Integrated infrastructure in Stuttgart. Behind me, the cycleway is seperated from the footpath.

Integrated infrastructure in Stuttgart. Behind me, the cycleway is seperated from the footpath.

According to the local free paper (I know, I could put a sticker on the letter box so I don’t get it any more, but it’s good for lining the compost bin) Light Rapid Transit is in fashion at the moment with city authorities: in Germany alone Bremen, Düsseldorf Erfurt, Gera Karlsruhe, and Stuttgart are currently expanding their systems, and Frankfurt am Main, Jena, Kassel, Munich, Freiburg im Breisgau, and and Augsburg are making plans to do the same. Ulm currently has only one metre gauge line but is considering adding more.

Stuttgart has now almost completely finished the process of converting from the old metre gauge system which used GT trams from the 1950s, to a standard gauge ‘Stadtbahn’ with barrier-free access at most stations. This, on top of free off-peak bike transport has endeared the new units to me despite replacing the attractive old units which were full of character, but draughty, noisy and and featured street-level access up three steps.

As part of the rebuilding many sections of the line were rebuilt either on their own alignment or with priority over other traffic, so there is now much less street running, and in some cases the Stadtbahn is faster and more direct than driving, and you don’t get delayed by traffic jams- I’ve had one three minute delay in four years: how many car drivers can claim that? In places where the track now runs underground, people and bikes were given more space.

Best of all, the system can now (just) accommodate an Xtracycle, which is very good for the rare occasions I’m forced to go to Stuttgart and get anything. I can cycle in, and around the city pretty well exclusively on cycleways, and catch a tram home as long as I don’t decide to do it in the rush hour (although I can still use the rack railway then). I just have to find a station at street level, because I can’t fit the Xtra into a lift.

In fact, the only real gap in this excellent network is in my own village, but it is comforting to know that the rest of the country is waking up to the idea that not everyone wants to use cars. Perhaps with all this cycling infrastructure on their doorstep, our local councillors may notice soon.

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