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.
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).
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:
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:
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.