‘Home of the bicycle’ unveils cycling masterplan

Online bike hire, new cycle lanes and more

A German city which claims to be the birthplace of the bicycle has been spurred into action by a report that rated its cycle-friendliness as merely ‘satisfactory’.


Karlsruhe – home to Karl Drais, who invented the two-wheeled ‘Laufmaschine’ in 1817 – has declared its intention to become the ‘number one cycling city’ in southern Germany.

Its Masterplan 2015 outlines a 20-point program to make cycling as safe and attractive as possible, with special emphasis on improving infrastructure. And it appears to be working – Karlsruhe has just won an ‘Emissionsfreie Kommunen’ (emission-free municipalities) competition.

To achieve its goal, the city plans to create more cycle lanes, introduce a web-based bike rental system and launch PR campaigns. The ‘Call-a-Bike’ system, run by German railways company Deutsche Bahn, appears particularly novel. It already has main hire centres at 50 stations, including in Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart.

Users must register on the internet and obtain a code to ‘unlock’ a particular bike. They can break their journey wherever they want by locking the bike and then using the same code to unlock it when they want to ride off again.

Karlsruhe was spurred into action by a 2004 report from ADAC, a German motoring association similar to Britain’s AA. The report measured the bicycle-friendliness of 22 German cities and Karlsruhe – which had long regarded itself as a cycle-friendly place – achieved only a ‘satisfactory’ rating.


The Laufmaschine (“running machine”), also known as the velocipede, draisine or dandy horse, was a pedal-less bike which Drais rode for the first time in Mannheim on 12 June 1817.