This post was last updated on 21 July to add days 8 – jump to this section
An epic 300 kilometre bike ride from York to Münster has launched a cycling exchange between the two twin cities – with support from YCC. The exchange is an opportunity for both cities to share their approaches to active travel – and as Münster has been voted Germany’s most cycle-friendly city on more than one occasion, it is likely to be an exciting one.
This blog will record the progress of the four York cyclists as they head for the capital of Westphalia and the understanding they gain, once they reach the city, of how Münster does cycling.
Tyburn, historic site of the demise of Dick Turpin, is the departure point for David, Ursula, David and Chris as they set off for Hull and the overnight crossing to Rotterdam.
An early start, as we disembark from the Pride of Rotterdam at 8.30 and then pedal out through the industrial port to take the ferry across the Maas to the Hoek. We then head north to Boskoop to join the Eurovelo Capitals Route, learning new habits along the way, such as riding on the right and taking priority over drivers at junctions.
We enter Utrecht on the Dafne Schippersbrug , a massive suspension bridge built exclusively for riders and walkers, which can carry 7000 users a day. The bridge deck is 7 metres wide, its access ramp looping elegantly around a local school. If you want to see how it compares with our own Millennium Bridge, take a virtual tour here courtesy of YouTube.
The route to Arnhem passes through Gelderland, a low country landscape of herons and water castles, which then rises up through shady woodland and over open heath. Paths for cycles are also used by motorcycles, a practice that is less alarming than might be expected. So would this kind of shared use be a good idea in the UK?
Days Four & Five
We push on eastwards, crossing the mighty River Ijssel, slipping over the German border and then rising up through the ‘Tree Mountains,’ which are slight undulations by Pennine standards, but high enough to make the final stretch to Munster feel like it is downhill all the way. I limp into the City Schloss on a slow puncture, just in time to receive a warm welcome and a Union Jack from local members of the Twinning Association. Members of the Lach family, my hosts for the coming week, escort me to their home via the Promenade, a cycle path running round the old city walls. The value this and other cycling features bring to the city will be investigated in the coming days. For the time being, though, this You Tube gives a taste of what the Promenade makes possible.
Days Six & Seven
We spend a busy couple of days exploring the city and taking excursions into Münsterland courtesy of the cycling association and international office.
The Rüschhaus (house of the rushes) leaves a particular impression. This was the home of a figure comparable to Mary Shelley, who defied barriers of what a woman could achieve during her era. Annette von Droste-Hülshoff was a writer, musician and scientist, whose work can be experienced on the Lyrikweg, a cycle and hiking path punctuated by her poems. Truly poetry in motion!
Thursday morning, I call in at the local clubhouse of ADFC, Germany’s premier ‘everyday’ cycling association. A truly massive organisation, ADFC has over 4000 members in the Münster region alone, something that is reflected in the top-class facilities at the city HQ – a classroom, a workshop and a garage decked with all manner of weird and wonderful velocipedes. ADFC activist, Andreas Bittner, gives me the unofficial guide to the other side of the federal bike capital. Finishing late, we race round the Promenade at breakneck pace in order to catch the tour the city’s Fahrradbüro (Cycle Office) have laid on for the twin city visitors.
One stop is at the main bike garage at the railway station. Now twenty years old, it is still Germany’s biggest bike park and can accommodate over 3000 cycles. It incorporates a repair service, shop and eccentric looking bike wash. There is an obvious irony though, as the surrounding streets are crammed to capacity with thousands of randomly secured cycles. Tour lead, Klara von Eickels’ explanation is simple: demand for parking space exceeds provision. The issue, though, is not just one of supply or demand. How are parents with pushchairs or people with disabilities to make their way through the tangle of badly parked bicycles that block many of the city’s pavements?
To square up to this and other awkward questions, Klara takes me for a coffee after the tour and shares with me her knowledge and understanding, along with a generous slice of blueberry cake. What I have learnt from her and from Andreas cannot be squeezed into this meagre blog post. However, for the moment, here are a few highlights:
The Promenade is a 4.5 km car-free ring around the city centre tracing the pattern of the old mediaeval walls. Spanning out from this hub are the spokes of sixteen planned velo routes which will connect the city with nearby towns. The Prom also forms the perimeter of a low emission zone, within the city walls, some of which is car-free.
Major velo routes are complemented by a complex system of bike paths, bike lanes and bike streets, all identified by their red surface. The aim is to have a fine-meshed network that links major destinations with convenient local starting points.
Not only routes are interlinked but also means of transport. You can buy a Plus Card, for example, which offers discounted bus, train and taxi fares, car club membership and cashless parking, whether for your motor or your bike.
The above factors have all been ingredients in the city’s success, but what has been the overall recipe? Klara replies that providing a comprehensive city-wide bike infrastructure has been the key to the high take-up of cycling . As she says,’If cycling is the most comfortable option, people will use it.’ That said, Münster did begin with distinct advantages. . The region has always had a strong bike culture, something which has been enhanced by the city’s flat surface and high student population. In a sense, all that the city has done is put a red tarmac carpet beneath the thousands of citizens who were already out on their bikes.
This is the final post relating to this summer’s visit to Münster. However, a short report on the city’s innovations in active travel will now be compiled for YCC, based on what has been gleaned over the past week. This will be shared with Council officers, representatives and other local stakeholders, such as the Civic Trust, as the basis for a discussion between the twin cities on what they can learn from their comparative approaches. If you are interested in this project, do get in touch with me, Chris Copland, by email.
If think you might like to take part in hosting cycling visitors from Münster next summer, do make contact.
Finally, a big collective thank you to Ursula Lanvers for leading this initiative and from me, personally, to my generous hosts in Münster, Uwe and Petra.
Crazy things we saw people doing on bikes (not freight bikes just regular cycles)
- Carrying a crate of Heineken
- Holding a fishing rod
- Delivering a carpet
- Walking a dog
- Trotting a pony
- Drinking a glass of wine
- Pouring water over their heads
- Changing their clothes
- Going to Münster