Münster – Germany does Cycling too

While I was in the Netherlands I was based very close to the border with Germany. So it was an easy train ride to hop over one day and visit the German city of Münster, just 60km away. Why Münster? Because it’s considered the bicycle capital of Germany!

Even Fido can come along too...
Even Fido can come along too…

Münster is only slightly smaller than Christchurch, at 300,000 inhabitants (50,000 of whom are tertiary students). However, its cycling population is far in excess of ours currently; more than a third of all trips are made by bike, indeed more than by private motor traffic it is claimed.

On-road and off-road cycleway options
On-road and off-road cycleway options

How is this achieved? Generally using lots of similar techniques to their Dutch neighbours, namely:

  • Separated bike facilities along busier streets
A space for everyone
A space for everyone
  • Lower speed (30km/h) quiet streets elsewhere for easy riding
Slower environments - a bit bumpy here though...
Slower environments – a bit bumpy here though…
  • A largely traffic-free central city
Quiet city corridors without the traffic
Quiet city corridors without the traffic
  • Controlled crossings of busy roads
Signals for crossing, but a free-turn if you're going around the corner
Signals for crossing, but a free-turn if you’re going around the corner
  • Lots of bike parking (especially around the train station – over 3000 spaces there), although it still never seems to be enough
An on-street bicycle "corral" - can fit more bikes than cars in this space
An on-street bicycle “corral” – can fit more bikes than cars in this space

Another nice feature of Münster is “the Promenade”, which is a green belt that encircles the central city (about 1km diameter) and provides useful connections to places like the train station, universities, and other cycleways radiating into the city. The Promenade corridor generally features separated pedestrian paths on both sides of the main cycleway, all sheltered by many trees (in fact in some locations they needed to keep the pathway lighting on, as it was rather dark).

Riding along the Promenade; sheltered and pedestrian/traffic-free
Riding along the Promenade; sheltered and pedestrian/traffic-free

Münster also have their own version of the Dutch “bicycle street”; in German it’s called a “Fahrradstrasse”. I came across one that seemed relatively low key; just a narrowed street layout with adjacent parking bays and trees. It probably worked OK because it was essentially a long cul de sac that connected to further bikeways.

A "Fahrradstrasse" bicycle street - cars are guests
A “Fahrradstrasse” bicycle street – cars are guests

Here’s a few more miscellaneous pics:

Note the little eye-height bike signals (now in Chch!)
Note the little eye-height bike signals (now in Chch!)
Simple posts create two culs de sac for cars, but a through-route for cycling
Simple posts create two culs de sac for cars, but a through-route for cycling
The sign allows bikes to bypass the traffic signals at this T-junction
The sign allows bikes to bypass the traffic signals at this T-junction
Good bike parking has fixing points for the whole frame
Good bike parking has fixing points for the whole frame
More stress-free central city cycling
More stress-free central city cycling
A zebra crossing for pedestrians, but bikes crossing have to give way?
A zebra crossing for pedestrians, but bikes crossing have to give way?
This is like something you'd expect to see in NZ...
This is like something you’d expect to see in NZ…

Like most places, Münster certainly isn’t perfect. The road crossings of The Promenade were generally not cycle priority, even when relatively quiet streets. There was a short section of cycle lane at one point that just spat you out into a pinchpoint. And immediately south of the central city is a rather horrible multi-lane roundabout where riders have to take the lane to make their way around (after seeing all the nice facilities, it was actually quite a shock to come across this).

Nice facilities once you exit it, but not much fun riding around this roundabout
Nice facilities once you exit it, but not much fun riding around this roundabout

Still, overall Münster is getting the numbers cycling and shows us that its not just Dutch and Danish cities that can come up with the goods.

Just some of the bikes at the train station - there's a whole parking building on the other side of the tracks
Just some of the bikes at the train station – there’s a whole parking building on the other side of the tracks

What do you think of Münster?

5 thoughts on “Münster – Germany does Cycling too”

  1. I really like the “Fahrradstrasse” (bicycle street/ fiets straat )! I hope one day we will see some of those in Christchurch. A lot of focus has been on delivering separated cycle paths (quite deservedly so) but bicycle streets might have some merit in post quake Christchurch. They rely on drivers doing the right thing but on the other hand they might be much cheaper to implement as there is less infrastructure required. Cars probably do not have to have priority on all roads. It makes perfect sense to me to give priority to cyclists (or pedestrians) in some suburban or city center streets.

    1. We’re also using neighbourhood greenways in places around Chch, which are somewhat similar to bicycle streets. They will be low-speed / low-volume routes, hence easy for cycling on. The only difference for now is no legal situation that says “cars are guests”; the closest tool we have to that at present are shared zones.

  2. Nice article, LennyBoy; thanks for writing it. Just one clarification, and one correction.

    “Fahrradstraße” has an interesting legal meaning to it. By definition, it is just for cycling, and a 30 km/h speed limit automatically applies. In practice, other traffic is often permitted through supplementary signs. Sometimes, this is done for driving in one direction only. All in all, it’s a rather powerful tool.

    Regarding the supplementary sign at the signalised T intersection, it actually means the exact opposite from what you assume; it says “[traffic signal control] also applies to bicycles”. But in lots of places, cyclists are controlled separately from the main traffic signals. They use the small scale signals where that is the case.

    1. Thanks Axel, I did wonder why my German wasn’t quite making sense at the T-junction! Technically there is a connection to the right as well, although in practice most riders were just ignoring the sign here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *