Cycling in Munich

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Bike path in central Munich

Cycling in Munich accounts for 17% of all traffic in the German city of Munich. This makes Munich the leader in bicycle use among the large German cities and therefore (since the summer of 2010) Munich calles itself Radlhauptstadt (the bicycle capital).[1] Around 80% of the population of Munich own a bicycle.[2]

From 1992 to 2010 a total of 32 million euros were spent on new bike racks and investments in expanding the cycling network. For environmental reasons, the city aims to increase the modal share for cycling to 20 percent by 2015[2] and for this additional financial resources for infrastructure, public relations and events have been allocated: from 2010 annual funds to promote cycling will triple to €4.5 million.

Bicycle network[edit]

Bike path along Goethestrasse in Munich

Munich's bicycle network is more than 1,200 kilometres long[2] - this is more than 50 percent of the total length of Munich's road network. There are 212 one-way streets in Munich which are open in both directions to cyclists (i.e. contraflow). There are also dedicated Fahrradstrassen: bicycle streets where motor vehicles are limited to 30kmh and bicyclists are allowed to use the full widths of the road.

Since 2007, the street signage for Munich's bicycle network has slowly been replaced by new green and white signs, whose type is twice as large and the destinations and distances are marked. Signed bicycle routes connect points in the city in ways that are suitable for cyclists and there is minimisation in obstruction on roads by pedestrians and better flow through traffic lights. The latter, of course, applies only to a small number of cyclists as bicycle speeds vary widely, being completely dependent on the ability of the rider. The reduced obstruction by pedestrians is still much higher than that on the road, meaning that the concentration requirements are much high for cyclists than drivers, lowering convenience.

The majority of bicycle routes, however, are not segregated from pedestrian paths, making them dangerous to both parties due to unnoticed intrusion by pedestrians into the neighboring lane; vehicle users orient via white surface markings, those on foot via physical barriers such as height differences. They are, however, generally segregated from motorized vehicles via parked cars, causing serious problems. Visibility of each other is compromised, leading to dangerous situations at intersections. Passengers entering and exiting cars do so directly on the bike path, and do so with less caution than on the road-side of the vehicle, endangering themselves and cyclists. This endangers children in particular.

The quality of the paths varies widely, being occasionally damaged by the roots of trees planted between them and the road beside it - the road is rarely affected - and more often by cars and trucks which park on them.

The narrowness of the paths, the meandering course around objects such as trees, metro-access, street parking areas, advertising pillars (making it longer than the corresponding road course), along with the presence of pedestrians, make the cycle network useful only to very slow riders. Faster cyclists - generally those commuting - and those who use child transportation trailers are at a severe disadvantage; there is little room to overtake or navigate safely. Physical barriers, such as entries to parks or rail side lanes, require dismounting, especially to guide a child trailer through them.

Being unnecessarily elevated above road level means that each intersection requires a ramp. These are rarely continuous; rolling down from and up onto the lowered curb lead to discomfort and possible wheel damage. The ramps between buildings and the road are constructed for motorised vehicles not for the pedestrians and cyclists for whom the path is for. This effect is very noticeable even when walking, and more so when guiding a pram or wheelchair or bicycle. At easily attainable speeds, vehicle instability results from being lifted from the saddle through the up and down motion, requiring the cyclist to travel much more slowly than he/she would on the street running parallel.

Traffic light signaling for both pedestrians and cyclists is the same, not taking into account the large difference between walking and cycling speeds, which can be larger than that between cycling and driving speeds within city limits (walking speed: 5 km/h; cycling speed on level, smooth and unobstructed surfaces: 20 km/h = 4 x 5 km/h; legal driving speed: 50 km/h < 4 x 20 km/h). This means that cyclists are required to stop long before traffic flow change.

As of 2012 there are about 32,000 bicycle racks in the urban area not including the 50,000 bicycle parking spaces at bus stops and public transport hubs.[2] However, the space dedicated to them is very low.

The majority of bicycle stands are unsuitable for the intended purpose. Both locking and stabilization of the bike is usually only possible via the front wheel, not the frame, and the distance between spaces is so low that open and closing locks and placing and removing bikes can be extremely difficult, even causing material damage to one's own vehicle and those of others. At Ostbahnhof, for example, an old bike station for over 80 bicycles takes up the space of approx. 2 cars.

The intention of having a cycling network is commendable, but its present form does not reflect the reality of the bicycle as a viable vehicle for personal transportation, with the modest funds serving only to expand and reenforce an inappropriate infrastructure. All this obviously discourages the choice of bicycle over automobile as a mode of transport, particularly for the safe transportation of children, very effectively countering the above mentioned goal.

Instead of classification as a different class of vehicle, and with it the permission to use public roads with a suitable lane, the bicycle continues to be defined as a toy/sports device and a disturbance to 'real' vehicles, even in the "bicycle capital".

Public bicycle hire system[edit]

A Call a Bike public bicycle in Munich

Munich's bicycle hire system, the Deutsche Bahn run Call a Bike, is available in the central area of the city, that part of Munich surrounded by the ring-road known as the Mittlerer Ring.

References[edit]

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