Münster bicycle capital

Posted on March, 01 2012

Cycling leadership brings multiple benefits 

Cycling leadership brings multiple benefits

Münster is internationally regarded as a standard-setter for bicycling, with its nearly 70 years of policy promotion, an estimated 0.4 - 0.5 million bicycles for 280,000 people, and a successful Vision Zero programme for cyclists’ safety. Called the bicycle capital of Germany, Münster boasts almost 40% bicycle travel among all trips made. Climate emissions reductions, air and noise pollution reductions, and greater urban resilience are among the benefits.

Keywords: bicycle transportation, Vision Zero, non-motorised transportation

Münster has prioritised the bicycle from its postwar rebuilding plans – providing a learning case of nearly 70 years of advanced policy promotion of bicycling. It is a city of 280,000 people and 0.4-0.5 million bicycles, with some 450 km of cycle networks. The proportion of bicycle travel among all trips made – by all transport modes – has recently reached 35-40%. The city has also responded comprehensively to the safety problems of cycling: in the 1990s, inadequate safety led to cyclists being 50% of all persons injured in traffic.

Many benefits with biking
There are many sustainability benefits to a city as the share of travel by bicycle increases:
  • reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
  • resilience of transportation systems to interruptions in external energy supply (e.g. fossil fuels)
  • dangerous air pollution is massively reduced
  • noise is reduced
  • health is improved – if cycling is safe
  • greenspace and natural areas can be preserved instead of being developed for roads and road-based areas, e.g. satellite shopping malls, low-density suburbs
Cycling is an important means of transport for a range of purposes: work and school commuting, urban services – e.g. post, police, taxi, commercial delivery and leisure. An important trend is for cities to have well-developed policies for supporting the use of cycles for transport (see also Amsterdam and Copenhagen).

Bike capital of Germany
Münster is regarded internationally as a standard-setter and leader for cycling. It's even called the bicycle capital of Germany. To radically improve safety, a Vision Zero programme brought in a range of measures, like wide cycle highways, cycle bridges and tunnels at intersections, lower car-speeds, and higher visibility of cycle routes. More traffic monitoring and penalties are also part of the strategy against the main cause of accidents – people not respecting right-of-ways or traffic lights. Basic building blocks of the new policies were a high standard in road safety, mutual consideration, and compliance with traffic laws. In Germany, bicycling is promoted by coordinated efforts at local, regional, state, and national levels, and Münster has been able to use this support for its bicycling promotion.

Today Münster has a knowledge- and service-centred economy with some eight universities, many civil administration offices, etc. Heavily bombed during the Second World War, Münster rebuilt itself afterwards on traditional urban design models, rather than the automobile-dependent and suburban model that were highly popular then. It has been able to develop with the bicycle by pursuing greater density and allowing higher building heights than the pre-war city.

The Sustainable Urban Transport Project, http://www.sutp.org/

German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, 2010, “Zahl der Fahrradunfälle in Münster liegt dreimal höher als bislang vermutet”, http://www.nationaler-radverkehrsplan.de/neuigkeiten/news.php?id=3057

City of Münster, no date, “Bicycles”, http://www.muenster.de/en/bicycles.php

Preston L. Schiller, Eric C. Bruun, Jeffrey R. Kenworthy, 2010, An introduction to sustainable transportation: policy, planning and implementation, London: Earthscan

Vision Zero - Ordnungspartnerschaft Verkehrsunfallprävention, OB der Stadt Münster, Juni 1020

Key data are retrieved from the UN Demographic Yearbook 2011, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/dyb/dyb2011.htm

Text by: Aaron Thomas

Bicycles in Münster
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Map Münster
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