It’s all in the manual

In Munich, it doesn’t take long to realize the importance of order and regulation. Even when I have been here during Oktoberfest, I’m amazed that the entire city doesn’t erupt into an all-out riot where parts of town are set ablaze. From a transportation perspective, this quality has served them quite well. I never find myself stressing about having to make a transfer on transit. The trains are punctual, and there are screens counting down the next arrival at every turn of your head.

The respect for the rules became crystal clear as I sat in the city planning office to discuss street design in Munich. I was presented with a copy of the FGSV manual – RASt 06 to be precise – which is the German equivalent to our AASHTO guide. If you want to know how streets are designed for the whole of Germany just read this, I was told, there is really nothing more to discuss. This was the direct, yet sincere, answer to the question I needed answered.

Fortunately for Munich residents, the rules have permitted the use of 30km (19mph) zones and “Spielstrasse” for decades to shelter their neighborhoods from traffic. And, more recently, federal law has created the “Fahrradstrasse”, a bicycle priority street, and has allowed for two-way cycling on one-way streets. Munich has responded by opening 43% of one-way streets to cycling in both directions.

A few years ago this would have been impossible, my host explained. Now we see that it is safe to ride against traffic. The cyclist is riding directly towards the motorist and is completely visible. Thinking back on our conversation, I can see that it makes sense to go by the book when the standards permit operations that are not only safe but offer all users equal rights on the street and, where appropriate, pedestrians and cyclists are even given rights that are not extended to motorists.

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About Denver Igarta

This blog was established to document my search for streets that my 5-year old can play near without my constant supervision. Where kids can live active lives and learn independence. My quest began when I was selected as an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, for info: gmfus.org/cdp/fellowships. I am a multi-modal transportation planner for the City of Portland (OR), America's sustainable transportation capital. SHORT BIO/PROJECT DESCRIPTION Denver Igarta (October-November 2011), Urban Planner, City of Portland Bureau of Transportation Project: Livable Streets Where People Live: Fostering People-Friendly Streets by De-emphasizing Automobile Traffic in Residential Areas Cities: Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Malmö Denver Igarta is an urban planner with the Transportation Bureau of the City of Portland. He works on a broad range of transportation policy, street design initiatives and pedestrian, bicycle and freight planning efforts. He recently served as one of the principal authors of Portland's new bicycle plan. He is currently staffing two “active transportation” projects: a rails-with-trails project along the Banfield Freeway and a local street system plan for one of the state's most diverse neighborhoods. He performed his graduate studies at the University of Dortmund, Germany and the University of the Philippines and holds a Master of Science in Regional Development Planning. Portland is struggling to reverse generations of auto-oriented development patterns and make neighborhood streets more “livable” (people-friendly) by restoring their multimodal and placemaking functions. Mr. Igarta's research will evaluate how cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden have enacted policies to restore the multiple functions of public streets through traffic management, green infrastructure and giving priority to sustainable travel modes. He will meet with local practitioners, policymakers and civic leaders involved in transportation planning, traffic safety and neighborhood livability projects, street design, and implementation of multi-modal traffic policies. The ultimate aim of the study is to compile a set of best practices and policies implemented in European cities that have broadened the role of residential streets beyond automobile mobility. Additional focus will be given to understanding how acceptable policy tradeoffs are determined within city agencies and the level of public support for measures that restrict car movements, such as reduced speed zones, bicycle streets, shared spaces, residents-only streets and residential parking restrictions.
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2 Responses to It’s all in the manual

  1. Roger Geller says:

    How busy are the one-way streets where contra-flow riding is allowed? Nothing like our downtown streets, I imagine…

    • Contra-flow bicycle conditions are only allowed on streets signed 30km/h. The good news for Munich is that this includes 80% of all streets. Just this year, the entire Altstadt (historic center) was signed 30 km/h for the “specific purpose” of introducing contra-flow bike lanes within their downtown. I have a cool photo of a contra-flow bike lane on a one block street downtown with only a 10 feet travel lane marked with dashed bike lane strip 3 ft wide leaving 7 ft for the car. Needless to say, cars must move very slowly when they pass a cyclist riding the opposite direction.

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