Bicycle capital of Germany

Health Fitness Travel Inga Kouru Munster

Münster is internationally regarded as a standard-setter for bicycling, with its nearly 70 years of policy promotion, an estimated 0.5 million bicycles for 280,000 people, and a successful Vision Zero programme for cyclists’ safety. Called the bicycle capital of Germany, Münster boasts almost 40% bicycle travel among all trips made. Münster is regarded internationally as a standard-setter and leader for cycling.

So visitors, too, should always bear in mind: Anyone wanting to get the genuine Münster feeling should hop on a bike – it’s the best way to explore the city and will be an experience to remember.

Münster – 1.67 bicycles per head

It’s a well-known fact that everybody in Münster goes by bike. People of all ages, and for every occasion. Whether for a bit of shopping round the corner, or every day to work and back, or for a bit of exercise, or even to the registry office – bicycles, or “Leezes”, as they are known locally (the word comes from an old dialect formerly used in Münster by the poorest classes), are the vehicle of choice. And perhaps this is one reason why so many Dutch visitors immediately feel at home here.

The large number of bicycles is easily understandable: Many important places in the city centre are located fairly near to one another and can be conveniently reached by bicycle. Moreover, the Old Town is completely encircled by the “Promenade”, which is reserved exclusively for cyclists (and pedestrians) and acts as a kind of ring road for them – and is a constant source of amazement to visitors. Thanks to the Promenade, university institutes, the Schloss, the main railway station or the Aasee – the lake to the southwest and one of the city’s key recreation areas – are quick and easy to reach. In addition to which, various possibilities are being tested with the aim of encouraging people to go by bike. Some streets are designated as cycle streets and are clearly signed as such.

A pilot project with a “Green Arrow” sign at crossroads with traffic lights is aimed, in particular, at assisting cyclists wanting to turn right. Or footrests at traffic lights: These are special trestles that make it easier for cyclists to stop and start at traffic lights.

And, of course, cycling is altogether part of the city’s distinctive lifestyle, with topics such as outdoor exercise, health and sustainability all traditionally playing a major role in Münster.

And for the average Münsteraner, one “Leeze” is not enough; rather, he/she owns exactly 1.67 – at least statistically speaking, whereby the head count includes everyone, from little baby to oldest pensioner. So with more than half a million bikes on Münster’s streets, it’s not surprising that so many bicycle shops – there are over 100 of them registered here! – should all manage to make a decent living here.

Where there are so many bikes, there also has to be somewhere to park them. Bicycle capital Münster was therefore the first city in Germany to build a multi-storey bicycle park. This was in 1999, by the main station. There are now three bicycle parks within the city, offering commuters and visitors space for up to 3,500 bikes. And to go with the times: There are now many place in Münster where riders of e-bikes can recharge their batteries for free. Even people who have something big and bulky to transport need no longer despair. The XXL load-carrying bikes are named Lasse, Lotte, Lemmy and Mecky and are available for hire by anyone. And anyone who buys a transport bike in Münster is even entitled to a grant from the city’s coffers.

But people naturally don’t just cycle because they need to. As soon as the weather improves, they mount their bikes and head out of the city for the surrounding countryside, making use of the extensive and excellently signed network of cycle tracks and routes, stopping off at the many beergardens and country inns and restaurants along the way, or relaxing with a picnic on the grass, amidst the restful, park-like landscape of the Münsterland.

Some interesting facts

  • From 2003, Bicycle capital Münster was therefore the first city in Germany to build a multi-storey bicycle parkMünster was rated by the ADFC in nationwide “bicycle climate tests” as Germany’s “Most Bicycle-Friendly City”. Recently, however, the competitors have done a lot of catching up – and in April 2019, the city had to give up the title. And since then, has been plotting revenge – sorry, thinking how to do things better, of course …
  • The downside: bicycle theft. This accounts for almost one in every six criminal offences committed in Münster, spoiling the city’s otherwise normal crime statistics. At the same time, one of Germany’s best-known makers of bicycle locks still has its roots in Münster.
  • Münster has around 310,000 people but over 500,000 bicycles.
  • There are over 100 bicycle shops registered in Münster.
  • Germany’s first – and still today, biggest – multi-story bicycle park was built in Münster in 1999, next door to the main railway station; today, there are now three such bicycle parks, with space for altogether 3,500 bikes. Construction of a further multi-storey bicycle park is planned as part of the redesign of the railway station’s eastern entrance.
  • With around 38% of all journeys undertaken by bike, Bicycle capital Münster was therefore the first city in Germany to build a multi-storey bicycle parkMünster has the highest share of inner-city bicycle traffic in the whole of Germany.
  • Since 2019, as transport bikes help reduce the volume of inner-city motor traffic, purchase of them has been eligible for financial support in Münster.
  • The network of cycle paths within the city covers more than 300 km, including 142 km on signposted theme routes.

Photo: Health Fitness Travel Guide

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