It's summer here, and we headed north towards Germany for holidays. Almost every city on the way is encouraging cycling, it seems. It's annoying. Every town, except for anywhere I live, is a cycling paradise.

On the way via train, I stopped in Milan for about 6 hours, getting a public bike. Each station says you need to sign up at an ATM. After discovering a big sign saying ATM near the main square, and following the tunnels to the office, ATM is: the Azienda Trasporti Milanesi. Pay up, get a code, go punch it in, and the world is ready to explore. I never had any idea how many different little piazzas, tramways, charming buildings etc etc there are. Great bikes.

After a night train, the first stop was Graz, Austria (pronounced Grutts if I heard right). A long two level bike parking rack is in front of the train station. Several bikes passed, increasing in numbers towards the city centre. Even whole families were cycling into town. As the tourist pamphlet says, Graz is the most bike friendly town in Austria.

My wife picked this destination from Google photos. Is it any coincidence that the nicest places to see also turn out to be livable cities? Graz is the second biggest city in the country, but super easy to walk, take a tram, or drive a car. Take care with small children on any footpath with a white line. Am starting to appreciate the value of a ping of a bike bell. With it's network of bike lanes, easy to ride tram tracks, and pleasant pedestrianised streets, one of the best cycling cities I've seen is Graz, even if the bike lanes are nothing but a white line with a couple of stencils. Graz is driving me nuts, but nice to be slowly acclimatised before visiting the Netherlands, and risking a mental overload.

Contrasting with Passau, Germany. It has an RTA dream of a road going down both sides of the river where we approached. Trying to stop for lunch, we circled around the place, looking for a parking space. With 2 kids going car crazy, honestly, we'd be happy to walk a km, or pay Sydney prices, but there was nothing. All the stations really said 0 spots. It seemed the majority of drivers were also circling for a space, leading to slow choked traffic in a tiny city.

We found an entrance to a parking station without a queue. I don't know how it was possible. As soon as we pulled up to the gate, 5 cars immediately formed a file behind us, the max possible on the driveway. Having 0 spaces free, the station intelligently would not allow us to enter, until someone finally came out. Having no time to explore, we could only walk the nearby tree clogged streets.

Second stay was Nuremburg, Germany. Again my wife picked it, and again it's a major cycling city. As you get closer, you see a couple of odd bikes. Then suddenly they're all over the place. Near where we stayed was a principle route with a bike or 4 every few seconds. The historical centre is restricted to cars somewhat. There are hoardes of pedestrains throughout. It feels like being in the city to surf, with stops for coffee and shopping. It's hard to take a photo without getting bikes in the shot. Every second bike is carrying Ortliebs. Come the weekend, it's hard to catch the train with all the bikes clogging up the pedestrian tunnels in the stations. It's a good problem to have. One lady we chatted to was meeting up with a friend. She does touring rides for about a week every year. I'm getting a bit jealous hearing how everyone cycles around here!

There's heaps to see in Nuremburg. It's easy to park, and the transport is great. The car was unused for 5 days. It has a bike hire scheme approved by Chuck Noris.

Nearby Fürth, Bamberg, and Würzburg are all extremely bike friendly, with large numbers riding. All the biking does not seem to be harming Germany's economy. In fact, all these towns' streets, cafes and restaurants were positively packed.

Next stay was Heidelberg, which has the longest continuous bike parking I've seen. The bike path near our place wound behind tram stops on the footpath, before going back on the road, into the door zone, but it was heavily used. Along the river there were more bikes than pedestrians. They and we had to weave amoung the trees to avoid colliding.

From the handful of places, most bikes we saw had a kickstand, mud guards, dynamo lighting, racks and Ortliebs. The tyres are fat units for cobblestones etc. Sometimes people wore cycle specific clothing. About 1 in 3 wore a helmet, which is higher than the other places I've seen. Locking up is some simple cable through the back wheel, and not using a parking rack, so using the kickstand. Most bikes are old or cheap, but this method was used also for some newer expensive bikes. There are so many bike companies in Germany. Some still manufacture there.

As always, in any of these cities, there are hoardes of old people, still very active, still riding around without electric assist. Often they are riding with their wives, or girlfriends. I get a kick out of seeing these older couples every time. I read an article recently about the 
people who forget to die. These couples are definitely in that group, out enjoying themselves, and forgetting to act like normal old people. Would love to retire around here. P.S. you can live in France full time if you own real estate there, and love filling out reams of paperwork.

A quick stop in Basel, Switzerland, in the world's most expensive youth hostel, a bargain at 160 euros for 4 bunk beds on a cement floor with no toilet. There aren't many bike paths. But bicycles simply dominate here. They're absolutely all over the city. A network of tramways help, as does numerous large bike corrals, either with a rack, or just a painted box on the road with "velo" written on it. Maybe this is the model for Sydney. Put down a tram track, a couple of white lines, and start dominating.

Finally come some sad stops, leading back to home and reality. In Montreux, Switzerland I just can't get the words traffic toilet out of my head. It's the French speaking part, and seems to have a lot in common with France. French people don't get out of their cars much in my experience. Sigh.

Then Torino, Italy. There is a lot of tram track, a bit of bike path, and some signs of promise, but not many bikes, except for the centre. Dear lord, finally we got to see a few again. Several oldies were rolling as couples, not so many young ones though. The 2km by 2km historical centre is just beautiful. This is the capital of auto making for Italy, with huge wide, tree lined, ugly boulevardes, with 5 lanes of cars each way. There's an important famous car museum that I would have taken the boys to by car, and luckily got vetoed by the missus, god bless her, not that she cares two hoots for two wheeled things either.

Finally we stopped in Cuneo for an hour, a beautiful place to finish! A huge pedestrian square in the middle,  a well done bike lane down the main street, and a bike share scheme. It's a small town. Still, plenty of riders to be seen. Will post some photos soon.

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Comment by Colin on August 27, 2013 at 8:01am
Great read Ted.
Comment by PeterT on August 27, 2013 at 8:14am
Looking forward to the pictures. Your multilingual skills must be impressive!
Comment by Edward Re on August 27, 2013 at 11:47pm

Thanks Colin!

Peter - I wish they were! Korea sounds like a great place to bike. Speaking of language, learning: hello, how are you, can I please have some water, where is the toilet/bus/train, a couple of key phrases will really help on the trip. There's endless free podcasts available if interested.


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