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Cycling - crucial location factor

Hamburg investing EUR 100 million in cycling system to boost region's competitiveness

A 280-kilometre long network of 14 veloroutes and expanded regional routes and parking spaces is being built in Hamburg and due for completion in 2020. A budget of EUR 100 million comprising federal funds and from Hamburg’s authorities has been set aside for the project. Hamburg News spoke to Kirsten Pfaue, who took office as Hamburg’s first co-ordinator of cycle traffic in 2015.

Hamburg News: Mrs Pfaue, your daily commute to work in the Ministry of Economics, Traffic and Innovation is 13.5 kilometres in length. What kind of a bicycle do you ride?

Kirsten Pfaue: I usually ride my pedelec into the city. I like to use the bicycle trailer for shopping or bringing my daughter to nursery school. I travel part of the way with the HVV and it’s more like a folding bike. But I also have an “ordinary’ bike”, for e.g. weekend tours. (laughs)

Hamburg News: Are you a passionate cyclist?

Kirsten Pfaue: Bicycles stand for independence, freedom and joie de vivre for me. Cycling allows me to make encounters and to communicate all over the world. I have cycled in different countries – from Scandinavia to Tel Aviv, the Rocky Mountains in Canada – including an encounter with a black bear.

Hamburg News: So you are not easily intimidated – a good character trait for Hamburg’s first co-ordinator of cycle traffic?

Kirsten Pfaue: I have been following the development of bicycle traffic for nearly 25 years – from a niche topic to a priority for the Senate today. First as a volunteer for the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club (ADFC) and as a bicycle traffic co-ordinator since 2015. So I know the many different stress and fun factors and of course this helps us to advance our goals.

Hamburg News: The plans foresee a 280-kilometre long network of 14 veloroutes including fast routes for commuters and expanded Bike+Ride facilities.

Kirsten Pfaue: Our goal is for people from the metropolitan region to cycle into the city centre, which is not always possible in Germany’s second largest city. That’s why we have to improve the mobility chain between bicycles and Hamburg’s public transport system. We do this by creating good parking facilities at underground and suburban train stations. We want to provide 28,000 parking spaces by 2025. Another aspect is the expansion of the StadtRAD borrowing system. From 2019, electricity-run bicycle trailers will also be available.

Hamburg News: The use of bicycle trailers is presently being examined with a view to the last mile. Will this bike model soon be a common sight on Hamburg’s streets?

Kirsten Pfaue: The increase in urban commercial transport presents us with the challenge of making parcel delivery more efficient and environment-friendly. Possible solutions include the micro hub concept. From decentralised parcel depots, the last mile could be covered by e-vehicles or even freight bicycles. Hamburg is currently gaining experience in this field, which is being assessed as part of the Ministry for the Environment and Energy’s “Move” project.

Hamburg News: When all the measures have been implemented, the total investment in Hamburg’s cycling system will amount to some EUR 100 million. Is that a huge amount compared to investments in motorised road transport?

Kirsten Pfaue: In 2017 alone, more than EUR 15 million were invested in cycling, while EUR 125 million were invested in the urban city roads construction programme, which will also benefit cycling. Today, planning a road without cycle paths and footpaths is unimaginable. The German Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure’s National Cycling recommends an investment of EUR 6 to EUR 15 per inhabitant for cycling facilities. If you take merely the investment funds for cycling, we already have around EUR 8.5 euros per capita in Hamburg. Additional funds from other construction programmes also benefit cycling proportionately. Hamburg is on board and does not have anything to conceal anything.

Hamburg News: Apart from money, however, conviction is vital for raising the share of bicycle traffic to 25 per cent by the 2020s.

Kirsten Pfaue: Definitely. All the relevant actors in Hamburg’s administration must pull together. That is central to my work. And that means that I have to include all the different points of view in many talks, that is, those of city planners, housekeepers or, for instance, those of local police officers. Close contact with Hamburg’s citizens is essential. The new division of the traffic space is triggering many changes and infrastructural measures are a hot topic. So public relations are also an essential aspect of my work.

Hamburg News: If everything goes according to plan, what will Hamburg gain from the new bicycle transport system?

Kirsten Pfaue: A buzzing, lively road space in which cycling stands for quality of life – that ultimately boosts the global competitiveness of the location for both inhabitants and skilled workers. A high proportion of bicycle traffic eases the burden on roads, which is good for commercial traffic in the city.

Hamburg News: Mrs Pfaue, many thanks for the interesting talk.

Interview by Yvonne Scheller

Sources and further information:

Kirsten Pfaue

Kirsten Pfaue, 44, has been in office as Hamburg’s first bicycle traffic co-ordinator since October 2015. The Hamburg-born lawyer has worked for the city since 2007 – most recently as head of the legal office in Wandsbek and earlier in the Department of Urban Development and the Environment, the Eimsbüttel District Office and in the Parliamentary Office. From 2010 to 2014, she was also honorary regional chairman of the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC).

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