Bike Commuting in Berlin and Germany
Last updated: 23 Jul 2020 / by Sam Williams
If you come from a country where the car is king, you might be wondering how you will get around when you move to Germany. Public transport is a viable option, as the infrastructure is regular and reliable, but cycling is another way.
Riding a bike is common in Germany and provides an alternative method of travel to and from work, plus it’s great for getting around in your leisure time too. If you’re worried about sticking out, there’s no need – almost everyone in Berlin owns a bike.
Interested in finding out a bit more about bike commuting in Germany? Check out our essential guide to getting around in Berlin and other cities on two wheels.
A Culture of Cycling
New arrivals to Germany are often taken by surprise at the popularity of cycling. While there are some other European countries and cities that are even better – such as Amsterdam in the Netherlands – Germans are committed to creating an accessible infrastructure to cyclists.
Berlin has made its commitment to cycling officials. In 2016 5 million euros was spent on improving the cycling network but this has increased by a significant sum. Berlin authorities are aiming for a third of all journeys to be completed by bike in 2025. An ambitious target, they are backing their goal with spending. New legislation means that by 2025 Berlin must spend a minimum of 51 million euros on improving the cycling infrastructure – every year.
This huge spend will ensure that maintenance is carried out – there’s not much worse than a cycling lane riddled with potholes! There will also be spare cash to improve and increase the number of lanes and routes available, making it even easier to transverse the city by bike.
Bikes in Other German Cities
Berlin isn’t the only German city to embrace cycling. It is not even ranked the best city in the country to get around by bike! Several other locations are more bike-friendly with fewer obstacles and more investment historically.
Münster frequently scores highly in polls of cyclists with Karlsruhe and Freiburg also receiving plaudits. It is not just the large cities in German which welcome cyclists; you’ll find a well-established network practically everywhere.
In other countries, you may find that the cities are far better for cyclists with few provisions elsewhere. Almost the reverse is true in Germany. There are excellent cycle paths and routes in rural areas, making it possible to visit some of the most picturesque regions by bike. Examples of this include the trail that leads through the Bavarian Forest and the Ahr Valley Path, which winds through glorious vineyards.
Avoiding the Pain of Commuting
Workers all over the world know the pain of commuting to work. Stuck in traffic at the same time as many other people, it can take a long time to crawl just a short distance when you’re in a car.
Germany has been working hard to reduce the incidence of traffic jams, and there has been a decrease of 5%. However, that still left Germany sitting in 519,000 hours of stalled traffic in 2019 with 708,500 traffic James reported. Of course, that doesn’t take account of slow-moving traffic either, which isn’t much better.
Considering these facts, it’s perhaps not a big surprise that only one in three people in Berlin own a car. With top-notch public transport and an excellent infrastructure for bikes, many simply don’t bother with the fuss of driving around the city.
This means that if you want to avoid traffic and don’t want the expense of buying and maintaining a car, a bike is a very viable option. If you’re on two wheels in Berlin, you will be in good company as tens of thousands of other commuters will be doing exactly the same.
Reasons to Cycle in Berlin
If you are considering commuting by bike in Berlin, you might want a bit more information about what it’s like. Here are some of the reasons why many people enjoy cycling in this German city:
- The landscape is flat. You won’t have to huff up steep hills on your commute to work in the morning, or on your way home after a tiring day.
- Many of the cycle lanes are on the pavement. With a dedicated area set aside for cyclists, not pedestrians, you won’t need to get too close to traffic in many areas. Other than the occasional pedestrian who isn’t paying attention, it’s a very safe network of paths to use.
- Drivers expect cyclists. With so many bikes moving around Berlin, drivers have to be aware of cyclists constantly. This improves road safety and means cyclists are treated with much more courtesy.
- The streets are very wide. This provides enough room for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians without anyone getting jostled. Much of this is due to a combination of Communist construction styles and the rebuilding exercise necessary after WWII. Some boulevards are 90 meters wide which would be unthinkable in some other countries.
- Many Berlin homes have parking for bikes. Knowing where to store your bike overnight can be a conundrum for many cyclists but in Berlin, a large percentage of the flats come with ready-made bike storage built in.
- You can take your bike on public transport. If you don’t fancy cycling for the full route, you can take your bike onto the tram or train, providing you purchase a ticket for it. This gives you the option of cycling for the final part of your journey rather than trudge from the station to your place of work on foot. It’s also very handy if you realize you are more tired than you expected and just want to get the train home rather than cycle!
Although there are many reasons why Berlin is such an excellent place to commute by bike, anyone using a bike will need to be responsible. Authorities expect cyclists to conduct themselves acceptably and failure to do so will result in penalties.
Cycling in the wrong direction, hurting a pedestrian or causing an accident by cycling through a red light all carry a fine and/or point, plus possible liability claims. And don’t even think about hopping onto your bike after a few beers – you could land up in court.
You will also need to be vigilant against bike theft. As cycling is so popular, thieves often target bikes. Using two different types of bike locks and locking the wheels and the frame may help you prevent you from being a victim. Some bike owners swear by locking their bike up next to a much more expensive bike, so theirs doesn’t look so attractive by comparison!
If you are really concerned about bike theft, it’s cheap and easy to hire bikes in Berlin whenever you want, so this may be a preferable option.
Berlin’s Planned Improvements
Although Berlin offers a good experience for cyclists right now, certain things could be improved. Some cyclists have complained about not having enough space or parked cars blocking the bike lane.
The authorities have a long list of improvements they’re planning to introduce, some of which have already started. On their agenda are the following:
- Increasing the number of dedicated bike lanes that separate cycles from automobile traffic. Many of these exist already, such as in Hasenheide and Holzmarktstrasse.
- Increasing the number of officials whose job it is to improve cycling. In 2016, only a few figures were working for the Berlin authority with a role dedicated to bike transport. That has dramatically changed with 60 employees now working on the task and an “Alliance for Cycling” committee created.
- Creation of bike superhighways. In the same way that the autobahn helps motorists to get quickly from one location to another, a cycle superhighway will do the same for cyclists. From 2022, more than a dozen routes will be built, leading from the suburbs to the center of Berlin. With a total distance of approximately 100km, this network will be beneficial for cyclists who travel from further out into the heart of the city each day.
- Implementation of green cycle paths. These are instantly recognizable as a designated area for cyclists and already exist within Berlin. Increasing the number of these is a quick and easy improvement that will make dedicated bike areas more visible.
- More secure bike parking areas. Since 2017, around 15,000 have already been funded by the Senate but thousands more are planned. This includes areas such as train and U-Bahn stations.
- Free hire of cargo bikes. While this may not be what you need for getting to work, having access to a free cargo bike to transport children around could save you getting a car. Berlin has 120 cargo bikes available to use for free, with more planned.
Increasing availability of rental bikes for short journeys. Even if you don’t own a bike, it will be easy for you to cycle around the city.