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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?
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.
It’s good to see good news about Germany and cycling, and the ever interesting Copenhagenize blog has provided some with News that the German government has started a campaign called “Kopf An, Motor Aus” (‘Brain on, Motor off’) which is appropriate as I seem to see drivers doing the exact opposite every day.
That’s enough of my cynicism. Several cities are involved at the moment, trying to get people to walk or cycle for distances of 6km or less, instead of using their car. Posters are “cheeky, fun, ironic or serious” according to the website and “found wherever cars are” Dortmund’s massive poster “A huge thank you to cyclists” is catching most of the limelight for sheer drama, but my personal favourite is the flag Karlsruhe are using by cycle parking areas: “Reserved for climate heroes”. Of course, Karlsruhe is one of the better cities for cycling and public transport, so it’s fair enough in their case.
This year there are four cities involved: there is a competition for 25 more next year and some are local to us. But Stuttgart and Ostfildern are not. What a surprise. I expect if I ask we’ll be told the usual excuses a valid reason for this.
Another initiative is free hugs for cyclists, pedestrians, and other climate heroes, but as the video shows, drivers need not apply.
I can’t help feeling that more infrastructure would be more profitable long-term, and the cynic in me resurfaces when I remember this is the same government that was paying people to buy cars earlier this year, but at least there’s a growing awareness that getting people walking and cycling is good for cities and for people. You never know, the tide may be changing. If things carry on like this, Ostfildern may even notice.
The website is at http://www.kopf-an.de/
I’ve mentioned before that there is a harebrained scheme in the offing to lay yet more tarmac on the fields by our village, and last week there was an information evening where a local traffic planner was giving us details of what they were going to do. I naturally felt I had to go: I’m a local resident, I had a duty to both of my readers to blog about it and besides, there may be food.
We live in a fairly small village just outside of Stuttgart which happens to be between an Autobahn to the south and a port and industrial centre to the North. There is a bypass to the east and west, but we still have a lot of traffic through the village (about 13500 cars and 1500 trucks every 24 hours). Almost everyone wants a bypass because they believe it will ‘finally’ solve the problem. Like the last bypass was supposed to.
Now the city of Stuttgart is offering to build a nice new road under the village to connect to one of the existing bypasses. This will take the traffic well away from the village and the noise, and no-one will have their view spoiled.
Why would a city offer to spend taxpayers money on an infrastructure project in another administrative district? The answer is geography. The north-south and east-west autobahns meet to the West of Stuttgart, but none to the east, so traffic going from the North-west going to the South East has to curve around three sides of Stuttgart and climb a major hill. For about 20 years the Strassenbauamt has been quietly working on a plan for a bypass to the east of Stuttgart avoiding the hill, and it’s a section of this road that will go under our village. The road isn’t for us, but for Stuttgart, and we are in the way, but that’s not quite how it is being presented.
The economy is now going fast down the toilet, and the transport industry is going with it. As the majority of the traffic is cars, and about half of that is internal traffic, we could reduce traffic in the village simply by making less parking spaces and more bike infrastructure, because traffic expands and contracts to fit the space available… I’m being rational, sorry.
Not that any of this matters, because no-one has yet committed to the €20-30 billion that this white elephant will cost, so I suspect it’ll be a while before any diggers turn up, but rest assured the Strassenbauamt is out there somewhere, building pointless roads to link up their fantasy network…
There’s been a lot of blog-based discussion of This article in the New York Times about the car-free suburb of Vauban in Freiburg, which I’m all for: much as I moan about how hopeless Ostfildern is, I live in Germany because I love the country, so it’s good to see some all-too-rare positive reporting about Germany in an English language newspaper, and with a slide show, no less. Mind you, they really should have checked their facts: Vauban isn’t just an ‘Affluent Suburb’ but has different income groups (It just looks affluent because it’s pleasant), and a sign showing a bike and ‘Frei’ written underneath actually means bikes are permitted, but there we go.
I’ve not been able to post about it as quickly as I’d like, but on the other hand I can now include this video of the place and its place in Freiburg as a whole, along with an interview with the mayor, who is part of the Green Party, about how they have worked to make Freiburg a more sustainable/pleasant/livable city.
(Thanks to ‘Cycling is good for you’ for the video)
Ostfildern had the opportunity to do the same, but of course decided to build a new road and make it easy to drive through, but it does at least show that when we do this sort of thing in Germany, we do it well.
Vauban’s English-language website, showing their aims and ideas is here.
After a couple of years racing about on a wooden push-along bike, Middle Son is graduating to his first pedal powered vehicle. He’s doing it in fits and starts at the moment, and when I put out traffic cones for him to ride around he spends more time playing games with the cones, but we’re getting there. He’s learning quickly because Eldest Son, who is just off frame, is acting as a pace car, so he has a target and an example. On the flip side he’s used to me driving him about on the Xtracycle so I think he’s reluctant to give that up.
Meanwhile Eldest Son is spreading his wings, getting faster and more confident, and wants to ride, ride, ride, (so as a ‘Good Dad’ I naturally have to ride with him) He’s really embraced the ‘bike as transportation’ idea, and I think he gets a kick out of turning up to his activities by bike. He isn’t alone any more though: now the weather is warmer many children are travelling by bike, often alone, to visit friends or relatives, play, have fun, or go to children’s activities: we we have severe bike congestion sometimes with bikes in the stands, up the sides and all over the lawns People saw the weather and came by bike. This isn’t in Ostfildern I would add: it’s in the next town where there is infrastructure for bikes.
There are lots of other changes on the horizon: as well as the house move there’s other stuff that is looking exciting, and I’m itching to blog about, but unfortunately all the preparation and organising is taking time that I’d otherwise use to write, which is slowing my posting rate down a bit: watch this cliche.
Hills are on my mind at the moment, specifically the one where this sign is planted between Neuenbürg and Waldrennach in the northern end of the Black Forest.
Cycling has a pretty meagre travel share in this region. It isn’t helped by variable quality of cycle paths, but a major obstacle is Geography, (To be more accurate, Geology, but if I’d said that you’d have switched off straight away) The Black Forest is a series of hills with deep gorges slicing through them. For various reasons of interest to geographers and virtually no-one else, this makes most villages are either long and thin in the valleys or small and round on the hilltops, with big with big gaps (and hills) between.
If you just look at this sign you’d think a cycle commute from Waldrennach to the larger town of Neuenbürg was a doddle at 3,8km, a nice easy distance for cyclists, on a road closed to vehicles. What it doesn’t tell you is this is 20m above Neuenbürg, and cyclists to Waldrennach have another 200m to climb. If you want to be the next Lance Armstrong (And much respect if you do) this is your ideal training route, but most of us aren’t really up for this.
To add insult to injury, the valleys can create winds: Geographers call these anabatic and katabatic winds and insist that anabatic winds are created when warm light air rises along the valley floor and up the sides, and on a really good day, make thunderstorms as well, while katabatic winds are cooler, heavier air blowing down at night. Cyclists call them all sorts of things and insist they are created by the presence of a cyclist by a malicious fate, so we’re riding into a permanent headwind. A similar meterological process causes coastal winds in the Netherlands, and as David Hembrow says, they are a major problem as well.
This shows the trouble with a ‘one size fits all’ approach to cycling: Faced with a 200m climb to visit grandma, very few people will use bikes even if there is perfect infrastructure all the way. (that said, a safe route along the valleys would be nice) The villages are so compact everyone walks except for xtracycle nutters like me who should know better. Bike lanes on narrow steep mountain roads probably aren’t practical, so how do you provide an alternative to cars here, especially as this is one place where some people will need cars for work? I reckon a combination is required: trains and buses that carry bikes (lots of bikes) at no extra charge, preferably with good connections from the valley to the hills, so the train along valley comes into station as bus comes into the forecourt, so passengers can change without waiting, rather than seeing their connection pull away as they arrive.
This is the same problem as we face. Ostfildern (Suggested motto: “Four wheels good, two wheels bad”) is about 170m above Stuttgart or Esslingen and there is almost no way around it. Stuttgart now allows limited bike transport on the Metro but you can only carry bikes on a bus off peak, which rules out commuting. Even if Ostfildern wakes up to reality and makes a decent cycle network, we’d still need to help people get up the hills before we have any chance of a cycling culture.
So what ways are there? I’ve already mentioned the rack railway in Stuttgart, but there must be other ways. Does anyone else know of low cost ways to get lots of bikes up monster gradients?
Yep, I’m afraid that the post I put up yesterday was an April Fools joke. Sadly, Ostfildern isn’t planning to invest in cycling in the future, even though most of the measures described are already being used within about 10 kilometres of here. Obviously my piece was a bit subtle- the local paper was less so, having a front page headline about the Mayor resigning over daylight savings time.
But if I’d posted the real news you wouldn’t have believed it either: Stuttgart and Ostfildern plan to build a new €200m bypass underground with junctions serving various villages and smashing their way through several nature reserves. The paper reporting this said that the Green Party were against this because it “May generate more traffic”. I think they “May” be right there.
But that’s Ostfildern: never mind that our dependency on oil is killing people and sending us headlong into serious economic trouble when the stuff runs out, and never mind that the rest of Germany is waking up to the idea that we can’t keep building more rat runs:, or that the Neckar valley has the worst air quality in Germany (Way over the EU pollution limit) mostly because of motor vehicles. Here in Ostfildern we’re going to need more roads, roads, roads, for our fast cars and trucks.
What a depressing thought. The next post will be a bit lighter, I promise.