While other German cities have networks of cycle routes, cycle highways, and traffic calmed streets, Stuttgart has a couple of lanes here and there and a catastrophe of a website that gives the option a four lane highway or a magical mystery tour through a forest to a set of traffic lights that change every Tuesday.

So when the now Green Party dominated city government announced last week that they are considering a plan to improve the infrastructure in Stuttgart, with the goal that by 2020, 20% of all journeys will be by bike, people say things like “about time too” or “We’ll believe it when we see it” or most likely “Get out of the way of my Mercedes”.

As the local planners don’t seem to know what a bicycle looks like, the city commissioned a Herr. Dankmar Alrutz, from Hannover to do a report. He did something remarkable: he got on a bicycle with his team and tried out the infrastructure for himself.

And he’s not even Dutch.

He came back last week and told the city “beim Radverkehrsnetz besteht dringend Handlungsbedarf” which is German diplomatic for “It’s cr*p. Do something quickly.” He then gave a list of recommendations which some of his car-centric audience must still be recovering from:

  • A network of 141km ‘main’ cycle routes that connect the centre with the surrounding area
  • Another 100km of secondary cycle routes connecting the different areas in the city
  • Signs showing cycle routes to be updated to modern standards. (Pointing them the right way would be a start.)
  • Cycle lanes on the roads, but also some streets to be converted to cycle streets: cycles have right of way and cars are guests. This already happens a bit.
  • Bikes to be carried on trams at all times -often people cycle into the city and use the tram home.
  • Increase the stations for the successful Call-A-Bike bike share scheme and hurry up with the new scheme with bikes that have electric-assistance, because if you hadn’t noticed, Stuttgart is hilly.

Herr. Alrutz said that if Stuttgart invests about 1,8 million a year until 2020, ( Which is, let’s see, about the same as  it would cost to build 1.5 kilometres of highway), they can create an environment where one in five people will ride a bike for transport.  20% of journeys by bike. Not for sport, but for everyday transport.

So far signs are encouraging: the worst that even the more right-wing CDU party could manage was to suggest a ‘pilot scheme’ for bike transport on buses. Perhaps someone should point out that there was already a very successful one in 2004.