An Idea is Born

Many Berliners have no doubt daydreamed about the possibility of cycling along underneath the elevated U1 subway line. But it wasn’t until Martti Mela gathered a few of his friends together that this idea was first properly sketched out. They publicized their proposal on social media in November 2015 – and the timing couldn’t have been better. Their idea for a Radbahn, or bicycle highway, generated a huge amount of interest from cyclists, politicians and the media. It attracted 10,000 Facebook fans within just two weeks, gained worldwide press coverage and even won a German Federal Ecodesign Award.

Berlin’s state parliament also took an active interest and invested in a feasibility study. However the commissioned study is a general investigation of bicycle highways, which by definition must be at least four meters wide and have as few intersections as possible. The Radbahn has an average width of 3 meters and, as an inner-city route, many more intersections than routes between Berlin’s circular S-Bahn railway line and the city limits. As a result, our concept couldn’t be included in the bicycle highway study, even though engineers commissioned by the State of Berlin attested to the Radbahn’s great potential as a cross-city bike path.

So we took it upon ourselves to calculate the enormous advantages presented by the Radbahn for Berlin’s economy, urban development and culture. Our study also provides some initial planning suggestions that illustrate how the idea could be realized. Fortunately the Radbahn has attracted a lot of support from civil society groups, companies and research institutes, as well as Berlin’s Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection.