Eye of the Needle

Reparking and Growing Plants

Hallesches Tor Kottbusser Tor


Dense traffic makes the road at this point of the route feel comparatively narrow and for Kreuzberg standards, there’s not a lot to see on Gitschiner Strasse. Nevertheless, several tens of thousands of Berliners have to pass through this eye of the needle every day, either conveniently via the U1, slowly by automobile, or dangerously by bicycle.

Gitschiner Strasse is currently equipped with a bicycle lane and the space underneath the railway viaduct is largely used for car parking – a topic that we will naturally discuss in this chapter. However we do not only promote cycling in the middle of the road, but also address the parking space problem for vehicle owners along the Radbahn. Furthermore, we have compiled a list of plant varieties that could be used to create a ‘green curtain’ and soften the view to the road. We also explain where the Radbahn could be expanded.

The Route

As soon as we leave the Landwehr Canal, the eye of the needle at Gitschiner Strasse begins. You can still see where Berlin’s medieval city wall once ran through it. As a cyclist, you would only choose this route if it is absolutely necessary and even then would aim to ride through it quickly. The Kreuzberg outdoor swimming pool is not visible, as it is protected by a wall, so it is only once cyclists reach Wassertorplatz that they have an open view to the north and south.

An alternative route for cyclists is only possible with substantial detours: zigzagging on partly cobblestoned residential streets to the north of this area, or diverging to the south along the Landwehr Canal and then up through Böcklerpark at Wassertorplatz, where Skalitzer Straße begins.

The Current Situation at Gitschiner Strasse

About 15 years after the decision was made to create bike lanes on Gitschiner Straße, construction work finally began during winter 2016/17. The work is scheduled to be completed in 2018. But what exactly is being built?

  • 1.50 m separation strip to protect cyclists on the road (this is being built in the space that is currently used for parking)
  • Parking spaces for cars along the widened middle strip below the railway viaduct
  • Cars and delivery services will be permitted to stop/stand in the bicycle lane

The German Cyclists' Federation (Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club e.V., ADFC) of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has criticised this plan, because they believe the newly designed bike path will be a “de facto loading and unloading zone” for motorized traffic. Moreover, they feel that “the majority of the people utilizing this narrow strip will not feel safe.” The ADFC consequently demands an “immediate adjustment to the planning” and a “physical separation of car and bicycle traffic”. We absolutely agree with this criticism.

“We want a cycle path under the U1 and support the Radbahn initiative. There would be no better way to get from Schlesisches Tor into the city: safe, dry, an attractive route for both cyclists and pedestrians. The Radbahn would be real drawcard for the city!” Franziska Schneider, spokeswoman for the German Cyclists' Federation (ADFC) in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

Currently under Construction

In order to provide space for a lateral separation strip for cyclists and to ensure the necessary minimum distance between the viaduct supports and the road following repair work on the railway, the middle strip under the viaduct will be widened. This space under the railway will then be used to provide parking spaces for cars.

Compared to the amount of space cyclists require (see data collection in the Recommendations section), the bike lanes are relatively narrow – only 9% of the road space is allotted to bikes.

In Relation zum Bedarf ist der für Radfahrer zur Verfügung gestellte Raum mit 9 % des Straßenraums relativ gering.

Hier entsteht eine fahrbahn für Kfz mit seitlichen Parkbuchten

Integration of the Radbahn

The middle lane where cars can access parking spaces underneath the viaduct that is currently under construction would become part of the Radbahn. The parking spaces are replaced with lots of greenery. The separation strips for cyclists on the road are retained for local cycling and parking spaces for cars are offered elsewhere (see Parking Concept on page 92-93).

Compared to the amount of space cyclists require (see data collection in the Recommendations section), the bike lanes are relatively narrow – only 9% of the road space is allotted to bikes.

Als Mitorganisatorin der ersten Fahrrad-Demo in Berlin 1976 bin ich natürlich leicht von der Idee zu begeistern. Es ist noch immer viel zu wenig zur Verbesserung der Fahrradwegeinfrastruktur getan worden. Mir gefällt, dass die Radbahn eine realisierbare Vision ist – diese fehlt Berlin an vielen Stellen. Jetzt braucht es mutige PolitikerInnen und Medien, die solchem umwelt- und stadtpolitisch kreativen Projekt genügend Anerkennung und finanzielle Unterstützung geben und sich an Kopenhagen ein Beispiel nehmen. Eva Quistorp, ist Mitbegründerin und Aktivistin der deutschen Friedens-, Frauen- und Umweltbewegung, Gründungsmitglied der Grünen und ehemaliges Mitglied des Europäischen Parlaments.

Adaptability for the Future

Once the Radbahn is built, it will become the most popular cycling route in Berlin. Tens of thousands of Berliners cycle daily. We have designed scenarios to accommodate these citizens, for tomorrow and beyond, using adaptable variants along the narrow Gitschiner Strasse. Here, our concept actually benefits from the necessity to widen the middle section underneath the viaduct.

Future 2020

In this variation, the narrow separation strip for local cyclists becomes a proper two-metre-wide bike path and is separated from road traffic. The two car lanes will be reduced to one extra-wide 4.5-metre lane. Pedestrians will also benefit.

Future 2025

In a hypothetical future, a large number of citizens will be riding bicycles as a result of the fantastic cycling infrastructure in Berlin. The Radbahn could become crowded, so the route would be expanded to include a total of four lanes – similar to how roads were commonly expanded in the 1970s.

Future 2030

If at this point the only cars in Berlin are self-driving, they could transport large numbers of people across the city using less space. Valuable space would therefore be made available for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Linear Park

In addition to our aim to promote sustainable mobility and make cycling particularly enjoyable, we also see the need to mitigate air and noise pollution caused by motorized traffic and integrate nature into the Radbahn. Vegetation can serve as an acoustic and visual filter, contributing to the improvement of local air and water quality, as well as minimizing the “urban heat island” effect. Furthermore, plants provide habitats for insects and microorganisms within the urban ecosystem.

In order to make the Radbahn green and attractive without depriving it of its old industrial charm, we will opt for plants that are aesthetically rough and/or wild. The community could be involved in planting as well as caring for the plants.

Naturally all such measures must not inhibit the visual axes between cyclists and road traffic – especially at intersections.

Grüner Vorhang

Einem grünen Korridor gleich könnte ausgerechnet das „Nadelöhr“ zu einem angenehmen Abschnitt auf der Radbahn werden.

Mikrokosmos Radbahn

Verschiedene Pflanzen und Büsche, eventuell sogar eine abschnittweise frei eingestellte, berankte Pergola, sorgen für einen Mikrokosmos, den nicht nur Radfahrer als angenehm empfinden könnten.

Better Parking

One of the major obstacles to the realization of the Radbahn is the current use of space under the U1 viaduct. Several sections are used for parking private cars: in some places, the district offers these spaces officially, in other places people park illegally. The question remains: what should be done with these cars?
The solution is surprisingly simple. There are several parking lots along the Radbahn that are often very underutilized.
The parking lots shown on the graphic offer space for more than 1,300 cars along the Radbahn. In addition, concepts could be developed whereby supermarkets and big box retailers offer parking spaces for local car owners. If long-term parkers would utilize nearby parking lots, there would be more space for short-term parking. This would also benefit the local economy.

Pros and Cons: Parking under the Railway Viaduct

+Possibility to park in front of one’s door, but in reality mostly used by long-term parkers
-Tendency to park over long periods of time
-Entry and exit is dangerous due to passing traffic
-Dangerous for drivers crossing the road to reach their cars
-Not aesthetically appealing

Pros and Cons: Parking Lots

+Possibility for detailed displays showing whether spaces are available/occupied, which reduces the time spent searching for parking
+Weatherproof shelter
+Safe, as video surveillance either already exists or is easy to implement
+Neighboring shops benefit, because more parking spaces are available for short-term parkers and/or stopping/standing vehicles, as well as delivery traffic

Short-term parking

  • 5 – 10 minutes
  • Bakeries, coffee-to-go
  • Loading and unloading in front of the business
  • Deliveries

Shopping parking

  • 60 – 90 minutes
  • Weekly groceries
  • shopping

Overnight parking

  • Up to 15 hours
  • Longer walk from businesses
  • No need for parking search
  • Protected parking

Long-term parking

  • Over 15 hours
  • Ideal for cars that are rarely used
  • No need for parking search
  • Parking safer and protected

Parkmöglichkeiten entlang der Radbahn

(1) ADFC Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (2017): Während der Senat das RadGesetz für Berlin verhandelt baut Kreuzberg weiter an der autogerechten Stadt. Pressemitteillung. 12.03.2017. http://adfc-berlin.de/images/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/2017-03-12_pm_xhain_gitschiner.pdf