An 8.9 km long, covered bike lane, passing right through the heart of Berlin? Amazingly-designed and full of innovative technologies? It might not be as crazy as it sounds: the actual route already exists, and with the help of just a few small changes, the concept could soon become reality. RESET talked to Simon Wöhr, one of the brains behind the scheme.
Running under the elevated tracks of Berlin's iconic U1 metro line is a path that is almost entirely unused, with just a few points offering space for parked cars. What would it be like to transform this path (with the help of a few modifications) into the world's first ever fully covered bicycle lane? What would it be like to ride from Bahnhof Zoo to Warschauerstraße, breathing fresh air as you zip between curtains of green, able to stop at one of the service stations along the route to receive free assistance if your bike chain starts squeaking or your tyres are feeling flat?
The concept developed by the Berlin initiative Radbahn doesn't stop there: they want to use pressure-sensitive flooring to produce the energy for installations and lights, converting movement into electricity, and to get you even quicker from A to B, they also want to connect the bike path to the Berlin public transport system, as well as car and bike sharing organisations.
Copenhagen has the cyclist super highway - Berlin has the Radbahn
Examples like Copenhagen and Amsterdam are proof of the fact that the more cycle-friendly a city's infrastructure, the higher the number of people hopping on their bikes. Provide people with safe and comfortable bike paths and that's when the fun can really get started. That's the idea behind Radbahn: to show people just how great it can be to navigate the city using quiet and environmentally-friendly forms of transport. And it's an important impetus for the development of the sustainable cities of the future too.
Like the sound of it? So do we. We met up for a chat with Simon Wöhr, one of the brains behind the Radbahn, to talk about the idea and how likely it is that the concept will ever become reality.
RESET: How did the idea come about?
Simon Wöhr: "I'm sure lots of people have had the same basic idea. Everyone who's ever been on Skalitzer or Gitschiner Street must have asked themselves why it's not possible to ride down the central path that runs under the elevated railway line - it's completely unused and set away from the road, and it's even covered and protected from rain and snow. Perhaps many of the cyclists were too busy paying attention to the rest of the traffic that was overtaking them, or concentrating on getting to their destination safely."
What will you do next?
"After this first wave of public recognition we now want to talk to the political decision makers, and show them that the Radbahn concept isn't just a functional bike path but as far as we know, the first covered bicycle track in the whole world - that's pretty cool! We see the Radbahn as being a new modern emblem of Berlin, as well as having economic benefits too. Start-ups working in the growing e-bike and cargo bike sector would be able to set up shop here because they could use it to try out their latest technologies. And the crazy thing about all this is that the potential is already there, we just need to use it.
We also need to make an effort to secure funding during the current development phase. We've been doing everything on a voluntary basis so far and that has to change. We've already had our first talks with possible backers, but crowdfunding is an option too, or of course public funding sources."
How likely do you think it is that the idea will become reality?
"I think there's no stopping it now. We've set the ball rolling. Pressure will build over the next few months and something will change in the city and it will become more pleasant to cycle here."
What are the biggest challenges?
"There will certainly be many challenges, but the biggest is probably the conservative mindset of many important people in the city - it's seems unthinkable to them that bicycle infrastrucure might be something worth spending money on."
How can people support the project?
"First of all it's important for as many people as possible who cycle in the city or who would like to - if the infrastructure were better - to support us with a "like" on social media or to sign up for our newsletter. Pressure from the public is decisive for the implementation of the concept - politicians in Berlin want to be voted in (again) in 2016. If there are lots of us demanding safe and attractive bicycle infrastructure, there's nothing to stop it becoming reality."
For more information about the project visit radbahn.berlin