Berlin’s Urban Development & Bicycle Network

Berlin’s Urban Development History

To understand the location of Radbahn in the urban context of Berlin, you need to look into the history of urban development in the German capital. At the beginning of the 19th century, Berlin had 200,000 inhabitants, but with increasing industrialization there was huge population growth. Within a short space of time, Berlin grew out of its medieval walls into a city of millions, appropriating communities, and, from then on, having to deal with problems of hygiene, supply and waste disposal, as well as traffic.

In the 1860s, along the lines of Haussmann's plan for Paris, the so-called Hobrecht plan was adopted: the train from the Südstern to Breitscheidplatz; the ring roads and radial arterial roads; sewage treatment plants for wastewater on the urban periphery, as well as the typical densely built Berlin tenements go back to this plan. The first Berlin subway was built between 1896 and 1902: the U1.

The architect Alfred Grenander developed the design for the viaduct pillars, which have shaped the the city from then on. The adornments in the Art Nouveau style are still present today on a few pillars and elevated platforms, making the U1, together with its particular orientation, diagonal to all the arterial roads that intersect it, a catalyst for urban life.

Berlin around 1850
Heck, G.: Plan von Berlin. Leipzig, F. A. Brockhaus, 1849. Schlegel & Eberhardt nach G. Heck

Bicycle Network Berlin

Due to the historically determined situation of the Berlin street network, the route of the Radbahn still retains its traffic quality. Although it can not be considered as a high speed connection, according to the guidelines for high speed bicycle connections (1), it still fulfills important criteria: it connects inner-city areas with highly residential and employment areas, while simultaneously providing numerous connections to public transit, with an attractive, safe and purpose-oriented cycle path.

Since Radbahn intersects the radial road network of Berlin at a diagonal, there are no parallels which could act as alternatives to this route. In many places, Radbahn could only be circumnavigated via a zig-zag route. Hence, one could say that Radbahn is the only option.

Along the old Berlin Customs Wall, Radbahn could offer a western link to the newly opened cycle path on Warschauer Straße, making it an important part of a bicycle ring, which could then continue along the redesigned cycle path on Petersburger Straße. In addition, Radbahn could connect the city's existing cycle network at many points. In particular, the function as a link between the high speed connections from the urban periphery, which is planned, is a great potential for traffic on Radbahn.

(1) FGSV – Forschungsgesellschaft für Straßen- und Verkehrswesen (2014):
Arbeitspapier. Einsatz und Gestaltung von Radschnellverbindungen. FGSV Verlag, Köln