Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg plans to add three new bike lanes before Easter. Traffic activists are calling for more far-reaching measures.
Pretty contagious: cycling on Tempelhofer Feld Photo: dpa
There will soon be new "pop-up bike lanes" in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg: as the head of the Straben- und Grunflachenamt (SGA), Felix Weisbrich, confirmed to the taz, three more temporary bike lanes are to be marked on important traffic axes. These are Petersburger Strabe and Lichtenberger Strabe in Friedrichshain as well as the section of Gitschiner Strabe in Kreuzberg, where no bike lane exists yet.
"If possible, this should happen before Easter," says Weisbrich, "and I’m optimistic, because the cooperation with the Traffic Management Department works very well." The department, headed by Christian Haegele, is the successor to Verkehrslenkung Berlin, which was integrated into the Senate Transport Administration at the beginning of the year – for many years an independent agency that stood for bureaucracy and procrastination of projects rather than speed and efficiency.
The week before last, the first two facilities of the "pandemic infrastructure," as it is now officially called, were built in Kreuzberg. Virtually overnight, with yellow stripes and warning beacons, a new bike lane was created on Hallesches Ufer and the existing lane at the northern end of Zossener Strabe was significantly widened.
A press release from the district office on Friday says this pilot project has now been "positively concluded." The distance rules under the Corona Containment Ordinance can be better complied with thanks to the new infrastructure, safety is guaranteed, and there are no negative consequences for motorists due to the current lower volume of vehicles.
According to Weisbrich, the temporary measures, which were ordered and implemented in no time at all, could last beyond the pandemic. However, their effects on traffic would have to be examined again when traffic density increased again. There were isolated voices from the CDU and FDP accusing the district office and the Senate administration of instrumentalizing the Corona crisis for the traffic turnaround.
In contrast, no criticism came from mobility and cycling activists, who under normal circumstances would probably criticize the precariousness of the temporary solutions. On the contrary, the Changing Cities association has initiated a petition calling for "rapid measures for contagion-free mobility", taking up the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg initiative. By Sunday evening, it already had more than 1,000 signatories.
"We need enough space for movement in public space to comply with the distance rules and to preserve our health," Ragnhild Sørensen, spokesperson for Changing Cities, explains the petition, titled #FaireStraben. In addition to temporary bike lanes, the petition calls for car-free side streets that can be used exclusively for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. In addition, the number of accidents should be reduced by a general designation of speed limit 30 in the city. This would relieve the burden on hospitals.
The state working group (LAG) Mobility of the Greens – which repeatedly urges its own parliamentary group and the transport administration to step up the pace of the traffic turnaround – has also proposed immediate measures in a thesis paper.
Among other things, it says that in order to support cycling as a healthy and contagious form of transportation, a lane should be converted to a bike lane "on most multi-lane main roads with simple means and practically immediately." Shifting bicycle traffic to the roadway, where it is still guided on the sidewalk, in turn creates more space for pedestrians.
In addition, the LAG demands immediate measures in public transport, whose "attractiveness has suffered in the Corona crisis," as the spokespersons Karin Hieronimus and Matthias Dittmer write. Regular disinfection of "critical points" in buses and trains should be carried out at each final stop, he said, and the timetable should also be brought "at least to the regular pre-crisis level" so that everyone can travel with sufficient distance. That, he said, could counteract the pandemic.
Better air, fewer viruses
The Green Party also wants a citywide speed limit of 30 km/h, at least until the end of the pandemic: This would not only relieve the hospitals because there would be fewer accidents, but also because the accidents would be less severe at lower speeds. In addition, the air would be much better as a result.
According to Hieronimus and Dittmer, this could counteract the pandemic, because air quality probably plays a "not insignificant role" in the spread of viruses. Italian researchers had found a correlation between the high levels of particulate matter in northern Italy and the high death rates there. Apart from the basic health burden of particulate matter, it could also act as a substrate for the virus in the air. Whether this is sufficient for new infections, however, has not yet been clarified.