My friends Ellie and Nikita has moved to Berlin! They just sent me these pictures to let me know they are doing all right (in other words: they’ve bought bicycles).
Berlin is on my top 5 list of favorite cycling cities. For many reasons. The bicycle climate itself is very friendly. There is space. Berlin is blessed with wide streets and few car commuters, and most pavements - except the narrowest ones - have cycle paths. They don’t separate cyclists and pedestrians (or cyclists and cars) very well but the pavements are often big enough and there’s often one cycle lane in each direction anyway. In complicated intersections, the cyclists have their own traffic signals. There’s some kind of Ordnung: People seem to be aware of each other regardless if you walk by foot, go by car or by bike (which is handy for everyones blood pressure). Moreover, the city has an excellent transportation diversity (an excessive tube and commuter train system, trams and great walking possibilities) which keeps the percentage of car use balanced. Rolling on a bike in Berlin simply means high quality daily life.
At the moment Ellie and Nikita live in Kreutzberg, which is one of the dark purple areas on this map which shows how many percentage of total trips are made by bicycles. These numbers are from 2008, so they are a little old, but surely rolling in the right direction…
One interesting thing with Berlin is that it is HUGE, geographically. And yet cycling friendly. Long distances or tired legs are easily solved by taking the bicycle on the tube or commuter train on the way home.
I have another friend in Berlin, who has lived there for years now, Toomas. These are his thoughts on cycling in the city:
I love biking in Berlin, but it’s not just about the bike-friendly infrastructure, even if many streets have cycle lanes and some have cycle paths. When I compare to other cities I’ve biked in, Berlin stands out with the green; parks and street trees all over the place, with the flatness; you can get almost wherever you want quite easily, and also with the respectful awareness of the car drivers; even if they might hate you, they see you. Oh, and the numerous bike shops, they add to it. But I guess it depends who you ask, you will get different answers and reasons for loving to bike in this city.
It’s said the city of Berlin is very proactive nowadays when it comes to cycling. Twenty years ago, Berlin faced the same challenges that countless cities face today: Bicycling was an afterthought, something reserved for students and hipsters. However, the city’s sustained, long-term commitment to the so called 5 E’s of bicycling: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation & Planning has produced a renaissance that’s pushed cycling into the mainstream.
A few other progressive facts about Berlin you might find interesting…
- On January 1, 2008, Berlin introduced an environmental zone that banned vehicles with highly polluting emissions from an 88 sq. km. inner-city area.
- Berlin has a goal set to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020. The average goal for European cities in the Siemens Green City Index is 15%.
- The Berlin Solar Campaign was launched in 2000 by the Berlin Senate’s department of administration for urban development. It offers grants for solar panel installations.
- 19 buildings at Potsdamer Platz are topped off with green roofs and rainwater is collected for reuse in toilets, watering of green areas, and an artificial pond. Why? To control urban flooding, save city water and create a better micro climate.
(Source: Siemens Green City Index 2012)