Germany at 25: Cycling on Germany’s Bike Trails

Sachsenburg Bridge w Gertie

Cycling. Of all the quotes that are out there (see link), there is one that sticks to mind when taking the bike out for a spin: The best ideas come from sitting on the bike, pedaling into the unknown, for hours on end.  Bicycling has become a habit to many in Germany who are searching for an alternative to travelling and commuting. Of 90% of households that own a bike, 31% of people would prefer the bike over the car, because biking is much sexier than travelling by car- at least that’s what 22% of the population think of that. No wonder why because 72% of the population bike at least seven hours a week, the number of bike trails have increased by 25% since 2000! 😀 Germany is catching onto the Copenhagenization craze, but why?

Since coming to Germany in 1999, there has been a shift in attitude in terms of what form of transportation to use for travelling. Of course Germans love their cars (and treat them like they treat their books- as sacred as the Bible). But too many cars on the road means less time to spend on vacation for much of that is spent in traffic jams. Therefore we are starting to see more and more people hit the pedal and hit the trails- not for the purpose of commuting (like the author does), but also for travelling on vacation- to see the sites, visit places almost inaccessible by car or train, enjoy good company over a radler with some friends (not to mention have a picnick along the way), and lastly, clear the mind of all the stress and problems for at least one day.

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The number of (kilometers of) bike trails have increased by 50% since 2000, with the majority of the trails running along a body of water or through the cities. This includes trails running along rivers, like the Elbe, Rhine, Main, Saale and Weser, but also those along the North and Baltic Coast lines. We also have some that connect historic villages and castles as well as dense networks of trails going through big cities. The trend is increasing as the German Bike Association ADFC has mapped out an Agenda 2020 Plan, which is designed to accomodate bikers with better trail networks, services and other ammendities. And with the increase in bike traffic comes the increase in bike shops and bike brands you can only see in Germany. The trend is clearly going towards keeping the car in the garage and using the bike as the main source of transportation.

There are many reasons for taking the bike anywhere these days. For many, it is for the purpose of independence. For others, it’s the norm. For me as an expat, minus the commute, it is for exploring new places and taking in something new each day, whether it is biking across a bridge, through the mountains and villages, or even to a castle for a tour. Sometimes seeing something new everyday is a way of expanding your horizons and having a better understanding of the place you’re living in. And while many Americans at home don’t understand the concept yet, when taking a week in Europe, going by bike to many places, like I have with my companion Galloping Gertie (a black Diamant bike made in Germany), they will eventually change their minds and do what we’ve done in the last 15 years- put the helmet on and start pedaling. 🙂

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