24 March 2010

Berlin Rubble & Hamburg Glacier


I usually let others do the fine and noble work of recording crappy bicycle infrastructure for posterity but here's an exception. A friend of mine, Claus, was in Berlin not long ago and he just couldn't help taking these photos of the bike lane he was riding on.

Berlin uses gravel when it's snowy and icy, apparently. The snow and ice were gone but the gravel remained. It was, by all accounts, a nightmare to cycle on.

What gets me is that the road, to the left, is completely clear of gravel. Nary a pebble to be seen. What on earth stopped the street sweeper from swerving a bit to the right?

Now this design of bike lane, running behind parked cars, is NOT recommended - it's actually quite bizarre to see this kind - but with the bike lane's proximity to the street you'd think the gravel would be removed.

This is Berlin. They boast 10%+ modal share [although only in the summer, even though they have the same climate as Copenhagen]. This city should know better.

To Claus' amusement, he found a shell in the rubble that was the bike lane surface.

Which reminded me of this photo, sent by reader Viry in Hamburg a while back. The bike lanes had disappeared and were forgotten until the spring thaw. Fair enough, this winter was harsh and funding was stretched for snow removal, but again... this Hamburg... they should know better, stuck in the middle between Holland and Denmark.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

This could have been Stockholm. We have the exact same situation here.

Hig1500 said...

This could have been Braunschweig, Germany, Lower Saxony. Without the Snow Stud or the TopContact Winter and driving on the street, ignoring the sacred bull, cycling often wouldn't have been possible this winter.

Robi said...

Having bike lanes is one thing, but taking care of them is something else. It seems a common problem all over Germany.
Moreover, the officials of Berlin and other cities are not allowed to use vast amounts of salt to clean the streets in order to protect the trees along the roads.

Ryan said...

Fortunately here in Southern Ontario, we had a dry and mild winter with hardly any snow.

Most bike lanes here (St Catharines) are still covered in debris (gravel, glass, etc.)

I'd expect another month before they get cleaned...You know, for the "Cycling Season"...

Ulrike said...

Yes, this is a very good expample for "cars over bikes" and I'm sure you will find it in many places in Germany.
Happy Copenhagen... :-)

Anonymous said...

"What gets me is that the road, to the left, is completely clear of gravel. Nary a pebble to be seen. What on earth stopped the street sweeper from swerving a bit to the right?"


It's also possible there has been no sweeping of any kind. The passage of cars has a sweeping effect of its own that brushes debris away to the side of the road ... onto the cycle lane. Anyone who lives in a country that has virtually no street sweeping will notice this effect: completely clear car lane, and a littoral deposition of glass, dust and garbage along the margins of the road.

E G S said...

Hey Michael, it´s interesting that wath you show us, you now allready that we have the same problem in México, I made a video about it and I give you this link when I posted the video that show the big problem with the autos that do not respect the bycicles path, maybe you are interesting about it.
Regards from México, and come back soon!

Link: http://losbicitantes.blogspot.com ( the post it´s: Defending the bycicles path )

portlandize.com said...

In the few instances that it snows in Portland, and the snow actually sticks around enough to necessitate gravel, this is exactly what happens as well. Not this winter, but last, I was riding through gravel for probably 2 weeks in some places after the snow was gone. In defense of the city, I don't think they cleared gravel from the car lanes either, I think the cars are just more efficient at pushing it out of the way.

All the bike lanes in Portland (except the one demonstration cycle track downtown), by the way, are also this kind, which are on the road side of the on-street parking, rather than on the sidewalk side, which means cars and buses and every other type of vehicle have to cross the bike lanes to park, pick up passengers, drop off deliveries, etc. In some places it makes for some pretty crazy intersections, for instance - bike lane moves out into the road to make way for a right-turn lane, at the same spot where there is a bus stop. So you have cars turning right, and buses pulling over to stop right at the exact place where the bike lane moves out into the road, so all these vehicles are crossing each other's path. This is, by the way, basically the onramp to the bridge where 20% of traffic is bicycles. The bridge is great, getting onto it, not so much.

Kiwehtin said...

Looks like Montreal. (Except for the separated de Maisonneuve Street bikeway downtown.) This is all a very good argument either for always raising bikeways above the level of the car lanes or for separating them physically with a raised barrier.

Michael_S said...

The Berlin street cleaning law from 2003 says that bike lanes have to be cleaned and that they shall not be used as dump areas for snow from the streets or the pathways. Salt is only allowed at major streets to protect the trees and gravel is not allowed to be used on bike lanes. This is the general situation and I think this is not that bad at all. However, this winter was kind of exceptional in that is was a normal winter since 10 years. So, many of the bike lanes were not cleared at all, many major lanes were covered with snow and kept being covered with frozen snow for weeks. The pedestrian areas were frequently dangerously iced as well. So I guess, this year was especially bad and it was not meant as a setting aside of bikes but a general surprise for the admininstration after years of mild winters. The City Service has promised to clean the city form the 30.000 tons of gravel until Easter, assisted by 2.000 extra short term employees In fact in my area most of the dirt has gone for 3 weeks, immediately after the frost was gone.

Lauren said...

I'm not too far from Hamburg, and this winter was bad enough that I wouldn't judge them too harshly. At least where I am, a good few of the roads couldn't be cleared either - they ran out of everything - and buses stopped running too. I didn't cycle for over six weeks because my own street was too dangerous (the cycle path/footpath and been cleared a smidge, but I couldn't get to it, and the other direction had frozen cobbles. Besides, you'd have needed an ice pick to break up the leftover debris.) Many of my colleagues stopped too, after a couple of really nasty falls.

I'm not from round here, but when those who are comment on 'worst winter for decades' and get off their bikes - well, I don't expect miracles. Particularly not from cash-strapped city authorities. (And Berlin is certainly not rolling in funds.)

Green Idea Factory said...

In response to Kobi, Michael_S and Lauren: I found that conditions in Berlin this winter were quite varied but typical crappy, and several bike paths in Xberg had gravel put on them, and I am sure that these were not the only ones.

Also, Berlin and partners have some money but just for the wrong things (e.g. new little used subway in center while buses all over are screaming to be replaced by trams, or newish central station with horrid bike parking... and then there is the half-functioning S-Bahn...).

Keeping salt away from trees is great, and so one could argue that Berlin treats its trees better than Copenhagen. But then the other part of the environmental equation is that this means less cycling (related: if I remember correctly what a lawyer from the ADFC told me, you can always cycle in the street if the off-street lane is not passable; in Berlin this is generally more liberal).

However - and I don't think Kobi or Michael made it clear - the problem on many wider streets is that the bike paths are on the same level as the pedestrian ones, above the trees and draining into them. On these wide streets the bike space is former pedestrian space, so the bike paths stay icy not primarily because of lack of maintenance, but by design. In other words the bike lane level needs to be the same as the one for the MBCDPOTS (mixed but car-dominated part of the street), or at least lower than the trees and bushes, etc. And of course there still be could be separation.

Boy on a bike said...

By the look of that rubble, I thought the RAAF had been back for another night time visit.

Boy on a bike said...

Make that the RAF.

Green Idea Factory said...

Boy: I think the Brits bombed at night, and the USAAF during the day. The American planes did not have proper lights because they do not sell them that way in the USA. The British planes had lights (also on their pushbikes...)

Lauren said...

Green Idea Factory: true, that, about roads vs footpaths vs bike paths. Our bike routes are often just separated from the pedestrian one via a different type of paving (and it's not uncomment to cycle on both sides anyway), so they do have to be kept clear separately, and the tree issue arises.

Mind you, after my first winter here, I was pretty impressed that the bike paths were kept as clear as they were. However, when you could have gone ice-skating on parts of my own street, and needed an axe to attack some of the other piles of snow - there are limites.

(Also agree about Berlin's dubious funding decisions - I wrote a master's thesis about some of them in the arts!)

veloslo said...

This could also have been Oslo, though Oslo is most likely far worse...

Here's just one example of the situation throughout the city:

http://veloslo.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/downtown-cycling-not-for-everyman/

Ingo said...

No-one sweeps the roads. What can be seen here is the self-sweeping effect of car-tyres that crush and sweep the dirt to the side of the road -up to where the bike line is. you could call it "self-cleaning" of the street and "auto-dirtying" of the bike lane.

Another great effect to keep the bicycle traffic down simply by installing a bike lane.

Guilherme Henrique said...

Ah, Berlin...the city is flat, car drivers are generally not agressive (let's not talk about stupid angry taxi drivers and those who park over the bike lanes or the multitude that doesn't respect speed limits or keep a safe distance from cyclists) and the rate of car ownership is very low - 358/1000, incredible..this helps A LOT the everyday cicyling here, because, if we should depend only on the cycle infrastructure, this would be a disaster!

What other city in the (western) world with 3,4 million people, 890sq km of area has such a good cycling rate (approx. 15%) as Berlin? I keep wondering how would it be if the city administration could see this big potential and turn this city into an even more special, unique capital....meanwhile, I keep riding my old Gazelle everyday, chosing style over speed, but always getting a bit sad, sometimes ashamed - when thinking of the Netherlands, Copenhagen or even Munich (!) and Münster -, and dreamy, wondering how things could be much much better for the berliner cyclists and pedestrians. *sigh*

Green Idea Factory said...

@Guilherme - Yes, the automobile ownership rates are low but still in many parts of the city the streets are full of parked cars. Motor vehicle traffic moves relatively well in most places, but the other side of this is tremendous overcapacity from really wide streets, which enables a lot of speeding... among other things.

I agree with you that city officials have interest which in no way approaches their counterparts in other capitals and cities. As a result everyday I see more and more people wearing helmets and reflective vests, yet at the same there is little to no cycle training for immigrants of any ethnicity. (It would really help).
Many also ride the most horrible flimsy dangerous bikes. And riding on the back of sturdy ones is illegal...

For people who don't have cheap collective transport passes because they are students or on government-assistance, the main motivator of an increased bike modal share seems to pricing of individual tickets for transport. This is not A-to-B ism, but no-other-way ism.