The Mrs. and a couple friends of ours were running a half marathon in Hamburg this past weekend, so along came I and the little one to visit the historic city and be a spectator to the race. Upon arriving, we checked in and waited for our friends who had driven separately. Apparently, they had gotten caught in the Hamburg Critical Mass, which for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is a very large gathering of bicyclists that more or less take over the streets to promote awareness of social issues or just to celebrate bicycle culture. Too bad we just missed it!
Hamburg is an interesting place historically, architecturally, and geographically. Prior to 1871, it was it’s own country. Now, it is both the second-largest city in Germany and its own federal state-- so it has its own identity outside of Germany proper. I knew it as the place the Beatles got their start, and I suppose, the birthplace of what would become an American food staple.
While I never got the chance to do any cycling there myself, there were plenty of bicycles to look at as we strolled along different parts of the city. We visited the Reeperbahn, or the famous “Red Light District” of Hamburg, found the Beatlesplatz (you can sort of make out the silhouettes of the Fab Four in the photo above), and took the U-Bahn to the Rathaus, or city hall, in the Altstadt.
The Elbe River runs through the city, as it was an important trade route from Europe to the rest of the world and made Hamburg what it is today. Canals abound, but we decided to check some of those out the next time we visited the city. There was simply too much to see in one weekend, and the weather was often uncooperative.
While maybe not as bike-friendly as Münster, Hamburg is bustling with bicycles, especially around the university, near where we had stayed. And like many cities in Europe, many abandoned bikes have accumulated over the years, some missing their more valuable components or becoming permanent installments on the street. We ate at a burger joint (had to partake in the city’s namesake food, even if it was a veggie burger) that was beside a cargo bike shop that featured all sorts of interesting and unique cargo bikes. They are really becoming a common sight outside of Dutch and Danish metropolitan areas.
Not having ridden there myself, I can’t say for sure how good the cycling infrastructure is, but it has to be better than Düsseldorf, a city I love in spite of its magically disappearing bike lanes. While the ADFC ranks Hamburg as the 35th in cycling safety, Copenhagenize ranks it 14th overall in its list of bicycle-friendly cities, due in part to its extensive cycling strategy, implemented some eight years ago by the Hamburg Parliament.
Also of note is the Vattenfall Cyclassics, Germany’s only UCI race, which is hosted in the city each year and involves a huge swath of participants, exhibitors, and spectators, including a children-specific event called the Schul-Cup. The Jedermannrennen is an event in which anyone can partake. More information about Hamburg’s cycling efforts can be found on the UCI’s website.
Not cycling-related, but if you’ve ever wondered where the world’s largest model train diorama is, that’s in Hamburg, too.
- Bicyclist Abroad