Biking in Berlin
Cycling in Berlin has long been one of the most popular modes of transport around the city, with approximately 500,000 daily bikers accounting for 13% of the city’s traffic (reported in 2010). It is estimated that Berlin has around 710 bicycles per 1000 residents, giving it one of the highest bicycle commuting rates among cities with one million inhabitants or more.
Accordingly, the city is highly developed in terms of cycling infrastructure, making it one of the easiest cities in Europe to get around by bike. Cycling is the perfect way of getting around, whether you are commuting or if you simply want to see the city. Through cycling, you will be able to see Berlin in a unique way; you can see more than you can when you walk, but you are still exploring more freely than on public transport. What’s more, cycling will help you to feel more at home in the city, like a real Berliner!
Cycling also saves money and gives you a great workout while you ride (though nothing too crazy, as the city is fairly flat); it is certainly the recommended way to get to know the city. You can even take your bike away with you to explore other parts of the country!
However, if you are new to the city there are some things that it is important to consider before you get yourself a bike to use in Berlin.
Register your bike
Before you begin getting your bearings around the city with your bike, it is important to register it with the police first. Unfortunately, bike theft is very common in Berlin, over 30,000 bikes are stolen each year, and registering your serial number in the police system can give you added security and peace of mind. Once you register your bike, you will be given a sticker to put on it which can also act as a deterrent for thieves.
Insure your bike
Many people choose to get household insurance that covers their bike alongside their other belongings (hausratversicherung), or you can also take out separate bike insurance (fahrradversicherung). This means that if your bike is stolen then you can have it replaced by this insurance. For those who do not speak German, Coya and GetSafe are great options, as the people there speak English.
You can prevent your bike from being stolen by purchasing a good quality bike lock (fahrradschloß), and also by locking at least one wheel to the bike frame. If you can, it is best to lock your bike somewhere private where you live such as a courtyard or a cellar. Try to avoid leaving your bike locked in a public space overnight.
Beware of fines
There are certain codes that must be followed when you are riding in Berlin; these can feel frustrating to follow but ultimately they are there for your safety and the safety of those around you! If you are caught breaking the rules, you can be fined between 50 and 200 euros as a result. Some of the things that can result in fines are:
- Not wearing a helmet
- Not having lights
- Crossing at a red light
- Looking at your phone while cycling
Of course, we should all be taking the precautions above, not just to avoid fines, but for safety as well. This means wearing a helmet every time you use your bike, which can be life-saving. Berlin is very well prepared for cyclists but it is also a very busy city, so a helmet is always necessary. You should also make sure that your bike is fully prepared with lights and a bell before using it; these are especially important for riding at night time as there tends to be a lot of holes in the road. Reflective 360-degree lights should be used on the front, back and in the wheels too.
For safety, you should also ensure that you are using hand signals when you want to turn, so that other vehicles on the road know where you intend to go. This can prevent accidents and make riding easier on other cyclists!
Listen to google maps to find your way
Navigating around Berlin can feel intimidating, it’s a big city and there is a lot to see. If you feel worried that you’re going to get lost, the best thing to do is to use google maps! Of course, it is not recommended that you look at your phone while cycling, so the best way to do it is press ‘start’ on the navigation setting, turn the volume up and listen to the directions. This way you can maintain safety while also making sure you don’t get lost!
Be aware of people crossing the street
It can sometimes be difficult to see when someone is trying to cross the street while you are cycling, especially if they are crossing in front of a larger vehicle. To be extra safe and cautious of pedestrians around you, make sure that you are biking on the right side of the road, which should be in the same direction as the traffic. This will give you a better view of potential pedestrians in the street.
Bikes on public transport
Taking your bike on public transport in Berlin is sometimes essential to get where you want to go, and luckily it is made very easy. You can take your bike on Berlin’s S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trams and night buses - but you must make sure that you buy a bike ticket before you get on!
Riding with friends
It is perfectly fine for you to ride next to your friend when cycling in the city, but only if you are sure not to block traffic.
When cycling on the roads in Berlin, it is important to remember that cars and trams/buses have priority over cyclists.
The key thing to remember when biking in Berlin is to stay as safe as you can by following our guidance above! Around the city, you may see white bikes tied to lampposts; these are known as ghost bikes and serve as a marker of a cyclist killed by traffic.
It is hard to see sights like these, but it is important to remember that we must stay safe when cycling.
Following these guidelines, you will be able to enjoy all of the wonders of cycling in this great city! There are so many things to be gained from opting to cycle, and it is the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of Berlin.
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