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 ( 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.

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