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Well, you asked for it,

Exact centre of the town marked by a giant carrot. Obviously.

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.

I won’t be publishing pictures of those. Try The inkwell and bikeyface for interesting, accesible art. (Thanks to Karl McKracken for that last link)

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?

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.

*With apologies to disgruntled for nicking her post title.
**My spell checker doesn’t recognise ‘Porsche’ but does recommend ‘Poacher’ or ‘Persecute’ as alternatives.

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.

The Xtracycle at our local ‘packstation’: these automated postboxes are being introduced as an ‘environmental’ way to get parcels, because they’re supposed to reduce truck movements. Of course they are often in places where you need a car to get to which rather spoils it, but at least I can be sure that at the 1.5 kilometres from here to our apartment are carbon free, thus maintaining my personal smug green glow.

Even car free tree-huggers have to go shopping in the next town occasionally, and Ostfildern doesn’t bother to clear most bike lanes or most residential streets, come to that. This means that shopping trips need to be planned with all the care of an expedition to the South Pole, to take advantage of that short time window when the last load of snow and ice has melted, but before the Weather dumps a fresh 10 cm of snow on us. It also gives me a fair bit of experience each year in different road conditions, which I always vow to be ready for and promptly forget about in spring.

Residential roads get cleared by the cars that use them: sort of. Usually the snow is gradually compacted down until there are two narrow strips of tarmac in an expense of ice, which makes life interesting on the Bakfiets where you can’t see the front wheel. Wherever the cars don’t all follow the same line this becomes an expanse of half-frozen sludge where the only way to move forward is get off and push. I learn this every year, and the next year I still try and ride over it again as if somehow it may be different. Away from the cars the trails cultivate harmless looking sheets of lumpy ice which are just waiting to send the back wheel skittering off in random directions.

It looks like I need to rethink my policy on winter tyres, as in, actually get some. For about eleven years I used Michelin Wildgripper City tyres on the Xtracycle which handled packed snow and ice surprisingly well, but they were falling to bits so I replaced them with Schwalbe Marathon tyres which haven’t got the same bite. Now I’m wondering what is best: Marathon Plus tour tyres, respectably knobbly mountain-bike tyres, or go the whole nine yards and go for mountain-man spikes? And then I’ve seen people using spikes on the front wheel and mountain bike tyres on the back…

Or maybe I’m-over complicating things. I could make a kick-sled instead: if I knew what I was doing. Besides some roads I use are cleared so I’d need a way of fitting wheels…

Push your bike through enough snow and this stuff becomes interesting.

Very cold, apparently. In the last week we’ve had cold rain, freezing mist that ignores the three fleeces you’re wearing and goes straight through to your bones; Snow; more snow; sudden 24 hour snow which was never heavy but did manage to make the roads sufficiently slippery that the trucks climbing the Scary Hill of Doom were spinning all wheels and making progress at less than walking speed. In fact I think the wheel-spinning was just to stop the truck sliding back down the hill. Meanwhile a restive traffic jam had developed behind the truck and was snaking over the entire valley and the bus had given up and gone home. When it gets to this level in Germany you know there’s serious weather going on. Although the snowplough being stuck in traffic didn’t help either.

This morning the sun came out, so the roads will be clear by lunchtime. Ostfildern still haven’t realised that people transport themselves on those funny pedal-powered objects in winter, so they don’t bother clearing the cycle routes, which will be like an ice skating rink for a week, so no-one can cycle on them, so the council claims they don’t need to clear the lanes…

Still, we can go sledging, which makes up for a lot.

Actually, maybe a kick sled would be a good idea…


Mixed messages in Ostfildern

I whine about Ostfildern’s apparent resistance to cycle infrastructure plenty, but I will say this for them: they’ve made sure that there’s a comprehensive network of signs for cyclists. Using these you can generally navigate your way anywhere you want to go, mostly avoiding busy roads. Of course, because I live in Ostfildern I already know my way around (and importantly, when to ignore the signs) so they are of limited use. Whereas when I need signs, like I did in Bempflingen* last week, there aren’t any.

Actually that’s not entirely true: there were a few signs in Bempflingen: it seems that the policy was to save money by only putting in every second sign, or possibly by only ordering signs pointing to the right. The village had also made them marginally larger than a postage stamp, and placed them on existing signposts, after first ensuring that these were properly hidden behind a bush or a house.

As a result I had a lot of opportunity to get to know Bempflingen rather well, and I can report that it’s an attractive village with a pleasant church and a very nice mill with a water wheel, which I was able to view from several different angles. Unfortunately I was trying to find the way to Bad Urach and back, a round trip of 100km, so it was not the best time to be on a magical mystery tour of the local dead ends, all of which had a clear view of the next village, but no way of getting there.

So there’s something Ostfildern have done right. I am happy to set the record straight. Now if they could possibly move along a bit with actually surfacing the cycle ways and making it possible to ride in the town centre without the feeling we will be flattened by a large truck, that would be even better. Thank you.

I’ll bore you further with the trip to Bad Urach another time.

*And who decided that ‘Bempflingen’ would be a snappy name for a village? and did this person have any connection to the person who decreed that the first road I crossed would be called ‘Klarwerkstrasse’: ‘sewage works street’?




Middle Son watching the trams crossing the bridge and the cars below in Scharnhauser Park while on a bike ride with Papa. Cars are interesting to him in the same way as steam engines or dinosaurs are interesting to other children.

This picture looked good in black and white somehow, but maybe that’s just my way of seeing things.


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