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Alpine Cycle Chic part 2: Bozen/Bolzano

Alpine Cycle Chic part 2: Bozen/Bolzano

For the second part of my look at Alpine cycle chic, I travelled south from Innsbruck to Bozen/Bolzano. The dual name tells you that we have now moved to the South Tyrol (German and Ladin: Südtirol, Italian: Sudtirolo or Alto Adige) in the north of Italy. Once again, this trip was not primarily about taking cycling photos, we had other reasons for going there. I just took the opportunity to grab a few photos.

On exiting the station, you quickly become aware that this is a place with a strong cycling culture, bicycles are everywhere. But it wasn’t until I stopped to take a photo of a shop across the street that I realised just how strong a cycling culture it is. It wasn’t the bikes in the shop window that made me realise this, pretty though they are, it was the reaction of people driving past. There was a traffic light at the end of the street, and instead of rushing to join the stationary queue of traffic, these drivers were slowing down to look longingly at the bikes in the shop. As I was trying to take photos, one of the drivers saw me, smiled and stopped short, so as not to block my view! That is something which would never happen in the UK, as I know from experience. Oh, and here is the shop…

Bikes in Bozen

Bikes in Bozen

Bikes in Bozen

I was tempted to rush in and buy a bicycle my self, but my financial conscience wouldn’t let me, she was after all standing beside me.

According to the conventional wisdom (of English speaking cycle campaign groups), Bozen/Bolzano shouldn’t have a bicycling culture because it isn’t flat. I am often told that a major reason that bicycles are popular in places like the Netherlands and Denmark is because the are flat, and that in places with hills people don’t cycle. OK, would those people please explain these photos then?

Bozen isn't flat

Bozen isn't flat

Bozen isn't flat

Bozzen isn't flat

Another thing Bozen/Bolzano does have is cycle specific infrastructure, such as separated cycle lanes,

Bozen cycle infrastructure

lots of cycle parking,

Bikes in Bozen

Bikes in Bozen

and this is a street open to limited motor traffic.

If you don’t have a bike with you when visit Bozen/Bolzano, there is bicycle rental (Fahrradverleih/Noleggio biciclette), which costs €1 for six hours, €2 for more than six hours and €5 a day for multi day hire. We didn’t hire bikes on this visit, but having seen them outside the station, we will probably do so on another visit.

My favourite bit of infrastructure in Bozen/Bolzano is actually for pedestrians and just outside the station.

Bozen infrastructure

Bozen infrastructure

This pedestrian crossing goes all the way around the roundabout, thereby giving pedestrians priority, putting cars in their place, and it seems to work. I really liked Bozen/Bolzano from our brief visit, and it is no surprise to find that it was ranked as having the second highest quality of life of Italian cities in 2007. The first place was taken by Trento, which I have yet to visit, one day. It is also no surprise that places that have a high quality of life are also tend to be bicycle friendly! Update: it would appear that in 2010 Bozen/Bolzano took the top spot with Trento in second.

Finally I will leave you with a few more photos of bicycles and people in Bozen/Bolzano.

Bikes in Bozen

One for Bike Snob

Bozen cycle chic

Bikes in Bozen

Botzen cycle chic

Addendum: Since first writing this post I have discovered that Bozen/Bolzano was the first city in Italy to install a “bicycle barometer” similar to the bicycle counting machines exist in Copenhagen, and that modal share of cycling in Bozen/Bolzano is around 30%! Oh and the only time I saw a cycle helmet being worn the whole day, was by a long distance tourer at the station, he also had a Californian flag on the bars of his bike…

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Alpine Cycle Chic part 1: Innsbruck

Alpine Cycle Chic part 1: Innsbruck

It is often said that a cycling culture, with riding a bicycle as transport, is only common in flat places. However, on my regular trips to the Alps I am always struck by just how many cyclists you see on the streets. So on my most recent trip I tried to take a few photos to show a wee bit of Alpine Cycle Chic. My first opportunity came on a couple of trips into Innsbruck, but I wasn’t allowed to go on a full-on cycle chic photo safari, just grab the odd photo.

So to start with, a few ordinary Innsbruck cyclists:

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

Innsbruck cycle chic

As you can see, Innsbruck has a healthy cycling culture, sadly I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture of the Christiania cargo trike in Maria Theresien Strasse. Interestingly, there was a recent attempt by the city council to ban bicycle parking in the pedestrianised part of Maria Theresien Straße, but this was rejected after complaints from the owners of shops and cafès along the street who worried that this would have a negative impact of trade. Spend a while sitting at a pavement cafè and you will soon see why, getting about by bicycle is very popular.

Given the levels of congestion of motor traffic in Innsbruck, it is no surprise that cycling is so popular. This is despite Innsbruck having other forms of traffic which UK based cycle campaigners would tell you are bad for cycling, such as trams, bendy buses and heavy lorries (there is a large amount of building work at the present time), etc. It helps that there are wide cycle paths along either side of the Inn which give access to the centre of the city. There is also an extensive network of cycle lanes, here are some pictures:

Innsbruck cycle infrastructure

Innsbruck cycle chic

Note the the bus stop (Haltestelle) marked with a H, and that the buses stop to the left (outside) of the cycle lane. In the UK this would be seen as potential conflict point, but here the cyclists either stop or ride slowly around passengers getting on and off the buses.

Innsbruck cycle chic

While on the subject of cycle lanes, at traffic light controlled junctions there are not only advanced stop lines for cyclists, but separate lights as well, which allow the cyclists to move off 30 seconds before the motor traffic.

Innsbruck cycle infrastructure

As you will have seen from the photos above, cycle parking along the streets is plentiful, as is residential cycle parking, with apartment blocks all having some form of covered cycle parking. The newer ones often have secure cycle parking built in. Cycle parking is also provided at transport interchanges, such as this bus/tram interchange.

Innsbruck cycle parking

Innsbruck cycle parking

You can of course take your bike on the tram if you want to,

Bikes on an Innsbruck tram

and you can take your bicycle on the bus as well. Unfortunately my pictures of the bike space on the bus didn’t come out too well, but there is space for a up to four bikes, if it isn’t in use for prams or wheelchairs as these passengers have priority for the secured spots. On routes where bike carriage is popular, the buses also carry bikes on the outside. These racks can also, rather conveniently, be modified for carrying skis in the winter.

Bikes by bus in Innsbruck

Sorry if you feel I have veered away from cycle chic and onto infrastructure, but it takes good infrastructure to develop a healthy bicycling culture.

Addendum: the modal share of cycling in Innsbruck is 14% and rising.

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