Traffic turnaround and communication: everything far too complex

When it comes to bike infrastructure, the administration doesn’t have its own plans in place – or is overwhelmed with the task of communicating them appropriately.

Some progress is being made in the construction of cycle paths, including – as here – in Neukolln Photo: imago images / Klaus Martin Hofer

Thanks to the Mobility Act and the change in transportation policy, the expansion of the bicycle infrastructure is really taking off – well, to a certain extent. What is always noticeable is that even where the considerable increase in planner positions has been filled with staff, the administration is having a hard time keeping track of the planned measures. And transparency in dealing with ongoing projects is also sometimes noticeably lacking.

This was recently experienced by Niklas Schrader and Kristian Ronneburg (both from the Left Party), who addressed a parliamentary question to the transport administration. Topic: "Expansion of bike lanes in Neukolln". The two deputies wanted to know, among other things, how many kilometers of bike lanes are to be built or expanded on which streets, with which protective measures and in what time frame, what it will cost and how the safety of cyclists will be ensured during the work. They were also interested in the number of bicycle parking spaces planned in the district.

And so the answer from the Neukolln district office, passed on by State Secretary for Transport Ingmar Streese, was: "Due to the very complex issues, a proper answer to the questions is not feasible in the short term. The answer requires a comprehensive evaluation of many project documents and data from construction projects, including those that have already been completed for some time. The Streets and Green Spaces Department does not maintain separate statistics on this in the form of tables or databases that would allow specific rapid evaluation with respect to these issues." In other words: Do we know everything not exactly and completely overwhelms us.

Opportunity missed

The answering of inquiries is refused with reference to too high research expenditure again and again, often this is also understandable. But the fact that Schrader’s and Ronneburg’s small list of questions cannot even be partially answered is surprising, especially since Neukolln is one of the few districts that has already been able to fill both cycling planning positions.

Saskia Ellenbeck from Netzwerk Fahrradfreundliches Neukolln agrees: "It is regrettable that neither the Senate Administration nor the district office maintain a coherent overview of the cycling projects." The district has actually missed the opportunity here to show where it is active and what cyclists could expect in the future, she finds. Alone: "A comprehensive concept with concrete plans and measures is not apparent. This shows how much the transport turnaround in Berlin is still piecemeal."

The SPD is also slightly frustrated by the administration’s communication. Their deputy Andreas Kugler had also made a request after a conversation with the General Blind and Visually Impaired Association Berlin (ABSV). This was about the reconstruction of Karl-Marx-Allee in Mitte, which is currently underway: When the protected bike lane is finished, bike traffic turning right from Alexanderstrabe will be directed diagonally there via a "bypass" behind the teacher’s house. The bike lane thus crosses the sidewalk, which is extremely wide at this point.

How is the safety of visually impaired people ensured here, who do not see and usually do not hear bicycles coming? This time, State Secretary Streese answered himself: "Due to the given space conditions", the bypass "represents an acceptable solution" from the point of view of the Senate Administration, a "viable compromise for pedestrian and bicycle traffic". Otherwise, cyclists would "presumably increasingly take shortcuts over the sidewalk in order to reach the bicycle lane in Karl-Marx-Allee without having to wait". Thanks to so-called tactile strips, the planned routing is also recognizable for visually impaired people.

Narrow "tactile strips

However, SPD man Kugler had also learned from the ABSV that precisely these "tactile dividing strips", which are to be tactile with a stick, will probably be even narrower in the future than they are now: they are to shrink from 35 to 25 centimeters in width. This would be stipulated in the "Implementation Regulations for Sidewalks and Bicycle Paths" to the Berlin Road Law – probably as a reaction to the growing competition for space on roads and sidewalks.

The answer of the secretary of state to Kugler’s question whether this was really compatible with the interests of the visually impaired (and if so, on which verifiable findings this was based) was tight-lipped: It was "planned to adapt the implementation regulations for sidewalks and bike paths to the new regulations of the Mobility Act," but "no statements can be made about concrete contents at the current revision status." "What is certain," however, is that the concerns of mobility-impaired persons will be taken into account.

ABSV managing director Manfred Scharbach does not want to let this stand in the face of the taz. Although it is always said that the associations will be included in the processes, they will only be informed of advanced planning statuses. Scharbach affirmed that for his association the bypass at Karl-Marx-Allee – the first of its kind in Berlin – was not a satisfactory solution. Scharbach finds the argument that cyclists would otherwise take unregulated shortcuts absurd: "How can anyone seriously think of positively sanctioning misconduct? You have to have a wheel to do that!"