The corona crisis of all places is now giving the capital more momentum. Several districts of Berlin are creating new bike lanes in record time in order to get people to ride bicycles, relieve the public transport system and thus minimize the risk of infection with the virus.
As long as many people work from home, there are often only a few passengers on the bus and train, the risk of infection is low. But when public life picks up again, shops and soon also schools open again, the bicycle could be one of the few means of transportation that can be used to move around the city largely without risk of infection.
The debate about pandemic mobility – mobility with less risk of infection – has started. “Do we have the courage to rethink the city?” Asks the Changing Cities association, advocate a sustainable change in transport. Changing cities do not explicitly consider transportation in the Infection Protection Act, according to Changing Cities, but because the distance rules would last for months, “now has to be planned for the phase after the first lockdown and pandemic mobility infrastructure must be created for everyone”.
In an open letter to Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) and the State Transport Ministers last week, numerous mobility initiatives called on governments to take action to ensure safe mobility in the coming months.
Widen footpaths, bike traffic on the road
Keeping the distance is the order of the day. However, in order for the recommended safety distance to be maintained, “a rapid change in the division of the road space is urgently needed,” the letter says. The federal and state governments are asked to create the regulatory framework so that roads can be “quickly and easily redesigned”.
Specifically, it is about the widening of footpaths, the laying of cycle paths on the road – at least temporarily – and the opening of selected streets for sole bicycle and foot traffic. Traffic lights should be reprogrammed and a priority switch for cycling and pedestrian traffic should be created so that large groups do not form that wait for green.
According to the associations, long traffic jams would be inevitable if people would make more use of the car after easing contact restrictions. Alternative solutions to cars would have to be available, especially for commuters, otherwise there would be a risk of a traffic collapse in cities. The Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrrad-Club (ADFC) appeals to the municipalities to get creative and make it easier for people to switch to bicycles.
There are already examples abroad: the Colombian capital Bogotá, for example, has rededicated more than a hundred kilometers of car lanes on multi-lane main roads to temporary cycle lanes in order to give cyclists more space, to relieve local public transport and to prevent people from getting on the crowded buses Infect the virus. New York has also set up temporary wheel tracks.
The district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is a pioneer in Berlin. “We find that our infrastructure is unsuitable for the current situation,” said Felix Weisbrich, head of the district’s road and green space office, the Berlin “Tagesspiegel”. Weisbrich considers additional cycle paths as infection prevention during the corona crisis to be absolutely necessary so that cyclists can keep the minimum distance from each other.
In the meantime, other districts such as Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf have concrete plans for bicycle-friendly traffic routing – even in car lanes. Berlin’s Senator for Transport Regine Günther (Greens) is talking to several districts about possible new routes.
Basically, these new cycle paths are shown for a limited time. But some politicians are already seeing the first steps towards slowly moving away from the car-friendly city. “Planned permanent cycle paths are already being implemented today,” the traffic senator recently tweeted.
Districts create jobs for cycle path planners
The Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Road and Green Area Office also wants to make the most of the moment and is currently offering several positions for a “drafting for difficult and extensive new road construction and conversion work – focus on cycling”. “Vlt. does the job description sound stupid. ”, Weisbrich pushed via short message service Twitter to. But in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, bike paths would not only be designed, but also implemented in a very short time: “For our agile # PopUpBikeLane team, we are still looking for planners who are in love with making.”
A total of 8.2 kilometers of temporary cycle routes have been created in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg since March 25. Another 4.5 kilometers are currently being shown – all plants that were in the pre-planning stage but are now being brought forward in time.
The ADFC is still skeptical: “Berlin’s commitment is certainly very commendable, but in the sense of an effective measure to reduce the risk of infection on busy routes, far from sufficient,” it said on request. “We hope that more will come and that other cities will follow suit.”
The German Railway Customers’ Association (DBV) demanded at the weekend that a minimum distance of 1.5 meters should also be implemented in local public transport. The theoretical occupancy rate for the capacity calculation for trains and buses of four people per square meter must be a thing of the past. “The transport companies have to act immediately and at least double the space available.”
If necessary, seats should also be removed. Additional costs and lost fares should be fully compensated for by the municipalities and public authorities. Anything less would be an escape from financial and political responsibility. “If the top priority is keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 meters, then this must also be feasible in all public transport. That is why structural measures on the platforms and in the vehicles are a matter of course. “
More: How the corona virus affects the everyday life of Germans.