Fast and consistent removal of dirt and deficits
Cleaning and maintenance of cycling infrastructure
"Maintenance includes the overall completion of measures required for a safe and sound use of the road, the wayside and the signposting. Maintenance includes the control and elimination of maintenance deficiencies that can be solved during route maintenance.” [HBR 2014]
The main purpose of cleaning is to remove traffic-obstructing dirt such as leaves, shards or debris of various sorts. Cycle paths and cycle lanes are legally part of the roadway, even if they are separate from it, so that they must be cleaned to the same extent as the road itself. Cyclists enjoy the same rights as motorised traffic [Wichmann 2018].
Cleaning also includes the clearing of roads and paths from snow and slipperiness in winter. This dossier deals with summer cleaning and the maintenance of cycle traffic facilities.
Cleaning and maintenance obligations of municipalities
In Germany, responsibilities for the cleaning and maintenance of cycling infrastructure depend on the location and type of infrastructure.
Outside of built-up areas
Cleaning and maintenance
Outside of built-up areas, construction obligation of roads also implies their maintenance and cleaning, even if this is not in itself part of the road construction. As there is an obligation to ensure road safety, the public developer must also carry out cleaning work in individual cases, the extent depends on the type of road and the respective danger. The limit of the road safety obligation lies within reasonable limits. [FGSV 1999].
Within built-up areas
In the case of main through-roads, the respective construction obligation usually implies responsibility for maintenance. This does not apply to sidewalks and car parking spaces, for which the municipalities are responsible. Bicycle tracks - even those not subject to mandatory use - are part of the roadway, so that the construction obligation of the roadway implies also responsibility for their maintenance. for side-by-side footpaths and cycle tracks construction and maintenance costs are shared. In this case, it should be agreed upon who will take responsibilities here in return for reimbursement of costs. This also applies to shared foot- and cycle paths, which should, however, be restricted to exceptional cases when passing through towns. In the case of municipalities with more than 80,000 inhabitants, the respective municipality is responsible for the construction of all parts of the main through-road [BMVI 2012].
Within main through-roads, state and local law applies to cleaning, i.e. it is the municipality’s duty to clean all parts of its infrastructure. This also applies to classified roads and their cycle paths and sidewalks. In the case of municipal roads and other paths, the municipality is also obliged to clean the sections located within the built-up area on a regular basis. Connections that are important for bicycle traffic get cleaning priority [Wichmann 2018].
In Germany, the cleaning of public streets and paths in built-up areas is traditionally a service for the public carried out by municipalities. However, state regulations permit the transfer of municipal obligations to the neighbouring property owners to a certain extent [Düwel 2015]. A municipality may transfer the cleaning to the respective residents and establish this in the regulations for street maintenance. As a rule, this only applies to footpaths and combined foot- and cycle paths; cycle tracks have to be cleaned by the municipality. In exceptional cases, the cleaning of the roads (and cycle tracks) can also be transferred to the respective residents if traffic permits [Wichmann 2018].
The idea behind the transfer of the cleaning obligations to the concerned parties is that they are usually much quicker on site than the responsible municipal cleaning services. In addition, the people concerned benefit the most from a clean environment.
Straßenreinigungssatzung (road cleaning ordinance) Kaltenkirchen: „[…]The cleaning obligation is imposed on the owners of the following road sections in the front length of the adjoining plots: a) footpaths, b) cycle paths, c) combined footpaths and cycle paths [...]. The cleaning comprises the cleaning of the road sections mentioned [...] including the disposal of small amounts of waste and leaves in accordance with local public safety requirements. As a general rule, they must be checked for cleanliness once a week and cleaned if necessary. […]“
Straßenreinigungssatzung (road cleaning ordinance) der Landeshauptstadt Dresden: „[…]The cleaning obligation for residents includes the cleaning areas adjacent to or facing the property. These are: the footpaths, the cycle paths [...]. If, in accordance with § 4, the roadways or pavements are completely or partially connected to the public cleaning system, the cleaning areas for the residents are reduced in accordance with the system.“
Maintenance of bicycle signposting usually involves building and maintenance obligations of several public authorities, in particular with regional connections or long-distance bicycle routes. It thus makes sense for a qualified service provider to carry out cross-ownership maintenance. For maintenance purposes, the route in question should be travelled by bike on an annual basis, with change of direction on a biennial basis, in order to evaluate the route from both perspectives. During the inspection, not only the signposting but also the quality of the route with regard to safe travel and year-round use is checked. After inspection the corresponding signposts should be cleaned, cut free or replaced, and new poles with signposts should be installed where needed [HBR 2014].
Use of sweepers on cycling infrastructure
Due to their width, conventional sweepers do not fit on cycle paths. In this respect, cycle lanes or safety lanes on the streets and are easier to clean than bicycle tracks in the side area. Sweepers have to drive as far to the right as possible to clean cycle lanes on the roads thoroughly.
Small sweepers are suitable for cycle tracks and sidewalks. According to the Berlin street cleaning company BSR, a minimum width of 1.30 metres is required for bicycle traffic infrastructure in the side area to enable cleaning by small sweepers. Protected bicycle lanes should be at least 2.10 metres wide in order to guarantee smooth snow clearance in winter (BSR o.D.).
Cleaning and maintenance of cycle traffic infrastructure in municipal practice
State capital Dresden
In Dresden, the road network has a length of about 1,400 km, 675 km of which are connected to the public street cleaning system. On the remaining road sections, the residents are responsible for cleaning. In the street cleaning regulations, the city distinguishes between "cycle path between property boundary and curbstone" and "cycle path on the carriageway". The latter only have to be cleaned by residents if there is no public street cleaning available in their street. If only the roadway and not the sidewalks are cleaned publicly, cycle paths between the property boundary and the curbstone edge must also be cleaned by the residents. In addition, the state capital calls on the population to report shards, sharp objects and rubbish on cycle paths to the waste-information-service [Text in German] by telephone or mail.
The city of Offenburg also has a “shard telephone” which citizens can use to report shards and heavy pollution. An answering machine run by technical services (“Technische Betriebe” Offenburg) is available around the clock and is monitored regularly. They take care of the messages at short notice, if they arrive by 2 p.m. even on the same day. Weekend reports are processed on Monday. The “shard telephone” is advertised via media and flyers.
In addition to the “shard telephone” in Offenburg, they also offer an open list of defects on cycle paths called "Mängelbögen für Radwege". These lists, initially in paper form, were laid out in citizen's offices and in the city administration and encouraged the population to report structural defects, safety defects or problems with traffic lights or signposts to the administration. In the meantime a digital deficiency sheet [Text in German] was introduced which is available on the website of the city of Offenburg.
The Climate Alliance's RADar! reporting platform [Text in German] was developed as part of the STADTRADELN campaign and offers participation for cyclists. Users can mark a point on the map and briefly describe the deficiency, the report is then sent to the affected municipality. The latter can then put the processing status on display.
Throughout Germany there are various online reporting platforms for cyclists to put forward and report deficiencies in and contamination of bicycle traffic facilities to the responsible authorities. More information can be found in the key topic “Providing a realistic picture of bicycle traffic. Digital cycling planning tools”.
Hanseatic City of Rostock
In the Hanseatic city of Rostock, a bicycle maintenance service person was introduced who has been on the road on behalf of the Rostock Environmental Office since 2011 with a pedelec and trailer. He is a member of the city waste disposal team who removes dirt from the cycle paths. Damage to the surface of the cycle path and to the signage is documented and passed on to the responsible authorities. In the first few years, the cycle path attendant was on the road from April to October, due to many positive feedbacks he has been in service all year round since 2017.
The urban area is divided into nine operational areas, which are inspectedon a regular basis. However, residents and tourists may report damage and pollution directly to the Environmental Protection Agency at any time, and in the event of major pollution, the cycle path attendant takes care of the affected areas on short notice.
The attendant also serves as a contact person for cyclists and has city maps in stock in order to point foreigners the correct way or to help them with the search for a bicycle garage (“Radwerkstatt”).
Cycle path maintenance and cycle path patrons
Especially in regions with a lot of cycle tourism and on long-distance cycle routes, volunteer cycle path guards or cycle path sponsors proved successful. They regularly cycle along local routes and document deficiencies. The condition of paths and signage is checked and weak points and possible accident hazards are noted. Minor repairs may be carried out immediately on site.
Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg
In the city centre and in public parks Hamburg’s public cleansing service together with the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt DLR) is currently testing the use of electric cargo bikes in municipal city cleaning in the “TRASHH project” [Text in German]. In addition to emission-free mobility, cargo bikes are able to travel along cycle paths, footpaths and squares without any problems. Shards and other dirt can thus be removed quickly and easily.
- Annual inspection of signage of signposted routes including safety inspection and enabling year-round usability.
- Check in which areas it makes sense to transfer cleaning obligations to the neighbouring property owners and whether these are carried out.
- Development of a cleaning plan with regular cleaning of cycle paths.
- Establishment and promotion of a “shard telephone” and a reporting office for cycle infrastructure deficiencies.
- Ensure that reported damage and contamination, in particular shards and safety defects, are removed as quickly as possible.
- A cycle path attendant ensures clean cycle paths, s/he can react quickly and may additionally provide important information on infrastructure deficiencies.
- When purchasing new vehicles, make sure that they can clean cycle paths that are separated from the road and protected cycle lanes.
- The use of an electric cargo bike is ideal for quick cleaning.
The successful promotion of cycling includes safe and breakdown-free use of cycling facilities. Above all, shards and defects that endanger safety should be removed quickly and reliably. Since employees of city administrations and city cleaning services cannot be everywhere at all times, the population may be actively involved by setting up a “shard telephone” and an online reporting platform. Ideally, reports submitted by citizens are followed up by a cycle path attendant who takes care of contamination and damage of cycle traffic facilities.