Ride a bike to the moon and back? You have to be a lunatic to try that!

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Well, don’t tell that to the citizens of the bike-crazy German city of Bremen, who were invited last year to participate in that unique adventure, a round-trip bike trip to the moon – but without leaving the Earth. The aim was to acquaint more people with the city’s impressive cycling infrastructure and with the pleasures of cycling.

The Travelling to the Moon on Earth project was conceived and carried out by Bremen Bike It!, a municipal cycling-support project, in partnership with the Bike Citizens App. The idea was that residents were to ride the average distance between our planet and the Moon and back, 720,000 kilometres, in six months, using only the bike lanes and routes in the city and the surrounding countryside.

The astronaut documents the trip © Bike Citizens

Everyone in the city as well as visitors to Bremen were invited to participate, and cyclists could use the Bike Citizens app as well as the group’s route planner to plan their trips. The distances covered were measured by the app and published on a Moon Trip on Earth website. In addition, the city of Bremen made available, free of charge, a fleet of cargo bikes for those who didn’t possess their own two-wheeler. And there were monthly prizes for the most active cyclists who, for example, tracked 25 trips of more than 2 km each during a month.

Why Bremen? It’s actually the perfect city to sponsor such an out-of-this-world project. For one thing, it is Germany’s leading aerospace research hub, home to the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen as well as community of companies and institutes active in the aerospace sector. And in October of last year it hosted the International Astronautical Congress, which provided the perfect context for the project.

Secondly, more people travel by bike in Bremen than in any other city in Germany with more than 500,000 inhabitants. And it’s ranked third in the whole of Europe, after Copenhagen and Amsterdam, in terms of percentage of journeys taken by bike. In addition, there are no fewer than 916 bicycles in the city for every 1,000 residents, nearly one bicycle for every inhabitant.

The Bike Citizens “Heatmap” makes cycling habits in urban areas visible © Bike Citizens

The trip to the moon began on April 1, 2018, and lasted 183 days, or 4,392 hours. A total of 387,698 kilometres were pedalled during that time, easily enough to reach the moon – but not to get back. The total distance ridden was helped by the monthly challenges for which prizes were given. Nearly 1,000 cyclists participated in these competitions, with the longest distance covered during a single challenge totalling more than 327 km.

The top “moon traveller” during the project cycled more than 14,000 kilometres in six months, but his or her impressive accomplishment (2,333 km a month on average!) was not enough to get the bikers back from the moon. What to do?

The organizers had an idea. “Bremen made it to the moon,” they wrote on their website. “We’ll get back somehow. Just keep riding!”

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