Roland Dürre
Tuesday January 10th, 2017

BICYCLE Culture – an Interview with Roland Dürre

I basically know Franziska Köppe from the EnjoyWorkCamp. It is a very nice barcamp promoting a new understanding of work that is held annually in Stuttgart. Franziska interviewed me about my bicycle enthusiasm. The result is something that is very important in my life – which is why I revised it a little bit and then saved it in my IF blog, as well. However, I tried to leave those parts that came from Franziska as they were in the original version.


 

Active Mobility – Promotion and Request

January, 3rd, 2017 – Are car drivers the coachman of our times? Mobility is undergoing change. Since the 1950ies, the automobile industry has been strongly promoted – especially by politicians. The sector is said to be “system relevant’”. It is closely linked to many providers, as well as with traffic planning and lobbyism. But is that “system relevant”? Start-ups and the crowd economy, as well as cultural changes with respect to the behaviour of not only our young generation threaten conventional business models. I talked about bicycle culture and his own contribution towards our future mobility with the entrepreneur and mobility activist Roland Dürre.
(introduction by Franziska)


 

The Interview

Franziska: Hallo Roland, please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you and what exactly do you do?

Roland: I do not know who I am. It feels to me like I am a human being, an activist, a blogger, a coach, a maker, an entrepreneur. I love life and my family. I try to be courageous and to very much enjoy what I do. After my retirement from the InterFace AG, it is – even more than before – my task to hand down experience and, if possible, to help others – especially younger persons – to become happy and successful. I am grateful for all the beautiful things I experienced in my life and will be happy if this gratefulness will further increase during my remaining years.

Franziska: One of your passions is riding your bicycle. What is the meaning of the word BICYCLE culture for you? What connotations does it have in your life?

Roland: Both culture and RIDING my BICYCLE are beautiful things. They go together well!
But let us look at what car culture brought us. Driving a car, I am totally isolated from everything that is outside my car. Other people become anonymous objects in other cars. I actually know people who, conscious of their own isolation when sitting behind the wheel of their car, use swear words they would never use in their normal environment. That is something I can easily understand.

Riding my bicycle, I am used to greeting cyclists I encounter. When standing at a red traffic light, I often start a conversation with persons riding on the bike next to me. I try to be considerate. As I see it, pedestrians should always have right of way before cyclists. But then, cyclists should also have right of way before cars.

Riding my bike, I see more that is happening around me. That is true both if I am on a bike journey in foreign countries and in Germany. Social contacts are quickly established. Riding my bicycle, however, I also see how many animals, such as toads, cats and dogs are killed by cars. It always makes my heart bleed.

Consequently, I see a correlation between driving a car and being ruthless and inconsiderate. Whatever is in the way of a car will be killed. Carbon dioxide is emitted, fine dust produced – and it all happens just because people want to be comfortable. It is normal to have 1.400,000 million fatalities world-wide, because you cannot do without a car. But the truth is: you can! I experienced it in a self-experiment. And you definitely feel better without a car.

Here is a cultural provocation: Car drivers are the coachmen of our times. Coachmen were not very well-liked, because whenever any of the common citizens were in their way as they drove through the narrow streets of the cities, they used their whips to beat them out of the way. In those days, coachmen were considered “scum and riff-raff?!

BICYCLE culture – a quiet and clean world with happier and healthier people.

Franziska: It is probably true that most of us – especially those living in big cities – consider mobility as something that has to be connected with a car. Mind you, not too long ago, it was a matter of course that people went by bicycle whenever they had to go somewhere that was more than five kilometre away. Let us return to bicycles. What kind of world would come to mind if you were permitted to dream BICYCLE culture?

Roland: A quiet and clean world with happier and healthier people. From a change in mobility concepts, progress in other areas of life would automatically develop. One of the things I like to say is: If someone cannot even get a grip on his or her mobility, how are they supposed to get a grip on their entire lives? After all, you cannot get anywhere without the “desire and ability to live a responsible life”.

Roland Dürre on his way from Salerno to Pisciotta

Franziska: So far so good. Except that the reality in everyday life does not look quite so blue and rosy. You already said it: That is one of the reasons why you are actively promoting “active motility”– AktMob, as you call it  ..

Roland: That is true. I know many streets in Munich where it is no fun at all to ride a bicycle. And on my big tours, it also happens time and again that I have to struggle through a street where I am really afraid I might die.

Mind you, AktMob is not just about riding a bicycle. It is about any sort of mobility that is not horse-drawn carriages, combustion motors or electronic cars. All that matters is that you are moving under your own steam. Be it with roller-blades, skate boards, hiking or using the

Franziska: In the traffic sector, cars as individual means of transportation have been promoted since the 1950ies. It was based on the political concept of the economic boom in Germany. Unfortunately, even this short time was enough to make our cities inhuman. Strange as it may seem, pedestrians and cyclist no longer belong to traffic in the cultural sense. Especially a look at kindergardens and schools every morning shows how absurd this sometimes is: children are driven by car because, due to all that traffic, it would be too dangerous for them to walk. How grotesque is that?

Cars as status symbols in the economic boom world.

Roland: What a good example! Cars were, indeed, not just an object that took you from A to B – especially for men. As soon as you had a driver’s licence and a car, you were at long last grown-up. It is certainly not totally wrong to call a car a phallic symbol. And sitting behind the steering wheel of a vehicle, men in particular feel omnipotent. Can you imagine anybody not liking that feeling?

But even more than that, the car was a status symbol in the economic boom world for Germany and the world where everybody was recuperating. The car is perhaps the best metaphor for bought happiness as a substitute for needs not being met.

When we were still young men and had no cars, we always got the impression that the beautiful young girls clearly preferred the men who owned cars – while they looked down their noses upon us non-car owners.

But the car was also a symbol for freedom – like the cigarette. And it was also a new private space – in the US, for instance, they say that there were several years during which more than half of the children were made on the backseats of cars. Even the Kinsey report said so. And these motorized vehicles certainly also were a nice thing when it came to our laziness. Well, and that such a god-like vehicle – especially when its marketing was also optimal and emotional – won over everything else is rather clear, isn’t it?

The critical mass – riding bicycles together

Franziska: With activities “We Are Traffic”, there are so-called Critical Masses on a monthly basis, both in Germany and world-wide. Cyclists make use of §27 of the StVO, which says that, as soon as they are more than 15 (critical mass), they may drive together. I am quite happy that this movement gets more and more popular in D-A-CH. For instance, it was a peaceful and joyful event for 3,290 cyclists last November in Germany. This year in July, the number had even increased to 13,371 [source: Daniel via itstartedwithafight]. Everybody can join – even if they only want to ride a short part of the way.

© Radlhauptstadt München – cyclists’ night 2016 [picture taken by Andreas Schebesta

Roland: I rather like Critical Mass! In particular, I appreciate the movement because it seems to be truly grass-root. And I am convinced that the only way to cause change is “from the bottom”. Politics and administration are paralyzed by lobbyists and their own rules and have neither a chance nor the desire to try anything. But – without someone trying something, nothing will happen!

Franziska: And yet you can find some bicycle enthusiast among the politicians, too. For instance look at your hometown. The city of Munich aspires to being called bicycle capital. This is also due to the commitment of Wigand von Sassen, who has now been responsible for the city bicycle campaign project since March 2009. Since they started with intense bicycle promotion, there has been a considerable increase in the relative number of cyclists among the total traffic. For instance, there are regular bike checks where you can have small repairs for free. In October, you had the cyclists’ night, in September the RadCouture… This is a lot of commitment in favour of BICYCLE culture. It shows a lot of courage and stamina.

But let us think in more modest terms. What can every one of us do? You do not always need grand gestures.

Driving a car – nothing but a bad habit?

Roland: It is definitely time for something to happen. However, I do not think the higher percentage of bicycles is due to an “intense” promotion of bicycles. In fact, I think that more and more persons discover that there are better ways of being mobile than using a car and also that a car eats up a lot of money. I see all those many cars as a prosperity reserve for the future where many of us will feel more “tightness”.

Driving a car is nothing but a bad habit. Basically, it is necessary for us to be willing and able to change our habits. Smoking is a good metaphor for the process. It is not easy and for many smokers unthinkable to become a non-smoker. And then you can do it against all the odds – and you will quickly feel a lot better.

Currently, I myself am a good example for how hard it is to change patterns you were used to and actually liked. On regional trips up to thirty kilometres, I only go by bike. But unfortunately also for short distances. So my personal mobility program is now “get off your bike and back to walking”. I want to do more hiking. And it is very hard for me to give up the old habit and not automatically mount my bicycle, even if I only have to go a short distance.

Franziska: It is certainly not easy to change behavioural patterns. When I was still an employee, I found it easy to mount my bicycle every morning and ride to the firm. To this day, it is not a problem for me to take the bike when I have business meetings (except if they are too far away, then I use public transportation).

It was easy for me because I knew I had to be there no matter what. But ever since I work in my home office, I find it very hard to mount the bicycle every day – just because I want the exercise. The requirement of having to go from A to B is missing. That makes it more natural for me to do my hiking round through the vineyards in the evening. It gives me peace to ponder and structure the day’s ideas.

Now I integrate this exercise into my working day. On the one hand, I offer public network meetings. We call it Walk to Talk. We meet at a green place and see what topics everybody brought. And then we run through urban greenery for 90 to 120 minutes.

I particularly delight in the fact that the people I coach, my mentees and my supervision partners appreciate this way of talking just like I do. That means that I can enjoy this exciting discourse surrounded by greenery (“Gehsprächs” im Grünen) between four and six times each month. But I would not object to it becoming more.

Incidentally, I would recommend this format to everybody – especially as a welcome deviation from meetings that far too often happen in closed rooms and sitting down. Which brings us to the topic work world = life world.

You have been an entrepreneur for a long time. What can a boss do in order to promote a BICYCLE culture? What are the important factors?

BICYCLE culture in the mobility and health management of enterprises – not an easy task for the boss

Roland (laughs): That is not at all easy. I am sure the most important factor is that you do not offer business cars as an allegedly attractive part of the salary. Unfortunately, I did it up from 1984. The InterFace AG has far too many so-called “business cars”. And it is not at all easy to take away acquired rights.

Services such as bicycle racks with roofs and/or showers in the basement are to be recommended. And you have to be a good example yourself. You have to infect people with your own enthusiasm for bicycles and for riding bikes.

Franziska: Riding bicycles is, indeed, catching. The last time I made that experience was when, in the company I last worked for, we founded an everyday cycling group. It worked like a bus line. The experienced cyclists offered to ride alongside the beginners. In no time, we had an ad-hoc bicycle repair shop and organized (after work) bike tours. Through joining in, I learned about shortcuts and secure routes to work, as well as all kinds of bike tricks.

It filled me with pride to notice how much I already knew after some time and how I could advise others. That was a huge motivation boost towards also surviving the wet-cold rain days with temperatures around the freezing point. There are considerably more dry days than rainy days. And as soon as you are on your way and have ample rain protective gear – the rain does not matter anyway. That is also something I only found out through riding my bike on a daily basis. Mind you, this is still not considering all the many natural panoramas and the intense experience of the seasons of the year.

In your experience, what is it that makes active mobility in everyday life hard or impossible? What – perhaps small – helpful advice can you give to overcome those obstacles?

Roland: Many things come to mind. There is, for instance, the wrong belief that children and heavy objects can only be transported by car. That is not true. Children are happier on the bicycle than in a car. Shopping is a lot easier if you take a bike trailer or a cargo bike instead of a car. Even two bike panniers will go quite some way.

Regularly taking a look at your mirror and your weight, perhaps even at your blood pressure, will soon convince you that it makes sense to exercise more often.

Franziska (laughs): Correct!

Let us get back to entrepreneurial thinking. Since many employees are determined by numbers, data and facts, I am often expected to ask about it. What advantages do you see for the boss to consider “active mobility”?

Roland: Well – it has been proved that persons who exercise regularly in fresh air have considerably fewer sick days. Isn’t that something to convince you? They will also arrive at work in a better mood and more emotionally balanced. And riding a bike also gives them an enormous amount of creativity.

Strong together – AktMob promotes active mobility in everyday life.

Franziska: Early in 2016, you had the AktMobCmp in Unterhaching in order to bring active persons around “active mobility in everyday life” together. In 2017, you will organize evening events and the next AktMobCmp is also currently being organized. What are the topics you will discuss there? Who were – and who are – the participants?

Roland: The invitation addresses everyone who thinks in terms of taking responsibility for our future. The way we think about mobility directly reflects on our way of life. AktMobCmp is a BarCamp – which means we do not know the topics and sessions in advance. This openness, however, makes it possible to get many nice and tangible results on the personal level.
AktMobCmp 2016 — BarCamp for active mobility in everyday life.

Franziska: In other words, you organize and moderate the ActMobCmp as a BarCamp in order to provide space for everybody’s topics. What is special about this particular event format?
Roland: The Barcamp format is characterized by the persons who come organizing their meeting and their sessions according to their individual needs. There are no invited presentations that have been selected by a committee. Everyone is allowed and supposed to contribute. The organizing team only has the role of host who makes it possible to meet at all. The social control is with the participants. I already experienced several times how a session that was abused for marketing purposes was empty in no time.

Franziska: And then there are sessions where humans are made to work intensely and productively in order to solve a shared problem. That is what I like about BarCamps. Especially if the organizers believe in the self-organization and self-control of the participants practiced in those anti-conferences.

For you, this belief grew over the last few years because you experienced it yourself. Because this AktMobCmp is not the first BarCamp you have organized. You are one of the fathers of the PM Camp movement that brings together people all over Europe who exchange ideas on project work. What fascinates you about the BarCamp idea?

Roland: The great thing about BarCamps is that you discover many new things. After all, all the participants are willing to open up and share their knowledge. As a general rule, all participants will go home happy and richer. What you experience will continue to have an effect on you. You have made new friends with whom you remain in contact. This is how, on BarCamps, humans and movements are linked and thus gaining more and more strength.

Franziska: I know exactly what you mean! Since some of my readers are BarCamp newcomers, can you give a few examples?

Roland: Well, there are movements such as eye-level (Augenhöhe),  intrinsify.meEnjoyWork with EnjoyWorkCamp, entrepreneurial democrats (Unternehmensdemokraten), common good economists (Gemeinwohlökonomie) and many more, all of whom I met at BarCamps. Along with those who support and promote them. This is how I made new friends at BarCamps, for instance  Nadja Petranovskaja, Dr. Andreas Zeuch, Dr. Eberhard Huber, Gebhard Borck, Dr. Jens Hoffmann, Maik Pfingsten, Dr. Marcus Rainer, Dr. Niels Pflaeging, Roger Dannenhauer, Dr. Stefan Hagen and many, many more.

We, too, first met at a BarCamp (EnjoyWorkCamp?) didn’t we? You will find posts, podcasts and videos of all these persons online. Reading those will automatically make you understand why you need to connect yourself with others and do things together.

Franziska: I think the first time we met was at the Dornbirn PM Camp. But our first really intense discussion was during the “EnjoyWork” initiative. Consequently, I find it even more exciting to have gone into more detail about a few topics we share. Many thanks, Roland, for the exchange of experience.

I wish you well and for your ACtMob to be a huge success – and a good bike-chain at all times.

Roland: Many thanks – it was a true pleasure!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

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