Roadway space is priceless. When cities grow – the capacity of their transportation system must also grow. Still, even the most auto-centric cities must one day face the fact that they can’t simply widen their way out of a congestion problem. In built urban areas, often the only option is to retrofit a street within its existing footprint and to give people more travel options in hopes of squeezing out every last drop of roadway capacity.
Tight quarters on Munich’s cycle tracks are causing the city to start reallocating roadway space to introduce bike lanes. The concept of bike lanes is as foreign to Munich drivers as cycle tracks are to Portland drivers. Munich started introducing cycle tracks way back in the 1970s and the culture of segregation has permeated through until today. The problem lies in the fact that the miles-and-miles of cycle track were built solely at the expense of sidewalk space, not auto space. As a result, it is common to see streets where cyclists are confined to a 4-foot cycle track while they ride past crowded sidewalks – as is shown in this photo of Lindwurmstrasse.
Steady growth in the number of cyclists (and a current standard of 6.5 feet) means something’s gotta give. And, if that means removing a travel lane, it won’t be easy. There was a reason Munich decided to preserve space for cars back in the 70s. Just like in Portland, the tradeoffs get increasingly more difficult.