Mobility Excursion to Berlin (Part 2): "A Panel of Accessible Solutions"

In Berlin, various initiatives are proving that the transition to more sustainable mobility is underway. Bottom-up initiatives, tactical urbanism, the involvement of younger generations and international benchmarking play a crucial role in this transformation.

Berlin’s Temporäre Spielstraße and the Verkhersclub Deutschland’s (VCD) “DIY: Verkehrswende selber machen” projects exemplify bottom-up citizen-led initiatives at the local level: projects with a limited budget but concrete results.

The Temporäre Spielstraße involves neighbours who want to organise the regular closure of their street to motorised traffic to create a convivial space for children’s games, neighbourhood concerts and neighbour meetings. Once the application file has been accepted and the logistics have been arranged with the municipality (which provides temporary road signs and barriers to block the street), the citizen volunteers pool their equipment and free time to organize the event, occurring one afternoon per month, for example.

Temporäre Spielstraße Hähnelstraße: a citizens’ initiative with a quick and tangible impact on the inhabitants of a neighbourhood

The VCD also supports young people and students in projects related to human-scale: for example, setting up bicycle repair stations on campuses, supporting thesis research, and assembling and using sensors to measure the overtaking distance between vehicles and cyclists (Open Bike Sensor). The VCD’s support translates into financial aid, training, and networking opportunities for young people with committed projects, as presented to us by Anika Meenken, the coordinator of this multi-faceted project.

Through these first two examples, we can see the value of involving young people early in healthy mobility practices, which contributes to establishing sustainable habits for future generations.

Learning to ride a bike at an early age influences one’s adult behavior

Making change tangible is therefore one of the key challenges of the Verkehrswende. The RadBahn Berlin project, led by the paper planes association, aims to create a protected cycle route under the U1 elevated metro line. It demonstrates citizens’ ambition for more sustainable, direct, and comfortable everyday mobility solutions. A demonstration station (“Testfeld”) to involve the public is freely available to show the potential of the place.

Changing your mobility model is good, but changing it quickly is better. Through its international network, the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club has compiled a set of “best practices” in the form of two booklets (InnoRAD and InnoRADQuick, the second offering solutions that can be implemented quickly). Among these concepts are protected intersections and Dutch-style traffic-calmed streets, tactical urbanist infrastructure like in Paris (France) or Memphis (USA), or the “car-free” days of Bogotá and Stockholm. The Temporäre Spielstraße, mentioned above, is the result of the concept of “play streets“, implemented on a large scale in the city of London and its surroundings.

Temporary bike path made permanent after covid: a cheap and effective starting point to develop cycling, but an insufficient solution in the long term

Dirk van Schneidemesser, a sociologist at the Institute for Sustainability Research (RIFS), introduced us to the Graefekiez project. Inspired by Barcelona’s “Superblocks”, this concept shows how reducing car ownership and repurposing public space can create attractive neighbourhoods with new uses for parking spaces.

Reallocate dedicated car parking space for a more active and lively street

Shared mobility in Berlin, especially via Jelbi stations, offers alternatives to the private car. “Jelbi” is the brand behind which the Berliner Verkehrsbetrieb (BVG) public transport company has already deployed more than 150 stations to help reduce transport-related greenhouse gas emissions. These shared mobility hubs, offering self-service cars, scooters, bicycles, and even parcel pick-ups, are very successful, especially near hospitals and universities. These stations sometimes replace parking spaces, especially in the most touristic areas. In addition, these shared modes are integrated into navigation applications and are covered by the “sustainable mobility” packages set up by some employers.

Finally, the public innovation laboratory CityLAB Berlin, which uses digital technologies to better understand public space, has developed, among other projects, a dynamic visualization of the simulation of shared bicycle flows to better understand the use and support the development of this shared mode.

The various initiatives we encountered in Berlin contribute to the Verkehrswende through the participation of young people, the enhancement of the spatial qualities of our daily environments and the use of technology to inform and encourage users to change their behaviour. Already collaborating with German local authorities, we hope to be able to continue to share our expertise with local actors while continuing to be inspired by the good ideas that emerge in Germany!

Anna Tailliez

“As socio-technical systems, our transportation modes have a big influence on human societies and the way our environment is shaped. Supporting the decarbonised mobility transition, in France and abroad, via for example the design of people-oriented walking and cycling infrastructures sounds for me like a very tangible and motivating mission!”

Mobility Advisor