Loads of schools have “Walking Buses”, helping school children to walk to school safely without their parents having to resort to the “school run” in yet another vehicle being used for a short drive, adding to congestion, pollution, and doing nothing to help prevent their kid(s) joining the ranks of the obese.
Green City in Munich have come up with an interesting variation, the “Radl Shuttle”; about a year ago, I wrote about a visit to Munich and mentioned their “Radlring”, explaining that the German word for “bike” is “Rad”, which becomes “Radl” in Bavarian. So the Radl Shuttle could translate as a Bike Shuttle, or perhaps Pedal Shuttle almost gives some alliteration.
Admittedly, there are Cycle to Work campaigns and some suggest Cycle Buddies to help encourage returning or new cyclists to join in.
There’s a bit of a difference in Germany in that, if a bike path is available, it must be used. There is however an exception to that in paragraph 27 of the road traffic laws in that 16 or more cyclists form a group that can ride together on the road. Where cycle paths are narrow or are shared with pedestrians that can help no end. There are other advantages too: think of the group of cyclists as being equivalent to a long truck and trailer; as long as the first cyclists cross a traffic light at green, all the remainder of the group can also cross – the same as the long vehicle.
The Green City association started their Radl Shuttle programme last summer in a 4 week pilot and had between 30 and 40 cyclists who regularly commuted together down one of Munich’s major roads, the Lindwurmstrasse, to the Sendlinger Tor (one of the city’s historic gates). Unlike the adjacent bike path, they had plenty of room in the nearside lane of the road, and were able to arrive at their destination safely and feeling relaxed. Importantly, the pilot showed that other road users didn’t have any negative feelings towards the cyclists.
Program manager Andreas Schuster explained that it was important that the group were not making any demands by participating in the Radl Shuttle program. “It shouldn’t be understood as some sort of Guerilla campaign and shouldn’t look like an organised demonstration, which would endanger the program, as demonstrations can run up against opposition from police and authorities”.
There is now a Facebook page for existing or would be bike commuters to gather enough support for another Shuttle in other areas of the city and the Twitter hashtag #radlshuttle has been used successfully to get people together.
We don’t have the same traffic law about not cycling on roads: we have the CTC, now Cycling UK, (amongst others) to thank for their persistence in keeping it legal for bikes to be on roads – the oddity that bikes are legally deemed to be “carriages” and are therefore allowed on the “carriageway” – and we don’t have anywhere near enough cycling paths in our towns and cities. But I do like the idea of Bike Shuttles, having long subscribed to the notion that the more cyclists there are, the more we all become visible. And cycling in a group is just plain sociable and fun.
Is it time for us to “borrow” this idea from Munich and initiate “bike shuttles” here in the UK?
You can get more information about the association in Munich called “Green City” (literally, using the English words) which has a whole range of programmes to help improve their beautiful city. On their (German) home page they feature 4 key areas of activity:
- Mobility: more environmentally friendly with fewer vehicles
- Place: urban gardening and greening of the city
- Education: protecting the environment is fun, for young and old
- Protecting the Environment, reducing the use of resources
There is also a summary in English available, or just use Google Chrome to translate the German pages.
Bike & Cycling News – SpyCycle
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