Activist Profile: VCD

Verkehrsclub Deutschland : Transportation Club of Germany

The VCD (german) is the ecological alternative to Germany’s version of AAA. So if AAA represents primarily the traditional automotive interests, then the VCD advocates for the interests of not only bicycle commuters, mass transit riders and pedestrians but also ecologically conscious drivers. What I find impressive about the VCD is how organized they are. They’re a Germany-wide organization with local subgroups who are active in front of city hall as well as within the political system. Their campaigns cover getting kids safely to school through walking or cycling, increasing the cycling modal share among working commuters and informing the citizenry on issues such as environmental benefits of cycling, walking and mass transit among other things. In pretty much every case, however, the issue is presented as the push for a sustainable and intelligent MOBILITY.

QUICK FACTS:

63,000 members (4,000 in the northern Germany subgroup)

founded 1986

ACTIVE AREAS:

high speed/long distance rail as a true alternative to the automobile or airplane

attractive bus and train service

straphanger and cyclists’ rights

attractive pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure

sustainable mobility education for kids

Projects and Campaigns:

The VCD publishes children’s picture books that emphasize street safety and environmentally friendly modes of transportation, which they send out with every new family membership. They also put out a list of the more environmentally conscious automobile makes and models. In 1992 the VCD helped push through the Bahncard 50, an incentive for frequent Deutsche Bahn train riders and then ensured the card’s reintroduction in 2003. The card gets customers %50 off a train ticket and allows them to collect points similar to frequent flier miles. As an ecologically focused insurance provider the VCD offers discounts on automobile insurance that take into consideration the automobile’s ecologically friendly aspects, such as a high MPG. They also offer theft insurance, repair and roadside assistance as well as travel and legal advice for cyclists. With their campaign “Gewinn-Faktor Fahrrad” (german) the VCD focused on employers and improving bicycle modal share among commuters. The VCD put together an impressive brochure and other literature surrounding the benefits of bicycle commuting, not only for the employer but for the employee as well. They ran it in the form of a competition for employers in 2001, 2003 and 2005 and helped employers make their work place a more bicycle commuter friendly environment by recommending bike parking infrastructure, changing and showering facilities and tips for incentives such as a bicycle lottery that could increase bicycle commuting.

Comparable Aspects to NYC:

On the regional or local level the VCD could be compared to Transportation Alternatives and its borough committees. They do tablings and lead rides (german) like TA. There are programs similar to Safe Routes to School, and the VCD offers help getting bicycle parking, meaning these (german), and participates heavily in forming local policies. They also do candidate questionnaires during campaigns and issue public position statements. The VCDs Bahntest, in which they evaluate the quality of service and customer relations on mass transit, is similar to the NYPIRG Straphangers campaign, while their efforts for city-regional rail in Kiel can be compared to the Regional Plan Association and Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s rail and bus advocacy work.

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