Sunday, 22 July 2012

Frantically soaking up some Cycling Culture

I am overdosing on comfortable cycling! You gotta take it whilst you can! I'm like a little squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. Yes, you may have guessed it. I am currently on the Continent, seriously soaking up some compelling Cycling Culture. With loads of public space, people milling about, bicycles, trams, you never feel alone. And I can confirm to you, all this makes for a much happier healthier environment allround.

I am visiting Bremen and Braunschweig. Both cities are home of a cycling modal share of 20-25%. Newcastle take note! How can you learn from these cities? Shift gear! Listen. Learn. They really do know how to divide it more fairly here; and know that without the bicycle it ain't gonna happen. Nothing is going to shift.

We made the acquaintance of a cycle-friendly roundabout. Once you are on it, you are on it. You can spend your whole holidays there, cycling in cycles if you wish... no escape from its soothing safety! The priorities are right and make for a convenient crossing.

We also met a few Fahrradstra├čen. Road space where bicycles are pronounced king! A very scary concept for UK people indeed, I know. Public squares are so much nicer too. And people feel they belong, and stick up for their neighbourhood, and demand better conditions; they are organised, active and involved citizens.

Cycle paths are instrumental for the functionality of safe and direct routes. Directional (not mode-specific) traffic lights make for an integrated caring road system. As are calm neighbourhood streets providing cut-throughs and route choice to people on foot as well as bike.

It's a level playing field. It's populated by people, and listening and caring authorities seeing the bigger picture. Here you can gloriously glide along and at a good speed too, rather than frantically checking, constantly looking over every shoulder, twice, thrice, nervously, to see whether someone is there, could be there. Someone who's intent on ignoring you, because you don't exist. And "don't worry you ARE happy" is the advice from the UK to its struggling cyclists.

What all this is telling me? We have a long and arduous way to go. The UK has to at least start playing catch-up with a positive agenda for the future
  • START squeezing space for vehicles and car use 
  • START catering for PEOPLE. 
 Prolly not something the kingdom feels too comfortable about.


  1. Down in my area we have a massive roundabout which I go well out of my way to avoid. At one place it turns into 5 lanes which one has to cross. For a cyclist it's absolutely lethal.

    Here in my area of Christchurch, Dorset, they are very fond of roundabouts rather than traffic light type junctions. If only our roundabouts were like the one in the video.

  2. I recently returned from a trip in Belgium and the Netherlands. The cycling was amazing. If I'm going somewhere with pretty good infrastructure, I usually travel with my own bike. It's one of the best ways I've found to really get a feel for a place.