Since the invention of the two-wheeler in 1817, the bicycle has developed very rapidly as a means of transport. In Germany alone there are currently 72 million bikes with a proud owner.
Significance of cycling in Germany
In Germany the Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrrad-Club (German Cyclists' Association) (ADFC) draws up a "cycle-friendliness" table every two years which is based on cyclists' own views and is broken down according to the sizes of towns. In 2014 over 100,000 people took part in the "cycling climate" test and assessed the situation for cyclists in 468 towns and cities. The good news for Baden-Württemberg: Karlsruhe and Freiburg, two of the state's largest cities, came second and third in the rankings – beaten only by Munster, the undisputed capital of German cycling. Other towns in Baden-Württemberg also significantly improved their rankings in 2014. Examples include Kirchheim-Teck, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Heilbronn, Ulm, and the state capital, Stuttgart."Cycle-friendly Local Authority" award
In Baden-Württemberg parishes, towns and rural districts which consistently promote cycling can compete for the "Cycle-friendly Local Authority" award – if they fulfil the necessary conditions. Being cycle-friendly in Baden-Württemberg should be about more than just paying lip service to the concept. One of the preconditions for getting the state award is being a member of the state-wide association of local authorities which promote cycling – Arbeitsgemeinschaft Fahrradfreundlicher Kommunen in Baden-Württemberg e. V. (AGFK-BW). In these "Cycle-friendly Local Authorities" a high (and increasing) proportion of journeys is made by bike. The towns, parishes and rural districts that have won the award are implementing an especially large number of innovative cycling promotion measures, so they are role models for other local authorities. So far, the following towns have won the "Cycle-friendly Town" award: Freiburg, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Kirchheim unter Teck, Offenburg, Tübingen and Lörrach. The "Cycle-friendly Rural District" is Göppingen rural district.
In global terms, Groningen, Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the Danish capital Copenhagen, Sandnes in Norway, and Munster and Freiburg in Germany as well as Bolzano and Ferrara in Italy are considered to be exemplary cycling cities. They have managed to get cycling accepted as a natural part of the overall transport system.
The Netherlands illustrates what a cycling nation really means: it's not just the favourable topography that makes cycling such a pleasure here. The Netherlands have invested heavily in promoting cycling for decades now. The result is a very extensive cycling infrastructure which doesn't just include good cycleways but now also includes many fast cycle routes. The countless daily cycle commuters also have the benefit of facilities such as parking spaces in numerous cycle garages at stations as well as in the city centres.
The Danish capital Copenhagen is right at the top of the rankings of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world. It is known throughout the world as an exemplary cycling city. Here cycling is a defining and completely natural part of urban life. No wonder: Copenhagen boasts a network of 454 kilometres of cycleways. Over 50 percent of commuters use their bike to get to work, school or college – every day.
The bicycle in developing and newly industrialising countries
In many countries around the world the bicycle is an indispensable means of transport which makes an essential contribution to people's mobility. Journeys to places of education or work are often many kilometres long, and people rarely have access to motorised means of transport. So for many people the bicycle is the ideal solution that provides flexible, personal mobility. In many parts of the world the bicycle is also an important form of mobility both for transporting goods and people and as a source of income.
The country with the largest number of bicycles in the world is China. The bicycle was a very important means of transport there for a long time. Masses of people used bicycles to get around in Chinese towns and cities. The bicycle was used for almost all journeys, wherever people needed to go. But from the 1990s onwards the prestige of the bicycle declined in China and it was increasingly replaced by mopeds and cars – with major consequences for air quality and the traffic congestion in the cities. In more recent times the bicycle has experienced a major revival in China too, in the form of the e-bike.
In Asia, and particularly in India and China, rickshaw bicycles and cargo bikes are part of the fabric of everyday life – with the bicycles often being perilously overloaded. The use of rickshaws as taxis is a long-standing tradition there. But ordinary bicycles are often also extremely heavily loaded with all kinds of commercial and craft goods as well as agricultural produce.
In many rural regions of Africa people still have few ways of getting around. There is hardly any public transport, and people have to walk miles on a daily basis. This situation is holding back social and economic revival. Here the bicycle is an affordable and dependable, but also an irreplaceable means of transport, and an important economic asset. Many welfare agencies do all they can to help the poorest people gain more control over their lives by giving them bicycles so that they have greater mobility. In these areas cycle taxis, known as boda-bodas, are a common sight. These sturdy bikes have a padded cushion fitted onto a reinforced rear seat and are used for carrying passengers in areas away from the main routes. In some regions special cargo bikes are used as an ambulance service.
- Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (publ.) (2016): Baden-Württemberg RadSTRATEGIE (cycling strategy) – Wege zu einer neuen RadKULTUR für Baden-Württemberg (Routes to a new cycling CULTURE for Baden-Württemberg. Stuttgart
- Nuhn, Helmut / Hesse, Markus (2006): Verkehrsgeographie (Transport geography) Paderborn