I’ve mentioned before that our home town of Ostfildern isn’t part of Stuttgart. To officially be in the city, you have to ride across a couple of fields and a small stream before you reach the outer suburbs at a place called Sillenbuch. But once across the stream, suddenly it’s a whole new world. We don’t have much cycling infrastructure in Ostfildern at all, and what we do have is often ‘shared space’: probably better than nothing but motorists still assume you’ll just move out of the way. The favoured method here is to direct cyclists onto less busy roads, (ie, get them out of the way) which is fine until you want to go to the centre by bike. I suspect this is a legacy of our former mayor. It remains to be seen if the present one will think otherwise.
If he wants ideas, our mayor need look no further than Sillenbuch, which is much more enlightened. They have an advantage because a lot of the town is fairly new, but they’ve thought a bit about what they’re doing and made the development more people friendly with a network of routes for walking and cycling, and less direct ways for cars. For example, this is the route through the town goes from the edge to the centre, and is completely separated from the local roads. It’s shared use with pedestrians. I think splitting it would be more sensible, but I’ve not had any problems with this and it beats racing trucks down our narrow main road. The path winds so you don’t drive fast, and has islands like these to slow you down without reducing visibility. I don’t know if I’m supposed to keep right. I generally do that anyway- it’s fun.
The main entrance to all the local apartments open here, not onto the street, so children can run over to the playground without fear of being run over, and old people potter along happily. People feel safe, and as David Hembrow points out, helping people feel safe is vital to getting people on their bikes. But you don’t just feel safe on a bike- the number of children running about, people walking the dog and other cyclists lends the place a bustling, friendly air that a street with traffic rushing along can’t match.
But what happens when you get through this? Do you get dumped on a busy road? No you don’t. I’ll tell you about that later.