Shopping by bike

Shopping by bikeSave money and time, keep well and fit, don’t pollute, be cool – there is no better way of shopping than to ride your bike. By running the project "shopping by bike" Friends of the Earth (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland, BUND) on the one hand encourages more people to go shopping by bike. On the other hand the BUND is in touch with administration and retail in order to improve conditions for cycling in town centres. Local environmental groups promote "shopping by bike" in Bremen, Göttingen, Rostock, Offenburg, Karlsruhe, Potsdam, and Berlin.

Why should we use our bikes for shopping?
Facts and figures (modal split and shopping in Germany)
How municipal administrations can support shopping by bike
How shopkeepers can support shopping by bike
Local approaches to shopping by bike

Why should we use our bikes for shopping?


It’s quick. For distances less than three kilometers in urban areas cyclists always arrive first.

It's economical. Only walking is cheaper but it takes much longer. Use your bike and do not spend money fur fuel, parking fees, parking tickets, and repairs. Compared to your car the current costs incurring for the bike are very small.

It’s healthy. Instead of spending money in a fitness studio just do your daily shopping by bike – the health benefit may even be better.

It’s environmentally responsible. Cyclists do not pollute the air, they do not contribute to climate change, they do not waste energy, nor do they make noise.

Facts and figures (modal split and shopping in Germany)

Trips by purpose

About one out of three daily tours of a person is used for shopping. According to this, shopping is almost as important for moving around as are leisure activities. The biggest share of shopping trips are made by car. Pedestrians represent the second most important group followed by the cyclists with 10 per cent. There are, however, local differences: in the town of Münster, traditionally known as bicycle-friendly, the ratio of shopping trips on bike are about 20 per cent. In other big German cities like Hamburg or Dortmund this is only about one to two per cent.

Modes of transportationAverage amount spent by cycling customers is about 33 €, customers coming by car spend 78 €, people using public transport usually spend 37 €. Shopkeepers wonder whether cyclists are good customers - in fact they are, since they visit shops more often.

See more facts and figures (in German)...



How municipal administrations can support shopping by bike

Traffic: Space – as trivial as it may sound – is the most important factor for cyclists in shopping streets. This means more space for moving and more space for parking.

Pedestrian areas: Cyclists should reach pedestrian areas (in Germany shopping mostly takes place there) safely and comfortably. City centres around pedestrian zones are often overcharged by many interests. Space for cyclists is rarely a dominant issue and therefore shopping by bike is not very attractive. Since cyclists and pedestrians usually share availible place, pedestrian areas should be opened for bikes at least before and after rush hours. If pedestrian areas cannot be opened for cyclists at all, bicycle racks should be offered at the entries of the pedestrian area.

bicycle lane as it should beBicyle lanes: On roads with an average level of motorised traffic cycle lanes should be installed. A cycle track on the sidewalk is not a good solution for streets with a high number of pedestrians since many conflicts are to be expected. Furthermore cyclists should better show themselves on the streets than to cycle on the sidewalk. Car drivers tend to overlook cyclists while turning off. Cycle lanes should have a minimum width of 1.50 meters. 

Parking: Space is usually limited, it has to be used efficiently with the installation of bicycle racks. Well distributed parking possibilities for bikes avoid bottleneck situations. Depending on the width of the pavement, bicycle racks can be parallel, diagonal, or even vertical to the lane. If there are parking lots for cars, some of them should be converted to parking spaces for bicycles. Instead space for one car this gives room for about eight to ten bicycles.


How shopkeepers can support shopping by bike

good practiceCyclists have the same preferences as car drivers. They feel like parking their vehicles as close to the stores as possible. Ideally parking positions are roofed over and well-lit.

Bicycle racks: Instead of using inappropriate racks many cyclists prefer to ignore racks. Installing "wheel benders" often turns out to be just a waste of space.

Read more about bicyle stands (link to wikipedia)...

Service: Dealers could provide repair kit for flat tires and sell local cycling maps (or give them away).

Bonus program: Why not allow cycling customers a discount? Dealers should keep in mind that cyclists are an interesting target group: They prefer to visit smaller shops located in the centre of the town or district instead of shopping malls in suburban areas. Furthermore, car-parks are far more expensive than bicyle racks.

Baggage room: Not only cyclist appreciate some kind of box to leave bags for a while.

Read more about how to deal with cycling customers (in German)...


Local approaches to shopping by bike



Customer cycling in Berlin-NeuköllnBerlin: The average share of cycling is about 12 per cent, but in some central districts (e.g. Kreuzberg, Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg) the share is much higher. In principle conditions for shopping by bike are not that bad in the German capital. The city is rather plain. Most districts have shopping areas, which means that distances covered are rarely more than four kilometres. Most important, about 50 per cent of the households do not have a car. Unfortunately, heavy car traffic threatens cyclists in the most important shopping streets. In general there is a lack of appropriate bicycle racks. The BUND is researching into five representative shopping streets and is in touch with the association of shopkeepers and local administration. The aim is to to find out arrangements to improve shopping tours on bike. In addition, the Berlin BUND coworkers organise rental of panniers and bike trailers.

Have a look at the details (in German)...

Bremen: Cycling share is about 21 per cent. The city centre pedestrian area includes 5000 bike racks. This number is unsufficient in summertime. Although many people use their bikes on a daily basis, cycling is not very comfortable. In the summer of 2007 the local BUND group arranges a competition for the “most bicyle-friendly shop in Bremen”. This certificate will give cycling customers a hint. It is hoped to convince other shopkeepers to learn from the ones who have succeeded.

Have a look at the details (in German)...

Central place in GöttingenGöttingen is as the most important college town in Lower Saxony a “compact city”. The cycling ratio is about 21 per cent. The local BUND supporters conduct a survey among Göttingens inhabitants to find out the kind of action that should be taken towards better conditions for shopping by bike. They also lend panniers and bike trailers to people who like to test shopping by bike. Like the other environmental groups supporting “shopping by bike” the Göttingen group does not charge lending fees.

Have a look at the details (in German)...

Karlsruhe: The southwestern town of Karlsruhe near the French boarder is well known in traffic matters for a long time. It is the native town of both Karl Benz, automobile innnovator, and Karl Drais who invented the precursor of the bicycle. Although the city area is rather plain, the share of cyclists is only about 16 per cent. The municipal administration has launched an ambitious program towards a higher cycling share. Joined by students of several schools BUND supporters are testing which of the city’s areas are bicycle-friendly. They also organise rental of panniers and bike trailers.

Have a look at the details (in German)...

Ortenaukreis: In the rural Ortenau region the district town of Offenburg has a cycling share of 25 per cent. Offenburg has a systematic distribution of bike racks in the inner city. But for shopping at the many farmer’s markets cycling facilities are still missing. In order to promote shopping by bike the local BUND lends panniers and bike trailers.
Have a look at the details (in German)...

How use a trailerIn Rostock the share of cyclists is about 17 per cent. Having been part of the European Baltic Sea cycling project Rostock tries to improve the situation for cyclists by taking measures like the implementation of a signposted university routing system. The city centre is a pedestrian area and district centres are frequented by bike. Local activists connected to the German Cycling Federation (Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrradclub, ADFC) are in touch with Rostockian retailers in order to establish shopping by bike. Furthermore, they organise rental of panniers and bike trailers.

Have a look at the details (in German)...

Potsdam: In the capital city of the federal state of Brandenburg BUND activists have taken pictures of several shopping malls and shopping streets. They show where shopping by bike is very easy to handle and they also suggest where shopkeepers could improve conditions for cycling customers.

Have a look at the details (in German)

For further information have a look at this poster (download pdf, 502 KB)...