Berlin is a city of cyclists. Hundreds of thousands of residents use their bikes on a regular basis. Cycling in the German capital is a challenge, because there are far too many terrible bike lanes. But our reporter found excellent ones too.
Berlin, July 31st, 2022 (The Berlin Spectator) — The task was to cross Berlin’s eastern city center from north to south. My starting point was in Erich Weinert Strasse, located in the northern part of the city’s Prenzlauer Berg borough. So, I rode along Greifswalder Strasse towards Alexanderplatz. After two minutes, I ran into the first problem.
Shaken, Not Stirred
Even before I reached the intersection of Greifswalder Strasse and Danziger Strasse, I was shaken like a damned Daiquiri. I would rather walk than cycling on a bike lane like this one. The big rifts it has have the potential to break bicycles. Maybe it won’t happen the first time. But your wheels will definitely suffer if you use this lane on a regular basis. Slowing down is necessary here, and even then this bike lane sucks big time. I give it 2 out of 10 points.
A few minutes later, I had just passed Alexanderplatz square, I came across one of the best bike lanes in the city (see photo at top of page). It is so smooth I would have loved to ride on it for hours, but it did not happen because only a tiny stretch has been completed. The construction work in this area has been going on for many years. It will probably never end. But the good stretch I was on gets 10 out of 10 points. Congrats.
Dangerous and Useless
Another few minutes later, I reached Oranienstrasse. I was just thinking how enjoyable this bike ride was when I hit a bad bump. If I had been faster, it could have catapulted me to Hanover. I noticed there is an entire series of bumps on the street’s southern side. Nobody seems to be cutting those plants either. This bike lane is dangerous and useless and gets 0 out of 10 points.
This narrow 1980s-style bike lane with those big bumps on Oranienstrasse is one of the worst in the city. When I stopped to take pictures, I remembered that the situation on the opposite side of the street was at least just as terrible a few years ago. But, as it turns out, things have changed. I found one of the best bike lane stretches in Germany. If every bike lane in Berlin was this smooth and safe, everyone would become a cyclist, I guess. This one gets 12 out of 10 points. I’m impressed.
On the Case
As I approached Kreuzberg, on the same street, I came across the widest bike lane I have ever seen. Oranienstrasse really is a street of extremes. Over here, at Oranienplatz square, a Boeing 747 would be able to land and take off again on the bike lane. Riding bikes on this stretch is a real pleasure. Thirteen out of 10 points.
Another few minutes later, I quickly got through the usual mess at Kottbusser Tor square. But, what in the hell is this? Just as I was about to race down the bike lane on Kottbusser Strasse, I had to pull the emergency brake. Guess why: Some idiot had parked his ugly Mercedes right on the bike lane. Usually, people in this area get away with everything. Not in this case though. Two officers sent by the Office of Public Order were already on the case. They told me they were waiting for a tow truck. The fine the vehicle’s owner would have to pay was about 300 Euro (307 U.S. Dollars or 252 Pounds Sterling) in total.
After using bad bike lanes on Hermannplatz and Hermannstrasse and running an errand, I already was on my way back to Prenzlauer Berg. This time, I chose to go the other way, via Danziger Strasse. A lot of traffic is registered on Oberbaumbrücke, a famous bridge that crosses the Spree river. Every day, some 12,000 cyclists cross it. I was one of them. The bike lane here is seperated from motorized traffic by little rubber markings and it is wide enough to overtake lame cyclists. This one gets 9 out of 10 points.
Then, it was time to race uphill on Warschauer Strasse. I’m not sure why, but even though this was another crappy 1980-s bike lane, I managed to overtake absolutely everyone, including cyclists half my age and individuals on electric scooters. Yes, there was broken glass all over the place. This is normal in Berlin’s Friedrichshain borough. And the lane was far too narrow. But I made it.
Far from Perfect
Once I had made it through the mess at Frankfurter Tor, I was o.k.. In order to get back home, I mainly had to ride on relatively good bike lanes the boundaries of which are painted on the street. And there was little traffic. It was a mostly smooth ride.
All in all, Berlin’s bike lane network is far from perfect. For years, the Senate has been discussing and planning improvements. They will be coming in increments, but it will take time during which we, Berlin’s cyclists, will have to put up with cracks, bumps and other annoyances.
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