I biked to work every day while living in Berlin and I was shocked by how much easier it was than in New York

The author is very excited to bike home in Berlin, Germany.

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The author is very excited to bike home in Berlin, Germany.
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Eliza Relman/Insider

  • For two months last summer I lived in Berlin and commuted to work by bicycle.
  • As a New Yorker who often cycles in the city, it was incredibly refreshing to live in a place with significantly better bike infrastructure and much more respect for cyclists’ rights on the road.
  • Most of the German capital is connected by well-marked bicycle lanes on streets and sidewalks, with traffic lights specifically for cyclists at busy intersections.
  • And Berlin has boosted spending on bike infrastructure to €51 million annually – almost five times more than New York City spends.
  • But bike traffic in Berlin is growing, and Germans are quick to say the streets are increasingly unsafe for cyclists.
  • Here’s what my bicycle commute looks like in Berlin.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For two months last summer I lived in Berlin and commuted to work by bicycle.

As a New Yorker who often cycles in the city, it’s been incredibly refreshing to bike in a place with significantly better infrastructure and much more respect for cyclists’ rights on the road.

Most of the German capital is connected by well-marked bicycle lanes on streets and sidewalks, with traffic lights for cyclists at busy intersections.

Pedestrians also seem far less annoyed and terrified by their two-wheeled fellow commuters, while drivers in cars almost always respect the lanes and buses and trucks regularly wave cyclists ahead before making a right turn. Pedestrians look both ways before crossing bike lanes and jaywalk far less frequently than they do in most American cities.

Last summer, Berlin passed legislation mandating the city spend €51 million (about $56 million) per year on bike infrastructure. By 2025, Berlin wants one-third of all intra-city travel to be done on bike.

Meanwhile, in New York City, cyclist fatalities have spiked, prompting the city to boost spending on bike infrastructure to $58 million over the next five years, about 20% of what Berlin spends annually.

While Berlin’s bike infrastructure is far superior to New York’s, as bike traffic grows, Germans are quick to say it’s far from perfect. Other smaller German cities are known for being even more bike-friendly. And some other European metropolises, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, are even better places to cycle.

Here’s what my bicycle commute looks like in Berlin:


I leave my apartment and head down the leafy bike lane on my street in the Berlin neighborhood of Wedding.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

I bike along the canal for a bit, where there’s a park and a wide path for bikers and pedestrians.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

The lane continues with a clear demarcation between pedestrian walkway (cobblestones) and bike lane (paved path).

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Eliza Relman/Insider

It’s very nice to get away from car traffic!

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Eliza Relman/Insider

Many of Berlin’s bike lanes are actually on the sidewalk. They’re usually clearly marked with red pavement or white painted lines.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

Bikers get their own special lights at busy intersections. See the smaller set of traffic lights below.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

I bike down by the Spree River for the most scenic portion of my commute.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

I pass right by the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

I also pass by a bunch of modern federal government buildings.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

Spotted: a yoga photoshoot.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

I bike over a line of cobblestones several times during my commute — it’s a marking to show where the Berlin Wall once stood.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

Bike traffic picks up downtown, and riders are pretty diligent about staying in their lane.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

Once in awhile I — admittedly illegally — hop on the sidewalk to avoid bumpy cobblestone streets, but sometimes I’m met with more cobblestones.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

If you don’t obey the traffic signals in Berlin, you might get crushed by the tram.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

It’s also common to see parents chauffeuring their kids on bikes with little trailers on the back or front. It’s like Berlin’s version of the minivan.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

Bike racks are pretty abundant on Berlin’s streets, but they’re often fully-occupied in dense areas.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

My office has its own bike rack set-up. It’s like the bicycle version of NYC’s stacked parking lots.

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Eliza Relman/Insider

I never tried to store my bike on the top level, but this guy makes it look easy.

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Eliza Relman/Insider