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Cycle path construction

Citizen's Cycle Paths in Steinfurt county

Construction sign of the citizens' initiative "Ibbenbürener Straße"
Construction sign of the citizens' initiative "Ibbenbürener Straße" © Robert Huelmann

Initial Situation

Within the rural county of Steinfurt, cycling traditionally plays an important role in everyday traffic. A household survey, done in 1996 on occasion of the regional transport plan conceptualisation, showed, that almost 70% of all households own more than one bike. Concerning transport mode selection, cycling share of 28% is very high, putting it into relation with other counties in North Rhine-Westphalia. Against that background the "cycle friendly Münsterland" should be mentioned, having the reputation of being Germany's cycling region number one.

Hence, cycling network expansion is a crucial issue within Steinfurt county. Already at the beginning of the 80ies a coherent network of bike trails was developed, including the publication of a suitable map. Many of the county roads which have been built during the last decades, have been complemented by parallel cycle paths. Even from the year 2000 on, 60 kilometres of cycle paths have been built along county roads, all in all 46 single measures with a common cost volume of 12 million Euros.

To close the existing gaps within the network of everyday cycle routes, Steinfurt County and its 24 towns and municipalities started the so called "Cycle Paths Initiative Program", running between the years 2000 and 2008. In the course of that program, a range of smaller measures were implemented, building about 5.5 kilometres of cycle paths along county routes, with a construction volume of 2 million Euro.

Nevertheless, the program was far from fulfilling all the local demands and the financial resources of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia for cycle path construction were limited.

Thus, a large number of local citizens took the initiative and started to build cycle paths on their own. At a very early stage, the Steinfurt county administration offered its support, including planning activities and advisory during the construction work. Due to an increasing demand, the county parliament decided in 2008 to implement a non-standard program for supporting so called "citizens' cycle paths".

This program supports citizens initiatives cycle path construction with a lump-sum of 15,000 Euro per kilometre. At the beginning of 2010, the co-financing of cycle paths along district roads was re-decided. From that point on, 55,000 Euros per cycle path kilometre are available for citizens' initiatives, including an additional 20,000 Euros promotion. Through that amount, the arising expenses could be almost covered. Meanwhile, there are 47 project registrations for all in all 66.4 kilometres of cycle paths. A large part of the connections which have been realized or planned cover a distance of about 800 m - 1 km, which seems to be a realistic target for implementation. The citizens engaged in the program mostly live near to "their" cycle paths projects and originate from very heterogeneous social backgrounds. In many cases, different initiatives stay in contact to each other, which enables them to independently plan linkages between their cycle path sections. Within the budget years of 2008, 2009 and 2010 Steinfurt county provided 300,000 Euro of investment subsidies each year for citizens' cycle paths, irrespective of being implemented at county roads or other connections. The funding is linked to specific conditions, which have to be kept, before construction can start.

Contents of the funding program


Generally, all cycle path measures, which should be realized through a citizens' initiative are eligible. The applicant, responsible for the cycling measure, has to be a private investor, a citizen's initiative or a community of interests.


A building agreement is acceded by the initiator, the street operator and the county. Among other things, it defines the legal duty to maintain safety and the maintenance of the future traffic infrastructure. Furthermore, the overall financing as well as the county's subsidy are determined. The overall financing has to be guaranteed to avoid useless expenditures.

List of projects

The county administration draws a project list, in which all the reported propositions are collected. The order, in which the projects are funded, is defined by the county. The sum is disbursed after appropriate construction progress is made, following the budgetary possibilities. The funding amount is up to 15 Euro each meter and depends on the building technique and quality (mineral or bituminous).

Construction standards

Cycle paths constructed within the program have to correspond to minimum standards. The pavement's thickness is 20 centimetres. The width has to be at least 1.50 meters for one direction traffic or 2.25 meters for two direction traffic resp. combined cycle and foot paths.

Parallel funding

Parallel funding through the citzens' cycle paths program and other schemes is impossible.

Construction progress

The citizens' initiatives resp. communities of interest have to pre-finance the realization of measures. The county's funding is disbursed, when a pre-defined progress has been realized.


In 2008, 17 measures were implemented and 22 kilometers of cycle paths were built. In 2009, 18 measures and 22.2 kilometers of cycle paths were realized. Till 2010, a funding of all in all 900,000 Euros will be realized, supporting about 60 kilometers of cycle path construction. That conforms to a gross construction volume of about 7.5-8.5 million Euro.

Large cost reductions become possible through the enormous non-paid manpower of the participating citizens. Clearly defined standards as a pre-condition of getting funding guarantee the cycle paths' minimum quality and thereby their long-lasting existence. In addition, it becomes easier to buy private land, needed for the cycle paths' realization, because owners easier agree to sell, if they are not confronted with a governmental act. Furthermore, the civic engagement motivates private businesses to financially support cycle path construction or to provide engines and equipment.

Why is it an innovative example to follow?

The citizens' cycle paths program is an important element of Landkreis Steinfurt's cycling promotion:
  • It supports the gap closing within the everyday routes network and thereby a sustainable modal choice for the bicycle.
  • Through the realization (cycling) traffic safety increases (e.g. through safer ways to school)
  • Cycling promotion contributes to climate protection
  • Social cohesion and civic engagement were supported
  • A discourse on forms of environment friendly and cost-saving is initiated.
Because of the ongoing difficult financial situation, it remains impossible to close all hindering cycle network gaps through state action. Therefore, the citizens' cycle paths program provides a useful complementary approach. The principle of proportional funding initiates and enables investment, many times as high as the funding amount.

The model is transferable to all counties and municipalities, which are characterized through a similar need for action and in which the motivation of the citizens' is given or generable.


Municipal funds
Sponsoring, donations
Personal contribution of citizens



Project manager / parties involved

Project management: 
Kreis Steinfurt
Project parties involved: 
County of Steinfurt, townships, sponsors, citizens' initiatives

Project term

The project is estimated as on-going without a special end date: 
On-going since: 
January 2008
Completed on: 
December 2010
Further information: 
continuation if necessary

Public relation and documents


Kommunale Ansprechpartner: 
Ansprechpartner Bürgerradwegeprogramm
Herr Rik Fehr
Kreis Steinfurt
Tecklenburger Straße 10
48565 Steinfurt
Telefon: +49 (0)2551/692581
Telefax: +49 (0)2551/6912590

Date (Text as of…)
15. February 2010
Heiner Bücker , Robert Huelmann (Kreis Steinfurt, Planungsamt)
NRVP action fields
North Rhine-Westphalia