Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Man in Munich - Part II

[Editor's note - Second guest post in a series from my old DC friend Mike Tierney. Now living and working in Munich, he'll provide a closer look at that city's bikescape.]

An opening comment - I have read (including in this blog) that opposition to bike paths is mounting.  As an expat away from the battle lines, I am grateful to all of you who are fighting for the humans, and trying remove the car from its decades-long position as the higher order life form in our country.  Our soul is at stake.

Bike paths and visibility on the intersections

There is a "ring" road - more like a highway - around the perimeter of Munich's original walled city.  This road is rather wide and fast, and cars get bottlenecked at a few key intersections.  One would expect these intersections to be treacherous for bikes, but the city has done an excellent job of making the bike crossings visible.  And let me make this clear: drivers in Munich are fantastic when it comes to looking out for bikes.  It may be that the bike is just one of many forms of transportation in the city, and that every driver rides as well, or knows someone who does.  Even in the busiest intersection, whether from a Maserati, old BMW, broken down Trabant, or Toyota minivan, you are assured of eye contact with the driver as he/she tries to cross your path when turning.  I never take that for granted.

Anyway, this (not so poorly taken as the other photos yet still lousy) picture is of the Lindwurmstrasse bike path as it crosses Sonnenstrasse near Sendlinger Tor, the southern facing gate of the old wall.  This path crosses a set of Tram lines in addition to four car lanes.  Immediately past this intersection to the left is Sendlinger Tor Platz, where a roasted chestnut stand sets up shop for the Winter.  The smell wafts through a hundred meters or so of this stretch of the commute.  I recommend them with a good single malt Scotch.  A bag of eleven costs 3 euros.

The intersection below is at Isartor, the east-facing gate of the original walled city.  The red painted bike path extends across the ring road and around the Isartor toward Marienplatz.  In the evening it is common to be in a pack of bikes on this path.  It is wide enough for abreast.

The same site in a not so jolly time.  These gates are over 800 years old and have seen a lot.  If you cannot read it, the sign says "Death is so permanent, driver carefully," which was obviously meant for occupying US troops.  Note the two bikes to the left.  This image is scanned from a postcard I bought in a bookshop in the Reichenbachstrasse neighborhood.  The postcard rack had ironic war rubble postcards like this, along with early 20th century photos of enormous women carrying ten or fifteen loaded beer steins and Lederhosen-clad men doing the ankle slapping dance.

The glorious dearth of Spandex

Integration into the urban landscape and culture

Engaging all of the senses and observations otherwise missed

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