The median becomes an urban meeting place

Zoologischer Garten Oberbaum


Radbahn begins without its characteristic viaduct, just 400 meters from the U-Bahn and S-Bahn station Zoologischer Garten, then bisects Breitscheidplatz (with the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) and continues along the broad Tauentzien Boulevard. This bustling boulevard caters to masses of people every day, as well as some of the most expensive retail spaces across the city.

This chapter, therefore, predominantly appraises the inclusiveness of the existing 47-meter-wide road, and evaluates the economic effects of the Radbahn on the retail sector as well as the plurality of the space.

The Route

The Zoologischer Garten railway station is not only a hub for public transport, but is also a popular destination in itself. Tiergarten, Zoologischer Garten, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and countless shops along Kurfürstendamm are popular among tourists and locals alike. The Radbahn will attract additional visitors to the heart of West Berlin: cyclists, who currently tend to avoid the area due to its poor infrastructure.

The starting point of the Radbahn will be outfitted with secure bicycle parking at the beginning of the Tauentzien Strasse. A further cycle station will be established directly at the the Zoologischer Garten station for commuters who change to the S-Bahn or regional trains. Due to the propensity for congestion in this area – with pedestrians, cyclists and cars all consolidating around the train station – it is recommended that cyclists dismount or proceed at low speed (Schritttempo in German).

The Radbahn will share the 12-meter-wide median strip on Tauentzien Strasse with pedestrian areas and street cafes. The foot traffic at Wittenbergplatz is to be avoided by placing the two Radbahn lanes on the north of the plaza, protecting cyclists from traffic by means of structural measures. As the central area of Kleist Strasse is wide enough to accommodate an ERA-compliant two-way cycle path, very little intervention must be made. Intersections for the Radbahn will generally coincide with those for cars (i.e. follow the street network).

“Cycling is part of the typical Berlin lifestyle. Many people who visit the city use bicycles to authentically experience Berlin. The Radbahn idea is ideally suited to the wishes of our visitors and would be the first covered cycling route in the world, providing us with a clear competitive advantage over other bicycle-friendly destinations." Burkhard Kieker, CEO Berlin Tourismus & Kongress GmbH, im January 2016


The Radbahn fits into the road system. Ordered and protected, it is a space for private and rental bicycles. Consistently-updated data on the Radbahn, from the Tauentzien station, would be an exciting gimmick with which to arouse the interest of all passers-by and illustrate the usefulness of the track. It could show, for example, the number of cyclists that have already used the Radbahn or how much CO2 has been saved since the opening of the track.

Shared Space

Pedestrians and cyclists share the median, which is over 12 meters wide. This safe shared space will feature a structural division in the form of a metal bars that can also be used as seats or as footrests for the cyclists. Some of the stone walls around the flower beds can easily be repurposed to provide the base for covered bicycle parking.

The whole idea is to bring more life onto the median, which is currently not particularly inviting despite previous modifications. Small kiosks, wooden decking, outdoor seating and sun protection would provide attractive infrastructure and the existing dull green design would be updated with splash of color.


We are all are pedestrians and almost everyone knows what it feels like to ride a bike or watch the world fly past through the windscreen of a car. Yet the fight for our roads persists: pedestrians against cyclists, cyclists against motorists, and motorists against taxi drivers. With the Radbahn we are proposing clear rules, appropriate space for all user groups, and a conscious and active form of urban design that asks: “What kind of city do we want to live in?” This is currently a highly charged topic in Berlin, given the city’s rapid growth.

“If we are unable to build infrastructure such as bicycle highways in large cities, then we can forget about the transition to renewable energy and sustainable transportation. In the northern cities of Copenhagen, Oslo and Amsterdam, you can comfortably ride a bike from one corner of the city to another. This radically changes the city and would also be possible in Berlin with the RADBAHN U1.” Matthias Horx, Futurist

Redistribution of the Road Area

In order for all user groups to coexist, the groups must be allotted sufficient space for their respective needs. Cities in the 1960s and 1970s were planned with automobile-based mobility in mind, so it is now necessary to redistribute the road space. Tauentzien Strasse, which is 47 meters wide, epitomizes the generous amount of space given to cars and offers an ideal opportunity for change.

3% of the area in Berlin reserved for mobility is allocated to cycling, while 60% is for cars

Agentur für clevere Städte (2014): Wem gehört die Stadt? Der Flächen-Gerechtigkeits-Report – Mobilität und Flächengerechtigkeit. Eine Vermessung Berliner Straßen. Agentur für clevere Städte, Berlin.

Today, Project AG City-West

Currently, motor vehicles and pedestrians share the street space. Due to the organization of this space, the 12-meter-wide median strip is rarely used, although it is reserved for pedestrians. Cyclists must share a lane with bus traffic, which is dangerous to say the least.

Segregated Median

Our concept proposes the median be shared. Cyclists would then have sufficient space on which to ride without needing to worry about overtaking vehicles and the renovation of the space would also benefit the retail trade (as described in the last section). The plan retains sufficient space for pedestrians and greenery.

Expanded Pedestrian Space

Expanded sidewalks and additional bicycle paths for local traffic would make Tauentzien Strasse even more attractive for shoppers. This would improve the quality of the public space in front of the shops, encouraging passers-by to relax and stroll along at their own pace.

Consumption and Retail

The car-centric planning paradigm arose from the idea that reduced space for vehicle movement and parking would damage the retail sector, however numerous studies have shown the opposite to be true (1). Retail trade cannot compete with shopping malls on the urban periphery or online discount retailers. However, potential lies in the integration of commercial infrastructure into the everyday social spaces of contemporary cities, separate from the previously mentioned monofunctional purchasing spaces. By increasing the attractiveness of the streetscape, it is possible to prolong the amount of time individuals linger in a given space, which also increases their likelihood to consume goods and services. High motor vehicle traffic, on the other hand, correlates with a high proportion of empty business premises.

2,5 times more retail sales are generated in urban spaces oriented towards cycling and walking than those which cater to cars

Rajé, F., Saffrey, A. (2016): The Value of Cycling. Department of Transport, London economic-benefits-of-cycling

In New York, for example, anti-pollution measures and the construction of new bicycle lanes led to a reduction in vacant retail space and an increase in sales. On average, cyclists offer higher customer profitability in retail trade each year than customers utilising existing parking spaces (in m2). Similarly, studies investigating the correlation between purchasing behavior and means of transportation have shown that cyclists are consistently high-paying customers. They spend less on individual purchases, however their buying frequency is higher than customers who travel by car, so that their overall weekly and annual purchases are equal to or exceed those of people who drive(2).

Einkäufe pro Woche (oben), Ausgaben pro Woche in Euro (unten)

5 times more profitable per square meter – bicycle parking spaces generate much more revenue than car parking spaces.

Rajé, F., Saffrey, A. (2016): The Value of Cycling. Department of Transport, London economic-benefits-of-cycling

A further study concluded that 85% of all shopping trips are for purchasing everyday groceries and that 80% of these trips involve a maximum distance of five kilometers – and the fastest means of transportation for such distances is a bicycle (particularly in the urban realm)(3).

60% higher sales were achieved by local shopkeepers on Valencia Street in San Francisco after the road was redesigned for cyclists. On New York’s 9th Avenue, similar measures resulted in 49% more sales.

Rajé, F., Saffrey, A. (2016): The Value of Cycling. Department of Transport, London economic-benefits-of-cycling

(1) AGFK Bayern – Arbeitsgemeinschaft fahrradfreundliche Kommunen in Bayern e. V. (2016): WirtschaftsRad. Mit Radverkehr dreht sich was im Handel. AGFK Bayern, Erlangen.
(2) Rajé, F., Saffrey, A. (2016): The Value of Cycling. Department of Transport, London
(3) Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD) (2017): Verkehrsmittel im Vergleich. Intelligent mobil.

The journey continues under the roof!