Does Germany Have All the Answers?

The European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) has an article from the beginning of January that I’d like to highlight. The article is entitled “Cycling Solutions: Why Germany Has All The Answers” and while I think that may be a bit of an exaggeration, Germany really is an interesting case study for U.S. cycling advocates and transportation planners. Buehler, Pucher, Merom und Bauman (2011) compared active travel (pdf) in the United States and Germany. In their introduction they list off a number of reasons why the comparison is so appropriate: market economies, democratic systems of government, high rates of auto ownership, similar proportions of licensed drivers and, importantly, similar design and timing of travel surveys. The general conclusion of their research was that, while walking and cycling rates remained relatively stable in the U.S. between 2001/2002 and 2008/2009, both modes experienced an increase in the same time period in Germany (at least for what the authors term “any walking”).

The article from the ECF likewise cites an increase in trips taken by bicycle in Germany between 2002 and 2011. The cycling mode share of trips is now roughly 14.5% compared to 9.5% in 2002. Their data comes from the German Mobility Panel, an ongoing panel survey conducted by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. A panel survey interviews the same survey population each time whereas a cross-sectional survey, like the National Household Travel Survey and Mobility in Germany (MiD) compared by Buehler et al., uses a new, randomly-selected survey population each time.

Germany’s cities, however, are at various stages of development regarding cycling policy and infrastructure and this doesn’t escape the author of the ECF article. Aside from traditional cycling cities like Münster or Bremen, one of the cities which has been getting some attention recently for its cycling campaign has been Munich. Since 2002 they’ve increased cycling’s trip mode share from 10% to 17% as part of their Cycle Capital Campaign.

The author of the ECF article concludes by saying that if you want to find out just why cycling has experienced an increase in mode share over the last few years you should just go visit Germany. Though that’s not such a bad idea, it’s not something everyone is going to be able to do. So while you’re planning (or thinking about how it would be nice to be planning) your trip here are a few links that might help:


Polis – European Cities and Regions Networking for Innovative Transport Solutions

Eltis – Urban Mobility Portal


Walking and Cycling in Western Europe and the United States – Trends, Policies, Lessons (pdf – 2012 with Dr. Ralph Buehler)

Bicycling Boom in Germany: A Revival Engineered by Public Policy (pdf – 1997)

or just visit Dr. Pucher’s website at Rutgers


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