With temperatures climbing to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), vast numbers of Munich residents as well as many tourists are taking to the city's streets and extensive network of bicycle paths, resulting at times in chaos and causing safety concerns among cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike. No wonder, then, that this year's "Bike Capital Munich" campaign to encourage increased use of the bicycle as a transportation alternative has become the subject of controversy just as it hits its peak.
In today's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Josef Schmid, leader of the opposition Christian Social Union fraction in City Hall, criticized the cost of the image campaign, which now amounts to 950,000 euros out of the total budget allocation of 4.5 million euros for the city's cycling infrastructure. Aside from convincing more residents to switch to cycling, the funds are earmarked for expanding the network of bicycle paths and providing more traffic signs. "Precisely on hot days such as these it's clear that the money for the campaign would be better used to invest in expansion of the infrastructure," said Schmid, adding that the campaign is reaching mostly those already using their bicycles "at least when the route and infrastructure suit them and in winter the bike trails are maintained."
"In principle, there can never be enough cyclists," counters Council Member Paul Bickelbacher of the Green Party, which together with the Social Democratic Party and Pink List form the city's ruling coalition. Bickelbacher claims the campaign has been aimed at immigrants and working class residents who rarely use the bicycle. He points to the widely advertised "Munich is Looking for a Bike Star" contest, which culminates this weekend, as an example.
For those visitors willing to face the risks of occasional overcrowding in order to enjoy Munich by bike, the city offers a number of rental shops (with English spoken) conveniently located in the city center, near the Isartor S-Bahn station and just around the corner from the Hofbrà¤uhaus.