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Berlin Senate’s Plans for Bicycle Highways Take Next Step

Berlin intends to build a total of ten bicycle highways that connect the outskirts of the city to its center. Now the first feasibility studies were released.

It is a big project. On bicycle highways, cyclists are supposed to be able to go from Berlin’s outskirts to the city center on their own, wide lanes. Those highways will speed up their travel times, keep them safe and make cycling even more attractive.

Favorite Project

Most cyclists in Berlin use their bicycles for trips of up to 5 kilometers (3 miles), as statistics show. The Senate Administration for the Environment and Transport is hoping that the bicycle highways will make people choose this clean means of transport for longer trips as well. The project is part of the ‘traffic transition’, which is one of the favorite project of the city state of Berlin’s center-left government coalition. Especially the Greens love it, also since it is their endeavor.

One of the bicycle highways, the German word for which is ‘Radschnellwege’, will follow Teltow Canal into Berlin’s city center from the south. The next one is supposed to connect Potsdam to the heart of Berlin via ‘Kronprinzessinenweg’, a long stretch that runs through the ‘Dahlemer Wiese’ park in the south-west.

From Spandau to Marzahn

The next two bicycle highways are supposed to connect Spandau in the west all the way to Marzahn in the east. The Senate’s plan includes more highways coming in from Tegel, Reinickendorf, Pankow and other parts of Berlin’s suburbs, meaning any cyclist will be benefitting from them, no matter where they live.

Hundreds of thousands of Berliners are avid cyclists. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Berliners, including commuters, are supposed to want to ride their bicycles instead of firing up the engines of their cars. On those bicycle highways, they will be able to travel without stopping at red lights every few hundred meters. Their lanes will be at least 3 meters (10 feet) wide, which gives cyclists the opportunity to overtake each other without issues.

Neukölln’s ‘Y Artery’

On top of it all, those highways will be lit at night, which makes them safer. Pedestrians will have their own lanes or paths. In theory, nobody will get into the cyclist’s way, neither pedestrians nor motorists. There are lots of convincing aspects. One of the goals of the project is to decrease the number of cars in the city.

The three feasibility studies that are in now concern the bicycle highways along the Teltow Canal, the ‘Kronprinzessinenweg’ route and one called the ‘Y Artery’ that runs through Neukölln. The latter is a huge Berlin district that stretches out from Rudow in the south to ‘Hermannplatz’, a square located rather close to Berlin’s eastern and western city centers.

Positive Cost-Benefit Ratio

According to the Senate, the studies prove a positive cost-benefit ratio and introduce the preferred route those three highways might take. The feasibility studies basically recommend a good way, considering all aspects. Final decisions have not been taken, but the bicycle highways have already been discussed with residents at special events.

One of Berlin’s more modern bike lanes can be found in ‘Schöneberg’. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The Berlin Senate says the studies are the working basis for the next steps, but nothing will actually happen on site until plan approval procedures take place. This is when things will get serious and the construction phase will come closer. In other words: The feasibility studies only show the legal and technical possibilities. But the project is advancing. Until the end of 2020, studies for the other seven bicycle highways will be released.

‘Goal Conflicts’ to be Avoided

Of course, any project of this size has supporters and opponents. In the city state of Berlin’s political world, projects are often being criticized because of the parties or people who are behind them, rather than for contentual reasons. This case is no exception.

Some ‘chief critics’ in certain German-language media already said Berlin’s parks would be “cut apart” by those bicycle highways. The Senate, on the other hand, insists this will not be the case. In fact, the new studies are not recommending any routes through ‘Görlitzer Park’ or ‘Hasenheide’, two major parks in Berlin. They are specifically saying that “goal conflicts” between cyclists and pedestrians are supposed to be avoided.

The ‘Schöneberg’ Example

Berlin has countless bike lanes. Some are decades old, narrow and full of potholes. Others are modern, smooth and wide. ‘Popup bike lanes’ were installed during the first phase of the ongoing Corona crisis. A legal battle is surrounding those right now. And there are modern bike lanes that are painted in green and protected by bollards.

Hardly any of the bike lanes available now look the way the future bicycle highways are supposed to look like. For instance, they are supposed to be a lot wider. In Berlin’s ‘Schöneberg’ district, there is one modern bike lane which might serve as a model for future ones, including highways. It is a short stretch that connects the two parts of ‘Torgauer Strasse’ at ‘Cheruskerpark’. It contains two bike lanes, one in each direction, and an extra lane for pedestrians.

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