Ich bin ein Bicyclist

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In a report for CBSnews.com on Berlin, Germany’s booming bike culture, Christine Lagorio expresses shock at the sheer number of bikes she saw in Berlin and the way in which motorists and cyclists share the road "gracefully." This, she says, is something she has never experienced in her home town of New York City.

In this city where less than half of residents own a car, bicycles are not only in vogue; over the past two decades it has become downright common to ride one every day. They are chained to every pole or knob on every major thoroughfare. They crowd apartment building lobbies. They dominate the flow of traffic in intersections. Bicyclists have power in numbers; a major fantasy of U.S. cyclists has come to pass in Berlin: cars yield to bikes.

Lagorio, who rides a bike in Brooklyn, thinks of Manhattan as a "death trap" for cyclists. She wonders what exactly makes Berlin and New York so different:

"The biggest difference riding in Berlin is that the drivers know what to look out for. There’s no right on red here, so the drivers wait for the pedestrians and the bicyclists to pass at every intersection before going, " says Wolf Schroen, an avid cyclist and expat who moved to Germany seven years ago from bike-friendly Austin, Texas.

“Some are just shocked at the amount of other bikers on the roads – that riding is so casual here,” he said.

In Berlin, the city has taken action and its philosophy seems to be "build it and they will come." Two years ago, city officials pledged to work toward bikes comprising 15 percent of the city’s traffic by the year 2010. After devoting 2.5 million Euros last year to expanding on the bike lane system, the goal isn’t far off. The city already has 80 kilometers of bike lanes in the streets and 50 kilometers of lanes on sidewalks. Recent numbers showed that cycling has doubled in the past decade, and now the city’s 400,000 riders each day account for 12 percent of total street traffic, according to the green-living blog Treehugger.

Photo: bisschenbissig/Flickr

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