Cyclists on a cycle expressway

Cycle freeways – an opportunity for Germany

“Will Munster soon be everywhere?” This question was asked in 2011 by the WELT authors Jens Hartmann and Christian Mutter – meaning what was stated in the article heading at the time: “Germany is becoming a nation of cyclists”. Munster, a designated bicycle-friendly student city, is regarded as a role model: in the North Rhine-Westphalia city more trips are made by bike (38%) than by car (36%). In the online text the authors clarified that citizens in Germany are increasingly switching to two-wheelers and the reasons for this.

The situation has not changed significantly since the article was published in 2011; in fact the trend has intensified. Increasing awareness of the environment and one’s health, experiencing nature, avoiding morning traffic jams and the undisputed benefits to one´s piggy bank – these are all reasons why more and more Germans prefer cycling to cars or even public transport. Above all, that’s not just for the weekend outing or the sporting activity, but primarily for professional and student traffic. The bicycle commute from home to work is booming, in line with the ever-increasing sales of e-bikes and pedelecs (pedal electric cycle). The latter enables those without cyclists’ leg muscles a quick and fluid ride. Furthermore, after 12 kilometers to the office on an e-bike, one does not necessarily jump from the saddle covered in sweat.

It is this development and its concomitants that make changes in Germany’s demands on the qualities in infrastructural planning. In other words, if more cyclists are on the road and even faster through the technical improvements, the need for suitable routes increases. A special role is played by the demographic and urban development in Germany. More and more people are no longer living where they work, preferring a small house in a chic suburb and a daily commute to work. The travel routes to the workplace become longer in the course of this suburbanisation development. On average, the length of all the trips Germans travel by car is about 10 kilometres, a distance that can also be easily covered by bike or e-bike.

The solution to meet the above requirements and the ever-increasing trend of switching to bicycle saddles is cycle freeways. The German Cyclists Association (ADFC) defines cycle freeways as “high quality cycling routes that directly link residential and commercial areas and city centres with one another.” Following the example of other European countries such as the Netherlands, in future Germany more and more cycle freeways will shape the cityscape and landscape between cities and important centres. “Cycle freeways are beacon projects. They stand for modern cycling,” says Wilhelm Hörmann, ADFC traffic officer. In Munich, for example, the potential for four such high-speed routes in a radius of 20 kilometres around the city is being examined with the latest finding being that the need for these routes is as great as the benefits they bring with it: “As a long-term vision, the realisation of cycle freeway connections in (….) the Munich region is desirable.” Based on the nationwide developments, the Bavarian capital will not remain the only region with such barrier-free, direct and comfortable routes for cyclists or e-bike users in the coming years.

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