New figures from Germany show a marked increase in cycle commuting. The transport ministry claims there are now four million people riding to work by bike – double the total of 10 years ago, and accounting for nine percent of all journeys.
“There’s been a real increase in the last year or two. Biking to work has definitely become trendy,” said Sarah Stark, head of German cyclists’ organisation ADFC.
“The numbers are growing by the month. What we’ve noticed is that a lot of people switch to bike commuting each time fuel prices rise or the trains get hit by strikes.
“There’s a giant explosion of interest. People sitting in a traffic jam see the bikes filing past and it makes them think twice about sitting in their cars.”
Berlin has become a cycling hotspot, with lobbyists, politicians and businessmen hitting the saddle in the spring and summer months. The country’s deputy finance minister and the managing director of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce are notable regular bike commuters.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve the infrastructure for cyclists to make it an even more attractive alternative,” said Berlin‘s economy senator, Harald Wolf. Three million euros a year is spent on improving the 600km of cycle paths and lanes in the city.
The central government is also very ambitious when it comes to increasing cycle use in the future. Its National Cycling Plan, destined to finish in 2012, includes changes to road traffic regulations in favour of cyclists, road safety campaigns, training courses and support for projects by cycling, transport and environmental organisations.
Germany’s aim is to catch up with Holland and Denmark, the European countries with the highest cycling levels. When it began in 2002, the National Cycling Plan effectively doubled funding for the construction and maintenance of cycle tracks on federal highways to around 100 million euros a year.