Following a television documentary about the “do it yourself” and bicycle culture in Portland, Oregon, last year, many Bremers, and especially cyclists, asked me if Portland is really as cool as all the hype.
Well-signed bike route through residential streets in the Mt Tabor neighbourhood of Portland, Oregon.
„The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of middle and upper class women then all the struggles of the womens’ movement“.So wrote the Austrian authoress and feminist Rosa Mayreder (1858-1938).
The first female cyclists came from wealthy families, taking the opportunity to get away from their restrictive circumstances. In Bremen there were Ricarda Huch and Aline von Kapff, who fought for their freedom from the saddle of their bicycles more than 100 years ago.
Women cycle differently
But if we think cycling is gender-neutral, we are wrong. A majority of women cycle in a more defensive way,requiring more security. Meanwhile, if we look at what has been done for Bremen cyclists in recent years, it appears that cycling policy has evolved for young, male, fast cyclists. Some of them might like cycling on the road more than on a cycle path, but to do so requirescourage and speed. Slow cyclists, or indeed more anxious people, don’t enjoy mixing with cars on the road. It is seen as dangerous, and certainly some car drivers see cyclists as an obstacle, of which they try to get rid of by hassling them and blowing their horns.
A British study comes out with the same results: „Women seem to be more vulnerable, maybe because they are less likely to claim the car lane and thus hug the kerb. In the year 2009 10 of 13 killed cyclists in London were women, 8 of these killed by left-turning lorries.“
Bremen seems not to be interested in womens’ wishes
Despite this, traffic planners in Bremen fail to consider thevarying needs of cyclists, be it children, elderly people or women. Recently built cycling infrastructure in Bremen is geared to the young, sporty (mostly male) cyclist, who likes to mix with cars without any worries. More and more women protest, pointing out that they don’t want to cycle on specific roads.
Fahrradstraße (cycle street) Parkallee in one of these: illegal parking narrows the space and loads of non residential car drivers speed through it. Cyclists are overtaken ignoring the necessary distance of 1,50m and they suffer from motorists who hassle them, blow their horns and shout at them. A similar problem is the Humboldtstraße, also a so-called cycle street: Bremen tends to develop „cycle streets light“, quite the contrary to the diligently developed cycle streets of the first years, in the 1980s. This has a lot to do with Bremen’s cycling advocates, who still today argue for vehicular cycling on the road.
A new development is a „green wave“ for cyclists. But it is planned at a speed of 18 km/h – most women though cycle more slowly. The idea behind it is good, the way it is done is once again „light-headed“.
Transport planning needs to be more feminine
A successful gender mainstreaming in the transport sector is a sign of quality for planners and politicians – given how household structures develop and new life styles emerge. But if we want a just transport plan we need to look at the needs of all traffic members. It is ridiculous that planning for cycling tends to forget the majority – the women – and their needs. Transport planning needs to be more feminine. We need more space, security, no anxieties, equal rights and a gentle working together.
Members of the Bremen Transport Transition Forum were in action today, as part of the National Illegal Parking Week. The aim of the action was to draw attention to the improper, dangerous and unlawful use of public space for parking.
It’s National Illegal Parking Week in Germany. As part of a series of actions in Bremen, the Bremen Alliance for A Transport Transition sent the following letter to members of the state government of the State of Bremen:
Dear Mayor of Bremen, and dear Bremen Senators,
This letter is a protestation. We strongly object to the official practice of your government to allow illegal car parking on Bremen’s pavements. This kind of car parking categorically transgresses the law and Road Traffic Regulations [Straßenverkehrsordnung]. Pavements are a public space for pedestrians. Pavements are not a private space for car parking.
The Bremer Senate has adopted the implementation plan of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD), thereby binding Bremen’s government to its goals. Article 9 of the UN-CRPD commits the signatories to take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, including the physical environment. These measures include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility. Equal access includes access to spaces of public life and transport systems.
Personal mobility with a maximum of independence is supposed to be facilitated by the signatories (Article 20). Enabling personal mobility is a prerequisite to participation in public life.
These are the promises that the politicians and civic society organisations have signed up to and endorsed. Why is it possible that Bremen’s government does not promptly act on these promises of mobility free from barriers? We demand that Bremen government officials implement the prevailing law and regulations.
We have identified you, Senator Mäurer, in your authority as Senator for City Affairs, to have the responsibility to ensure the orderly implementation of the UN-CRPD by the council. This means that the government, with immediate effect, should cease the deplorable practice that allows illegal car parking on pavements including the 5-metre junction rule.
We have noticed that the government have reinterpreted what they deem acceptable use of public space. Your government started to tolerate illegal car parking. This reinterpretation, however, does not take into account all users of public space. Your government’s reinterpretation is now restricting free movement on pavements. Yet, what is passing as acceptable use of pavements must be based on adopted policies of the government. Without appropriate signage, the parking of cars on pavements is illegal. A mobility free from barriers requires a minimum pavement width of two metres. For many years citizens have informed the government of these illegalities. And often these incidents have been severe. The media also has amplified these voices: the negative impact of illegal car parking on children and mobility-impaired people, the loss of personal independence, public freedoms and equal access. The apparent leniency by your officials towards illegal car parking further exacerbates the situation: citizens are given the impression that the parking up of public space is acceptable.
The rigorous enforcement of illegal car parking has now become of paramount importance. The government should no longer tolerate dangerous and careless car parking. The government must equitably manage parking space and car parking. In doing so, this would benefit Bremen’s citizenry on the whole: emergency services, deliveries, cycling, children, older people and people with impaired mobility. The use of physical measures alone, such as bollards to prevent car parking, are not sufficient, and sometimes counterproductive: even more public space is wasted and new obstacles are created. Furthermore, the gaps between bollards can too easily be re-interpreted as free space for parking.
The solutions to the challenge of cars in public space must be holistic.In sum, we ask you – as respectfully as we do forcefully – to notify your officials. The Bremen government must now enact policy and law and accordingly implement the UN-CRPD with immediate effect.
Bremer Alliance for Transport Transition (Bremen Friends of the Earth , VCD e.V., ADFC e.V. und FUSS e.V.)
We’ve had enough! More and more cars fill our streets, less and less space for everyone else. So what could a CarSharing (Car Club) system do for us? If several people share one car we need less of them, and fewer parking spaces are needed.
In Bremen nearly 15,000 people use Cambio. Founded 30 years ago as a community association called „Stadtauto“.
Right now (May 2018) Cambio offers 331 cars of different sizes, based at 91 stations around the city for 14,800 users in Bremen und Bremerhaven.
Push-Pull is essentially a package of carrot and stick policies: I’ll take something away from you, e.g. Free parking, and give you something back, e.g. more trams, quality cycleways, safe pavements.In short: improved quality of life through better mobility.