Berlin does not have a cycle network

This article has also been published on my German blog.
Dieser Artikel wurde auch auf Deutsch veröffentlicht.

I often hear great things about cycling in Berlin.

Apparently there are “ubiquitous grade-separated cycle tracks, bicycle boulevards, and other facilities“, which mean that “you can get round most of Berlin on segregated bike paths“.

According to this Lonely Planet guide book I have here, “the biking infrastructure is fantastic“, and Stephen Evans of the BBC found “endless cycle tracks” (where are they, Steve?).

I really wish all this was true, but unfortunately it’s nonsense. Berlin is definitely second-rate for cycling.

I often find myself wanting to go somewhere within cycling distance but having to choose to use a different mode of transport, because the conditions for cycling there are too unpleasant for me or the people I’m with.

So with this in mind, I made a map of Berlin’s cycleways. And I’ve been extremely generous in my definition of “cycleway” here. Nothing comes close to the criteria set out in this article.

A map showing roads in central/north/east Berlin which have protected cycleways along them. It's very sparse and disconnected.

This is not a cycle network. (Click for full-size.)

I may have missed a few little bits off, but I think I got all of it.

The green lines are the not-too-bad cycleways, and the grey lines show the absolute rubbish, such as this…

A very narrow, bumpy, neglected cycleway on Luxemburger Strasse in Berlin

Only people with mountain bikes may overtake here.

…and this…

pathetic narrow cycleway right up against the edge of a wide, fast busy road in Berlin. There are parked cars on the footway beyond the cycleway. I have added an arrow to point out the cycleway, it is that bad.

I’ve added an arrow to point out the cycleway, otherwise you might miss it. (Photo: Google Maps)

…so don’t go thinking that I’m being harsh on Berlin here. If anything, I’m being too kind for including those on the map.

In the interests of balance, here’s a typical example of one of the relatively better (but still nowhere near good enough) cycleways denoted by the green lines:

One of Berlin's better cycleways. Not too narrow, but a tiled surface and a low fence which pedals could hit. Also right next to parked cars with only a tiny buffer.

One of Berlin’s better (but still not good enough) cycleways. Just enough room to squeeze past in the door-zone. Keep alert at junctions!

Everything else is either a painted lane on the road or nothing at all, and like most people I’m not willing to mix with motor vehicles along fast, wide, busy roads.

The map covers the part of Berlin where I live and spend most time – the central north and east areas – but the picture is pretty much the same elsewhere in the city. Some areas are better than others, but not much.

I was considering adding some of the back streets on this map too, but I couldn’t think of any that were really suitable. On the whole they’re either too busy with traffic to be serious contenders for being part of a cycle network, or they’re surfaced in the rough cobbled “Kopfstein” that make cycling a pain in both the physical and metaphorical sense of the word.

(I’ll cover some of the back streets in a later post, such as Stargarder Strasse which should be great but is a busy rat-run, and Choriner Strasse which is designated as a “Bicycle Street” but has nothing beyond a few signs to back this up.)

At least there are no buses around here, just trams, though bad street design means that they can be dangerous too (the subject of yet another post to come). But as you can see from the map, travelling by bike in Berlin can be a real pain unless you’re happy to mix with cars, vans and lorries on multi-lane roads.

Photograph of Danziger Strasse in Berlin, showing a painted cycle lane on the carriage-way side of the parked cars, with a lorry thundering past.

Be my guest. I’ll walk.


And how should it look? My dream cycleway..



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9 responses to “Berlin does not have a cycle network

  1. Have you included “non compulsory cycle tracks” in the map? In Berlin only 150 km out of 620 km of “cycle tracks” are compulsory:
    And what about on-road cycle lanes? Most people say that these things form a network (i. e. you don’t have to think “what the heck am I supposed to do here?” from time to time when you cycle and you don’t have to mix with heavy motor traffic – you are separated at least by a white line), though most of them are really crappy.

    • Yes I’ve included the non-compulsory cycleways, they’re the really crappy ones marked out by the grey lines (though I think a couple of crap compulsory ones may also be marked in grey).

      The on-road cycle lanes are as much good as they are elsewhere – i.e. not much at all. Cars park in them for long periods, taxis stop to drop people off, cars have to pull across them to get into and out of parking spaces, etc.

      Add to that the poor design of many cycle lanes here, weaving sharply out in front of motor vehicle lanes, or suddenly finding yourself between two general traffic lanes.

      Cycle lanes are simply not worth the paint they’re marked out in. If they were, the UK would have a great cycle network and much higher cycling rates, but it doesn’t.

  2. Pingback: Cycleway design in Berlin and beyond | The Alternative Department for Transport

  3. Please, not! Please do not promote those “cycleways” almost all political active cyclists in Berlin / Germany are fighting against. No more cycleways hidden behind parked cars and seperated from traffic! Too many people were killed on such ways. If you want to seperate cycleways, then you have to build big, easy visible ways. As long, as we don’t have them, I prefer riding with the traffic or beneath the carways – visible!

  4. Pingback: Warum können die Grünen keinen (Rad-) Verkehr? Spurensuche. | Hamburg steigt auf

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  7. loudspeaker

    this issue was recently proved also for Vienna (Austria) who claimed to have an extensive network of cyclepaths (“Radwegenetz”)

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