German Efficiency

Enjoying this poster, apparently via the city of Munich’s transportation department, of how much street space it takes to move the same amount of people via car, bus, and bicycle.

(via Copehagenize)

This entry was posted on Monday, June 28th, 2010 at 1:48 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

27 Responses to “German Efficiency”

  1. Peter Smith Says:

    not sure why advocates keep using this obviously deceptive photo. i guess whatever makes you feel good.

  2. George Says:


    It is not obvious to me. What is deceptive?

  3. Amy Says:

    I suppose that the leftmost picture contains cars all filled with a single person each, while the bus is probably filled to capacity. I wouldn’t call that deceptive though; this is an advertisement so “spin” should be expected.

  4. Matt Says:

    I think a subway train would just about fit in the picture: 130 metres by ~3 metres, 1300-1500 people.

  5. dave Says:

    The photo is deceptive because the field of view is wider for the second and third pictures than for the first. Note how you can see a building at the end of the street in the second shot, while you can’t in the first.

    The effect of the cropped field of view in the first shot is to make it look like an infinite number of cars. The wider field of view in the second shot minimises the space used by the bus passengers.

    I don’t disagree with the comparison of cars to buses, but I wish they hadn’t tried to exaggerate it like this, as it makes it easy to criticise the presentation of the argument.

  6. Another Matt Says:

    I have to agree with dave.

    This comparison stands on its own. No need for deceptive angles, it only makes the argument look bogus.

    Also, 1 person is close to the average car occupancy rate (which is between 1.5 and 2 IIRC). It’s also lower in the commuter rush, which is when road space is at its most scarce. It would be illustrative though, to see another picture with fully loaded cars (which are definitely the exception).

  7. Edward Says:

    It is hardly deceptive. The point is the comparison with the same crowd of people in each picture. That remains constant. And the assumption that all cars are filled with one person each is not at all artificial. Look at most cars during rush hour in any English speaking country.

  8. Raphael Says:

    I’m sorry I have to correct you, but I’m quite sure this is Münster (or Munster, as you may call it), not Munich. It’s the so called “Prinzipalmarkt”.

    P.S.Please apologize my english, I’m from germany.

  9. Pem Says:

    Raphael, your English is perfect and far better than the level of German any of us are likely to have. This generally seems to be the case yet most of the Germans and Dutch people i’ve met are always worried about their English proficiency.

    off topic, i guess, but there you go.

  10. Bossi Says:

    Yep, I think Raphael is correct- Münster.

    And having a background w/ public agencies & also doing photography as a hobby, I’d wager the “deception” is inadverant. Regardless, I think the same point would be made even if the buildings were still visible.

  11. Dave in KY Says:
    has a NYC equivalent of this shot, and it makes a nice poster – I have it hanging on my wall right now.

  12. Cory Says:

    The picture is also deceptive because it manipulates the average number of passengers per mode of vehicle. For example, in my city (Minneapolis), few buses are at capacity even during rush hour. It chose the optimal rate for buses and the least optimal rate for cars. It also assume that bikes ride in a tight pack like that (which they don’t).

    In addition, the illustration doesn’t account for the effect on other traffic those cars have. Again, in my city, buses often demand additional roadway space because they push into traffic. They also move slower and make more stops. So the space the bus requires is far more than what it appears. This is even more true for bikes, which consume an entire lane (since cars should not crowd them out). In that sense, bikes are not much more efficient than cars when traveling on main roads.

  13. Uncle B Says:

    Deceptive or not the message is the same – oil from the Canadian Tar Sands must be extracted using Nuclear energy and will be much more costly than the oil we use today in America. Americans will have to get a bigger bang for their buck to survive the post-peak oil days! Americans may even have to do the unthinkable and convert to Euro-diesels – proven a full 40% more efficient than current American gasoline consumption!China has had foresight and has provided its Patriots with nuclear Electric sourced, electric bullet train networks and a whole new way of life in the 21st century that is copacetic with energy demands over productivity of the people!The Chines have a much higher EROI than Americans by government design anyway and therefore stand greater chance of survival! America, the teenager on the block has a lot to learn from China yet!

  14. MU Says:

    @Cory – I’ll give you that the photo is simplistic and perhaps “deceptive” if you look at it as a scholarly argument for certain transport modes. It’s a simple visual comparative representation of what is possible.

    While true that buses are generally not full, they are still generally more efficient (traffic wise) way to move people. Yes, they do “push” into traffic, but so does every other vehicle. While top speed and acceleration is slower, that is not significant in most traffic situations. As a “vehicle” they stop more often. However, as individual passengers, they do not. Everyone stops their vehicle and gets out at the end of their trips. Buses actually tend to stop at places well designed to get out of the way of traffic and handle multiple boardings per stop. Cars tend to stop in the travel lane in order to park and rarely handle more than one boarding per stop. Serious research on traffic flows show that buses with moderate usage levels disrupt traffic much less that the equivalent number of cars.

    You are right that bikes don’t generally ride this packed. But cars do not drive this packed either. Bikes are generally slower. However, they do not normally take an entire traffic lane as you state. Most places they ride such that other vehicle can pass around them fairly quickly. Sure, there are temporary delays. But while you may have to wait a few seconds to get around a bike, you never get around that car in front of you.

    Repeated studies show that shifting people out of cars to other modes reduces traffic congestion and makes driving better even for those who stay in their cars. And all that is before you even begin to look at parking spaces requirements, let alone pollution, financial impacts and other externalities.

  15. fred_dot_u Says:

    The comments regarding the density of a particular vehicle on the roadway are interesting. Cars should not operate in the density shown, but buses certainly can (density of one) and bicycles are often dense in cities in which cycling is a normal mode of transportation.

    A safe cyclist will control a sub-standard width lane, if he is properly trained, but nothing prevents other cyclists from joining him in the lane, safely. Eight cyclists could occupy safely the same volume as a typical US motor vehicle and should.

  16. MikeOnBike Says:

    What’s deceptive about the photos is nobody is moving. The photos don’t show how much space it takes to *move* those people, only how much space it takes to park their vehicles.

  17. phil Says:

    Just compare the time it would take to get the cars through a controlled intersection compared to the bus or the bikes. The cars will still come in last.

  18. Jack Says:

    What an incredible inefficient use of space is created when cultures embrace private motorized vehicles. As stated by Mike and MU, motorized vehicles in motion take up much more space than bikes in motion and thus the pictures understate the advantages of cycling in urban environments. And then there are all those incredibly large FREE parking lots (not included in the pics) most businesses insist on for those motorized vehicles.

  19. nonplus no more Says:

    Ok – so this is what I understand from the marketing campaign.

    Given that there are only so many miles of roads available for cars, there will always be gridlock congestion during rush hour. See picture 1.

    Pic 2 and 3 shows the impact of alternate modes of transport on that stretch of road. Imagine this as the surface street where you just attended a Rush Concert of your football/soccer game, packed with fans all trying to leave the venue at the same time.

    If the consumer can intelligently modify their own behavior by choosing a combination of car+bus+bicycle as a society we’d all benefit by reducing congestion. By providing choice we all benefit.

    It helps that people can bike/walk/take public transit for shorter trips and leave the street to those who must use it – this is NOT a zero sum game.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughtful comments.

  20. Yet another Matt Says:

    Don’t forget though, that city planning (or the lack thereof) has a profound impact on which mode of transportation is the most logical for people to use. Sprawl, design and hours of public transportation, and safety are all factors that lead to people choosing cars over other means of getting around. In cities like New York and DC, it is often more of a hassle to have a car than to use public transportation, but probably in a majority of other places in the US, that isn’t true at all.

  21. Eric_RoM Says:

    OK, the Munster pix are misleading: five minutes with photoshop will make them comparable. Somebody get on that.

    This is what happens when you use amateur photographers.

  22. Nick Says:

    For the Obama inauguration there was concern that there would be massive gridlock. Crowds of over 2 million were expected, about triple a typical DC rush hour — and DC suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. The problem was solved with one simple step: private automobiles were banned from the downtown core. On Inauguration Day, if you wanted to go downtown you could do it on foot, by bike, via public transportation or in a cab. Three times the number of people of a typical day came into downtown, and it was easier to get around than normal.

  23. danc Says:

    Oh my, is someone cutting that cheese again?

    Muenster road space poster — check the numbers! from John S. Allen’s Bicycle Blog.

    To summarize: The poster, and the caption “amount of space needed to transport the same number of people by bus, bicycle or car” are misleading, because the vehicles are parked, not moving. All in all, the Muenster poster and the US government publication that quotes it make an apples vs grapefruit vs. cranberries comparison – of dried fruit. Each mode — bus, bicycle or private motor vehicle, is preferable for some trips, but the comparison doesn’t get at why a person will choose one or another mode, and it seriously misrepresents the space requirements it purports to illustrate.

  24. danc Says:

    One more thing ….

    Regarding the picture caption: poster in city of Muenster Planning Office, August 2001, Credit: Press-Office City of Münster, Germany not Munich.


  25. Here's why it's deceptive Says:

    The 1st picture is zoomed in… look at the building tops.

    The 2nd picture is zoomed out the most.

    The 3rd picture is zoomed out a bit more than the first.

  26. Nathan Gess Says:

    Alright, now time for a picture depicting how much luggage/goods can be carried by each traveler. The ease of utility will speak for itself.

  27. Harry, ExposedPlanet Says:

    It’s deceptive as the images should have been shot with the same angle/point of view.

    And its much more deceptive as the cars should have taken up the space they do in reality. Nobody can park like this, how would you remove a car from the middle? I would say they will use at least double the space in real life and triple when actually driving.

    @nathan: check for a photo of 5 very expensive cars + a bike (mine :)
    Which is fittingly called: Guess which can carry the most luggage.

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