Hello,

This is Michael. Joanna invited me to write a guest post months ago explaining what exactly I did while in Germany. Sorry it has taken me so long to finally take her up on her offer. We also realized that I should have been doing one of these after every one of my research trips instead of cramming 18 months into one post (why didn’t this occur to us sooner?) – it would have been much nicer for you to read 10 short entries than this really long one. Also, I am not nearly as eloquent as she is, so forgive me for my rather bland narrative. I’ve kept it simple and  used some photos to show you where I went and what I saw and try to explain why it is interesting to me and relevant to my work as a planner as I move forward in my career.

Fellowship:

I applied to, and was accepted to be, a German Chancellor Fellow with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The program has been around since the early 1990s and is a way for Americans to spend time in Germany learning about something that will hopefully inform their future work/career back in the US. I was one of ten Americans invited to Germany to pursue a self-directed (non-academic) research project. There were also ten Chinese fellows and eight Russians. The program is as much about cultural exchange (which I think Joanna did a good job showing in her blog) as it is about the fellow’s own research goals (which I will try to cover in this one post). After four months of language training in Bonn we participated in a three week long introduction seminar in Berlin before heading to our individual host institutions in cities all over Germany. Later in the year we all gathered again for a two week study tour throughout Germany and for some events in the summer, including a meeting with the Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Through the time we spent together, especially the time in Bonn, we all grew pretty close and I’m sure I will keep in touch with many of the other BUKAs (the nickname for BUundesKAnzler(in) or Federal Chancellor, for whom the fellowship is named since it was started by Helmut Kohl). I could easily write an entire blog post about these great people but this one is about my research and if you really want to meet the BUKAs check out earlier posts on this blog.

Project Overview:

The focus of the proposal I submitted to the foundation in fall 2010 was to study “sustainable transportation planning”, and more specifically non-motorized transport (NMT) with a focus on how cities and towns plan for and promote the linkages between NMT (especially biking) and transit. In order to do this I proposed traveling around Germany interviewing planners and transport experts to find out “how” cities and towns are doing just that – getting people to bike/walk to transit, instead of driving or getting rides in private automobiles. And as part of those trips, I proposed conducting modal choice surveys to ask people “why” they chose to travel the ways they do at various locations in those towns and cities.  As with many research projects, the scope (and to a much lesser degree, the focus) changed once I got to Germany and set up at my host organization, EURIST (the European Institute for Sustainable Transport) in Hamburg.

A little background that should be mentioned. The reason I came to Germany can probably be traced back to one moment and the impact it had on me. I’m referring to the feeling of amazement I had upon seeing hundreds of bicycles parked outside of the train station in Heidelberg, Germany(see below), during a trip I made there in the summer of 2006. Jo and I were actually visiting an friend who was in Germany as a BUKA. The sight of all those bikes as compared to the massive Park & Rides that often sit next to train stations in the US made a very strong impression that planted a seed which one day led to my fellowship. Thanks Alison.
 

Crazy number of bikes outside Heidelberg Hbf. Total Wahnsinn!

Crazy number of bikes at Heidelberg Hbf. Total Wahnsinn!

My recollection of Heidelberg was not an anomaly. I saw the same thing in many other cities I visited, including the first city we called home, Bonn.

My recollection of Heidelberg was not an anomaly. I saw the same thing in many other cities I visited, including the first city we called home – Bonn.

and, of course, in Münster, often considered the most bike friendly city in Germany...

and, of course, in Münster, often considered the most bike friendly city in Germany…

and in Hannover, the capital of the state of Lower Saxony, long thought of as fairly auto-centric because of the large, post-war highways and boulevards that cut through the city...

and in Hannover, the capital of the state of Lower Saxony, long thought of as fairly auto-centric because of the large, post-war highways and boulevards that cut through the city…

and in Lüneburg, a small university town about an hour south of Hamburg...

and in Lüneburg, a old university town south of Hamburg. This photo barely shows only a fraction of the bikes I saw on this cold and wet day.

Of course, I didn’t pick up and move to Germany with my wife and 2.5 yr old son just to see if there were lots of bikes parked outside of all the train stations in that country.  I wanted to find out what things cities and towns are doing and why so many people bike to the train! And that is what I tried to do.

Research Timeline:

Phase I. (October – December) After the initial four months of language training (May to August in Bonn) and the introduction seminar (most of September in Berlin), I began the research part of the fellowship when we moved to Hamburg in October.  I started by figuring out exactly where I wanted to go visit, what I wanted to see, who I might want to meet with, and how I might go about setting up this survey. I also tried to develop some more relationships with transportation planning related professionals in Hamburg. Dr. Jürgen Perschon from EURIST helped me get settled and introduced me to some colleagues. Two influential people were Detlev und Merja. He works for the bicycle planning unit in the city of Hamburg and she works as the policy analyst and governmental relations representative for the local branch of a national bicycle membership organization. They both introduce me to transportation planners and sustainable transport advocates throughout the country and illuminated some issues on the national and local level. They also both grew to become mentors and friends, especially Merja, with whom I would meet on occasion for a beer or coffee to share my research plans and discuss my impressions and findings to date . (We actually had both of them over for dinner a few nights before Pete was born).

I also spent these months just exploring Hamburg and the sustainable urban/transportation planning going on in the city that the European Union had just voted the Environmental Capital of Europe 2011 (Umwelthauptstadt Europas). This meant I went to some events and heard some talks (both excellent for developing my research specific German skills) and also tried to explore the city with an eye to transportation infrastructure. I would not go on my official tour of the highlights of Hamburg’s bike planning until nearly the end of my time in Germany, but I did take plenty of photos from my initial exploration.

Sidewalk extended into the street in the Strenschanze neighborhood to make space for outdoor seating. Cafe culture is big in Hamburg, regardless of the weather people like to sit outside for their beer or lattes.

Sidewalk extended into the street in the Strenschanze neighborhood to make space for outdoor seating. Cafe culture is big in Hamburg, regardless of the weather people like to sit outside for their beer or lattes.

In the same neighborhood, they closed the intersection to through traffic but allow turns which creates a pedestrian space for diagonal crossings and space for bike racks.

In the same neighborhood, they closed the intersection to through traffic but allow turns which creates a pedestrian space for diagonal crossings and space for bike racks.

Here is another place where they closed off an old slip lane (half street that intersected with a major street) and created a plaza. The space between the building on the left and the tree in the center of the shot used to be a one lane road with parking on the sidewalk and the center island. In the summer, the bar on the left puts tables and chairs outside in the plaza. This is in the Grindelhof section.

Here is another place where they closed off an old slip lane (half street that intersected with a major street) and created a plaza. The space between the building on the left and the tree in the center of the shot used to be a one lane road with parking on the sidewalk and the center island. In the summer, the bar on the left puts tables and chairs outside in the plaza. This is in the Grindelhof section.

In terms of multi-modalism, Hamburg does a pretty good job of making it easy. You can bring your bike on the subway (U-Bahn), commuter train (S-Bahn) and ferries for free, but not during peak hours. And they do a pretty good job with Bike+Ride (they have an entire strategy and have recently built a new Bike Station in the Bergedorf section, which is where I did lots of research). Here is a little example of what I think is well planned and well designed integration of bike lanes and bike parking alongside a bus stop, one of the biggest challenges to planners trying to think about pedestrians, bus riders, bike riders, the buses and the other vehicular traffic all in the same space.

In Hamburg, the new standard for bike lanes is with red pavers and they are supposed to all be 1.5 meters or 5 feet, though there are plenty in much worse shape and very narrow (90cm).

In Hamburg, the new standard for bike lanes is red pavers and supposed to 1.5 meters or 5 feet, though there are plenty in much worse shape and very narrow (90cm).

Last thing from Hamburg (below) which caught my eye within a few days of getting settled, were these “little bike houses” or Fahrradhäuschen. While I saw lots of creative and design savvy ways to park bikes on crowded German sidewalks, these little shed are only seen in a few cities with the most by far found in Hamburg.  Some fun facts about them: they are currently created by a social welfare program that is helping unemployed people with job training  in carpentry and wood-working.  Second, they are created as a partnership between residents and the city. Once a group of 12 residents on the same block (or even from the same building) decide they want to do it, they put up half the money and the city puts up the rest and find the sidewalk space.

Phase II. (January to March) With the exception of two short breaks during this time period (one right after Pete was born in mid-January and one for the two week study tour with the other BUKAs in March), I spent most of these three months setting up visits in the cities I decided were important to see and arranging travel and itineraries. In the original project proposal I submitted to the foundation, I had proposed visiting roughly ten cities to conduct these surveys. Most would of course be in Germany (because I could prepare and conduct them in German) but I had always proposed getting to a few others in Northern European countries (for example, the Netherlands, Denmark, Great Britain; where I’d have to do them in English). Due to logistical and resource related limitations, I had to abandon the idea of surveys in all these places but I was still able to set us visits with local experts and/or professional planners. The destinations included (in alphabetical order) Berlin, Bremen, Dresden, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Hamburg, Kiel, Köln, Münster, and München in Germany; and Copenhagen, Denmark; Groningen, Netherlands;  London, England; and Malmo, Sweden. I also attended a regional conference in Essen and a national conference in Hannover, but had limited time to explore those cities or meet with planners outside of the sessions.

So, I started contacting people directly, or through my colleagues and friends in Hamburg (and a few contacts I made during a semi-research related trip I made to Köln during the summer of 2011 when I was still in language training).  I was overwhelmed by the generosity of these busy people, all experts in some regard. Most were willing to meet with me for some period of time (usually 45 mins to an hour) and others went as far as setting up tours of their cities and towns.  Most gave me not only his or her time but also printed materials such as official plans, reports and studies about sustainable planning in their city, as well as promotional or informational brochures used to encourage the use of NMT. Besides the interviews, I biked and walked around the cities to experience the environment for NMT users first hand. On these trips I took photos (over 2,000), made rough sketches in the field and had informal conversations with residents. Every visit was worthwhile and interesting. The next section will cover the details of those visits.

Phase III. (April to August) Most of this time, especially the first few months, entailed me traveling to cities through out Germany for one complete day or maybe an overnight. The one exception was a lovely 5 day trip that I made with Joanna and the boys to Freiburg in southern Germany in late May (We stayed with our friend’s mother and he, Jonas, joined us for a few days. We also met up with fellow BUKA Catherine and her boyfriend, Nick. You can see more from that visit in an earlier blog post). The beauty of a country as dense as Germany (roughly the size of Montana, but with the population of the eastern seaboard of the US) and with such excellent rail network, is that you can get to almost any destination on high speed train (InterCityExpress or ICE) in 4-6 hours, even from Hamburg which is pretty far north.

Here are a few sentences about each visit and some photos:

In Berlin, Burkhard Horn, explained how all planning (transport and otherwise) in Berlin was shaped by the reunification of Germany in the early 1990s and how this is different from elsewhere in Germany where the environmental movement or large scale highway projects may have been the impetus for people to demand “greener” options. He also told me about a new public relations campaign in Berlin called Rücksicht, which basically means, respect or consideration. While in Berlin I was also given a bicycle tour by Merja, my friend/colleague from Hamburg, who grew up in Berlin and had worked there on bicycle planning issues. The tour included examples of good bicycle and pedestrian planning and ended at the new park at the former Tempelhof Airport.

large curb extensions at intersections with bike racks on them.

Extra large curb extensions, or neck-downs or bulb-outs or in German Gehwegnase “sidewalk noses”, at intersections help slow down autos. These ones have simple bike racks on them.

a row of car (or maybe even bus) parking near the Berlin Wall Memorial Museum converted into a bike corral.

Here a row of car parking (or maybe even a tour bus lane) near the Berlin Wall Memorial Museum converted into a bike corral.

Deutsche Bahn, the quasi-state-run rail company, runs a national bike-share program, Call-a-Bike, which is in most major cities.  The best thing about the system is that membership is good in all cities, so as a eamber from Hamburg I was able to use these no problem, and I did.

Deutsche Bahn, the quasi-state-run rail company, operates a national bike-share program, Call-a-Bike, in most major cities. The best thing about it: membership reciprocity! So as a member from Hamburg I was able to use these in Berlin no problem, and I did. I hope US bike-shares do the same.

Another bike / bus integration. This bike lane was on a raised section of the roadway (or an extension of the sidewalk) which was designed for easier boarding of the bus.

Another bike / bus integration. This bike lane was on a raised section of the roadway (or an extension of the sidewalk) which was designed for easier boarding of the bus.

slipway closed off and bike corral installed. Traffic calming and bike amenity.

This slipway was closed off and a bike corral was installed. Traffic calming and bike amenity. Ganz einfach!

They created this new crossing of a major roadway and tram line to improve connectivity for the bike network.

They created this new crossing of a major roadway and tram line to improve connectivity for the bike network.

complicated intersection right near Alexander Platz made a little less scary with dedicated bike signals and lanes.

A complicated intersection right near Alexander Platz made a little less scary with dedicated bike signals and lanes.

My friend and colleague. She was a great help and a wonderful tour guide in both Berlin and Hamburg.

My friend and colleague. She was a wonderful tour guide in both Berlin and Hamburg, but more importantly a huge help throughout my time in Germany. She continues to be my German tutor – she only writes to me in German.

Click here for the history of  Tempelhof: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Tempelhof_Airport

Click here for the history of Tempelhof.

And click here for the future: http://www.tempelhoferfreiheit.de/en/

And click here for the future.

In Bremen I was able to meet with four different people; they each provided distinct perspectives on sustainable transportation in that city and cycling throughout the country.  From the city I met with Wilhelm Hamburger and Michael Glotz-Richter. The former is a bicycle planner who explained that NMT and traditional transport planning have been integrated for many years. The latter discussed how Bremen has become a world leader in car-sharing and the various offerings by the local public transport operator to make the service almost irresistible. I also met two people who provided a more national perspective on bicycle policies and culture.  Wilhelm Hörmann from the ADFC’s national office spoke about the national work such as promoting riding with children and families and a national survey called the Fahrrad-Monitor 2011. While it is all in German, if you want to check out the actual report there is a PDF at the bottom.  There are lots of interesting facts from the survey. Here is just one: there are more bicycles available in households than automobiles, 2.5 as opposed to 1.5, respectively.   The other Bremen interview was with Beatrix Wupperman who created the documentary film Beauty and the Bike. Ms. Wupperman’s film follows the cultural exchange between teenage girls from Darlington, England and Breman.

During one of my visits I attended a conference and participated in a bike tour, which began at the Bike Station at the main train station.

During one of my visits I attended a conference and participated in a bike tour, which began at the Bike Station at the main train station.

We got a tour of the facility which can hold up to 1,500 bikes. The cost is 70 cents a day, 7 euros a month or 70 euros a year.

We got a tour of the facility which can hold up to 1,500 bikes. The cost is 70 cents a day, 7 euros a month or 70 euros a year. I also got one of those cool safety vests which says, “Reflect on your carbon footprint”.

We biked around a newly redesigned traffic circle which now accommodates bicycles mixed in traffic with cars to help with visibility.

We biked around a newly redesigned traffic circle which now accommodates bicycles mixed in traffic with autos to help with visibility. Drivers are used to having bikes around, so it wasn’t as scary as you might think; in fact it worked well.

Bremen is known for being one of the first cities in Europe to promote the idea of car-sharing and they have even developed a special program to create car-sharing hubs in residential neighborhoods, called Mobil-Punkts, which are usually near tram stops and also have bike racks.

Bremen is recognized for its’ work to  promote car-sharing and they have even developed a special program to create car-sharing hubs in residential neighborhoods, called Mobil-Punkts. There are 6,700 car-sharing members who have replaced an estimated 1,500 cars and they want 20,000 members by 2020, which would take an additional 3,000 cars off the road.

What might have been the highlight of the tour was the newly installed bike counter on one of the main bridges for bikes and autos.

The highlight of the tour was the newly installed bike counter on one of the main bridges for bikes and autos. The sign says, “You are the 4358 bike rider today and the 320745 this year. Thank you for your contribution to climate protection.”

Unfortunately I only made one research trip to a city in the former East German federal states (other than Berlin) but I was pleased with my visit to Dresden. I met with Professor Udo Becker and a doctoral candidate at Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden). They shared the historical and political challenges that Dresden is facing to make local transport planning “greener”. I also met Martin Randelhoff, a student at TU Dresden, who is the creator of, and main contributor to, the award-winning blog Zukunft-Mobilität (Future Mobility).

Dresden is beautiful. Well worth the visit. While they are not the most bike-friendly city, there are lots of reasons and the are trying.

Dresden is beautiful and well worth the visit. While they are not the most bike-friendly city they are trying.

The main pedestrian mall allows bikes but only at a slow speed. While it is not the fastest route through the city, it is the most direct.

The main pedestrian mall allows bikes but only at a slow speed. While it is not the fastest route through the city, it is the most direct and there is enough space for both.

In Dresden I witnessed something even better than good NMT infrastructure -  saw good bike culture. This mom is out on a daily pick up "Abholen" or errands "Besorgung", and as usual is doing it on bike. Well, what do you do when it starts to rain? You can't pull over and wait (sure if it is a down pour, but this was not); so at the stop light she pulled out the little boys rain coat and pulled the cover over the trailer: 1-2-3 and as the light changed.  they were off.

In Dresden I witnessed something even better than good NMT infrastructure – saw good bike culture. Mom out on daily trip with kids (baby in the trailer and the little one on his own bike). It starts to rain. When she stops at the next light she pulls out the boy’s rain coat and pulls the cover over the trailer: 1-2-3 Geht Los!

In late May I visited Frankfurt to give a presentation about the work that the New York City Department of Transportation has done for sustainable transport in recent years and to learn about what has been happening in “Main-hattan”. Jutta Deffner from ISOE and Thomas Klinger from the Goethe University were my hosts. My visit included a two hour bike tour. The highlight was the last stop which brought us to a beautiful modern bridge over the Main River where Thomas pointed down to park land and bike paths along the river where 15 years earlier had been empty land and parking lots. The waterfront has been transformed into a greener, healthier, more attractive place that some people now call “the city’s living room”.

Thomas and Jutta show the group how Frankfurt  developed its bike friendly policies in one neighborhood at a time.

Thomas and Jutta show the group how Frankfurt developed its bike friendly policies in one neighborhood at a time.

Part of the tour was to visit one of the few "bike priority streets", which also happens to be the cities high end shopping street.

Part of the tour was to visit one of the few “bike priority streets”, which also happens to be the high end shopping street with stores like Prada and Gucci.

One way to indicate such are these massive pictograms on the middle of the street.

These massive pictograms on the middle of the street let all know that this is a Fahrradstraßen. On these streets bikers can ride next to each other, cars are not allowed to overtake bikes, and the speed limit is always 30 km/h or 18 m/h.

One of the others on the tour was riding a Pedelec or E-Bike. They are becoming more and more popular in Germany, especially amongst older people who welcome the extra help up some hills or when riding against the wind. With the move towards e-mobility, cars are not the only mode getting a jolt.

One of the others on the tour was riding a Pedelec or E-Bike. They are becoming more and more popular in Germany, especially amongst older people who welcome the extra help up some hills or when riding against the wind. With the move towards e-mobility, cars are not the only mode getting a jolt.

The last stop of the tour was along the river Main, which used to be lined with parking lots and vacant spaces but it now home to parks and a great network of bike paths which people use for recreation and commuting.

The last stop of the tour was along the river Main, which used to be lined with parking lots and vacant spaces but it now home to parks and a great network of bike paths which people use for recreation and commuting.

The only city where I was unable to set up any meetings with professional planners, government officials or recognized experts was Freiburg in Baden-Württemberg. While this was disappointing, the trip was probably the best trip I made in Germany because it was also a mini-vacation with Joanna, Charlie and Pete. We stayed with our neighbor’s mother in a spare apartment in her house. Our neighbor, Jonas, was also there during our visit. I was able to speak with them – both regular bicycle users, so I consider them local experts – about the evolution of sustainable mobility in the city. The city has an excellent reputation for being “green” not just in transportation planning but all areas of urban planning, design and development. I was able to see many of the things I had read about such as the the Radstation, the bike counter, the bike and pedestrian bridge over the train station, and of course, the eco-neighborhoods of Vauban and Rieselfeld. (I could easily put together another post just about sustainable urban design and land-use planning with more pictures of these neighborhoods as well as some communities in Hamburg and Hannover. Depending on how this one is received, maybe I’ll ask the editor for another post).

Freiburg often has a very high mode share (meaning lots of people ride as their means of travel) and is thought of as one of the greenest cities in Germany, if not Europe. This bike counter is at the base of the bike only bridge that connects to the train station. I was there before 7 in the morning.

Freiburg often has a very high mode share (meaning lots of people ride as their means of travel) and is thought of as one of the greenest cities in Germany, if not Europe. This bike counter is at the base of the bike only bridge that connects to the train station. I was there before 7 in the morning.

Here is the bike station, also at the main strain station like most, but this one also has a nice cafe and a beautiful atrium. Its 1000 spots are well used and is part of a larger mobility center with information on car-sharing, transit passes, bike rentals, a bike shop, and other information.

Here is the bike station, also at the main strain station like most, but this one also has a nice cafe and a beautiful atrium. Its 1,000 spots are well used and is part of a larger mobility center with information on car-sharing, transit passes, bike rentals, a bike shop, and other information.

Elsewhere in the city, less involved, but equally important considerations are also made for bike parking. Such as this bike stand in the busy part of the city which is explicitly for people with Kinderanhänger (children trailers).

Elsewhere in the city, less involved, but equally important considerations are also made for bike parking. Such as this bike stand in the busy part of the city which is explicitly for people with Kinderanhänger (children trailers).

And speaking of children and bike parking; I was blown away by all the bikes outside this kindergarten. I know that lots of kids bike in other cities too, maybe I was just surprised to see them all out front in nice weather. It was late May and in southern Germany it was down right warm.

And speaking of children and bike parking; I was blown away by all the bikes outside this kindergarten. I know that lots of kids bike in other cities too, maybe I was just surprised to see them all out front in nice weather. It was late May and in southern Germany it was down right warm.

Here I am with Joanna (she has Pete in the carrier) and our local experts, Jonas and his mother, Christina. Charlie took the photo.

Here we are with some local experts – Jonas and his mother.  Charlie took the photo. Not too bad.

While it is a very bike-friendly place, Freiburg, like similar places in Germany, also wants to be a pedestrian friendly place. That is why they put these little signs on the sidewalks. It says, "spirited bikers are dangerous to themselves and others."

While it is a very bike-friendly place, Freiburg, like similar places in Germany, also wants to be a pedestrian friendly place. That is why they put these little signs on the sidewalks. It says, “spirited bikers endanger themselves and others.”

Both Vauban and Rieselfeld are designed around main tram lines running through them. Both have similar densities and mixes though the auto restrictive policies of the former are much stronger. Nonetheless both make for great communities and are wildly popular.

Both Vauban and Rieselfeld (above) are designed around  tram lines running through them. Both have similar densities and mixes though the auto restrictive policies of the former are much stronger. Nonetheless both make for great communities and are wildly popular.

These pictograms are at the top of every street in from the main road. Just about every street is a home zone or play street.

These pictograms in Vauban are at the top of every street in from the main road. Just about every street is a home zone or play street.

These sheds are used for storing bikes, though similar ones are also where people store the garbage cans and recycling bins. I found them practical and aesthetically pleasing.

These sheds in Vauban are used for storing bikes (similar ones are where people store the garbage cans and recycling bins). I found them practical and aesthetically pleasing.

In addition to the main streets being bike-friendly, there are also paths and alleys behind the apartment buildings and houses to further improve connectivity within the community and out to the larger city.

In addition to the main streets being bike-friendly, there are also paths and alleys behind the apartment buildings and houses to further improve connectivity within the community and out to the larger city (Vauban).

I couldn't resist putting up this last image of a bicycle along one of the famed bächle, or little stream.

I couldn’t resist putting up this last image of a bicycle along one of the famed bächle, or little stream.

In Kiel I connected with Uwe Redecker, a man who I am so honored to have met and pleased to have worked with on my survey project. Mr. Redecker showed me the new Umsteiger Service Center and the Radstation, and told me about the public relations work the city has been doing to inform residents about how infrastructure for the bicycle has been changing and improving in order to attract more riders. One of the coolest things he mentioned were flyers with self guided bike tours which showed where scenes from one of the most popular (and longest running) crime procedural shows, Tatort, have been shot around the city. I would later come back to Kiel for a series of day trips in September to conduct my surveys here (more on that below).

Redecker giving me a tour of their Bike Station, which holds about 650 bikes.

Redecker giving me a tour of their Bike Station, which holds about 650 bikes.

advertising in the train station for the mobility center called, Umsteiger, or "Transferer".

Kieler Wege is the local multi-modalism campaign and this sign is directing people on where they can go transfer to a bus or ferry, as well as the Umsteiger mobility center.

Here is the front entrance to the bike station which is next to the train station, but also next to the Umsteiger mobility center, which has information about car-sharing, transit, and lots of cool information about biking and bike tours for tourists as well as residents. This is also where I conducted many of my modal choice surveys in September.

Here is the front entrance to the bike station which is next to the train station, but also next to the Umsteiger mobility center, which has information about car-sharing, transit, and lots of cool information about biking and bike tours for tourists as well as residents. This is also where I conducted many of my modal choice surveys in September.

My first research related meeting in Germany was actually conducted while I was still in Bonn. One day when we had off from language class I traveled north to Köln to meet with some of the staff at a sustainable transportation consultancy that does research and project development for the European Union and other clients. During the first visit I met with Sebastian Bührmann and Matthias Fiedler of Rupprecht Consult. (Sebastian is now at difu and Matthias is München organize the next Walk21, and while they have left Rupprecht, a former BUKA from my class, Rebecca Garcia is not on staff there) They were an amazing resource that actually led to other contacts throughout Germany. I stayed in touch with the firm, especially Sebastian, and met with him again in the summer of 2012 during another trip to Köln. It was a lively conversation about my time in Germany, my research and one of their new projects called Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). These are sets of criteria that cities reach targets of modal share, safety and emissions in order to meet EU goals. I was also visiting Köln in August 2012 to learn more about the city’s Bike+Ride concept. I met with Franco Tillmann, who was one of those responsible for the creation of the concept back in the 1990s and has been involved in its ongoing evaluation and further development. We made site visits to two Bike+Ride locations and the Radstation Köln at the main train station.

May seem like a funny picture, but the small covered area of bikes is one of the first locations of the city of Köln's Bike and Ride program which started in Phase I in 1995!

May seem like a funny picture, but the small covered area of bikes is one of the first locations of the city of Köln’s Bike and Ride program which started in Phase I in 1995! Simple but effective. Easy to find, covered, near the train station.

Franco Tillman has been working on it from the start.  The program has grown and every year they are developing new sites and revising estimated demand numbers higher at the most popular stations.

Franco Tillman has been working on it from the start. The program has grown and every year they are developing new sites and revising estimated demand numbers higher at the most popular stations.

They also do a great deal of promotions and marketing to encourage biking for fun and travel. This is a display of all their various promotions ideas and materials on display in the city government building.

They also do a great deal of promotions and marketing to encourage biking for fun and travel. This is a display of all their various promotions ideas and materials on display in the city government building.

Here is one of my favorites that I saw anywhere in Germany:

Here is one of my favorites that I saw anywhere in Germany: “We ride bikes because the year has 365 beautiful days.” How romantic… and dangerous!

When people think about the bicycle capital of Germany, one city is always at the top of the list: Münster. According to 2007 data the city has a modal share of 38% of trips by bicycle! Mr. Stephan Böhme, head of the bicycle planning department, made a wonderful presentation on the history of bicycle policy and planning and also shared about some of the new projects and initiatives, such as the safety campaign “toten winkel” to inform bicyclists and drivers alike about the dangers of riding in the blind spot. A member of his staff, Isabell Schultz (who I first met when she was an intern at EURIST in Hamburg), lead me on a bike tour which included features like the Radstation, the Esplanade, and even a trip to a residential area – Gremmendorf – a little outside of the center to see what the connections were like for residents commuting more than 5 km (over 3 miles) by bicycle.

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Here I am outside of the Bike Station in Münster. With over 3,000 spots it is Germany’s largest. It is perhaps also the most well known for its architecture.

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Isa is a good friend and wonderful colleague who was also, for one famous night, one of Charlie’s first German babysitters. She is from Münster so she was excited to show me around.

Before we left the Bike Station she had to show me this neat feature, the Bike Wash!

Before we left the Bike Station she had to show me this neat feature, the Bike Wash!

This famous image, which has been reused hundreds of times (and even recreated in a few American cities) compares the space required for 60 people based on their travel mode choice. It speaks to Münster's emphasis on being a bike and pedestrian friendly place.

This famous image, which has been reused hundreds of times (and even recreated in a few American cities) compares the space required for 60 people based on their travel mode choice. It speaks to Münster’s emphasis on being a bike and pedestrian friendly place.

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In addition to the main Bike Station, there are other smaller ones in the heart of the pedestrian mall area. This one was automated and robots took and stored your bike for you!

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A simple but effective way to keep people from parking their bikes everywhere in the main platz. It not only keeps space free for people with disabilities but also for all pedestrians.

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The famed car-free Esplanade ring around the center city. It is a beautiful, green, and fast way to get around Münster.

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Access paths through the Gremmendorf neighborhood.

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After our tour Isa and I picked up a few beers some cheese and cracker to enjoy before my train back. We stopped off at the local Rewe super market. Located right next to the parking spot for handicapped guests was this bike corral.

Here is a view of the Harbor, Hafen, which used to be a port area for the river but has recently been turned into a new residential neighborhood with loft-style apartments and new restaurants.

Here is a view of the Harbor, Hafen, which used to be a port area for the river but has recently been turned into a new residential neighborhood with loft-style apartments and new restaurants. We sat in front of one of those modern looking buildings to the left and enjoyed the waterside setting.

While Münster may be the most bike-friendly city in Germany, München has named itself the Radlhauptstadt or Bike Capital City. Elizabeth Zorn spoke with me about the city’s emphasis on “compact and green” urban planning for years and how NMT is an obvious element of this strategy. She also told me about their Bike+Ride concept and I was able to visit a few locations. I also rode the new tram line 23 to Schwabing Nord to see some new transit oriented development. I heard about this area from Dr. Mikael Beim, a Polish transportation planner, whom I met at a Humboldt event in Berlin at the beginning of my fellowship and provided lots of tips on what I should see during my fellowship. I also met with Kerstin Langer, from the city of München, and Paul Bickelbacker, a local city council member. They had worked with Sebastian Bührmann on the Neighborhood Accessibility Planning (NAP) project that I had read about over a year before. They shared a great story about how advertizing the community forums at local bakeries generated more attendance than when they distributed them at libraries and other traditional neighborhood institutions. This might say more about the German love affair with Backwaren as community planning methods.

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I happened to be in town for Bike Week. Here you can see the famous New Town Hall covered in banners announcing the event and showing off the cool Bike München logo.

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Here is the new Bike+Ride facility that I visited at the Berg am Liam S-Bahn stop. While it is not as secure as many planners would like (no CCTV or locks), it is well lit, well located and rather attractive.

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I could also put together another whole blog post on crazy stuff I saw people transporting by bicycle. This old man, who was yelling to himself and at others, biked by me in a lovely section of München with this live duck in his basket.

Of course, having been in the country for almost 18 months, I saw a lot more than could fit into this one post. I was inspired by some street redesign projects in saw in Bonn while living there for the language training. I was amazed by the modern and beautiful illuminated street furniture and cobblestones I saw in Leipzig during the study tour.  And I was impressed by the role that the bicycle plays in tourist destinations like North Sea resort island of Sylt. While there on a little vacation with friends who also have children we got to experience it for ourselves during a 12 km long bike ride from Westerland to Rantum. I was also able to attend the National Bike Transport Community Conference in Hannover in September, which is a gathering of transport planners from cities and towns from throughout the country to discuss issues relevant to their work and share best practices. I was honored to be allowed to attend and excited to hear them discuss the newly released national bike plan 2012. And on and on and on…

I had lots of conversations with wonderful people. I saw lots of inspiring plans and interesting  projects. I feel I learned a great deal about German culture and lifestyle by observing (and actively participating in) the movements of a normal day in Germany. I encourage everyone to visit this country (and not just Berlin or Munich), but especially those interested in urban planning and sustainable development (those people really need to go to Freiburg, Bremen and Kiel). Of course, everyone needs to go to Hamburg.

I also made four trips outside of Germany and have hundreds of photos from each place, but I know this post is going pretty long and I’m hoping to put at least one more blog post together, so for not I’ll just share two or three from each place:

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I interviewed with the founder of the popular blog Copenhagenize, Mikael, and his staff member Mary.

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Copenhagen is probably considered the bike capital of the world right now. Here is a shot of the busiest bicycle route in Denmark, Nørrebrogade.

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I rode Charlie around in a “Christiania” cargo-bike and met up with one of my old professors from grad school and his family. Visit my Facebook album for good photos.

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Lars Olafsson from the city of Malmo, Sweden (which is 45 mins from Copenhagen) showed me their bike infrastructure which featured a swing through the eco-village called bo01.

For a period of time there was not enough room outside the main train station in Malmo for all the bikes, so they set up this temporary barge in the adjacent canal and installed a few hundred racks. Until the permentant

For a period of time there was not enough room outside the main train station in Malmo for all the bikes, so they set up this temporary barge in the adjacent canal and installed a few hundred racks. Until the permanent bike parking was completed a few months earlier, these spots we mostly full.

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In London I met with Hannah White from Transport for London (TfL). She is responsible for coordinating what they call Cycle Rail but is essentially Bike+Ride throughout the city. Julie Dye, also from TfL, provided me with suggestions on seeing some of the new pedestrian friendly spaces they designed and created in the last five years, like the shared space at Exhibition Road (above).

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In London people have been known to hail cabs or take the tube for trips that were a few blocks away, but they just didn’t realize. This was some of the thinking behind the widely popular and well recognized pedestrain wayfinding system called Legible London. New York City is getting a similar system in some neighborhoods soon.

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Another thing that London has that New York City will soon have too is a bike-sharing system. The bank Barclays sponsors these blue bike (they call it cycle hire). Our friends Kevin and Brooke (who we were visiting) have used them and said they are easy and everywhere.

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I also visited Groningen in the Netherlands. This is probably the most bicycle friendly city I visited. The lines of bikes stopped at a signal is often longer than the number of cars.

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Jaap Valkema gave me an excellent history of planning in the city and talked about the ways the city makes biking more attractive: high tech solutions like a weather sensor at this intersection that holds the light green longer for cyclists on rainy and snowy days (it’s the little horse-shoe looking thing).

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and low tech solutions, like these red carpets that store owners put out with the city’s help to show people where NOT to park their bikes.

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In Groningen, there are bikes everywhere… even at the bottom of the canal that circles the old city center. This is a negative environmental impact from what is normally making a positive environmental contribution.

Na ja, bin ich fertig. That was a long but still very basic overview of what I saw and learned related to NMT and Bike+Ride planning. I am working on other products from my research including a more professional and detailed presentation with even more photos (right now there are about 150 slides). Of course, the best product from my best practices research is the network of contacts I made all over Europe.

In addition to the interviews, I wanted to have some research that contributes to the discussion with new knowledge. In order to do that I conducted modal choice surveys at two Radstations in Hamburg and Kiel. The former was done at the newly opened facility located in the renovated train station in the Bergedorf section of the city. The latter was at the Radstation at the main train station. I wanted to learn why different people choose to ride their bicycles and park them at Radstations. My goal was to identify specific trends within the demographic groups and then think about if this information could shape policy recommendations or plans for future Radstations. In addition to usual demographic questions (age, income, composition of household, residential location, etc.) and travel behavior questions (frequency of modal usage, car-ownership, membership in car-sharing groups, etc.) I  also asked attitudinal questions (what motivates their modal choice, perceptions of bicycle conditions in their city, etc.) The experience of conducting surveys is something I enjoy and gave me a chance to speak with regular Germans about why they use the bicycle and what they think about biking in their cities. The lessons learned are being analyzed based on both descriptive and inferential statistics. Hopefully I will be able to present my findings at a conference in the future. I would like to thank Herr Redecker from Kiel (whom I mentioned earlier), Herr Stefan Clotz from Hamburg Arbeit Services who helped me conduct my survey in Bergedorf, and I will be forever grateful to Dr. Christian Martin from the University of Kiel for helping me with the statistical analysis of my findings. We met Christian and his wife and daughter early on through a playgroup in Hamburg and was a great friend for helping me (I just wish I had asked him sooner!).

Of course, I must also thank Joanna for everything she did to make my time there possible and our time there as a family so wonderful. I would especially like to thank her for documenting our life there through this blog (which you should really read, if you haven’t already) and Facebook updates and emails to our families.  She is an amazing writer and very funny. I could never do as good a job as she did sharing all my personal experiences and emotions from my time in Germany, but she did a great job capturing our life: trips, friends, food, daily life, milestones, visitors, etc., so that helped.

What I can share is this: I miss Germany a great deal and I’m sure I will not stop missing it for a while. We met wonderful, special people who are honestly some of the closest friends we’ll ever have. We lived in an amazing building, on a beautiful street, in an ideal neighborhood, in a charming and vibrant city. I miss the people and the places (and the bread products). I know how good we had it in terms of quality of life and it will be hard to recreate that anytime soon. But, I am happy to be close to colleagues and friends and especially to be back for the exciting things going on in my family (new babies and weddings and lots of other good stuff).

I’m not sure how to close in words, so I’ll just put up a few more photos and say, Es war wie eine Traum. Bis zum nächsten mal.

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Bike for Joanna. Kindersitze and helm for Charlie. Now free to explore Bonn and Berlin.

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As you all may remember, this little beauty cost me 15 euros and it was worth 10 times that to us. It meant Joanna didn’t have to carry Charlie around Hamburg when we first arrived.

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And in the spring it is a big reason why he learned to ride on his own without training wheels in about 4 days.

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Often Charlie and I would bike together along this path…

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which went over this bridge…

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and along this canal right in our neighborhood.

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Charlie, Jo, and Pete riding on Sylt.

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Me and my family. What a great time we had.