Exploring walkability in Germany

In September, a delegation from Germany came to Charlotte as part of a transatlantic dialogue on sustainable mobility, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and facilitated by the German American Chamber of Commerce. The focus of the discussion was “walkability as the blueprint for smart cities and work environments.”

Sustainable mobility is a topic relevant on both sides of the Atlantic as metropolitan regions in the United States and Germany rapidly grow. With growing populations, and economies, how can we all ensure that our communities and workplaces are more pedestrian friendly? Making our public spaces more walkable and bikeable is a key part of creating healthy, equitable, and sociable environments.

The program connected German and American organizations in the fields of urban planning, pedestrian infrastructure, and sustainability through targeted roadshow series in the US and delegation trips to Germany in an effort to exchange views and ideas on sustainable mobility.

I recently visited Germany with a delegation to learn and experience firsthand how German cities implement pedestrian mobility strategies to create a walkable and sustainable urban environment.

Key takeaways

I visited three cities in Germany: Frankfurt, Gottingen, and Dresden. They all heavily invested in bicycle and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Here is why, followed by visual examples.

  • Calms traffic and reduces crashes
  • Incentivizes more people to walk and cycle
  • Reduces congestion as fewer people drive cars
  • Creates livable communities
  • Reduces health care costs
  • Provides opportunities to reach jobs, education, stores and transit.
  • Reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions


Frankfurt has two bridges crossing over the river Main that are dedicated exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists.

Bridges in Germany

Bridges in Germany

The city of Dresden is in the process of converting a popular bridge to be used exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists.

Walkway in Frankfurt

Walkway in Frankfurt

All of the cities we visited had public spaces where car access was limited or banned.

The city of Gottingen has an “eCycle Superhighway.” This is a lane dedicated to cyclists that also includes an attached path for pedestrians on foot. The lane is designed to prioritize bicycle traffic through signage and synchronized traffic signals.

Person biking in Germany

Person biking in Germany

With infrastructure in place, it is very common to see adults cycling with children.

Family biking in Germany

Parking in Germany

Bike rack in Germany

In the US, we have an overabundance of parking for cars. The German cities we visited implemented a variety of approaches to accommodate for bicycle parking.

Double bike rack

Parking and bike rack

There are massive numbers of bikes parked next to the eCycle Superhighway in front of the main train station in Gottingen.

Hundreds of bikes

Private companies have set up vending machines that supply bicycle equipment and air for tires.

Biking vending machine

Many businesses find it more efficient to use cycling vehicles in these environments versus cars.

UPS bike

mobile delivery bike

We toured neighborhoods where residents worked with city staff on a number of traffic calming measure including restricting car access and constructing curb extensions. This structure serves to extend the sidewalk, which reduces the crossing distance. It also allows pedestrians about to cross and approaching vehicle drivers to see each other when vehicles parked in a parking lane would otherwise block visibility. These projects were initiated by the residents themselves who approached city officials with their requests.

The Elbe Cycle Route is a route dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. It is approximately 783 miles long and is the most popular route of an integrated system of 37 river cycling routes in Germany. It is also part of an international network of cycling routes all over Europe. You can bike directly from Dresden to Prague in the Czech Republic!

There are signs guiding travellers on the Elbe Cycle Route to their destination as well as stops for places to eat and sleep.

It was very easy to travel within each city and across the country using public transit.

The Mayor of Gottingen let me ride his electric bike on the eCycle Superhighway. He gave us a tour of the Superhighway on a hybrid bus.

A poster in Dresden reads “Cyclists have nothing to lose but their chains.”

Thanks for reading!

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