Bicycle temporarily replaces car as the most important means of transport in Germnay

In the corona crisis, Germans use transport very differently than usual. A data analysis now shows how strongly the bicycle in particular has gained in importance – the losers are the bus and the train.

Home office instead of office, no concerts, no sporting events: In Corona times, the Germans were far less busy than usual. Buses remained empty, ghost subways ran in the big cities – also because people were afraid of getting infected.

A completely different picture appeared on bike paths and streets: Many Germans climbed on the bike to get from A to B. Several cities have reacted to the trend: in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg alone, numerous pop-up cycle paths have been set up in recent weeks . Instead, parking spaces and space for cars on the carriageways were eliminated.

But how much has the mobility behavior of the Germans actually changed during the period of exit and contact restrictions? And what remains of it after the loosening? Data from the GfK market research institute now provide the answers.


Together with the Berlin start-up Motiontag, GfK evaluated the mobility habits of around 1,500 people across Germany. Source: an app that uses the movement profile, speed, acceleration and external data such as stored public transport network maps to calculate which means of transport the study participants are currently using: when on the bike? How long by car or by bus?

One result of the data collectors: In Corona times, the participants indeed had a significantly smaller range of motion – and this phenomenon continues, even after the end of the strict contact requirements. The total time people spend on the move has increased somewhat since the beginning of May. But the pre-corona level is still far from being reached.

At the moment, people spend about an hour a day on the go, on foot, by bike, by car, or by bus and train. The value before the corona crisis: one hour and 24 minutes. Mobility has therefore decreased by around 30 percent. In terms of transportation, the biggest winner is actually the bicycle: Germans spend more than twice as much time in the saddle as before – even more recently. This development cannot be explained with better weather alone. In April, the time on the bike even increased fourfold compared to the pre-Corona period. Particularly noteworthy: According to the data, on Sunday, April 12, the Germans sat in the saddle for 0.23 hours (14 minutes), but only 0.20 hours (12 minutes) in the car. This made the bicycle the most important means of transportation, apart from your own feet.

While drivers only spent about half of the usual time on the road for the wedding of the corona crisis in April, the number has now returned to normal – at least from Monday to Friday. On weekends, on the other hand, even ordinary car drivers now leave the car much more often: fewer short trips because of border closings, no trip to animal parks, and visits to Grandma are canceled. The time spent in the car has decreased by around 20 percent – in favor of bicycles and walking.

For many Germans, the car seems to have lost some of its importance – this is also reflected in the purchase plans that GfK asked: While a new edition of the scrappage bonus is being discussed, the vast majority of Germans are not impressed by this. 74 percent of those surveyed are currently not planning to buy a car, corona and scrappage bonus or not. A car purchase is planned for 16 percent – but it has nothing to do with Corona and the current discussion. Five percent of those surveyed will no longer buy a car because of the corona crisis. Five percent of Germans also said they wanted to buy a car, even though they hadn’t planned it before the corona crisis. Between 8 and 10 May, GfK surveyed 500 representative people aged 16 and over online for the consumer study.

The rail loses

The biggest corona losers are obviously the train and bus. The time spent there has decreased by more than 20 percent compared to a normal working week before Corona. In the meantime, the value had dropped even more. Public transport therefore remains under pressure, although commuters return to their offices from their home offices.

This trend is confirmed by figures from the Association of German Transport Entrepreneurs (VDV). Among 400 member companies: On average, the average occupancy during the Corona exit restrictions was 75 to 80 percent below the previous year’s figure. In the meantime, the companies even recorded a passenger decline of up to 90 percent, for example in rural areas, where otherwise mainly schoolchildren use buses. After the school openings and the easing in individual federal states, the decline is now about 60 percent, according to the association. The fear of being infected by aerosols still seems to play a major role in the wagons.

Rescue package for public transport?

This is also suggested by data that Google has evaluated. The group records how often certain places are visited by people, such as train stations or parks. Many cell phone owners allow Google to track their cell phones and the associated anonymized evaluations. The use of public transport has also decreased significantly in Google data, for example by the end of March by more than 80 percent. Google has analyzed how many people are at stops or train stations.

In order to support public transport, the transport ministers have meanwhile called for a five billion euro rescue package from the federal government. So far, however, it has not yet been decided whether it will actually be opened. The Germans are now getting used to bicycles.

Author: Nabeel K

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