- FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN
- 12:55 PM ET
Twenty years ago, Berlin’s network of sidewalk paths marked it out as one of Europe’s best places to ride a bike. But as the German capital knows well, it’s not easy to keep a reputation as a bike-friendly city. Nowadays, Berlin looks decidedly behind the times compared to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, with its bike-lane network characterized by limited space and poor separation from cars and pedestrians. Thanks to plans being hammered out by Berlin’s lawmakers right now, that could all be about to change.
At the heart of the plan lie 13 new bike superhighways, approved at the end of February. Narrowed down from an original list of 30, the first two of these new routes should begin construction by the end of 2017. As the “highway” title suggests, these won’t just be ordinary roadside paths. They will be completely segregated, unbroken longer-distance routes that will allow Berliners to get in and out of the city center much faster and more safely—without ever having to mix with cars.
To be fair, the city is still far from a terrible place to get around on two wheels. A roomy street plan means many major roads have sidewalks wide enough to make room for a single bike lane—one on each side of the street—without overly crowding pedestrians. Cyclists are still pushed into unsegregated traffic, at times. As well as being less safe, this often means cycling over backside-numbing cobblestones that can leave you more than a little saddle-sore. This might have seemed exemplary at the turn of the Millennium, but Berlin knows it can do better.