So I Moved to Germany and…

I’ve been awfully quiet on the Discerning Cyclist for the past couple of months. Something that certainly wasn’t my intention at the start of this year.
I’m never sure how much of my personal life I should put on this website. I mean, I know it’s good to connect with my audience, but I’ve always hated talking about myself – a trait that is certainly not suited to job interviews. Simply put, it really makes me cringe. I’d much rather talk about you, a philosophy, the weather, an idea… anything, but me.
So, why have I been so quiet on the Discerning Cyclist? Without boring you with the details or making myself feel too uncomfortable, here’s a run through the last six months of my life. In bullet points, naturally.

  1. After living in Gibraltar/Spain for the past two years, the company I worked for said I can keep my job, but have to move to Warrington. Or, I can take redundancy…
  2. In December I took my redundancy intending to use the next few months to become a full-time Discerning Cyclist.
  3. Two days before Christmas, I moved to Germany.
  4. Initially I lived in Flensburg (very north Germany) which was cool (especially after living on the Med).Cycling in Snow Flensburg
  5. Reaching February, I realised that I simply don’t have enough financial reserves to be a full-time Discerning Cyclist and started keeping my eye out for freelance copywriting work – my ‘real’ job.
  6. Some of my awesome friends recommended me to some of their friends and I landed myself a good chunk of freelance work almost immediately (lucky boy).
  7. I started working freelance full-time (one of which is a company in Copenhagen – where I get to go on a work trip every six weeks or so – win).
  8. I basically worked around the clock at the start of my freelance work to ensure I kept my gigs – and maintain my work-from-home dream.
  9. We moved out of our apartment in Flensburg.
  10. I went on a five-week jolly visiting friends, while working from home (home being very loosely used).
  11. I was in the UK for two weeks, then Malta for a week, followed by Barcelona for a day, then Spain/Gibraltar for a week.Malta-Gozo
  12. I then flew back to a new home in Karlsruhe (south Germany).
  13. I can now start to manage a daily routine, whereby I can now fit in Discerning Cyclist again after work – hoorah!

And that’s my life in the past six months in 13 points. Enthralled? Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to that again (promise).
So what’s the point of this post?

Cycling in Germany

I just wanted to say, that I have simultaneously fallen back in love with cycling and stopped caring about cycling, since living in Germany.
The beauty of cycling in Germany (and Holland, Denmark etc.), is just how much of a big deal cycling isn’t here. Every warp of life does it. Kids, pensioners, men, women, commuters… everyone. And it’s just normal.
DHL Bicycle Delivery
Nobody here is a cyclist. A lot of people just get around by bike.
Some people go fast, some people go slow. Some people wear helmets, most people don’t. Some people wear lycra, most people don’t. It doesn’t matter.
There are plenty of cycling lanes. The roads are generally much quieter in city centres (thanks to both trams and more bicycles). People in cars tend to have a lot of patience when around people on bikes.
Bicycle Bells
Sometimes you cycle on pavements, sometimes you share the road with other vehicles, sometimes you have a bicycle lane.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is… I really feel everybody (people who cycle and those who don’t) needs to relax when it comes to cycling in the UK. Obviously I understand the infrastructure and attitude to cycling is poor in the UK compared to much of Europe, but the way we handle it isn’t great either.

What I’ve learned/become sure of:

  • Forcing people wear helmets puts people off cycling (87% of people I asked don’t want helmet-use to be compulsory) – riders have the right to choose.
  • It doesn’t matter what you wear when you ride.
  • It doesn’t matter how fast you go.
  • Over-policing deters would-be cyclists.
  • Scare-mongering (die-ins, ‘near-miss footage’ etc.) only damages perceptions of the bicycle.
  • Aggressive pro-cycling campaigning simply grows the ‘us and them’ feeling that simply damages the cycling image/progression in the UK.
  • Cycling campaigning should be focussing on the positives of cycling (in short: quick, easy, cheap, enjoyable).
  • City centre transport systems needs to become more people orientated.
  • Trams are awesome.
  • We need to make people realise cycling isn’t hard work (hills aside).
  • The bicycle is a great mode of transport for everyone.
  • Bicycles are awesome.

Mikael, from Copenhagenize, expresses the points I’m trying to make a lot more eloquently in this excellent video below.

Pete Reynolds

Pete is the co-founder and editor of Discerning Cyclist. He commutes by bike daily from his home to his co-working space. Originally from Wirral, UK, Pete now lives in Spain. When visiting a new city, Pete loves nothing more than to explore it on two wheels. See Pete's Muck Rack profile

2 Responses

  1. “Cycling campaigning should be focussing on the positives of cycling (in short: quick, easy, cheap, enjoyable).Cycling campaigning should be focussing on the positives of cycling (in short: quick, easy, cheap, enjoyable).”

    The only problem I see with this approach is that cycling is, so often in the UK, a rather fraught, nervy, unpleasant experience that overly positive campaigning seems like a denial of the reality.

    I couldn’t be entirely positive about my current commute, for example. I’d feel it unfair to turn someone loose on that route without warning them about the numerous places where the provided infrastructure puts them in danger, or where motorists are more or less likely to present a significant risk.

    Still, a thought provoking piece, and good to see you back.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m fluctuating a lot on my thoughts on this at the moment, especially after reading this interesting piece from the Guardian on how Amsterdam became a cycling super city.
      I think there’s basically a conundrum in the UK at the mo. First, the infrastructure and attitude to cycling is abysmal. But nobody other than ‘committed’ cyclists (i.e. a small percentage of the population) is going to be particularly desperate to change the infrastructure when there are so few people cycling. Therefore, to increase the desire of people to give cycling a go, it needs to be appealing – something that die-ins and horror stories will only damage. It’s almost a case of chicken and the egg. Do we somehow convince governments and populations to spend £100s of millions on cycling lanes that so few would currently use? Or, do we target a massive push on the number of cyclists and then the infrastructure would come more organically? I don’t know to be honest. It’s probably a mixture of both. But I really do believe changing the image of cycling in the UK is a necessity.

      I’d love to be able to send the whole of the UK on a quick city break in the Netherlands, Germany or Copenhagen – I’m sure it would open peoples eyes.


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IMPORTANT NOTE: Coffee funds may be converted into beers funds on Fridays.