Parkallee – No Stars For The Cunning Plan

Anyone who has been on a cycle tour of Bremen will know the city’s top attraction Der Stern (The Star). The Stern roundabout sits in the Schwachhausen district, Northeast of the city centre and has seen changes to its layout over the years. Now new plans are afoot.

Changes to the old layout (see photo) were made in 2010 to improve the roundabout’s collision statistics.

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Stern 2005

The Stern’s current design consists of a cycle lane around the outside, marked off by painted buffer strips with space for motor vehicles on the inside (see photo).

Stern 2013 -credit Cambridge Cycling Campaign
Stern 2013 – credit Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Now, following a Transport Psychology Study of traffic interactions at the Stern, Bremen is proposing another change to the layout of the junction. The focus of the study is an analysis of collisions, and how to reduce them. Since the previous change in layout in 2010 has resulted in no significant drop in the number of collisions, it was deemed necessary to re-visit the situation with a deeper analysis of why collisions come about. The resultant proposals look like this:

Plans for Stern 2017
Plans for Stern 2017

There is much to be welcomed. The proposal includes further separation of cyclists from motorised traffic. – The space between the two now becomes large enough for drivers to be able to deal with oncoming cyclists and oncoming motorists separately. The new design does look more akin to a Dutch design. Its new geometries should be less cognitively complex for drivers and should result in safer driving, and hence make it safer for cyclists too. However one small detail, away from the roundabout itself, caught our eye:

Parkallee Detail
Parkallee Detail

This is the route cyclists take on Parkallee once they leave the roundabout. Parkallee is a relatively new Fahrradstrasse (Cycle Street). When it was first introduced, the authority was very keen for everyone to use the road and at one location physically blocked the perfectly acceptable cycleway by erecting a barrier. Still a relatively busy street, and by popular demand the authority removed the barrier again shortly after. Currently cyclists have the choice as they leave the Stern of cycling on the cycle track or on the road on Parkallee. Our initial observations suggest there’s a 50/50 split, depending on traffic, weather, speed of the cyclist and many other variables.

Now, with this proposal, planners want to dump the cycle track and, again, force all cyclists on to the road. We’ve looked over the study, and have found no specific reference to the need for this. So how has this closure of a perfectly good cycle track been concluded? How was this measure included in the latest proposal?

In fact, the removal of cycle tracks, and their replacement with on-road cycling, is a common theme running through contemporary traffic policy in Bremen. A marketing campaign in 2014 tried to encourage cyclists to use the road rather than cycle tracks, the argument being that on-road cycling was objectively safer. Fahrradstrassen themselves have in recent years tended to be developed at the expense of often ageing cycle tracks, that are too narrow or too bumpy. But taking them away has led to the situation that a good number of cyclists still ride on the pavement i.e. the space of their late cycling infrastructure. This now is followed, consequently, by complaints of pedestrians about “unreasonable” cyclists e.g. in Humboldtstrasse.

In future posts we’ll be looking at specific cases of Fahrradstrassen, and indeed the arguments for objective safety. But for now, it seems that ideology has slipped in a change that has nothing to do with the issue of the Stern roundabout in hand. It is hard to understand where this ideology stands in policy and how policy is implemented. We shall investigate.

20 thoughts on “Parkallee – No Stars For The Cunning Plan

  1. Also dass bei einer “normalen” Straße, wo die Radfahrer auf der Fahrbahn fahren, ein bereits vorhandener Radweg weiterhin genutzt werden kann und somit der Radfahrer wählen kann, finde ich sinnvoll.

    Aber speziell in Fahrradstraßen fände ich es langfristig durchaus sinnvoll, den Radverkehr auf dem Hochbord zu reduzieren und auf der Fahrbahn zu konzentrieren.

    Allerding ist das in der Parkallee auch wieder knifflig, weil es – wie hamburgize treffend bemerkt – keine optimale Fahrradstraße ist. So weit ich weiss, waren dort ursprünglich breite Radfahrstreifen geplant, wogegen sich die Anwohner gewehrt haben, weil sie Parkplätze nicht verlieren wollten.

    1. So ist es, Karsten, vielleicht sollten wir diese Straße als “Fahrradstraße mit garantierten Parkprivilegien für Autos” bezeichnen?

  2. I’m not sure there is a great solution for mixing up cyclists and motor vehicles in traffic circles; all of the designs I’ve seen in Europe have their downsides. One thing we have going for us in the United States is that roundabouts are very uncommon and we don’t have to deal with their many difficulties. We also have very wide streets. You’d think we’d be better at bike infrastructure at this point given the convenience of a common grid layout, when cities were designed for trolleys 🙂

    The most disturbing thing in this article is the movement towards moving cyclists into the streets. Members of the Cult of Vehicular Cycling often point to inconsequential differences in safety data but they miss one thing. Perceived safety is what keeps people from cycling and getting in their cars. My guess is that a movement towards on street cycling will result in a great reduction in the number of children and older people cycling. Yes, it will technically be just as safe because you only have the fittest segment of society on the streets, but fewer people are cycling. I wonder if you are noticing this or not?

    1. In traffic circles mixing motorvehicles and bikes (Swiss model) is the best solution.
      Roundabouts, if they are not too large, are those parts of the network, where naturally bikes and cars have the same speed (quick cyclists the same speed as normal passenger cars, slow cyclists the same speed as trucks. If all move in the same circlular line, there are much less crossing points of waylines than with separation.
      In cities with too many cyclepaths, such as Bremen, Münster and most Dutch cities, nowadays the Swiss model only works on roundabouts with moderate traffic.
      On roundabouts with much traffic such as the Stern, it has to be kept or made possible, but as mainstream solution, it needs one or two decades of encouraging the cyclists, teaching them to be aware, not anxious.

      1. Ulrich Lamm, what you call “Swiss model” is found also in France, the UK, Spain etc., all countries with very low numbers/percentages of cyclists. Whilst the Netherlands put a lot of effort into making roundabouts more convenient for cyclists.
        Question: Is the Stern in your opinion “not too large”? Though we have up to 30.000 cars every day and only 5.000 cyclists?
        Roundabouts are traffic machines for cars, not for cyclists.
        And my last point: The German ADFC had already two decades to encourage cyclists to be aware and not anxious, but still in Bremen 99% and in all over Germany 96% would rather cycle on a separate cycle path than mixing with motorised traffic.

  3. Ich fahre wochentags täglich zwei Mal durch die Parkallee und zwar auf der Fahrradstraße, das ist kein Problem, da recht wenig Verkehr und die Autos in 99 % der Fälle Rücksicht nehmen.

    1. The trouble is, Katja, such personal experience is used to justify infrastructure for everyone else. Yes, many of us can cycle down Park Allee feeling untroubled by motorised traffic. Unfortunately, as Tad Salyards shows in the United States, this does not work for many other people, whether children, the very old, or simply the slow cyclist who feels put under pressure by naturally faster vehicles. Cycling advocacy needs to start with recognising that our personal experience is no guide to everyone else’s, that we need to look for solutions for mass cycling and not just for the experienced and fit.

  4. Die Einführung der Fahrradstraße in der Parkallee kam durch einen Vorschlag der CDU-Fraktion (sic!) im Beirat Schwachhausen zustande. Der Verkehrsausschuss hat sich dann weiter mit dem Thema befasst. Da das Parkproblem natürlich wieder groß aufgemacht wurde, hat man eine Lösung gesucht unter Erhaltung der Parkplätze gesucht. Dabei ist m.E. dann Murks herausgekommen. Ein Verbreiterung der Fahrbahn ging demnach nicht. Andererseits ist es kritisch und auch gefährlich, wenn Radfahrer aus zwei “Wegen” in den Stern fahren, einmal von der Straße aus und einmal aus dem Radweg. Das ist für die Verkehrsteilnehmer, die sich im Stern befinden, verwirrend und Radfahrer können schnell mal übersehen werden. Das hat auch das ASV (Amt für Straßen und Verkehr) bemängelt. Man sperrte aus Sicherheitsgründen den Radweg mit einer Barke. Da es daraufhin zu Protesten kam, hat der Verkehrssenator die Barke wieder abräumen lassen.

    Meine Meinung zu dem Thema ist:

    1. Man kann eine Fahrradstraße nicht zum Selbstzweck erklären. Eine Fahrradstraße kann nur dort eingerichtet werden, wo das auch möglich ist.

    2. Wenn eine Fahrradstraße eingerichtet wurde, muss es Informationen (Banner, Schilder etc.) für die Verkehrsteilnehmer geben, die die Regeln in einer Fahrradstraße erklären. Zusätzlich muss in der ersten Zeit eine polizeiliche Überwachung stattfinden. Es gab und gibt erhebliche Regelverstöße der Autofahrer wie Abdrängen und Überholen in geringen Abständen.

    3. Es kann nicht sein, dass Fahrradverkehr nur dort sein kann, wo er den Autoverkehr nicht behindert und keine Parkplätze wegfallen. Wenn man den Anteil des Radverkehrs in dieser Stadt erhöhen will, muss auch die angemessene Infrastruktur
    bereitgestellt werden.

  5. “In fact, the removal of cycle tracks, and their replacement with on-road cycling, is a common theme running through contemporary traffic policy in Bremen. ”

    Instead of Bremen you can just write “Germany”.

    1. The good thing is, that the ADFC after 20 years of promoting vehicular cycling is changing its policy now, but it will take at least another 10 years to mend the wounds and to do what has been neglected for 20 years.

  6. Like Katja, I use the Parkstraße cycle street everyday. I share her experience that there is not much motorized traffic and I feel strongly that the most dangerous part is cyclists getting on and off the street. There cannot be cycling paths next to cycle streets as a hybrid solution is confusing and unpredictable (for cyclists and motorists) and dangerous (particularly, of course, for cyclists and pedestrians).
    I do experience motorists pressuring me from time to time, which is illegal, dangerous and just outrageous. But to accept their macho behaviour as a given and providing “safe” and exclusive cycle path is fatalistic. And – to be honest – a surprising position to take for a pro cycling blog. That a blog advocating cycling in the city and human-centered (and -scaled) mobility solutions would support such short-sighted and dangerous solutions seems a bit off.
    Rather, I would expect you to ask the bigger questions here. Who is the city for? People or cars? Who is threatened most in traffic? Those surrounded by 2 tons of metal or those on bikes or on foot? Considering the death toll of car traffic (directly through accidents and indirectly through pollution), its effect on climate change, its consequences towards making the city less liveable and society more individualised – the questions we are looking for cannot be how to make sure the same amount of cars can continue to drive and stand (!) around town.
    Rather, it must be how to reduce car traffic and make cycling safe (objectively and subjectively) and attractive for everyone. A cultural shift is necessary for this – but, yes, it needs to start here! Most importantly, less cars are necessary for this.
    It helps immensely to have clear rules leading to predictable behaviour (no choosing between cycle paths and street) and, considering the above necessities for change, to make driving cars less and less attractive. Why is there any motorized traffic on Parkstrasse, anyway? Why aren’t there at least speed bumps that can reduce pressure on cyclists and be circumvented by bikes?
    Let’s look forward, not simply accept car culture and try to accomodate with it.

    P.S.: There are better solutions for roundabouts short of banning cars though. Just google “floating cycle roundabout”. Senator Lohse would not have it, though, when children proposed this original, secure and effective solution to him…

    1. The floating cycle roundabout is very interesting indeed. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure there were many concerns about the costs and aesthetics of such a solution in Bremen, especially at a landmark like der Stern.

    2. Oops, I didn’t realize we were simply accepting car culture. You might have misunderstood what we want to say.
      But I really like your bigger questions, all of them! And I might add: What is the reason for a Fahrradstraße, when cars keep most of their privileges? We can work on these issues together!!

      What we simply wanted to say in this first post on Parkallee: It seems in a way Stalinist to force people into a situation they might not want. Cyclists were protesting strongly against the barriers on their cycle path along the Eastern side of Parkallee. Thus the Senator took them away again. But to silently take cycle paths away totally (still plans, but obviously existing) and hand the space over to pedestrians (by the way, there are not very many pedestrians in that street) without any discussion is a bit “hinterhältig” (backstabbing).

      What are the aims behind planning “Fahrradstraßen”? Do we want more cyclists or what? If we want more cyclists we have to listen to people who don’t cycle to see under which conditions they would do so. And we have to watch, how cyclists use the “hybrid” situation right now, because:

      We do have this situation now for a couple of years, where is the problem? Do you see conflicts? Even at the entrance from the “Stern” cyclists are lead onto the road space (if they want to take that possibility) via a short cycle lane, very visible for cars entering at the same time.

      The much bigger problem is the other side, when cars come from the railway underbridge (50 kmh). Apart from a sign “Fahrradstraße” that is quite out of their view and a bicycle-pictogram on the road where it gets tighter, there is no obvious design for a cycle street. So they speed into this part and get quite confused finding cyclists riding side by side. You mentioned your own experience.
      So the design is crap, the motives unclear, it still accommodates the car more than the bicycle. Where do we go from here?

  7. Hallo Beatrix,

    „accapting car strucutre“ ist vielleicht schon der springende Punkt (wenn auch anders gemeint).

    Aber kurz vorweg: mir ist klar, dass ich nicht von meinen eigenen Bedürfnissen (als relativ selbstbewusster / offensiver und zügiger Radfahrer) auf alle anderen Radfahrer schließen kann, weil die Gruppe dafür einfach viel zu heterogen ist.
    Und so spannend ich die Diskussion im allgemeinen (Verkehr mischen oder separieren) auch finde, so weiss ich nicht, wie gut geeignet dafür der Stern und die Parkallee sind. Der Stern ist mit fünf Zufahrten, der Straßenbahn und der hohen Verkehrsbelastung einfach schwierig. Ich glaube, dafür gibt es keine Patentlösung.
    Und bei der Parkallee hätte ich einen Radfahrstreifen in der Breite einer Kfz-Spur auf Kosten der Parkplätze für besser gehalten.

    Aber noch mal zur „car structure“: können wir uns denn darauf einigen, dass wir für den Radverkehr Attraktivität und Sicherheit steigern wollen und eine Erhöhung des Anteils anstreben, aber der Weg nicht so ganz klar ist?

    Ich glaube, wir müssen für die Radfahrer so planen, wie man in den 70er Jahren (und teilweise immer noch) für die autogerechte Infrastrukur geplant hat. Kein Mensch würde auf die Idee kommen, auf einer Hauptverkehrsstrecke eine Ampel zu bauen, wo der Autofahrer anhalten, das Fenster runterkurbeln und auf einen Knopf drücken muss. Aber genau solche Schlafampeln gibt es in Bremen auf Hauptverkehrsstrekcen für den Radverkehr!

    Und – hier schließt sich der Kreis zur Parkalle – wenn man eine Umleitungsstraße für Autos baut, die schneller, mit besserem Belag, weniger Fußgängern etc ist, würde man auch probieren, die ursprüngliche Route für den Durchgangsverkehr zu sperren oder wenigstens unattraktiv zu machen.
    Vielleicht ist es auch komplett falsch und wir handeln uns damit die neuen Probleme von morgen ein, aber ich glaube, solche ‘autozentrierten’ Sichtweisen für den Fahrradverkehr zu übernehmen, könnte sinnvoll sein.

    Karsten

    1. “Und bei der Parkallee hätte ich einen Radfahrstreifen in der Breite einer Kfz-Spur auf Kosten der Parkplätze für besser gehalten.”
      Genau das war angedacht, aber die CDU, die ja bekanntlich sonst das Fahrrad nicht als erste politische Priorität behandelt, hat (mit listigem Blick auf die Parkplätze) eine Fahrradstraße eingefordert.

      Und ja: Wir wollen möglichst viele Leute dazu bringen, aus dem Auto raus und hinauf aufs Rad zu hieven.

      Und ja: Der Weg ist nicht immer klar, die Grundsätze aber schon: Fahrradfahren muss attraktiver werden als Autofahren.

      Eine Maßnahme ist, dem MIV (motorisierter Individualverkehr) Platz wegzunehmen und dem Fahrrad zuzuschlagen. Die Chance wurde in der Parkallee bisher verpasst. Trotz Rot-Grünen Senats, Grünem (Fahrrad fahrenden) Verkehrssenator und ebenfalls Fahrrad fahrendem Bürgermeister.

      Wir haben noch viel Arbeit vor uns.

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