You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Bike facilities (or lack thereof)’ category.
Youngest Son suddenly decided that pedals are the future and got his big brothers to teach him to ride a bike.. The first we knew about it was when Beautiful Wife saw him racing past the kitchen. He’s spent most of the week giving demonstrations and finding any excuse to ride anywhere (except up hills: still working on that). It’s great to see him happy, growing, more independent and mobile etc, but I’ll miss having a small person on my bike. The Kindergarten pickup has changed from carrying Eldest Son and as many of his friends as can fit into the Bakfiets, to towing a small bike up the hill using the Xtracycle, unhitching, and riding home together. That’s fun too, even if we have to follow a rather indirect route to avoid the main road, because people in cars are obviously more important than families who merely live here.
Anyway, Beautiful wife had mentioned that chocolate supplies were going down. This is a serious problem, so Youngest and I decided that we’d go to on the almost entirely traffic free route to the next town and resupply before things got dangerous: the sun was shining, and it would be a chance for Youngest to go out on a bike ride with a purpose. We decided on a plan: on the uphill bits I’d tow Youngest Son’s bike and he’d ride the Xtracycle, and if it rained (which of course it wouldn’t, as it was so sunny and bright) I could tow us home.
I really should have looked at the weather report closely, or taken more notice of those clouds behind us, especially as we had a tailwind. As we came out of the shop the weather caught up with us and my suspicions were confirmed that Youngest Son’s ‘waterproof’ coat wasn’t.
Fortunately there was a longer but less windy route through various housing estates and along the most expensive cycle lane in the world. By the time we’d made it to the top of the hill the rain had given up so Youngest Son got to ride the last bit and still seemed to be smiling when we got home. Of course the question is if he’s smiling because of the ride or smiling because it was over.
Ah, well, chocolate supplies restored…
If I’m honest, it’s about five minutes after I wrote my last post: I’m going to let this go online automatically so I have a bit of time to get settled in and sort out my internet connection in a castle in the middle of a field.
Here’s the bike that I’ve been working on, and if all goes to plan, the one which will have transported me some of the way to Schloss Daschow and the Nee-Naw training school. The finished result isn’t going to win any beauty competitions but that’s not the point. The point was to make something reliable but not likely to be stolen. (and as it used to look like this, I couldn’t make it any worse anyway)
Stuttgart is filled to the place denoting filled-ness with cars. This is means the bike infrastructure is pretty awful (a point I will probably labour next month when commuting in the city) but on the other hand, it means that the chances of your bike getting nicked isn’t high. This is because hardly anyone wants a bike, because everyone else drives a car.
Now, I’min a region known for cycling*, and thus a place where bikes get nicked more often. Fortunately Stuttgart helped here as well because people chuck all manner of useful stuff away for the diligent scrounger to collect, so I didn’t have to spend too much to get this bike working nicely, fortunately for you I can’t remember what came from where so you’ll be spared the details. so you’re spared the details, although I know the mudguards came free from a pile of ‘rubbish’ I was able to get at before the council picked it up and the luggage rack came from another bike a customer brought into the shop last year to “get rid of it”. I just knew I’d use it one day. The tyres are reused as well, but that doesn’t count because they were mine and I bought them about fifteen years ago in the UK, which makes me feel old. The Boss at the bike shop is convinced they will end their days in a formula-1 style blow-out with bits flying in all directions and throw me into a ditch somewhere.
But then if I’m going to have an accident, a school full of wannabe ambulance drivers is the place to do it…
*Which of course, I’m not, yet, but you get the idea.
Well, you asked for it,
The “Sitting and jumping hares”
From the information board:
“The “Sitting and jumping hares” were created by the Stuttgart artist Rosalie for the… State garden festival in Ostfildern in 2002
Rosalies long eared hares are based on the field hares which were once very common in Scharnhauser Park The figures remind us of comic figures. For her artwork Rosalie principally uses colours and materials from our time, and thus connects new techniques and current imagery with techniques with earlier natural experiences.”
Which shows that you can write pretentious codswallop in German as well as English.
The town has bought several other sculptures, including some giant frogs, watering cans hanging from poles (which dribble water on said frogs when it rains) a series of walls dotted about the town, several small pyramids and a sofa in a waiting area in the town hall which looks comfortable but is made of steel.
There’s been progress on the training front: I’ll tell you more soon…
Bakfiets making friends at the local supermarket.
Germany has a lot of ‘utility’ or transport cyclists, although the majority seem to hibernate for winter.
I can’t help thinking that if Ostfildern actually made some slightly better infrastructure and kept the cycle lanes clear we would get a lot more, but then my cynical side wonders if more cyclists is exactly what the local government is trying to avoid.
So the big news for cyclists is that the town council has finally
given up built the cycle lane they have been promising would be in ‘next years budget’ since long before we arrived here.
The lane should have been built when the town hosted the state garden festival sometime last century, but the money was needed for other important things, like a seven metre high plastic carrot which pokes into the ground at the exact geographical centre of the town and is surrounded by a circle of giant luminous pink and yellow rabbits, without which the garden festival and the town would obviously have been incomplete. I am not making this up.
Anyway, despite being only a couple of hundred metres long, and a vital link between two large sections of the town, the cycle lane remained unsurfaced, as in: “a field”, meaning that children going to school had to ride on the pavement/sidewalk alongside a major road for several hundred metres. This didn’t stop the town including it on their ‘cyclists network’ map (nor did it discourage one councillor from repeatedly claiming it was surfaced and we should all shut up and go home). Finally, the dogged persuasion by the local cyclists club has finally paid off and the government recently made a big announcement that at a cost of €20 000 (which would buy about 5cm of Autobahn) they had now put a cycleway in place.
It is 90cm (3′) wide*.
Some of the councillors are wider than that.
This, remember, is a major link for cyclists and pedestrians between the two largest parts of the town. It could reduce short car trips by providing an way to travel, if it wasn’t too narrow for a pedestrian and a bicycle to pass. Or even a pedestrian and a small dog.
The council have answered this criticism by saying it is a ‘good compromise’ and the cycle lane can’t be any wider for ‘environmental reasons’.
I’m not making that up either.
*How did they manage to make a 90cm wide gravel path cost €20 000? Is there gold dust in it?
Well, not a great deal seems to have happened this week, but that would be a false impression. It’s just that not a lot has happened that I can make an interesting blog entry out of.* I can’t even regale you with tales of horrific winter blizzards and drifts up to the windowsills because even the weather is just in a big grey sulk like a teenager being forced to do their homework. When you start blogging about the weather being apathetic then you really are short of blogging subjects.
Still, I suspect it’s the calm before the storm, as next week will be my Praktikum, a trial week with the local carpenter, who fortunately for me is within an easy walk of where we live. If I manage to convince the boss that I can handle a week of eight-hour shifts without tripping over, passing out, crashing the van, or amputating my own thumb, I can hopefully start a full three-year apprenticeship in this company in September. In Germany we still have this quaint notion that training people is a good idea, so a lot of people here do apprenticeships like this in just about everything from social work to engineering, and in many cases it’s seen a sort of ‘job for life’, or near enough: we see it more as a “Skill for life” which will mean we can keep working towards our goals. I’ll go on about those another time.
I have been cycling as well, but as it’s mostly been the “drive to school/kindergarten/supermarket/garden” type of trip it’s hardly exciting stuff, unless you count the early morning “Papa Taxi” ride which occasionally means dealing with commuters in a two tonne weapon who don’t know what ‘Shared Space’ means. Last week we were going uphill on a road just wide enough for one car -so of course there were cars parked all down the side of it- when a VW pulled out and started to come downhill towards us. Lacking the abilities of spiderman to climb buildings** we waited until the driver realised they would have to wait for us to pass them. As we walked by the vehicle the driver leaned across and shouted in a you-are-being-told-off-voice that “Your light is really bright.”
With hindsight, “Good” probably wasn’t the most diplomatic answer…
*Not that this usually stops me, of course.
**And I’ll bet even he wouldn’t attempt that with a Bakfiets.
Longer suffering readers of this blog will have have noticed there isn’t much infrastructure in our local town for anyone who isn’t driving a car, but just occasionally the council makes a token gesture towards helping
unimportant people pedestrians and cyclists and last year they very kindly gave the peasants a build-out, a slightly wider section of pavement by a road crossing. It is very handy because it does slow traffic down a fraction and if you’re driving out of one of the side roads, you can see the 48 tonne trucks coming before they hit you. You can also imagine the excitement amongst pedestrians at having a section of pavement wide enough to push a pushchair on without having to use the road.
However, the build-out is at the end of a gradual right hand curve. So when I’m cycling up the hill, I can see the build out, but the car following me can’t.
This means I have a choice: stay by the side of the road until the last minute and hope one of the cars rushing to the next set of lights will then let me pull out, to or signal early and follow the same line as other vehicles. I tried the first approach and if the driver of the Mercedes that passed me is reading this, I’d like the end of my handlebars back. Thanks. You’ll probably find it wedged into the mobile phone you were using.
Cars do seem to notice us a bit more when we follow the line of traffic, possibly because they realise we won’t just get out of the way. Trouble is, every now and again Mercedes Man (or, for some odd reason, Fiat Woman) gets stroppy and starts leaning on their horn.
In the end I decided it would be better -especially when I was taking small boys to Kindergarten- to go through the traffic calmed old centre (speed limit 7km/h) and back downhill to drop the boys off. It means a steep hill and driving three sides of a square, but at least the commuters are going the other way.
Except for Porsche** Man who decided that this was the perfect short cut this morning and took exception to the presence of a bicycle (and pedestrians, schoolchildren, etc) on a road that clearly belonged to him and him alone.
As you will gather from this late posting, the week has been a bit busy. Job hunting in German can be a bit of a challenge: it isn’t just a case of looking for a job then applying, it’s a case of looking, translating the job descriptions, doing background research, checking what training I’ll need, working out where I can get that training, then repackaging this information for family so we can make a decision together, then applying.
Add my inability to master time management and it’s a recipe for disaster, so when we had a sunny day last week I dropped everything and took the boys out to explore for the morning. Middle Son has been waiting for a dry day to go on a ‘Proper’ bike ride since he interited his first multigear bike from his brother for Chistmas, so we went to the the next town to see what the boys call “The UFO”. Notice real cycle infrastructure to the left of the boys (Click to enlarge).
We made sixteen kilometres (ten miles) which made Middle Son very happy. On the way home we found that Ostfildern are as usual doing their best for cyclists…
Which meant a minor detour over this interesting piece of cycling infrastructure:
Fortunately when you aren’t in a rush and you have three boys, nearly falling in a ditch is just part of the adventure, and Beautiful Wife was delighted to welcome four damp, mud-bespattered boys home just as she’d finished cleaning the house for the week…
*Apparently, going to the shops in the next village doesn’t count.
‘Tis the season to be mucky. Especially as it’s rained most of the last fortnight, and despite promises to the contrary the cycle lanes are still not cleaned. Not that I ever believed they would be, based on Ostfildern’s record.
Our poor bikes are looking reproachful at the moment but as I keep telling them, they are working bikes, not toys, so this is bound to happen sometimes and it’s better to be covered in mud than dust. I’ve promised them a good clean for new year. Hopefully.
If it isn’t raining for the entire holiday.
Still, we’re over the winter equinox, so things can only get better…