Oh, how I miss Berlin.
It is only a few weeks since I was there but life in the German capital seemed so much simpler, calmer, than here in the UK. Not least when it came to transport.
There is a very sedate feel to the city’s streets – certainly those within two or three miles of the centre which I confined myself to. That the city itself is relatively small (with a population of some 3.5 million) probably helps though there are many towns and cities in this country which are on a petite scale yet still manage to exhibit traffic chaos.
The wide streets probably also help with more space available for competing forms of traffic: cars, buses, bikes, goods vehicles, pedestrians. Possibly it is also a cultural thing.
During my short stay in Berlin I used just about every mode of transport going: hire bikes, car club Minis, U-Bahn and S-Bahn, not to mention planes to get to and from the city (though don’t mention the shambles which is the postponed opening of the new Brandenburg airport on the site of the old Schoenefeld airport).
The drive-now.com car rental scheme was excellent, allowing subscribers – a German friend is a member – to pick up the car from one location and leave it at another, something that is not yet available in the UK but is planned to come to Birmingham later this year with car2go.
Cycling was also a relaxing experience and during several hours of peddling around Berlin I did not come across an example of the all too regular confrontations between cyclists and drivers we unfortunately routinely see in London, including the one I witnessed this morning which saw a man on a bike scream at a motorist “I’m on a f*****g bike! Didn’t you f*****g see me? Where are your f*****g eyes” only to receive a predicable single-fingered reply from inside the car.
The one thing which did make me nervous was the rule (or is it convention?) which allows cyclists on the many bike lanes to carry straight on at junctions, meaning vehicles on the same side of the road and turning right (remember this is the continent) to give way.
It seemed to work and there were no accidents that I saw however even legitimised over-taking up the inside requires a certain degree of faith in your fellow road users.