Bavaria: Bicycle referendum is gaining momentum – Bavaria

By bike from Nuremberg to Erlangen, that could go quickly. The route for the cycle expressway could be around 18 kilometers long, ten in Nuremberg and eight in Erlangen. And if the route is wide enough, if the bicycle commuters can roll along there independently of the cars and if the traffic lights are switched according to their needs, then an average speed of 25 kilometers per hour would probably not be a problem.

Construction was supposed to start on a first section this year, but that was postponed to 2023. But that is hardly important anymore, because the feasibility study for this and six other high-speed bike connections in the greater area dates back to 2017. And before that, for example, the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC) in Nuremberg had been put off on that study for years.

The goal of the state-wide cycling decision, for which around 100,000 people have signed since June, is that something like this can be done much faster and more structured in Bavaria in the future. On Wednesday, the initiators submitted the corresponding lists in more than 100 town halls – with a total of four times as many signatures as would be needed for the next step in a nationwide referendum. The signatures will now be checked. In addition to the ADFC and the Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD), the alliance behind the Radentscheid includes the SPD, the Greens, the ÖDP and the Bund Naturschutz (BN).

In Nuremberg, too, representatives of the alliance handed over numerous signatures for the demand for a corresponding Bavarian “wheel law”. Nuremberg is one of those municipalities in which a comparatively large amount is being done for cycling. At the beginning of 2021, various associations and several council groups agreed on a “mobility pact” after 26,000 people at the local level signed for more and better cycle paths. So far, there have been municipal bike decisions of this kind in around a dozen larger cities, with a total of more than 240,000 people signing. With the current nationwide decision, the leap into the area has now been made, says Markus Stipp from the Nuremberg ADFC. In the meantime, there are contact persons practically everywhere in the country.

Apparently it wasn’t that easy to get the signatures together, at least that’s what supporters say. The campaign only really picked up speed at the end of the summer holidays. Nevertheless, representatives of the alliance saw themselves confirmed on Wednesday. “Complete success,” tweeted Markus Büchler, spokesman for the Greens in the state parliament for mobility. So far, the cycling decision has shown that people are demanding better cycle paths throughout Bavaria in order to be “safe and comfortable on the bike in the future”. Emilia Kirner from the ÖDP agrees with the signatures “hopeful that the conditions for cycling in Bavaria will soon improve”. From the point of view of the BN state representative Martin Geilhufe, the bike is “along with public transport the most important building block for mobility that is compatible with nature and the environment”. In order to reduce car traffic, the expansion of the bicycle infrastructure is therefore of central importance.

“We have the support of the population here,” says Andreas Kagermeier, deputy representative of the Radentscheid Alliance, about the number of signatures. He therefore assumes with “high probability” that there will be a referendum. Then, according to the alliance, probably in spring or summer 2023, almost a million eligible voters would have to go to their respective town halls within 14 days and sign again there. If that succeeds, there could be a referendum on the required bike law.

Cities remain strongholds

Can the bike theme do that? There were collection points in every district. The strongholds, however, can be clearly located in the larger cities – especially in those that have already taken part in a local decision and therefore bring an active field of support with them, such as Bayreuth, Rosenheim or Nuremberg. In rural areas, on the other hand, the bicycle often only plays a subordinate role in political debates. The distances are often too long here, so that almost all that remains is the car; at the same time, many city problems are eliminated, such as the time-consuming search for a parking space.

In response to the initiative, the state government has already announced that it will intensify its own cycle path program. By 2030, a further 1,500 kilometers should be built. However, the tailwind would also be necessary in order to achieve the goals that we had set ourselves. In 2017, for example, Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU), who was also responsible for construction at the time, promised to develop a “continuous cycle network throughout Bavaria” that “connects all communities”. In addition, the aim is to increase the share of cycling in the total volume of traffic from almost ten to 20 percent by 2025.

Even critics of the state government admit that they have made progress in recent years. It is said that tourist cycling in particular is now well developed in Bavaria, also because the construction of excursion routes promises economic advantages for the municipalities. However, there can be no talk of a comprehensive and secure network for everyday use. Again and again, paths ended in nothing and forced cyclists back onto the country road, also to the annoyance of motorists. For this reason alone, the Radentscheid supporters want to stick to their plans to force the Free State to take more initiative. They estimate the proportion of bicycles in total traffic to be eleven percent.

Seen in this way, collecting signatures is a sign, nothing more. But it is also one that the Radentscheid activists now want to build on, thanks to the local support structures that emerged in so-called phase one. According to alliance spokesman Kagermeier, “a slight plus” is left of the 80,000 euros estimated for this. The financial requirements for phase two are to be covered by the partners’ own funds, crowdfunding and sponsorship. From Easter, Kagermeier estimates, it could be: “Great, the bet counts.”

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