election.

Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch