Friday, August 28, 2015

Take care in Bensheim

We are members of the Letzebuerger Velos-Iniativ (Luxembourg Cycling Club). Together with the City of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg government the club has produced a mini Highway Code for all classes of road users. In the cyclists' section I noticed the line that one should not overtake to the right of other road users. It is a pity that this brochure has not been distributed in Bensheim. We had cause recently to cycle along the cycle path along the edge of the Bensheim bypass. Although the path was quite wide some idiot woman on a bike insisted on squeezing past us on the right although there was plenty of room on the left. She was giggling so maybe she had looked on the wine when it was red. Just about as daft as the motorist who insisted in standing in the cycle path to lean into the car to help his wife change a baby's nappy/diaper. They might have unblocked the child but they succeeded in blocking the cycle path even though there was room on the left hand side of the vehicle on the footpath.
Though the latest news is that the town council is going to support cycling to the tune of 25 000€, which is probably half an inch of a new road for motor cars. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mannheim powers through

I have been rude about Mannheim in the past and its relationship to cyclists, but some thing that has impressed me is the "Mannheim gibt Kette" app (https://www.mannheim-gibt-kette.de), part of a programme to encourage people to cycle to work. Just about every national cycling club and health insurance organisation has a programme of this type, offering the chance of winning small prizes for cycling to work. The Mannheim app for the inhabitants of MA and the employees of the city council sums the distance cycled each day and propels one on a virtual journey along the Iron Curtain Trail from Kirkenes, Norway to Carevo, Bulgaria, offering tourist and geographical information and photographs of the areas covered. There are chances underway to answer questions to double one's daily kilometres for five days. The app is well designed. It is written by "GEVIO - Gesundheit und Prävention", 67256 Weisenheim, Germany (http://www.gevio.com/softwareloesungen/business-bike-contest/). A company that offers packages of measures to improve employees' health. Unfortunately the information on the web is in German but an email to the company's contact address: support@gevio.com will bring information in English.
We have cheated, although we live just over the border in the small Hesse town of Viernheim and no longer work, we joined the game just to see how it functions. In our case we are largely not replacing car journeys by bike journeys, but trips by public transport and on foot. If we win anything we will come clean and send the gift back. The main prize is a trip to Amsterdam. Whether we will achieve the twenty days cycling necessary to be entered in the lottery for the big prize is debatable anyway.
Does it work? Yes! Since we have joined we have tried to cycle about 18 or 19km through the local woods on every day we can. Other teams have finished and we are still virtually cycling through the Finnish woods and actually cycling in Viernheim. Will we make Latvia before the cutoff date? We will do our very best.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Flow gently sweet cycle traffic (with apologies to Robert Burns)

Cycling in Heidelberg is not all nudge tactics to improve behaviour as described yesterday. The city fathers and senior planning staff meet regularly for a trip around the city and campus with representatives of the cycling community, where the cyclists can discuss actual problems with the evidence before them. A recent trip looked at parking facilities at the university library, bollards that not only restrict four wheeled traffic, but bikes with trailers as well and speed limits for motorised traffic amongst other matters. All in all the group examined twelve sites in Heidelberg where cyclists have problems and improvements were promised.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Five minutes more that could save your life - the Plus 5 campaign in Heidelberg

Thirty percent of all journeys in the centre of Heidelberg are made by bicycle. In comparison the figures for Mannheim - ten km away - are 12 to 15%. Many of these journeys to Heidelberg University and/or the university clinic. The main university campus and the university clinic lie on the north bank of the River Neckar, to the west side of the main road from the Ernst-Walz Bridge. About 7500 cyclists cross the bridge on summer days. There are narrow cyclepaths on both sides of the road. The bridge is also busy with motorists. It is only possible to cross the main road by waiting for two crossing phases of the traffic lights at the northern end of the bridge, so there is a great temptation to cross the bridge on the cyclepath on the left against the flow of traffic. This is against the law and in spite of the findings of German insurers that riding the wrong way along a cyclepath is six times more likely to give rise to an accident. The Police, the City of Heidelberg, the University and the University Clinic have worked together to reduce the number of collisions largely due to the impatient riding on cyclepaths on the wrong side. The police have been active in giving out warnings, putting up posters at hot spots, rewarding those who cycle according to the law with current buns and publishing an Internet site (www.aktionplus5.de in German). One of the main themes was the idea of adding five minutes to one's journey, so that riders could travel more leisurely and show more consideration to others. All of these measures have been effective. During the period the campaign was running in the second half of 2014 accidents fell by 11%.
Interestingly enough the Plus 5 team showed another side during the dark months in the winter. Cyclists' lights were checked in November. The methods used were drastic: If a cyclist was underway with inadequate lights, he or she was given the choice of chaining the bike up and walking or letting the air out of the tyres to push the bike home. Whether these harder techniques will be used in future on those who insist on cycling the wrong way on cyclepaths? It's hard to know.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Are bike lanes invisible?

Like most regular cyclists I find my way blocked by oafs who park in painted stripe bike lanes: post vans, plumbers, shoppers, coaches, long distance buses, etc and I could go on and fill the whole blog with moaning, but I won't. I have learned to ignore these types who are too idle to walk ten metres when there is a perfectly good spot opposite the shop. Remonstrate and there's a good chance they will punch you or run you or some other cyclist off the road. It is not worth the high blood pressure. Forget it! These people have no idea and no manners. There was bike shop owner in Bolton who used to park his delivery van on a cycle lane on a busy main road in front of his shop. I am pleased to say that he is no longer there and the shop is shut.
What I didn't realise is that bike lanes are also invisible to city transport planners. The City of Mannheim, Germany is building a new tram line in the north of the city which has necessitated shutting 5km or so of track for six weeks during the school holidays. The service is now being covered by buses. At the end of the interruption passengers need to change from the tram to a bus and sometimes wait until one appears. The bus tram interchange at the southern end is by the Mannheim University Hospital just north of a bridge over the River Neckar which is also a main route for cyclists leaving the city centre to get to the northern suburbs and to the hospital. The cyclepath runs on past the site of the temporary bus stop. Unfortunately the road rises over the bridge and then drops past the hospital, so most cyclists let the pig out, i.e. speed up, as they drop down the slope. The two photographs below show that collisions and disturbances are pre-programmed. These were taken on a Saturday afternoon when there are fewer passengers. There are more during the week. Notice how the little hut has been cunningly placed to reduce the amount of space available on the footpath. The red brick area is the cyclepath.
Cyclepath (red)

The bus and tram arrive and the passengers cross to reach the bus, ignoring the cyclepath.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Bike hire in Salzburg

If you are looking for a hire bike in Salzburg, then check out "a velo rent-a-bike" on the Mozartplatz near to the Salzburg-Info. Prices range from 12€ a half day to 55€ for a week. The company offers MTBs, road bikes, recumbents, e-bikes, children's bicycles, trailers, helmets, bags and rainwear for hire. The website given on their flyer: www.a-velo.at does not work for me. Maybe the telephone number does: +43 (0) 676 4355950.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

How do bike years compare to people years?

We went by Brompton to Lorsch to a rally about the line of the new high speed railway line from Frankfurt to Mannheim. The plan is to run the line east and parallel to the A67 autobahn through a forest. In addition Deutsche Bahn plans to run goods (freight) trains along the line overnight. Many locals object to this project because of the damage to the local woods which are an important leisure area and because of fears about health problems due to noise pollution. There is a serious suggestion to submerge much of the route in a tunnel. We understand these fears, but also support any move to move goods transport away from roads to rail.
While we there we met various friends who are members of the ADFC (German Cycling Club), chatted to the odd soul on the stands, enjoyed Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) and listened to an excellent local amateur big band. It was a fairly typical summer afternoon in Lorsch. We set off for home and in the Viernheim Woods Judith got a stick caught in the chain tensioner. The chain left the pulley cogs and the drive train jammed. We had no choice but to turn the bike over, loosen the chain tensioner and get oily. We had almost finished when two of our ADFC friends appeared and enjoyed a little Schadenfreude. One of our famous Bromptons was giving us problems. We pointed out that the bikes were twenty years old. Then came the question, "How old is that in people years?". This we couldn't answer, but it struck us that if the Bromptons were cars, and both are about twenty years old, they would more than likely be sitting on a scrap heap rather than being ridden about.
 

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