Bike infrastructure in Hamburg, Germany, is very good. So good it cracks the Top 20 Bike-Friendly Cities list year after year – at number 19 or 20.
And public transport in Hamburg: also very good. There was once a rumor that the city center was going to go car-free. It wasn’t true, but a lot of people believed it, because it wasn’t that far fetched for Hamburg. The city wants to more than double the bicycle mode share over the next five years.
But then there’s Copenhagen…
No matter how good things are for bicycles in any city, cycling advocates look at Copenhagen with envy. Like Johannes Rossberg, a long-time advocate for cycling in Hamburg.
Rossberg is leading the development for Not Without My Bike – Hamburg, Trufi’s first multimodal public transport app for bicycle users, which combines bike routes from OpenStreetMap with train routes and schedules from Hamburg Transport Association (HVV).
While working on the app, Rossberg made a pilgrimage to Copenhagen in August this year to see how bicycling and public transport go together.
“What you really learn from Copenhagen,” said Rossberg, “is that everywhere you are with a bike, you feel welcome. You feel welcome even when you put your trash in a trash bin at the traffic light, because the trash bin is turned by 30 degrees.”
To Learn From the Best
Hamburg vs. Copenhagen
Rossberg is not just trying to launch an app. He is thinking about the future of Hamburg, decades from now. The Not Without My Bike app is part of a long game – already underway – to nudge commuters, planners, and politicians towards the end of a more sustainable city.
While in Copenhagen, Rossberg checked out the trains and the compartments for bikes, where there was more space for bikes. He observed what it was like booking transport on a train, entering a train with a bike, or leaving a bike at a train station where there is ample bike parking, unlike in Hamburg.
“The difference with Hamburg is that you have bike infrastructure that dead ends,” Rosserg said. “You cross an intersection, and then there’s no more bike lane; you have to enter the normal traffic jam. It’s frustrating. But maybe you can overcome that with public transportation.”
Not Without My Bike could help bicycle users plan for breaks in bike infrastructure. “You know there’s that spot where you don’t want to ride,” he said. “So you can check the app for the possibility to overcome the gap with public transportation. The first leg of the journey may be very safe and convenient, and the last leg also, but in the middle is where you want to overcome with public transportation.”
Copenhagen has winter, there’s a lot of wind. Why are people using bikes? Because using a bike is more convenient than everything else. You get used to it. That’s what we want to achieve in Hamburg with our app, Not Without My Bike.– Joe Rossberg
Hesitant Bike Users – “Hamburg people can get it.”
“In the end it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. If you don’t have people who want to enter the trains with bikes, then nobody comes and says, ‘We have to enlarge the train cars so people can use the trains with bikes.'”
And that’s the sweet spot for Not Without My Bike, Rossberg believes: not hard-core cyclists, but instead people who are the less passionate bike users. “The app could change minds, by allowing people to use bike infrastructure where they feel safe,” Rossberg said, “and use public transport where they wouldn’t feel safe on the road.”
“In Germany we have a bias in favor of cars, but people in Copenhagen are not biased that way anymore. They made the change 20 years ago – two decades before us,” he said. “But Hamburg people can get it. The whole city is changing.”