City Cycle Ride

 •  March 3

Join us this Sunday (8th March 2020) on our first ride of the year! As always our social rides are free and easy, with no registration required....

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Luxembourg – From High To Low

 •  February 12

Select two dots on a map - you have an adventure!

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Infrastructure, not culture

 •  November 5

That's not part of your culture? “Mir sinn hei net zu Amsterdam” and other false pretexts for which you preferred the traffic jams to the bicycle...

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The Bivvy Microadventure

 •  June 2

Waking up hearing the birds sing and looking directly down across a spring-flowered meadow towards a heavily wooded valley we couldn’t help wonder...

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Join us this Sunday (8th March 2020) on our first ride of the year! As always our social rides are free and easy, with no registration required.  We just meet up and have a fun and easy ride, with plenty of chances to chat, meet and see a new side of the City.

We plan a series of rides through the year, gently getting longer each time. But for our first one we will have a nice 20km around Luxembourg City, using lots of the infrastructure here, such as lifts and the funicular. We hope it will be fun, but may also acquaint you with some new paths for your own rides around Luxembourg.

We will, of course, finish the ride with a visit to a café for cake.  Obviously.

When?

We meet at 2pm

Where?

Our customary meeting point at the iconic Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady) on Place de la Constitution

How far?

This will be an easy 20km, we always ride to the speed slowest member. This is a social ride, not a race or training session

Wait! I don’t have a bike!

No problem, stop off at Velo en Ville in the Grund (opposite Oscar’s) to rent one, or use the Vel’oh City bikes. N.B. until Easter Velo en Ville does not open at weekends, therefore you will need to take a weekend hire on Friday.

Alternatively the big annual Second-Hand Bike sale starts Friday 6th March at Belle Etoile. Maybe you can pick up a good bargain there! Details here

Cost and Registration

There is no cost, and no registration for this ride. Just turn up and ride! Individuals are responsible for their own cake. Eat Cake Responsibly.

Happy riding! See you Sunday!

Is there an upside to being landlocked ? Everybody loves the sea, right? Gazing at its enormity, being in or on it; it is where we originate, after all, even us in here Luxembourg.  In his manifesto for bringing adventure close to home Alastair Humphreys suggests starting at the highest local point and descending to the sea, by foot or by bike (or by raft!).

Here is one advantage of being landlocked; we have two clearly defined points to make an arbitrary adventure:- the highest to the lowest points in the country. And thus I set out to cycle this long gradual downhill.

Conveniently the highest point is situated, unsurprisingly, in the far north of the country. This adventure therefore started with a lovely hour-long trip by train, the countryside becoming ever more beautiful as we passed Miersch (Mersch) and head deep into Éislek, the northern half of the country.

Alighting at the final station in the Grand Duchy the air was clean and fresh and off I set, immediately hitting a typical Ardennes hard short climb. This took me over a tunnel housing the railway as it snakes away towards Belgium, eventually reaching Léck, better known by its French name Liège, maybe. Round and round over some little bridges, in and out, and the route finally joins a lovely old train path the Vennbahn. I ride only a few kilometres of this, but it is a wonderful 125km long track which is highly recommended.

Sadly I must soon leave it at the Buurgplaatz, erroneously considered the high point of Luxembourg. In fact a nearby location is a full 1 metre higher; this is The Kneiff. I prepare myself for the climb. In fact it’s a miserable three or four hundred metres on the National Route 7, clearly news of the 1.5 metre passing law still hasn’t reached this far north yet, cars so close I could touch them all. This is really the only uncomfortable road of this entire ride, and it is really very short. Finally I turn onto the unmarked farm track while a few spots of rain patterned the muddy path and as I achieve the ‘summit’, and think I should don my rain jacket.

The highest point in Luxembourg

As far as peaks are concerned this is definitely more at the Imperceptible Crest of a Hill end of things rather than the Sweeping Majesty, but I enjoyed the initial freewheel away as the rain picked up. Heading due south on cycle ways and minor roads as thunder rumbled and threatened all around.

Up and down over this beautiful rolling countryside I found myself following a signed bicycle route named “Panorama”, and if the little section I followed was typical then this too was worth another trip. There are several nice little routes up here; I later found myself on another, called “Jardins”.

The weather had cleared as I was heading towards the river near Vianden, it was all so glorious here, well worth the effort, and I certainly did not mind the odd wrong turn I took, some of the signposting far from perfect. After Vianden you join the Three Rivers Cycle route, the first shortish section is not ideal, being on a main road, but soon afterwards, and for miles upon miles it is just fabulous.

The Our and Sauer (Sure) Rivers are beautiful and full of bird life. I saw also many campers happily playing on inflatables in the river and eventually steamed into Waasserbëlleg whilst the summer’s evening was deeply golden. I paused at Op de Spatz and unlike the understated white stone at the Kneiff, here there is a sign proudly displaying the altitude of just 132 metres above sea level. I dipped my hands in the exact point the Sauer meets the Musel (Moselle) and my 100km long, 423 metre descent was complete.

The lowest point in Luxembourg

I can fully recommend this ride, and you can of course choose your own route, maybe Cycle Travel can help you plan. Also use the CFL website to find trains to and from Troisverges and Wasserbilllig. Bikes have always been free on these, and soon people will be too.

Do you have any ideas for arbitrary points to join by bike in the Grand Duchy? What ‘adventures’ have you found along the way? Why not share them with us below?

Bike lane dangerously caught between two buses

That’s not part of your culture?

Mir sinn hei net zu Amsterdam” and other false pretexts for which you preferred the traffic jams to the bicycle this morning.

Creative Commons LicenceThis article originally appeared in French in Forum 374 and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Why don’t Luxembourgers cycle? Through construction sites and traffic jams, it can divide urban travel times by half. Despite this, the proportion of cyclists in urban transport in Luxembourg remains marginal compared to other European cities. Those where cycling has taken off prove it: the only way to encourage cycling on a sustainable basis in everyday travel is a continuous and coherent network that makes cycling safe and enjoyable.

Of course, there are obstacles that will always remain quite significant for some people and make other means of transport seem more attractive to them. Even in the most cyclable cities where people can easily cycle up to ten kilometres, it is not the best answer for all trips. These reasons, which may be true for a few people, are often generalized to the entire population and justify, in a counterproductive way, insufficient investment in inadequate infrastructure, which ultimately consolidates the role of the car in transport.

Always a good reason….

It’s not the topography. Yes, a flat city favours cycling, but it is not a silver bullet, and valleys are not insurmountable. The city of Aarhus, despite the clichés about Denmark, has steep hills and an incessant sea wind that has nothing to envy to the côte d’Eich; the modal share of cycling is 18%. Grenoble, the flattest city in France, has difficulty reaching 6%. Cheaper electric bicycles are spreading, and the Grund and Pfaffenthal elevators are full: we know how to get out of our valleys.

It’s raining, then. Or it’s too cold. Or too hot too? We’d get to work stinking of sweat. So how would the people of Amsterdam who work in suits do it? They wear a big coat in winter. Waterproof pants, sold for a few euros at bike shops, allow you to ride in the rain. What about not sweating? No, the offices are not equipped with showers: you simply drive slower than a sports cyclist, just as you would walk rather than run. In Copenhagen, green waves for bicycles on the main roads even avoid having to accelerate after each red light, to reduce fatigue.

Shopping and children to carry exit the picture as soon as you see two children crossing the red bridge in the bin of a cargo bike or a cyclist in a supermarket with her bags. Anything that fits in a shopping cart can, in the worst case, fit in a bicycle trailer.

Anyone can dispel these myths by cycling their daily commute during the week-end. The path will be a little different at first, but the problems we imagined often aren’t.

More cars and parking spaces are needed to encourage trade? On the contrary, everywhere on earth, all studies show that soft mobility is good for business. Where is it more interesting to open a new store in the City, rue Philippe II or rue Joseph II?

The most pernicious platitude, because it is more difficult to verify for oneself, is that the problem would lie in our culture. In the end, the Luxembourger would have to be forced if we wanted to exceed the few % modal share by bicycle, even in the city. He or she would never ride a bike, even if the problems were rare and the benefits obvious.

In addition to mistaking people for idiots who are unable to make rational decisions about which mode of transportation to use, the culture argument also has a short memory. Luxembourg roads were full of cyclists a few decades ago, while bicycles were heavy and less advanced. The Luxembourger is therefore not congenitally unable to travel by bicycle. It is a circular choice over decades to favour the car that makes everyone have a car that makes the car favour the car that really makes everyone have a car.

Creating a coherent network

If all these reasons are pretexts, what makes some cities more cycle-friendly than others? Just ask non-cyclists what demotivates them, which several studies have done: the main factor discouraging cycling is the fear of car traffic. It is not just a question of accident statistics; to attract new cyclists, cycle routes must also make them feel comfortable and safe. This is particularly true for the sections of the population that are more rarely encountered on Luxembourg’s cycle paths; young men, who are naturally more audacious, are less sensitive to such risks.

The best way to convert non-cyclists to cycling is what European cities with the highest cycling rates all have in common: complete networks of separate cycle paths. The share of cycling in transport declined with the introduction of the automobile, even in Denmark and the Netherlands, until these countries began to build cycling infrastructure again. Elsewhere and more recently, Seville, which had no tradition of cycling in transport, has adopted Nordic best practices to expand its infrastructure, and increased the number of cyclists by a factor of ten. The most important factor in predicting the success of a bike-sharing system is the quality of the cycling infrastructure. Why do self-service bicycles make up to twelve times more trips per day to other cities? There is no reason to think that this is not true for cycling in general.

The city of Copenhagen, with almost 800,000 inhabitants, invested nearly €19 million in its already well-developed cycling infrastructure in 2017. How much did  Luxembourg invest in 2018?

However, it is not enough to build any cycling infrastructure everywhere at any cost and blindly copy examples from the past. The choice of some technical guidelines over others is a political choice. Elected officials cannot replace experts and traffic planners, but must be aware that not all bicycle paths are created equal.

The way infrastructures are designed, their design, makes all the difference. Where we build cycling infrastructure, we must adopt the habits and best practices of countries with a high proportion of cycling. For example, these guidelines would avoid dangerous intersections, or two-way bike paths that statistically double the number of accidents at intersections. However, the Ministry of Transport guidelines already warned 16 years ago (!) about this problem.

There are more and more cyclists in all cities; is the evolution of cycling in transport in Luxembourg accelerating thanks to our investments? The rate of change relative to other European cities could be both a measure of our progress, and an instruction from the executive to planners, just as a central bank receives an inflation target. This would avoid the Potemkin infrastructure, built only to make it look better than it is.

However, the construction of a real coherent, continuous and high-quality network in Luxembourg, despite the advantages it would bring, also faces persistent preconceptions.

Planning to be replanned

Traffic planning is often based, at the technical level, on a theoretical traffic model. This model does not take into account pedestrians, cyclists, the way in which infrastructure influences traffic volume, or substitutability, i.e. the possibility of switching from one mode of transport to another when it becomes more attractive.

What may seem very theoretical and abstract is nevertheless simple: today there are no tram users in the Gare district because there are no rails yet. Once the tram is built, those who switch from their cars to the tram will no longer create traffic jams. What is obvious for the tram will happen, whatever the means of transport made more attractive.

A blind confidence in this model, which betrays a certain short-sightedness, is therefore opposed to the construction of cycling and pedestrian infrastructures, on the pretext that a reduction in car capacity would create traffic jams. However, providing a quality alternative offer would even help to reduce car congestion by reducing conflicts at intersections and encouraging alternative ways of getting around for short journeys.

There is therefore “not enough space” to build cycling infrastructure. There is a fixed budget of metres wide on each road, and the choice of their allocation, which favours some modes of transport and disadvantages others, is political and not technical. So much the better if every meter, every second of red light, has been effectively used for the car so far! We know how to allocate our resources according to needs, but this does not prevent the allocation from changing as those needs evolve. Even the narrowest streets in the country have room for pedestrians and bicycles.

370 Luxembourgers die early each year from the consequences of air pollution.  The streets of Luxembourg are exploding at the seams: they can no longer support the almost totally automobile traffic of a country of nearly 600,000 inhabitants where nearly 200,000 border residents return every morning.

Fortunately, some political decisions are beginning to move in the right direction. Free parking spaces at the workplace continue to attract tax-efficient company cars, but they are competing with very generous carrots on bicycles. The new law on bicycle paths provides for routes through urban areas.

An efficient transport system lubricates the labour market. Reducing the average annual 33 hours of traffic jams in Luxembourg City would not only be one less annoyance, but would also improve the quality of life and, ultimately, the country’s competitiveness.

There is no good reason why a real bicycle network should not be built. It’s time for a big push on the pedals.

Guillaume Rischard lives in Luxembourg city and travels by bike every day.

Waking up hearing the birds sing and looking directly down across a spring-flowered meadow towards a heavily wooded valley we couldn’t help wonder if the cows – also just waking – know how lucky they are.

Yes the clouds were grey (we were in Belgium after all!) but we were warm in our bivvy bags after a dry and comfortable night’s sleep out in the open. We had taken along a tarpaulin and decided to fashion a “basha” out of it to protect us from the promised nocturnal rain. A heavy, but short-lived, drizzle came just as we were settling down and it felt justified. In fact this was all the rain we had on the whole trip which seems extremely fortunate, given all the recent weather.

A massive all-night thunderstorm had presumably (and understandably) put many people off, and when we finally met on the northbound train at 6pm on Friday evening we were but two. All the way up the sky was dark and grey and the rain lashed the train windows. Upon alighting at Kautenbach, however, the rain had stopped and there were even some blue skies.

There is something almost magical about rushing off after work, fighting the crowds at the city centre station, jostling on a busy commuter train only to suddenly find yourself cycling in a deserted tree-lined valley, a river gurgling below and an evening’s ride ahead. An hour ago we were at our desks! Now we are alone, breathing clean air and relishing the rain-fresh smells of forests and fields. It’s a stunning way to leave work behind.

We followed the charming Wiltz into Belgium before heading north, skirting Bastogne to find the hidden ‘bivouac zone’ where camping for one night is permitted. The light was just beginning to fade by the time the tarp was up, and we cooked up a pot-luck vegetable stew, anything anyone has brought along goes into this and the half bottle of wine was an addition to the pot well worth the weight of carrying it! Not sure anyone has ever enjoyed a stew more than we did that night.

Another advantage of bivvying is how quick and easy it is to pack up in the morning. Savouring the views as we enjoyed a heartening breakfast and then we were soon we were off, once more into the wild delights of the Ardennes and northern Luxembourg.

An adventure well worth having, and one that is so easily accessible for anyone in the Grand Duchy. We will try to repeat this event; look out for future announcements and join us!