Sunday, August 25, 2019

Kalmit

On 7 September it is Kalmit Cup time again. This is the Klapprad race up Kalmit Hill from Maikammer on the western edge of the Rhine Valley not far south of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse. About 5% of the participants will be using tweaked Klapprads with a standard frame but a better drivetrain and wheels.  They all will be wearing road bike gear. The rest will be dressed in costume with a lot of cross dressing and riding less souped up Klapprads but some will be tandems or two basic bikes or tandems welded together so they can be fitted with a float to resemble a London bus or an elephant. The race starts at 15:00, but it's a good idea to be there an hour or two earlier to watch the fun (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1gQyWeqLwg) and enjoy a glass of riesling.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Electric scooters: A good idea?

In “The Salmon of Doubt” Douglas Adams wrote "I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
I suspect I am just about to illustrate the great man's statement, as I am pushing my 9th decade and so I should be suspicious anything invented since 1975.  (This not exactly true as we accepted the home computer, the Internet, eMail and desktop publishing, but do not get us started on mobile phones.)
Tier, an electric scooter company (https://www.tier.app/), is now offering its scooters in the centre of Heidelberg, Ludwigshafen and Mannheim. The three city governments hope this will encourage more people to leave their cars at home. It’s a fairly simple idea. You download the app and when you are one of the many European cities where Tier is active you find the location of the next scooter; once on board you start your trip using the app and away you go. Costs: 1€ to book and 15 cents a minute for your journey. Payment is via credit card or PayPal. 
Tier electric scooters underway in Oslo ©Tier
I am not taken with electric scooters. Don't get me wrong I can see the attraction. One can nip across town like a downhill mountain biker flowing downhill, swinging round obstacles with no effort and arriving perhaps windblown but sweat free even in the 35°Celcius or more heat we've had in Mannheim this summer. It is a cool concept in every sense of the word. 
However cost,  safety, carbon dioxide production and other street users are factors that need to be taken into account. To start with cost: buses and trams in Mannheim are frequent during the day and a trip from the main railway station to the heart of the shopping streets costs 1.40€. Next Bike also offers hire bicycles that cost 1€ per half hour. You could, of course, walk that costs nothing at all. These have a rack to carry shopping or a baggage unlike the electric scooters where one needs a rucksack to carry luggage. Where do you leave the scooter at the end of trip, so that passersby do not fall over it? The Next Bikes can only be left at one of the many stands in the metropolitan area.
The safety aspects give me the willies. Taking Mannheim station as an example if one wants to go into the city centre, one needs to know where the cycle paths are and it is not that obvious. Traffic in the Mannheim city centre is busy and I would not be happy mixing with cars, motor bikes, buses and delivery lorries on what I suspect I would find is an unstable vehicle, especially when the recommended way to indicate you are going to change lane is to stick your left or right leg out. To a certain extent cycling in heavy traffic is also difficult, but I would feel safer on a bike than balancing on a metre long narrow board especially as I need to wave my legs about. How are the scooters crossing tram lines? There are a lot of tramlines in Mannheim.
There is the suggestion that the scooters use less energy and generate less CO2 than petrol or diesel engined cars both in their manufacture and daily use.This is true for manufacture, but electric scooters are not as environmentally friendly as they seem. The scooters are picked up daily, taken a central workshop, charged, maintained and returned to those places where it is thought they will see the most custom. I suspect the van or pickup moving the scooters is a petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle.
As a pedestrian I am not over happy about the prospect of a silent fast 70 or so Kg packet (rider plus vehicle) sneaking up on me on the footpath. Now I know that riding on footpaths is verboten - forbidden, but so is using a mobile phone while driving. As a occasional (very occasional) motorist I am also not too happy about the thought of a speed king or queen zooming up the footpath in front of our house as I am backing the car out across the footpath onto the road.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Travelling in Germany - Allergies, Water

A friend is coming to Germany next year and has requested information on various topics. The information we have put together may well be of interest for others

Allergies
The following ingredients must be specified by law on restaurant menus when they are present in the meal offered:

1. Colouring (s) 
2. Preservative (s) 
3. Antioxidant (s) 
4. Flavour enhancer (s) 
5. Sulfur dioxide 
6.  Blackening agent 
7. Phosphate 
8. Milk protein  
9. Caffeine 
10. Quinine 
11. Waxed (if the surface of fresh fruits has been so treated) 
12. Taurine 
13. Containing a source of phenylalanine (eg aspartame must be indicated as sweetener) 
14. Sweetening agent
A restaurant must have must this or a similar list available for inspection. 

Packaged food bought in a grocers will have a list of ingredients printed on the packing.

Dairy

It is assumed that milk is from cows, sheep or goats. In most German cafes and restaurants you will not find synthetic milks - almond, oat, soya, etc those milks produced by animals. Vegetarian restaurants often serve some synthetic milk. Maybe Starbucks do as well, but we are very suspicious of Starbucks tax model in Germany. There are enough good traditional cafes in Germany. We also have little experience of non-dairy milks because my wife has a nut allergy and reacts badly to unfermented soya. If cows’ milk gives you problems then either buy lactase tablets here from a pharmacist or learn to drink your coffee black. On the other hand beef here is not pumped full of hormones and chickens are not washed in bleach before consumption.

As for gluten: You can buy low gluten bread and Brötchen e.g. from dinkel or spelt flour. With a request the day before most B&Bs and small hotels can provide gluten free bread. It is virtually mainstream these days. 

You need to talk to serving staff about allergies. My wife has a range of allergies to various raw fruits and vegetables. One of which is carrots. Unless we stress every time we order that she cannot eat raw carrots, we find her food comes sprinkled with the damned things.

However you won’t get a free glass of water with your meal, you will have to pay for expensive mineral water.
Unfortunately the economics of the German restaurant trade mean that restaurants use mineral water as source of income. If he or she gave you a glass of water this would mean additional costs, for example glass washing and serving with a good chance that some of us would just drink tap water and not order anything else to drink. Your meal cost would probably rise, in case you were given a free glass of tap water. The owner is unlikely to change his or her charging politics unless he or she is forced to do so by law.

If you are going to carry drinking water with you, it is worthwhile buying a stainless steel or plastic water bottle for walkers and filling it in the hotel before you leave for the day. A plastic half litre bottle of mineral water will cost you 50 cents or more in a supermarket or even more in filling stations or kiosks plus the additional 25 cent returnable deposit. Over a three week holiday you can pay for a reasonable drinking water with your savings. Many charitably minded folks drop these plastic half litre  bottles off in street bins where they are picked up by people living on Hartz IV the basic German social support, which gives you enough money to survive but not enough to enjoy life. You can take these bottles to supermarkets, etc and pop them in an automated device that prints you out a chit to redeem at the cash out desk. Many Germans buy mineral water believing that it is superior to tap water, but the latter is perfectly safe and contains less plasticiser than prepacked bottled water. In fact if you hit the supermarket at a time when Harz IV recipients have been paid you will see members of this group buying 6 x 1L packs of cheap mineral water, spending most of their day’s allowance on plastic packed water. 

 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Clothing for triking Part II

By chance I came across another triking clothing manufacturer who does offer triking gear with long sleeves: Reverse Gear (https://www.reversegearinc.com/). The company has an interesting website and comes with a recommendation from a blogger I trust.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Ruftaxis (Call Taxis)

If you are travelling in Germany by public transport you may come across Ruftaxis. These are taxis that travel on a fixed route and follow a timetable. The idea is to replace a little used bus. A trip costs 1€ or so in addition to a zone ticket,You need to ring a number given on the timetable to book a journey and if you don't do this the vehicle will not stop at your bus stop or even run at all. Our walking group intended to go walking North of Kaiserslautern today and ended up walking South of the city, because our leader did not warn the bus company we were coming. However in the sad case your bicycle bites the dust and you are out in the sticks, beyond the black stump or in the boonies you will need to ring for a normal taxi and they charge more than 1€ for a journey. Bikes on buses is probably a no no, but bikes on trams and trains is possible.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Packet deliveries in cities: the last mile

Diesel powered courier service vans are a familiar sight on the streets of European cities and towns. Unfortunately these vehicles cause air pollution and add more congestion to already crowded streets. Many German cities are compact. City and town centre streets are narrow and follow older patterns from the pre-motor car ages. They are not laid out to take high volumes of motor traffic. The photograph below shows a typical inner city street in Mannheim. If the tram tracks were still in use navigation by car or lorry would even more difficult.
By User:nenntmichruhigip on Wikimedia Commons - Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54876530
Delivery companies have real problems in the last mile caused ironically by their own and other motor vehicles. There is nowhere to park. If the driver leaves the van on the street while he nips off to deliver a packet to a customer. If as often happens in our observation the driver leaves the engine running so that he can move off more quickly on his return, the air quality suffers. There are ways round this. Set up central packet storage and use bikes or e-bikes or e-trikes  to deliver packets to the customers. It has started already. Courier companies have been running pilot projects using these more flexible smaller delivery vehicles.
Grocery deliveries in Vienna

Weekly shopping transport solved

Excellent load carrying capacity seen at SPEZI 2019

A neat mobile bicycle workshop

A secure cargo bike



A German Post Office electrically assisted quad with container.



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