Berlin’s Bicycle Boom


Committed to making cycling a viable form of transportation, the Berlin Senate measures the success of that city’s bicycle network by the prevalence of cyclists in the overall traffic mix — rather than the way New York’s DOT does, by the miles of bike lanes built. Via TreeHugger:

Two years ago, the Berlin Senate decided that bikes should make up 15% of city traffic by the year 2010. Results released from the newest traffic study of the Berlin Development Administration show that the goal could be reached early: the number of bicyclists has more than doubled in the last decade to 400,000 riders daily, accounting for 12% of total traffic.

A clever investment strategy in biking infrastructure is likely the primary facilitator of the migration to human powered vehicles. The program targeted improvement of connections between train stations and bike paths, and over 3000 bicycle parking places have been built on 40 stations. The current situation in Berlin is the envy of many a city: Berliners have access to 620 Km of bike paths, 80 Km of bike lanes in the streets, 70 Km of bus lanes which are also open to bicyclists, 100 Km of combined pedestrian/bike paths and 50 Km of marked bike lanes on the sidewalks. The Berlin Senate Bicycle Traffic Strategy foresees pulling all these routes together into a network with primary routes running from the city center out to the suburbs and two traffic rings by 2016. Park-and-ride facilities will be added at 20 additional U-bahn stations in the coming year.

Photo: tilde~/Flickr

  • Two related papers that may be of interest are noted below. One by the renowned John Pucher argues that public policy measures enacted by German authorities have resulted in increased rates of bicycling. A second by Heath Maddox suggests that exogneous factors (and not proactive policy actions) led Germans to respond differently to the oil shocks of the 1970s than did Americans. Each paper is worth reading in full.

    by Prof. John Pucher
    Rutgers University
    Abstract: Bicycling has increased dramatically in German cities over the past two decades, not only
    absolutely but even as a proportion of total travel. Overall, the bicycle share of urban trips in western Germany rose by
    50% from 1972 to 1995. In many large cities, bicycling doubled or tripled, while the modal split share of auto travel
    fell, thus mitigating roadway congestion and pollution problems. The resurgence of bicycling as a practical mode of
    daily urban travel is due almost entirely to public policies that have greatly enhanced the safety, speed, and convenience
    of bicycling while making auto use more difficult and more expensive. The bicycle has triumphed in Germany in spite
    of rapid suburbanization, rising auto ownership, increasing trip lengths, and rising per capita incomes. This article
    shows that, with the right set of public policies, bicycling can be increased almost anywhere.” (or google “Pucher Bicycling Boom Germany”) or see this Powerpoint; pucher/BikeWalkPublicHealth_April%206.pdf

    Another look at Germany’s bicycle boom: implications for local transportation policy & planning strategy in the U.S.A.

    Heath Maddox

    There are conflicting views regarding the substantial growth in cycling in Germany since the early 1970s. Pucher argues that it is almost entirely attributable to public policy. A number of German experts would give planning and public policy far less credit, and attribute this growth in cycling instead to other factors, such as urban congestion, the oil shocks of the 1970s, environmental awareness, and changes in urban form. The article that follows is an attempt to explain the two diverging viewpoints and draw conclusions that nevertheless prove useful in the quest to promote cycling as a legitimate mode of transport. It calls for a more involved type of strategic planning that, in addition to traditional policy measures, seeks to build political consensus and power by strengthening community groups and coalitions.

    Scroll down at

  • Better link (I hope)

    Assuming the link works, you’ll be treated to John Pucher’s “kitchen sink” presentation at LAB’s Nat’l Bike Summit in 2007 summarizing his life’s research and visits to Europe, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.


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