Bike-friendly Münster leaves cities in the dust

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Tom Barfield - [email protected]
Bike-friendly Münster leaves cities in the dust
Cycling through the snow towards the university in Münster. Photo: DPA

If you're looking for the best city in Germany for cycling, the German Cycling Club (ADFC) says Münster is top of the class. But cycling enthusiasts tell The Local that even in Germany's bike-friendliest city there's always more to be done.


In its biennial “Cycling Climate Test”, a survey of 100,000 of its members, the ADFC found that North Rhine-Westphalia's northerly city was the best-loved of large cities nationwide.

Münster was followed by Karlsruhe and Freiburg in second and third places among towns with more than 200,000 inhabitants.

"This prize is an incentive and an obligation at the same time to actively make sure there's an excellent cycling climate," mayor of Münster Markus Lewe said in a statement.

A city manager's job is never done

While local cyclists in Münster are happy to be in first place - after all, they voted for it - they say a lot remains to be done to make sure that the city is as cyle-able as possible.

“I don't think the city management is responsible for the good result,” local AFDC branch board member Elmar Post told The Local.

“The proximity to Holland and the traditions here mean a lot of people ride bikes – and it's flat here.”

Post argued that many of the road improvements made in the city ended up benefiting car users, rather than being aimed exclusively at cyclists.

“Münster remains a car city. We need more space for cyclists, whether that's wider, better paved, flatter cycle lanes, or lanes where we can ride alongside cars on the road," Post said.

“We need to think about more parking for cycles and less for cars, better management of the traffic lights to help bikes and buses.”

But Post was happy that the local ADFC was closely involved in a newly-lanched cycling round table with city managers, where he said they would push for the changes they needed.

A city spokeswoman said that managers were in “constant dialogue” with the ADFC thanks to the round table, and would continue listening to them in the future.

“We can't change everything overnight, cycle lanes take time to build, but it's an ongoing theme with city management,” she said.

“Everything we're going to do in the future fits in with the newest standards.”

Large cities fail to impress

By contrast with Münster, the bottom of the table was a catalogue of Germany's largest cities, reflecting the fact that many cyclists felt unsafe there. Large cities had an average rating for safety of just 4.1 (with 5 the worst possible mark).

Berlin placed just 30th of 39, while Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Cologne occupied places 34 to 36 on the table.

Hanover, Frankfurt and Munich performed much better, at fourth, eighth and twelfth place respectively.

Cyclists often criticized cars parked on cycle paths, poor traffic signals, roadworks and no snow clearance in the winter.

The blocked cycle paths problem has become so bad in Hamburg that three people started a blog to document their experiences of rubbish, traffic signs and parked vehicles in the way – not to mention the occasional mattress or sleeping dog.

The ADFC called for more 30 km/h speed limits and more modern cycle paths to help cyclists feel safe on the roads all over Germany.



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