I recently took a short little vacation to Berlin (just about 5-7 hours away by train from where I live). While I had noticed when I visited the first time (2 years ago) that it was a tremendous bike city and put it at #7 in my bike city photo tours series, I didn’t bike around the city on that visit. Additionally, it was rather cold and rainy, so biking wasn’t in full bloom there.
This time around, we (my partner Marika and friend Salah) were set on biking, a bit at least. The weather was nice and our friend got us some bikes. We ended up going on a bike ride that lasted 5 hours or so on our first full day there.
The wonderful bike-friendliness of the city and the large number of bikers made a bigger impression than I had expected. While it didn’t quite match the Netherlands, where I lived for 5 months a few years ago, especially the city of Groningen that I lived in, which had a 50-60% bike commute rate the last time I checked, it is the best bike city outside of the Netherlands that I think I’ve visited. (Note that I visited Paris before it got Velib.)
What Makes Berlin Such a Great Bicycle City?
There are some things that make Berlin great that are harder (or take longer) to change (in cities where they aren’t already present), and there are others that could be changed immediately. Here are the top 3 things that I think make Berlin such a wonderful place to bike:
- Great bike facilities: on-road bike lanes nearly everywhere; quite a few off-road bike lanes as well; beautiful bike paths through parks and along rivers; bike lights; bike parking all over the place; and probably more.
- Bikers: this is a factor often underrated or invisible to people when they discuss bike-friendliness of a place — maybe it’s just so obvious that it makes us ignore it — but the truth is, one of the best ways to improve safety or comfort for bicyclists is to increase the number of bicyclists. Berlin has plenty of bikers, and when you get out on the road, it makes you feel comfortable, relaxed, part of a greater sea of positive living.
- Weather & Topography: well, I’m not going to lie, nice weather is much more bike-friendly and the weather was nice while I was there. Additionally, Berlin is quite flat, a feature most utilitarian bikers love. Now we did run into a few showers, and you can be sure I did in the Netherlands when I lived there, but unless you have something important with you that can’t get wet, it’s not the worst thing in the world and you realize that once you’re out there and it hits you that rain is not so scary, but it is a clear deterrent for most people and not as nice as sunny weather (normally).
Well, anyway, it is bike month this month and it is National Bike to Work Day tomorrow (in just a few hours if you’re on the East Coast), so I hope that this post inspired you to get out there and get on your bike tomorrow, this month, and forevermore .
Truthfully, while Berlin is a wonder bike city and I’d rather bike there than most places, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a city where it wasn’t nice to bike (barring a few bad areas), and it is generally nicer than you’d think once you get out there on your bike.
The following photos are from my trip 2 years ago — didn’t take any this time, unfortunately.
- #7 Berlin, Germany: Great Bicycle City Photo Tour
- #6 Groningen, Netherlands: Great Bicycle City Photo Tour
- #5 Paris, France: Great Bicycle City Photo Tour
- #3 Portland, Oregon (USA): Great Bicycle City Photo Tour
- #1 Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Great Bicycle City Photo Tour
- 17 Reasons Why Bicycles Are the Most Popular Vehicle in the World Today