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Maggie Spooner: Ku’damm it

Ku'damm poses a multitude of dangers in all sorts of forms, but one (fixable) danger is receiving Maggie's ire: the non-existence of bike lanes on the boulevard.

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Photo by Maggie Spooner

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With spacious, boulevard-breadth pavements (or sidewalks, if you come from the wrong side of the Atlantic), why is there no room for a cycle path on Kurfürstendamm? Here we are instead allocated theoretical space on an “environmental lane” to be shared with six-wheeled buses and kamikaze taxis, driven by men with middle-age piles and/or dreams of a late career in Formula 1. And emergency vehicles, which buses and taxis like to pretend they are anyhow.

It’s not as if there’s no space – on the pavement, or maybe for a little extra lane on the road. I pointed this out to the Transport Spokesperson of the SPD Bezirksverordnetenversammlung. He answered that separate bicycle paths have led to an increased incidence of accidents suffered by people overlooked by motorists turning right.

Doesn’t that call for a modification of existing cycle paths: flashing lights or security-vested policemen?

Not so. The best thing, said spokesperson, is to use the “environmental lanes” signposted for shared use so as to “improve visibility and decrease the potential for conflict.”

Question: who the hell studies signs like these unless they’re prepping for their driver’s license? And if that middle lane is meant to be used by all the vehicles mentioned, why do the road markings specify only buses, encouraging these behemoths to exercise their assumed prerogative by cutting a pretty fine line as they overtake with one finger on the wheel and the other raised in salute?

Is it the economy, stupid? The cyclist’s shallow, sweaty pockets? We’re welcome enough on the cycle path on Lietzenburger Straße, which runs parallel to Ku’damm. But whereas Kurfürstendamm has nice shops and cafés and all the trappings of Berlin (West), Lieztenburger has mattress shops, dry cleaners and a model train store. And it’s not even continuous, lulling bikers into carefree bursts of speed only to disappear arbitrarily into some motorist nirvana. The ultimate insult? Some genius at city hall has plonked an impressive row of glass containers just to the right of the cycle path on Olivaer Platz itself, so that looking anywhere but down can have expensive consequences.

So I persist in courting poisoning by mini-particles of nefarious substances as I wobble long behind busses, injury from doors opening haphazardly from cars parking to my right or suction into oblivion through the wind tunnels created by pimped BMWs zooming past on my left towards KaDeWe. Did I forget the voodoo spells cast from the witheringly evil eye of taxi drivers?

Please, take pity. Get out the paint pots and add a couple of bike icons to the tarmac on that middle lane. We deserve some form of welcome for sticking to our environmental agenda which, based on this week’s IPCC report, is more than ever urgent. If we want to cycle down architecturally and commercially dull side-streets favoured by harried motorists looking for a short-cut, we’ll make that call ourselves.