As soon as I got here, I went looking for a cheap, decent, second-hand bike.
I use my bike to get around New York (in addition to the occasional subway ride), and prior to that, I cycled everywhere when I lived in The Netherlands. The contrast between the two is quite striking: in the NL, cycling is commonplace, having a 27% modeshare. In The US, 1% of all local trips are conducted by bike.
Germany takes an intermediate position: 9% of all local trips are conducted by bike here (for the city of Berlin, this number is 10%). The average German cycles 1 kilometer per day, versus 2.5 in the NL and a disappointing .1 kilometer in the US.
Berlin has 860 kilometers of completely bike paths, 60 kilometers of bike lanes on streets, 70 kilometers of combined bike/bus lanes on streets (yes, you may cycle in the buslane!), in addition to 100 kilometer of combined pedestrian/bike paths (often in city parks). As if that weren’t enough, 3.800 kilometers of the city’s streets are traffic-calmed, featuring planters on the road and allowing a maximum speed of 30km/h. This creates a very safe streetscape, where you won’t even need a special bike path in order to cycle safely: in these so-called “shared streets”, the cyclists use the street alongside with (pedestrians and) cars. Indeed, except for the major thoroughfares, I’ve experienced Berlin to be a safe city to cycle in, though there remains much room for improvement. Even though most drivers are aware of cyclists and act accordingly, I still have been cut-off a number of times by rushed drivers. More driver’s education could help prevent such occurrences in the future.
It’s well-known that compact, medium-sized cities work best for biking; this is why the mid-sized cities of Utrecht and Groningen have a higher bicycle mode share than Amsterdam, for instance. In Germany, Muenster has a much higher mode share: 35% of all local trips there are conducted on a bike. The typically longer distances in major cities work against the attractiveness of the bike. Even so, with a little effort and focused investments in safer bicycle infrastructure, Berlin has the potential to join the upper ranks of cycle-friendly cities. I know it can already be an inspiration for, say, New York for instance.