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  • Seymour Gris: Cyclists of Berlin unite!


Seymour Gris: Cyclists of Berlin unite!

Frustration with the Senat's failure to reshape dangerous intersections and widen inadequate lanes has given birth to a new citizen's campaign, the Volksentscheid Fahrrad, Seymour Gris explains and has a few ideas of his own.

Biking in Berlin isn’t what it once was. If you’re cyclist, things aren’t easy these days: competition for road or bike path space is tougher than ever; clueless tourists stand around checking their phones in poorly marked bike lanes; delivery vans block the bike path forcing you to swerve into traffic; and then there are those near-death experiences as trucks carelessly cut you off at traffic lights.

As the lovingly made English-language video posted by Claudia Brückner (above) two months ago shows in great detail, investment in cycling inftrastructure has failed to keep up with surging bike use and exploding car traffic. Frustration with the Senat’s failure to reshape dangerous intersections and widen inadequate lanes has given birth to a new citizen’s campaign, the Volksentscheid Fahrrad, which aims to force improvements through the referendum process. They’ll start collecting signatures in May. To get to the next round of the process, the Volksbegehren, 20,000 signatures are needed (unfortunately foreigner can’t sign, though they can collect signatures and lobby their German friends). Last week, the initative presented its proposals, fittingly, in the embassy of the Netherlands, a nation far more advanced than ours in all things bike. Here are their 10 goals:

1. 350km of safe bike lanes (safe also for children).

2. Make bike lanes at least two metres wide on main roads.

3. Redesign 75 dangerous intersections every year.

4. Transparent, fasttrack handling of reported problems in the bike infrastructure.

5. 200,000 new bicycle parking spots.

6. 50 “green wave” (optimised) traffic lights for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport.

7. 100km of cycle “expressways” for commuters.

8. More police bike patrols and a special bicycle theft unit.

9. More planning staff and a central cycle department in city government.

10. Raise public awareness for more cycle use and roadsharing.

These goals whole-heartedly deserve our support. With the population of Berlin growing by 40,000 per year, record numbers of visitors flooding into the city and ever-worse traffic jams, not to mention absurdly high public transport prices, bikes are THE cheap, healthy, clean way to maintain quality of life for everyone – even for people who don’t actually ride them.

And yet the Volksentscheid Fahrrad is just one piece of the puzzle. The plan should be part of a greater, integrated ecological transport concept for Berlin. The German car lobby needs to be restrained and the ever-growing number of poison-belching SUVs have no place on the roads of Berlin. As we reported last November, Berlin has some of the worst air in Europe. Then there’s a little thing called climate change.

Cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users need to unite and fight for more bike safety but also: 

1. Lower BVG (public transport) ticket prices and implement more frequent train, tram and bus service.

2. Set up a road-charge for drivers following the London model.

3. Higher parking fees and less parking for cars – with the exception of car-sharing, hybrid and electric cars.

Berlin, you have you so much potential. Your people are brimming with ideas and idealism. Time to take the lead and improve life on your roads.