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germany commuting

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Old 02-21-09, 09:29 AM
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germany commuting

My boss just came back from Germany and sent me this picture. Just wanted to share the photo with everybody and show the massive volume of commuting there.
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Old 02-21-09, 09:39 AM
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Good grief! Thats commuter heaven! I was just noticing the ones parked in the square at the front but there are two more lots of bikes in the background. I wonder how many Puchs are there, I hear Puch is making a comeback there. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 02-21-09, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Big_e View Post
Good grief! Thats commuter heaven!
Yes it is. I commuted for 5 years in and out of Heidelberg. My bike is in the foreground in the front of the HBF Haupt Bahnhof. Pictures taken in 2001 or 2002.
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Old 02-21-09, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by gageplate View Post
My boss just came back from Germany and sent me this picture. Just wanted to share the photo with everybody and show the massive volume of commuting there.
The land of the Autobahn and the bicycle... pretty cool. The only way you'd ever see that many bikes in America at one place is before some sponsored ride.

Too bad we continue as a nation to treat cycling as a game, and bikes as toys.
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Old 02-21-09, 10:54 AM
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Most of those from what I can see look like upright cruiser style bikes. Think the Europeans are on to something there?
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Old 02-21-09, 04:29 PM
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Zürich is the same way. The main train station is a mad house of bikes. Just as strange is the lack of locks. The locks you see are fixing the back wheel to the frame not to anything solid.
Most bikes are more upright and far from any American MTB or roadie.
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Old 02-21-09, 05:23 PM
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My son was in Germany for a year as an exchange student, and reported, yes, lots of bikes. Something else he pointed out was that cars weren't as critical because when anyone goes anywhere, "they're just going down to the corner". Meaning, I think, more compact cities. So yes, there's all these bikes, but the people aren't commuting 35 miles on them, either. Or, to put it another way, it's not just a matter of they ride bikes and we don't- it's also much easier for them to ride bikes. They're also not riding in Dallas in the summertime- I suspect things would be a bit different then.

Something else to keep in mind is that this isn't something that just happened overnight. They didn't decide cars were bad one day and start riding bikes. Read through some of the history on the cars here, for example: www.microcarmuseum.com While we were having a car boom after WW II, it wasn't exactly that way in Europe.

I've noticed varied comments on the lock situation. Evidently, in Amsterdam, for example, bike thievery is common, and the motto is "use a cheap bike and an expensive lock". So the situation there is not entirely perfect, either.
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Old 02-21-09, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
Something else he pointed out was that cars weren't as critical because when anyone goes anywhere, "they're just going down to the corner". Meaning, I think, more compact cities.
Yup, definitely. And if you need to get to the next town, there's going to be a bus or train that'll take you. Shoot, even cab rides between towns aren't that expensive.

My sister and her family have been in a town in southern Germany named Heidelberg for nearly three years and still haven't gotten a car of their own. She bikes quite a bit to get around, and my niece is just starting to bike regularly to school. Her husband sometimes rides as well, although he often takes public transit, too.

There are a few fancy road & mountain bikes in the shops, but they're rare -- WAY rare. The shops I saw don't even put such bikes in the windows to show them off.

Nearly every bike has a generator of some kind for lighting. Sidewall dynamos are plentiful, but dynohubs are all over the place, too. It cost me only about 130 Euros three years ago -- then equivalent to maybe US$170 -- to get my sister a Shimano dynohub, built into a new wheel, and a new headlight and taillight, installed. I could never expect such a smoking deal here in the US.

It's also so easy to ride there. Here's one of the few shots I took where a bike crossing is plainly visible (I was Smart car hunting at the time ). Bikes turn to take the red painted crossing, which continues above the curb of the bridge that's off to the right. Bike lanes are usually either painted a different color, paved with a different texture, or physically separated from vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Bikes also use their own traffic signals, so when you're crossing on your bike, you're not competing with motor vehicles for the same space.


And my own mass bike parking pic, taken outside the main train station in Heidelberg. Most, if not all, of these bikes are simply parked here instead of at the owners' homes while they travel elsewhere. My sister often kept her bike locked to another railing downtown (along with a hundred other bikes) while living in a residential area on one of the neighboring mountains.
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Old 02-21-09, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
My son was in Germany for a year as an exchange student, and reported, yes, lots of bikes. Something else he pointed out was that cars weren't as critical because when anyone goes anywhere, "they're just going down to the corner". Meaning, I think, more compact cities. So yes, there's all these bikes, but the people aren't commuting 35 miles on them, either. Or, to put it another way, it's not just a matter of they ride bikes and we don't- it's also much easier for them to ride bikes. They're also not riding in Dallas in the summertime- I suspect things would be a bit different then.

Something else to keep in mind is that this isn't something that just happened overnight. They didn't decide cars were bad one day and start riding bikes. Read through some of the history on the cars here, for example: www.microcarmuseum.com While we were having a car boom after WW II, it wasn't exactly that way in Europe.

I've noticed varied comments on the lock situation. Evidently, in Amsterdam, for example, bike thievery is common, and the motto is "use a cheap bike and an expensive lock". So the situation there is not entirely perfect, either.
Yes and no...in the Netherlands around 1972 they made a governmental decision to support cycle infrastructure and have invested in it heavily every since. Build it and they will come. We could do it in the US, not on a national scale due to the size of the country but on a local level. However given how firmly entrenched the automobile is in the US it will be an uphill battle.

Just like mass transit, interstate rail and bus services. The US spends an annual average of around 800 million dollars on passenger rail and we have a population of 300 million, and have a crappy rail system to show for it. Germany with a population of around 82 million spends an annual 22 billion dollars on passenger rail...you get what you pay for.


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Old 02-21-09, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
However given how firmly entrenched the automobile is in the US it will be an uphill battle.
And, a lot of times it's literally "uphill". We've gotten away with a lot of climbing over terrain by planning around cars. Whenever I think of my dad commuting by bike to his job, I think of how he'll have to spend the entire return trip, no matter what route he takes, climbing. My parents live at the highest point in their city, in fact -- there's a water storage facility in their neighborhood, placed there so that it can flow "downhill" to everyone else.

Most urban areas I've visited in Europe have been pretty flat. There may be some mild grades here and there, but nothing like downtown DC.
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Old 02-21-09, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
And, a lot of times it's literally "uphill". We've gotten away with a lot of climbing over terrain by planning around cars. Whenever I think of my dad commuting by bike to his job, I think of how he'll have to spend the entire return trip, no matter what route he takes, climbing. My parents live at the highest point in their city, in fact -- there's a water storage facility in their neighborhood, placed there so that it can flow "downhill" to everyone else.

Most urban areas I've visited in Europe have been pretty flat. There may be some mild grades here and there, but nothing like downtown DC.
Plenty of grades around my place too...here is a link to a 40 mile loop the local cycling club does near my house....and I live on the edge of the Coastal Plains! BTW the wussies left out a partial loop that has a grade that IIRC is in the 19% range for about 1/4 mile

There are plenty of places in Germany, Switzerland and even parts of the Netherlands that are hilly. They do have nice compact cities for the most part as well as smaller retail stores scattered about versus the massive retail complexes that are so common in the US. As an example Sweden has 3.2 sf of retail per capita versus 20.2 sf in the USA! and of course in the US you must have so many auto mobile parking places per square foot of retail space...leading to even more sprawl and distance between two points.

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Old 02-21-09, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
There are plenty of places in Germany, Switzerland and even parts of the Netherlands that are hilly.
True, yet most of the cities are settled into the valleys between the hills and mountains. It's feasible to go about one's daily business without encountering much of a grade, if at all (the steepest could be just the arch of a bridge).
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Old 02-21-09, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by stringbreaker View Post
Most of those from what I can see look like upright cruiser style bikes. Think the Europeans are on to something there?
I think you're probably spot-on here. Europeans, by and large, use bicycles simply as transportation, much as many Chinese people still do. They don't use SPDs or other clip-in pedals. They don't wear specialized clothing. They don't wear helmets. In many cases, they use IGH and chain guards, to avoid soiling their clothes. They also don't ride much more than 12 mph, as a general rule. In other words, during the week, most people in Europe do not ever regard the bicycle in athletic terms; it's just a way to get to work, or the train station, or the store, or whatever. In many ways, what we do here in NA, with our Lycra, clip-in pedals, and "cycling culture", sends a message to the public at large that cycling is not something that serious people do. If we don't address this issue, cycling will never gain much acceptance as a legitimate means of transportation.

Here's an aside: I teach middle school, and have occasionally suggested to my students that they might want to consider riding a bike to school now, and maybe even think about using a bike to get to high school later on. All of them totally reject this idea, which isn't surprising, but not for reasons you might expect. According to my students, it isn't the bike itself they object to, it's the helmet. If they didn't have to wear the stupid-looking helmets, which look stupid in and of themselves, and which also mess up their hair, biking is something they might be willing to consider.
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Old 02-22-09, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
True, yet most of the cities are settled into the valleys between the hills and mountains. It's feasible to go about one's daily business without encountering much of a grade, if at all (the steepest could be just the arch of a bridge).
Just like lots of U.S. cities, eh? Not every city is San Francisco. Ever been to Chicago?
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Old 02-22-09, 05:27 PM
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I lived in Germany for 4 years in the mid 1970s while in the US Army. I spent about a year with the former "Berlin Brigade" in what was then West Berlin, and I had a 1 speed upright city bike that I used to pedal all over the city. It wasn't all that uncommon to see somebody else in olive drab fatigues pedaling down the street. Berlin was a great city for biking, and today it is even better. The terrain around the whole metro is mostly flat so a one speed or internal gear bike is fine. I sure miss the great public transportation there (S bahn and U bahn), which was my way around when the weather too nasty to want to pedal. I would love to go and spend a summer there again and re-visit all the places I used hang out at 35 years ago.
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Old 02-22-09, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Just like lots of U.S. cities, eh? Not every city is San Francisco. Ever been to Chicago?
Yup. Ever been to Omaha? Ever been to DC?
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Old 02-22-09, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
Yup. Ever been to Omaha? Ever been to DC?
Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Just like lots of U.S. cities, eh? Not every city is San Francisco. Ever been to Chicago?
Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
True, yet most of the cities are settled into the valleys between the hills and mountains. It's feasible to go about one's daily business without encountering much of a grade, if at all (the steepest could be just the arch of a bridge).
And yet, we have no where near the transportation modal share for cycling of many European cities...
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Old 02-22-09, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
Yup. Ever been to Omaha? Ever been to DC?
Only drive by Omaha on I-80 and ride by on AMTRAK; visited DC several times, seemed rather flat to me.
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Old 02-22-09, 07:34 PM
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On the light-on-every-bike, I thought that was a government requirement for selling the bikes there, not just prudence on the owner's parts.

I was thinking I had read that the Netherlands had invested a lot of money in bike infrastructure for years, not just since 1972.
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Old 02-22-09, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Only drive by Omaha on I-80 and ride by on AMTRAK; visited DC several times, seemed rather flat to me.
The Platte River valley that bisects Nebraska is a floodplain, which makes the whole state look ruler-flat to people who never get off of the interstate. Head far enough north and it's all sandhills -- ancient sand dunes, really -- that are just as perpetually hilly as you'd expect sand dunes to be. Not many super-steep grades, but you're going along and the only "flat" terrain is at the crests and valleys. The rest of the time is spent climbing and descending.

The land under Omaha itself is rockier and was carved by larger rivers, which ended up with steeper, hillier terrain. Look out your windows again as you cross the border with Iowa.

DC seems flat? Where did you go? The flattest part I've found yet is the Mall. Everything else is on a slope.

Paris is flatter than DC. So is Oslo, Frankfurt, London, Vienna, and just about every other big European city I've visited. Of course, in many of them, once you get out of downtown you're climbing a mountain, but going up there doesn't matter unless you either live there or want to do some sightseeing.

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Old 02-22-09, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
On the light-on-every-bike, I thought that was a government requirement for selling the bikes there, not just prudence on the owner's parts.

I was thinking I had read that the Netherlands had invested a lot of money in bike infrastructure for years, not just since 1972.
Lights are required on bicycles used for daily transportation in many EU countries and you will be ticketed if they are inoperative...regardless of your age. They are also required in the US but it seems to seldom be enforced.

They do...1972 is when they got started on it.

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Old 02-22-09, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by zephyr View Post
I lived in Germany for 4 years in the mid 1970s while in the US Army. I spent about a year with the former "Berlin Brigade" in what was then West Berlin, and I had a 1 speed upright city bike that I used to pedal all over the city. It wasn't all that uncommon to see somebody else in olive drab fatigues pedaling down the street. Berlin was a great city for biking, and today it is even better. .
I did two tours in Berlin-- '72-'75 and '88-'91. During the second tour I was seriously into cycling including commuting, training, and racing. I agree that it was a great place to ride especially for the few months that the Green party came to power and banned autos from the Gruenewald! Most of my tour was spent working at the USAF intel site in Marienfelde. Once the WALL came down I would ride into the east, cruise along the old death strip, then cross back in and go to work. We shut down Marienfelde with a couple months to go and I went to work at Teufelsberg which meant riding home at midnight through the forrest, and trying to avoid the wild hogs!

I've never enjoyed cycling more than I did those three years in Berlin!
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Old 02-22-09, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
There are a few fancy road & mountain bikes in the shops, but they're rare -- WAY rare. The shops I saw don't even put such bikes in the windows to show them off.

]
I must have frequented different stores because there were no shortage of high end bikes where I shopped. There were shops that specialized in more utilitarian rides however. That's one of the things that made cycling so great in Germany. You got some respect from autos because the driver might have a brother who's zipping along on a training ride, while his mother is pedaling down to the local Aldi for the day's groceries!
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Old 02-23-09, 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
And my own mass bike parking pic, taken outside the main train station in Heidelberg. Most, if not all, of these bikes are simply parked here instead of at the owners' homes while they travel elsewhere. My sister often kept her bike locked to another railing downtown (along with a hundred other bikes) while living in a residential area on one of the neighboring mountains.
I've done a little work in Heidelberg. Lots of the people in the office were from out of town and just left their bikes at the train station over night. I guess a few had bikes at their hometowns too.

Surprisingly difficult to find a cheap bike there. I ended up with a 5 speed from a charity place, cost 50 or 80 euro. For about 200 you can get a department store bike with lights/racks/fenders.
Fantastic bike, left it in the rack at the office and it was there the next summer when I went back.

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Old 02-23-09, 04:23 AM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
On the light-on-every-bike, I thought that was a government requirement for selling the bikes there, not just prudence on the owner's parts.
Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
Lights are required on bicycles used for daily transportation in many EU countries...
German law is different from most EU member states in the sense it specifically requires dynamo powered lights. Also the technical specs (including wattage) for dynamo and lights are strict. Only training bikes (defined as weighing in below a fixed weight limit which I forget) may have lights that operate solely on batteries. I don't know about Netherlands, but here in Finland only color and placement of the light is defined in law.

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Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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