Planning for Bicycles in Germany

Sven von Ungern-Sternberg, Freiburg, GERMANY

ABSTRACT: Freiburg, in the Southwest corner of Germany, is renowned for its superb provisions for bike riders, and the high percent of trips (28%) made by bike. “Successful planning for the bike must go together with a balanced transportation plan that emphasizes the pedestrian, public transportation, and traffic calming, as well as compact land use”, emphasized Dr. Sven von Ungern-Sternberg. Freiburg’s compact land use and sprawl-prevention policies ensure that 90% of the population lives within 5 km of the city center.

Dr. Ungern-Sternberg explained how the City managed to achieve this high use of the bicycle and showed the design details. Initially, Freiburg invested in building bicycle routes completely independent of vehicular traffic, with bridges and underpasses to avoid dangerous intersections, creating a “bicycle highway” that is extremely well used. Mixing bicycles and pedestrians was found to be dangerous, so these bike routes now also have separate pedestrian routes. In addition, a network of wide bike lanes are clearly marked on streets. To increase safety, lanes allow bikes to pull to the front at intersections, and offer special bike lanes for those turning or going straight. Some low traffic streets are identified as bicycle-friendly, and occasionally, to complete the network, bikes are permitted to travel the wrong way along one-way streets. Biking is restricted in the pedestrian zone. Special affordances for bicyclists include: over 6,000 bike parking spaces in the city center, as well as at apartment buildings, schools, and Kindergartens; bike route signs; bike and ride for all public transportation; and a bike service station. Biking is now embraced by young and old, in winter as well as in summer.

“Considering the small investment needed to encourage biking”, Ungern-Sternberg observed, “this is the most affordable way to change the modal split.”

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