Spree feeling

Just one more bend an up to Friedrichshain

Schlesisches Tor Warschauer Straße

Location

During the final stage of the journey, dozens of bars and restaurants on either side of the Radbahn invite cyclists to take a break on their way to the River Spree.

This chapter is about the experience on the route itself. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Radbahn’s location in the middle of the street? How safe, comfortable and relaxed are cyclists on the Radbahn? How does the track encourage inexperienced or apprehensive cyclists to get back on their bikes? Is the Radbahn also a route where children and seniors are safe?

The Route

In the middle of the street, Radbahn meanders down Skalitzer Straße, north of the Schlesischen Tor metro station and then back to the middle of the street after passing the renowned "Burgermeister". On Oberbaumbrücke, we leave the beautiful brick viaduct to the pedestrians and rather ride along the street. By means of a two-lane cycle path, we finally reach the goal: the Oberbaum bike-station on the footprint of the former Stralauer Tor train station.

The renowned "Burgermeister"

Burgermeister

Burgermeister is a former public toilet on the Radbahn route that has been converted into a burger joint. It will not be affected by our proposal, as it is a superbly functioning example of the appropriation of underutilized urban space. At Schlesisches Tor we turn north, where a mini plaza will offer hungry cyclists a place to refuel before heading into the ‘home straight’ under perhaps the most beautiful part of the Radbahn.

Schlesisches Tor and Burgermeister

Safety along the Route

The most important aspect of any new bike track is safety. The goal should always be to ensure that children, seniors and inexperienced adults can ride safely and also feel safe. If we look at Radbahn from a purely traffic engineering perspective, its special feature is its position in the middle of the road. While this has numerous advantages, it also has one disadvantage.

The most important advantage is that Radbahn, thanks to its structural separation from the road, is safer than the existing bike paths on the road’s periphery. Our design protects cyclists from suddenly opened car doors, or the dangers of temporarily entering the vehicle lanes to avoid parked cars or delivery trucks. Radbahn also protects cyclists from the most common cause of accidents, right-turning cars, because (1) the route between the Oberbaumbrücke and the Zoologischer Garten train station has fewer intersections with motorized traffic and (2) cyclists are in plain view of drivers, as they are positioned on the left side (driver’s side) of the vehicle.

The only disadvantage is that drivers do not expect to encounter cyclists in the middle of the road – at least not in Germany. For this reason, we recommend left turn signals and measures to ensure Radbahn always remains visible for cars. That way, this unique bicycle highway would soon become a familiar part of driving in Berlin.

Accidents between cars and bicycles are usually the most devastating, but a collision between two cyclists can be just as destructive – especially on a two-way cycling path such as the Radbahn. That is why we have studied the German technical regulations for road engineering (ERA and RASt) and recommend that the Radbahn leaves the viaduct in places where there is insufficient space between the supports (such as at the Landwehr Canal and between Görlitzer Bahnhof and Lausitzer Platz).

The dangers presented by aggressive cyclists, both for themselves as well as others, are significantly reduced on the Radbahn compared to conventional roads, either with or without bike lanes. Aggressive behavior in cycling usually only occurs after an emotional response to something that has taken place and/or if conflicts arise between different user groups, according to Bernhard Schlag, Professor for Traffic Psychology at the Technical University of Dresden (1).

Radbahn is designed to ensure cyclists have sufficient space and therefore never feel the need to fight aggressively for more room. Harmonious shared use of the Radbahn is also promoted through the ‘communication’ between the traffic lights and the cyclists.

Comfort along the cycling route

The unique Radbahn design not only provides heightened safety and protection against wet weather, it also ensures smooth flowing bike traffic and a comfortable and convenient riding experience. The pleasant and attractive infrastructure demonstrate the city’s appreciation for cyclists. Small gimmicks make urban riding more fun, motivate cyclists and act as a simple gesture with significant positive psychological effects.

(1.) Surface alternatives

  • New concrete surface
  • New coloured asphalt
  • Traffic paint on existing surface

(2.) Greenery incl. drainage
(3.) Incorporation to Street drainage
(4.) Interactive traffic lights
(5.) Signage system Radbahn
(6.) Non-glare, warm lighting
(7.) Strip of LED lights / green wave indication
(8.) Footrests on stops
(9.) Tilted trash bins

Surface

  • Solar-absorbing pavement (as seen in Lidzbark Warminski, Poland)
  • Colored low-friction coating

Urban Furniture

  • Seating
  • Storage facilities such as anti-theft boxes
  • Trash bins inclined towards the direction of travel to make waste disposal during the journey easier (as seen in Copenhagen)
  • Footrests at areas before intersections (e.g. Copenhagen), so cyclists don’t have to dismount

Lighting

  • Pleasant, warm light from energy-efficient LED technology, available both at night and on rainy or overcast days.

Communication between traffic lights and cyclists

  • Digital screens 100 meters before traffic lights that indicate whether the approaching light is about to turn green or red; cyclists are also advised whether it is worth accelerating to reach the green light or save their energy instead; such systems exist in both Copenhagen and Utrecht, where the information is communicated via symbols.
  • A LED tube along the track emitting light recognizable only from the perspective of the cyclist letting them know at what speed they need to travel in order to reach the next green traffic light (as in Utrecht)
  • An app that displays your ideal speed at any time, adjusted to your previously saved route and your performance; such an app would indicate whether it makes sense to accelerate or slow down in order to make it through the next green light.
  • Sensors on traffic lights that extend the green light for cyclists on rainy days to reward them for riding despite the rain (as seen in Rotterdam and Groningen)

Cycling under the protection of the railway viaduct – attractive even in the rain

Section through Oberbaumbrücke

End of the Journey

We’ve arrived! The Radbahn journey finishes at the Oberbaumbrücke over the River Spree. Here, the path could connect to the partially finished, partially planned cycling route starting on the northern side of the bridge and following part of the former Berlin Customs Wall (Warschauer Straße – Petersburger Straße – Danziger Straße). This is also the site of another historic wall: the East Side Gallery is one of the main tourist attractions in Berlin.

The site of the former Stralauer Tor train station could feature a bicycle station with an info-point and bike rental services.

Oberbaumbrücke und Radbahnhof Stralauer Tor

Stralauer Tor elevated train station around 1902; it was destroyed during the Second World War.
Photographer unknown, Source: Susanne Hattig und Rainer Schipporeit: Großstadt-Durchbruch - Pioniere der Berliner U-Bahn Photographie um 1900, Jaron Verlag, Berlin 2002

Info-Point at the site of the former Stalauer Tor train station

Civil society initiatives in Berlin such as the Radbahn contribute towards the people-friendly development of urban space with their playful yet realistic solutions. This is classic Berlin. Let’s listen to them and let them to put their ideas into action. Berlin and the ‘Berliners from all over the world’ have a lot to gain. Andreas Krüger, urban developer and co-initiator of the business and creative quarters at Moritzplatz

(1) The Telegraph (2015): Cyclists are 40 per cent less stressed than other commuters. The Telegraph. 14.05.2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/recreational cycling/11603491/Cyclistsare-40-per-cent-less-stressed-than-other-commuters.html