Friday, October 15, 2010 stop...Hamburg!

Our cycling 'bliss' continues, which alternatively translates into explicit reiteration that Australia sucks as far as cycling goes!

We're now in Hamburg, the 2nd largest city in Germany, and notwithstanding the immensely busy city traffic, cyclists are fully incorporated into the transport climate!... more excuses, Australia!...this is a really 'busy' city, and the traffic flies past - it is evident to all that there is such a notion as safe intergration!

As with the Netherlands, strict liability continues to be the 'order of the day' for any hapless motorist who might 'bump' a cyclist.

Why is this not the case in Australia? It appears to be an inordinately useful measure, and is mentioned by many who use bicycles as they manoeuvre themselves around their European cities.

How about it, Aussie pollies? - could be a 'goodie' in terms of strategic traffic planning - in fact would change behaviour overnight.

Prima facie in a 'nutshell', and upon the facts as I understand them, we need:

* Strict liability for 'people using cars' who collect 'people using bicycles'

* Separate infrastructure as speed disparity grows between 'people using cars' & 'people using bicycles'


...why is my advice so rarely followed? sigh!


  1. Your 3 points are spot on, Sue.

    I'm glad you're having a wonderful time over there - I'm green with envy!

    I hope the policitians are listening but I worry that they won't 'back down' - they're too interested maintaining Business As Usual™ for the Happy Motorist™.


    Dr Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia

  2. "Separate infrastructure as speed disparity grows between 'people using cars' & 'people using bicycles'"

    You know that this separate infrastructure is actually a way to limit the bicycling in the streets? That cycling there is not only slower and uncomfortable but also much more dangerous than simply mixing cars and bicycles? That we cyclists in Germany are struggling against the obligation to use the "Radwege" since almost 30 years, just like you are struggling against the obligation to use helmets in australia?

    Look at your photos from Amsterdam - lots of cyclists restricted to a small path with low quality surface. Imagine how many more would use the bicycle if they wouldn't find themselfes restricted to a dangerous (3x for normal intersections, 11x if you are on the "wrong side") path that eats up your energy, stops you at each intersection, etc.

    You are in Hamburg? see
    Or try to connect with Frank Bokelmann.

    If you are passing Regensburg sometimes in the future, give me a call and I tell you more.

  3. Well, Ingo, I think it depends on the quality of the infrastructure. Good infrastructure, designed for cyclists to get about, is fantastic and makes cycling safer and encourages people to use bikes. Bad infrastructure like we see a lot of in Germany, is a pain, dangerous, and is designed to get bikes 'out of the way'.

    There is a major difference: don't reject the good because we have a lot of the bad- after all, car drivers don't reject Autobahns because some aren't very well made.

    And Sue, if you're near Stuttgart, let me know through my blog...

  4. Going to Hamburg, check out <a href="></a>.

  5. @ Andy:
    Good bike paths are still 2 times more dangerous than simply mixing bike and car traffic (see (1) on ). And they still restrict the space that can be used by bicycles. The typical maximum for a 1.5m bike path are 120 cyclists per hour - this is more or less 10% of the car traffic - no wonder cycling is kept in Germany at around 12% traffic share since years...

    And there is no proof that restricting the space that cyclists can use you will get more cyclists. Usually it is claimed that people feel "unsafe" without bike paths, but the same could be said about bicycle helmets - so a helmet law would have people rush to using their bicycles, wouldn't it?

    Good bicycle infrastructure are places where to put your bicycle, not facilities that restrict your space in the street. Guess what - we have more than 30.000 parking spaces for cars in the centre of Regensburg, but only around 1.000 for bicycles, even although more people use the bicycle in the center than cars... We have lots of "good bike paths", though...

    And "good bike paths" are still killing people:

  6. Ingo: Despite all of what you say, Dutch cyclists, riding almost exclusively on separate infrastructure, are the safest in the world. Decent infrastructure for bikes actually increases the speed of cycling and doesn't put cyclists into conflict with motorists. A while back I made a video comparing Dutch and German cycle paths.

  7. @David: And they would be 2 times safer without separated ways, according to research from the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.

    And now imagine how much safer they would be if all the money and time invested in separated and obligatory bike paths would have been put into a general limit of 30 km/h within towns and pro-bicycle image campaigns! (which, btw really do increase the number of cyclists while building a separate bicycle infrastructure without parallel image campaign fails).

    The reasons against good bike paths are the same as against good bicycle helmets: They make bicycling uncomfortable and feel unsafe, they increase the risk of cycling, they cost money and time better invested in other things. And they always come together with obligation... if they are so good, why do you need to put it into laws that you have to use them?

  8. @Ingo:

    Good bicycle paths make bicycling uncomfortable and feel unsafe?!! From what planet are you?! And for all your blabbing about those foolish Dutch and their 'dangerous' bicycle paths and the 'why not spend money on trying limit cars to 30 km/h within towns instead', you apparantly seem to have missed the fact that Dutch law indeed *does* limit cars to 30 km/h within towns.


  9. @Marion:

    Thanks for the "babbling":
    The limit in the netherlands according to all information I found is still 50 km/h within towns (eg ). They may have just like germany small separate parts with a lower limit however they leave the main roads at 50 km/h and this is where the bad accidents happen.

    75% of serious bicycle accidents happen within the towns and more than 50% of the serious accidents happen in conjunction with a motorized vehicle, so a general limit of 30km/h especially on the main streets would help a lot more than all other passive security measures.

    Good bicycle paths still have a lower quality surface than the street next to it (because a good quality costs a lot of money and needs a high quality foundation construction which is only done where the civil engineer expects high pressure and weight from lorries i.e. on the street, not on the low-pressure and low-weight bike path). According to the netherlands handbook on bicycle planning a good bike path is only 10% less direct than the street next to it. It has to be less direct because the direct connection is the street.

    And regarding the safety: In the netherlands you will find lots of people bicycling without a helmet because they feel sufficiently safe on a bicycle. But you will also find a lot of people not bicycling because there are "not sufficient bike paths and they feel unsafe on the street". In Australia you will find lots of people not cycling because "it is to unsafe, even with a helmet". This perception of safety is not founded in real accident numbers, it is a feeling founded in public campaigns for more bike paths or helmet wearing.

  10. Thank you all for your really detailed comments - interesting to read

    - Ingo, you have certainly given me something to think about - sadly I'm not passing through Regensburg - maybe next time!!!

    - Andy, also sadly no Stuttgart for me this time - hopefully next time also!!!

    - David, sorry our schedules didn't overlap in Groningen - dare I say it, next time!!!

  11. Ingo, I think it's safe to point out that your opinions on bicycle infrastructure, particularly the Dutch side, are 'somewhat' contradictory, illogical & in fact wrong.

    Just one example: maybe you experience bad surfaces, but by far the majority of bicycle paths' surfaces are even better than the roads for cars. The ones of lesser quality will surely withstand the safety test. As it stands, you're more likely to hit anything resembling a pot hole on the road than on the bike path.

    The perception of safety lies with the people, not campaigns directly. Never has, never will. People assess the risk, and will act accordingly, valid or not. This assessment doesn't fall or stand with whether there's a bike path or not. We've lived those 'vehicular days' and we don't wish to return (cycle rates plummeted from 55% to 10% nationwide between 1945-1975). Nowadays there are many streets in urban areas where cars and bikes share the road. But here it comes:the Dutch have found that the burden of safety is not to be put on the person on the bike, but on the car. So: traffic calming were necessary, separation where needed (alongside difference of speed between different modes of traffic), strict liability (car driver at fault) and promotion of cycling for EVERYONE (which translates in the '8-to-80' approach the Dutch have, including everyone who wishes to cycle, not just the 'road warriors', mind you).

    Also, there's this thing called 'and-and-and' policy that Dutch urban planners/engineers apply. It's about integration of infrastructure, spacial planning, transportation modes & legislation. So, to counter your strict mise-en-scene around subjective safety: we've determined what the balance between real & subjective safety is a long time ago, and have been the most successful with this model.

    If you have a different model that shows similar (or more!) success, please enlighten me, I'd love to hear about it.

  12. oh marc, i'm homesick for amsterdam! back in 'oz' amongst the ridiculous speed-freak aussie drivers - such is life

    ...i definitely prefer the policies of dutch urban planners/engineers to those of aussie urban planners/engineers - latter completely clueless as to useful cycleways - a recently opened one in College Street, Sydney, is extremely brief and concludes in a dead end at traffic lights, consequently pointless to use...

    ...oh to be in amsterdam now that i am home!!!!