At the Parliamentary Evening of the German “Fahrradakademie” Austria’s CycleCompetence was the protagonist on the topic “cycling in rural areas”. At the Austrian Embassy in Berlin experts and MPs from the German Bundestag gathered to hear presentations and panel discussions. Delegates of CycleCompetence members included Johannes Rauch, councillor in the province of Vorarlberg, Andrea Weninger, managing director at Rosinak & Partner, as well as federal cycling coordinator Martin Eder.
In total around 70 experts from the fields of politics, science and associations on 4 June 2019 accepted the invitation by the Fahrradakademie which is part of the German Institute for Urbanistics (DiFu). They discussed potentials for cycling traffic in rural areas. The evening was supported by the Austrian federal transport ministry BMVI and the moderator was Tilman Bracher, head of mobility at the DiFu.
Rural areas as problem children
A new study on mobility in Germany showed that the share of cycle traffic in rural areas is receding. Especially younger people are using bicycles less and less. On the other hand, among older people bicycles have become more popular thanks to pedelecs. Based on these findings the national cycle traffic plan of the German government, the “Nationale Radverkehrsplan” (NRVP), which is currently being developed, will aim to increase the share of cycling in rural areas.
At the parliamentary evening Rosinak & Partner’s Andrea Weninger told delegates about her experiences with planning cycle traffic for rural areas. Very often there is no cycling infrastructure yet but a lot of space for driving and parking motorised vehicles. This discourages a lot of people from cycling. However, 50% to 63% of all every day routes in rural areas are shorter than 5km which means there is a lot of potential for switching to the bicycle – particularly with the new pedelec trend. Weninger noted in rural areas politicians and planners have to show a positive tenacity and it needs creative measures to promote cycling.
Vorarlberg as model region
Johannes Rauch, traffic councillor for the province of Vorarlberg presented the measures the Austrian province took to promote cycling. He stressed the importance of including municipalities in all decisions when it comes to cycle traffic. Further, he noted in rural areas public transport and cycling have to be linked in any traffic concept. Cycling has then to be made visible via infrastructure measures and events, he pointed out.
The European perspective
In his presentation, Austrian federal cycling coordinator Martin Eder of the ministry for sustainable and tourism BMNT presented the European project “The PEP Partnership Cycling”. It comprises 26 states in which the share of cycle traffic is to be doubled. Eder explained cycling has a positive effect on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) numbers 11 and 17.
Panel discussion with MPs
In the final panel the question was discussed why the development of cycle traffic in rural German areas happened only haltingly over the last years.
MP Mathias Stein from the social democratic party SPD wants to see the bicycle to get out of its “hobby niche” which it still inhabits in some people’s minds. He stressed in federal politics cars are still dominating the thinking. To change that an inter-party parliamentary circle focussing on cycling was created.
MP Sybille Benning from the conservative CDU/CSU stressed the importance to link public transport and cycling in rural areas.
MP Andreas Wagner from the left-wing Die Linke is convinced the problems in rural areas are similar to those in cities.
More information on the content of the parliamentary evening is available (in German) on nationaler-radverkehrsplan.de