Berlin - Sure, Berlin now has a handful of bike lanes separated from traffic by fixed bollards, making everyone safer. The new barriers are hard to miss on streets that had previously been dominated by cars. But opting for pedal power in the capital is still harrowing. Last year, 17 cyclists died in Berlin. This year, the first female cyclist was killed in March, and since then three other women and a man have died in bicycle accidents.
The dangers are familiar to anyone who cycles a lot, as are the worst streets in the city (see below). How can they be made safer? And which intersections or stretches of road do you, dear readers, particularly fear when cycling? Send us your tips on problematic stretches beyond the inner city. Or is it safer to ride there?
Write to us at email@example.com! In the coming weeks, we will continue to research how Berlin can become more bicycle-friendly. (alm./who.)
Busting your hump
The bike path on Skalitzer Straße between Kottbusser Tor and Görlitzer Bahnhof has one good thing: The first tree root startles you awake as it pushes through the asphalt. Sometimes luck blows the other way and the U1 replacement bus ejects passengers directly onto the bike path. Swerving onto the sidewalk is useless, it's just as bad there.
The only thing that helps is to hold on tight and slow down. This route is not for cyclists hoping to get from A to B quickly. At Kotti, one of the most stupid traffic lights for cyclists in the city awaits you: red at the pedestrian crossing, then red at the first light in the traffic circle, then red again when you take the first exit. It takes seven minutes to ride 200 metres . (alm.)
How to improve: Refurbish the bike lane, optimise the traffic lights, add a green right-turn arrow for cyclists.
"Take the bike lane, you pig!"
Cyclists are used to a lot of grief. On Alexandrinenstraße in Kreuzberg - a narrow, friendly street surrounded by lots of greenery - the bike lanes are unusable in both directions. If you ride north, you have to keep asking pedestrians to step aside because the cycle path is not clearly marked. Some move politely out of the way, others complain when you ask "May I please pass?" instead of ringing your bell. Still others don't hear or don't want to hear the bell. Or they complain because it's supposedly not a bike path at all.
The white bicycle symbol marking the path has faded. In the opposite direction, roots - not people - are the problem. One can use the street instead of the bike path, but there motorists are known to roll down their windows and yell, "Take the bike lane, you pig!" (cg.)
How to improve: Pave and clearly mark the bike lane.
Survival of the fittest
Ever played parking space Tetris? If not, take a trip to beautiful Lichtenberg. Gotlindestraße runs parallel to Frankfurter Allee, leading to the Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery, where Käthe Kollwitz is buried, and to Herzberge Park, where sheep graze and the adjacent farm breeds climate-friendly catfish. It's worth it.
Gotlindestraße is a guaranteed nightmare. Cars are parked at the side of the road, sometimes on the right and sometimes on the left, and the street is so narrow that traffic can only flow in one direction. You have to be quick and pull into the next parking space in time to avoid oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, in parking space Tetris, the strongest usually win. (alm.)
How to improve: Ban parking on the side of the road.
Pop-up bike path with a ghost bike
A bike that has been painted white rests against the entrance of Samariterstraße subway station, surrounded by withered flowers and candles. Three weeks ago, a female cyclist was killed here. She was riding on the pop-up bike lane, one of those temporary strips of which there are more and more in the city and which are supposed to make life easier for cyclists. But here on Frankfurter Allee, heading into the city, just behind the Ring Center, cyclists pass numerous small shops, cell phone outlets, bakeries, bookstores and cafés. That means loads of delivery vans, especially in the morning.
Even when it's not morning there's always someone on the bike path - parcel services, delivery trucks and double parkers making a quick stop. That's what happened in the fatal accident three weeks ago. The cyclist swerved into the roadway because a delivery truck was blocking the cycle path. She was hit by a truck in the next lane and died on the spot. A day later, the ADFC bike club put up the ghost bike - on the edge of a new bike path that was supposed to make everything better. (alm.)
How to improve: Bollards separating the bike lane from the roadway.
High-risk at Boxi
Friedrichshain around Boxhagener Platz is one big problem: Cobblestones everywhere, narrow streets. There are no bike lanes and drivers also feel it necessary to pass at high speeds and at close distance. And so as a cyclist, especially turning from Warschauer into Grünberger Straße, it feels like a risky game. Only Wühlischstraße is worse - the tram tracks make it impossible to pass a delivery truck without your heart rate going off the charts. (kgb.)
How to improve: Clear demarcation between cars and bike lanes, which would actually have to be built; loading zones for delivery trucks.
No-go area for cyclists
Hermannstraße is cyclist's hell. That's not just a feeling, the accident statistics prove it. Even if you do survive Hermannstraße, it's torture to cycle there. People shamelessly double park, forcing cyclists to slalom, get honked at, cut off and overtaken with far too little distance. Drivers consider it a nuisance when a vehicle slower than themselves is in their lane. Add to that the fear that a parked car will pull out at any moment. Hermannstraße is actually a no-go zone for cyclists.
The Bicycle-Friendly Network Neukölln battled against the Neukölln district administration for a long time. The residents' initiative Hermannstraße für alle (Hermannstraße for all) was told that the Hermannstraße bike path had top priority, but that the administration lacked staff to implement it. Now something is happening: perhaps this year a protected bike path will be built, initially between Leinestraße and Glasower Straße. (suz.)
How to improve: Remove the "maybe" from the plans, more pop-up spirit in planning and action.
The "bike street" that isn't
A few days ago, Reuterkiez residents got mail. The section of Weserstraße between Pannierstraße and Weichselstraße is to become a dedicated "bike street" (Fahrradstraße) after years of planning. Good news? Not really. Part of Weserstraße - between Pannierstraße and Kottbusser Damm - is already an official Fahrradstraße, except that drivers don't know it. Or they don't care. The law says only residents are allowed to drive down the street, or someone with an appointment there. Do they enforce the law? Nope, this is Berlin. How could they? So Weserstraße is only theoretically a bicycle street. In practice, it's another normal street, as stressful as all the others. It doesn't even have a separate bike path anymore.
There used to be one, but now cars are parked there while cyclists share the road with them. The district administration and Greens in the Berlin government will pat themselves on the back when the the second section of the Fahrradstraße is created. But the concept doesn't work here, and in the end it's just a symptom of Berlin's piecemeal approach to making the city bike-friendly. (suz.)
How to improve: Think of bike city Berlin as a whole. Turn Weserstraße into a one-way street. Erect barriers.
Pothole of horror
Just behind the Vinetastraße subway station, Mühlenstraße has been patched with asphalt year upon year, and it's still full of potholes - small, large, deep, less deep. The fact that it's not particularly pleasant to ride over them on a bike is fine. But it get dangerous at night or if it's been raining and you don't know all the holes by heart, so you don't know for sure where the next one is lurking. Your mind starts to play tricks on you. What if you hit the next pothole, fall to one side and careen into moving traffic?
The recent addition of a construction site on the northbound side of the street includes a narrow bike lane carved out next to the roadway. But a pothole looms at the very start of the improvised lane. If you can't swerve around it, you have to slow down, raising the risk that the next bike won't stop in time. Hasn't happened yet but there may still be plenty of time for that. (jro.)
How to improve: Repair potholes.
Cyclists with elbows out
Between the edge of Prenzlauer Berg and the beginning of Pankow, there's an intersection that is one of the most dangerous in the city. Statistically, this is one of the places with the most accidents in Berlin. A Google search reveals horrific scenes involving trams. Where Schönhauser Allee crosses Bornholmer Straße, the lanes are laid out in such a confusing way that as a road user you have to know very well when and how to turn left.
Cyclists jostle with each other, as they do at all of Prenzlauer Berg's major intersections, especially during the kindergarten rush hour. Most of the cyclists here are on so-called city bikes, helmeted, with at least one bike bag or a Römer child seat. It's dangerous here, especially when there's no way to pass the cargo-bikes and when stressed out people on their way to work pull out of the lane to overtake. (kgb.)
How to improve: Wider bike lane. Set the traffic lights to give cyclists more time than motorists.
On a map highlighting bike infrastructure, the blue line of the Panke Trail ends exactly where it gets dicey: at the intersection of Torstraße and Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße. Here, when heading into Mitte from Prenzlauer Berg, cars turning right meet flocks of cyclists riding straight ahead. After you cross Torstraße, look over your shoulder, stick your left hand out, watch out for the tram tracks, and turn into Max-Beer-Straße, a designated "bicycle street".
At this point, cyclists head in all directions. Tourists and grannies stand in disbelief amidst the disorder, and sometimes even attempt to cross Alte Schönhauser Straße. It's not uncommon for a rookie to get their bike wheel caught in the tram tracks, sparking an outburst of expletives. Throw a delivery truck into the mix and the Neapolitan chaos is perfect. (shi.)
How to improve: Wider bike lane with extra lanes for cyclists heading in the various directions. Traffic lights that protect road users from one other.
Cardiac arrest at Rotes Rathaus
It's not as if you weren't already addicted to adrenaline in the morning, but as a cyclist in Berlin you don't have to beg for your daily dose for long. The 10km ride from Pankow to Kreuzberg, for example, hold all kinds of heart attack potential, but the Grunerstraße/Mühlendamm/Gertraudenstraße section is the most promising. That is, the stretch of the B1 between Rotes Rathaus and Spittelmarkt. Sure, it's under construction but in the Berlin mobility revolution, that means cars get two lanes while cyclists make do with a patchily painted pseudo-lane.
Once at Rotes Rathaus (city hall), cyclists can get up close and personal with merging trucks and hope to not land under their wheels. When at a later point the broad bus lane provides relief, the joy lasts just long enough for an testy driver to force the cyclist out of the lane - resulting in frayed nerves for all. It's a good thing the din of construction drowns out the tirades - it would otherwise be unbearable. (avo.)
How to improve: We can't wait for the second quarter of 2024, when the reconstruction of the Molkenmarkt quarter is scheduled for completion.
Between Kleistpark and Bayerischer Platz, in the heart of Schöneberg, live a lot of people with a lot of cars, which they keep parked on both sides of Grunewaldstraße. At the same time, a vast number of cars and trucks are on the road itself, and they are reluctant to share the street with cyclists. On the stretch from the main road to the Apostle Paul Church and vice versa, there's not enough space for both cars and bikes. The sidewalk, in turn, is quite narrow, so it would be indecent to swerve onto it when in a bind. Aggressive jostling and attempts to overtake make it a bad scene for everyone. (cg.)
How to improve: Make room for a bike lane by allowing parking on just one side of the road.