I was stunned at the high numbers of cyclists in Berlin. It’s certainly a different from the one I'm used to in New Zealand and Ireland. Here’s a typical Berlin scene- Dad and his wee daughter, negotiating a huge and very busy intersection in Neukolln. He does have an air of concentration about him, and a kids’ helmet dangling from his hand, but he seems to be happy to have her cycling independently- and she’s less than five I reckon.
Amazingly, Dad isn’t alone...
All round Berlin we saw relaxed, carefree cycling providing transport for all ages, all genders, and all types. Little ones on baby seats and young kids cycling under supervision are extremely common; the ‘school run’ at 3pm or so was a study in the many ways of carrying kids on bikes- cargo bikes, trikes, trailers, baby seats and many more. Looking at the figures, it was clear that Berlin is a real leader in cycling for transport, with some neighbourhoods nudging 20% of trips being done by cyclists -more than by car in the central Mitte district.
But what really struck me, on biking round the city, was that the infrastructure provided really isn't high-quality. Lots of narrow lanes on footpaths, lots of sharing with larger vehicles at junctions. What could be going on, why do Berliners feel so safe & comfortable on bikes when the street experience is mediocre!?