New ways in infrastructure planning
The Berlin pop-up bike lanes
Since April, the Berlin pop-up bike lanes have caused a sensation in Germany and beyond. Almost overnight, bike lanes popped up along several streets in Berlin's Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. With this "pandemic-resilient infrastructure", Berlin is closing gaps in the cycling network, allowing greater distances between cyclists and making cycling safer and more enjoyable.
The implementation process and the speed with which the cycling infrastructure has been realised are remarkable. Typical planning and implementation periods of more than three years have been reduced to a few weeks. To find out how this can work and what other municipalities can learn from it, the Cycling Academy at the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) took a look behind the scenes as part of a Difu dialogue and VeloWeek. Felix Weisbrich (District of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg) and Peter Broytman (Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection) gave us insights into their understanding of administration, "agile administrative action" and the advantages of provisional solutions.
IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS - agile administrative procedures and political will
Even before the pandemic, specific measures were developed within the Berlin administration at district and senate level to accelerate the expansion of cycle paths. In the worsening corona situation, it quickly became clear that urgent action was also needed in the transport sector. Suddenly, a necessary distance of 1.5 metresresulted not only from the new StVO (Road Traffic Regulation), but also from the Berlin Senate's SARS-CoV-2 Containment Measures Ordinance. In addition, one-sided shift effects from public transport to private cars were to be avoided or at least mitigated by an attractive cycling infrastructure offer. In response to these new circumstances, a procedure was developed in close coordination between the Senate Transport Administration, Berlin’s Road Traffic Directorate, and the local authority of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (responsible authority for the road construction) to mandate and implement temporary cycling infrastructure measures within a few days. These were realised on main roads with a basic agreement that bike lanes should be built there. The potential routes were included in a project list, agreed upon, and mandated and implemented after consultation with the police and the public authority. Standardised planning specifications are an important basis for this. With this "template", the administration can quickly identify suitable roads in Berlin's road network and construct appropriate temporary bike lanes. At joint on-site appointments, final questions can be clarified and usually the marking work can be started immediately.
From the close triangular relationship between the coordinating body at Senate level, the Berlin’s Road Traffic Directorate and the local authority of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, more than 15 kilometres of temporary cycling infrastructure have been created within a few weeks. In the meantime, there are also more temporary cycling facilities in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Pankow. These are only implemented if there is consensus between the local authority and the senate level, although the Senate’s Traffic Administration could also order pop-up bike lanes without the consent of the local authorities of Berlin’s districts. Further details on the procedure are explained step by step in a multilingual guide.
REQUIREMENTS - Between the Infectious Diseases Protection Act, the Road Traffic Regulations and the Mobility Act
The basis for an administrative order of temporary bike lanes is derived from Section 45 (9) of the Road Traffic Regulations. Bike lanes can also be ordered without the existence of a special hazard situation (cf. Heppner 2020). This also applies to the widening of existing facilities. After the emergence of the pandemic situation, the Berlin administration has seen an additional urgency for coherent, wide and safe cycling infrastructure. The redistribution of public space and the distance requirement were central to rapid action.
However, pop-up bike lanes can also be implemented away from special risk situations and without the Infectious Diseases Protection Act. Here, the Berlin Road Traffic Directorate emphasises above all the primacy of safety in road traffic, which always takes precedence over an continous traffic flow. In order to make traffic space safe, especially for vulnerable road users, measures such as temporary bike lanes are therefore essential.
The Berlin Mobility Act does not play a role with regard to the specific administrative order. However, the law does give concrete instructions to the administration. For example, safe cycling facilities are to be realised on every main road in Berlin. This is implemented, among other things, through the temporary bike lanes. On a political level, the Mobility Act reflects debates on the design of future mobility, which strengthens the legitimacy for the temporary bike lanes.
TRAFFIC PLANNING ASPECTS - pop-up bike lanes - flexible, attractive and safe.
The pop-up bike lanes themselves can be simply realized. With bollards or red white poles, mobile signs and yellow foil, the paths are realised within a few hours and days. One kilometre of temporary cycle path costs about 20,000 euros to build and maintain by the end of the year. Ongoing costs are mainly incurred by the control trips to reset displaced bollards or missing markings.
The basis for the construction and rapid implementation are the standard plans for the temporary installation and extension of cycling facilities (TEER). They follow the specifications and recommendations of German guidelines RASt06 or ERA 2010. At least two-metre-wide bike lanes are constructed. In Berlin, the pop-up bike lanes are implemented both as conventional bike lanes and protected bike lanes. The standard plans specify various options for this. The standard plans refer to multi-lane carriageways (usually one or two lanes and a parking lane) and thus simplify and accelerate the implementation considerably. Nevertheless, other road cross sections may also be suitable. In this case, however, an individual assessment is required.
In order to reach new target groups for cycling in particular, additional protection or spacers are installed where possible (guiding or construction site beacons, parking or delivery zones). Especially on those roads where the real speed is much too high, such elements are indispensable from the point of view of the Berlin officials.
A decisive advantage of the temporary bike lanes: due to their temporary character, it is possible to optimise existing or future bike lane plans ad hoc with the pop-up bike lanes. "It is much easier to stick a yellow marker somewhere else and move a pole than to change a fixed construction," says Weisbrich. By means of temporary cycle paths, lengthy planning procedures can be shortened or supplemented by this "experimental method". This saves planning costs and speeds up future construction projects. The goal is for many of the temporary bike lanes to be transformed into permanent ones. To this end, permanent arrangements are prepared for the planned bike lanes and the experience gained from ongoing operation is used to fine-tune the final layout.
In order to ensure sufficient visibility at the intersections, the short-term/delivery zones are set back in front of junctions and crossing roads. At intersections controlled by traffic signals, the stop lines for cyclists are brought forward and those for motor vehicles are set back. The traffic lights themselves were not changed, as this would have significantly slowed down the implementation process. Thus, the pop-up bike lanes are only installed at junctions signalled for mixed traffic. Here, cycling is already sufficiently taken into account in the signalling programmes (cf. City of Münster 2013).
In addition to the legal mandate from the Mobility Act and traffic safety, the pop-up bike lanes are also meant to stimulate additional bicycle use. Traffic counts (esp. bicycle traffic) are not used as a basis for the arrangement before and after the installation. Instead, important gaps are closed in the network, making cycling safe and also more attractive for new target groups. In addition, Berlin's road network is oversized in many places, so a reallocation of a car lane for cycling is usually possible. On the river side roads (eg. Hallesches Ufer) and Kottbusser Damm, parking spaces have been upgraded to cycling facilities. The district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has agreed on a reduced rate (€17 instead of €35 per month for a parking space) for residents as a compensation offer with a car park operator. However, only a few people have asked for this offer so far.
The Berlin pop-up bike lanes have been installed almost exclusively on streets without regular bus services. One exception is Kantstraße in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district. Several express and metro bus routes to Berlin's outskirts run along here. As the current delivery/shuttle parking lane was previously used for illegal stopping in the second row, de facto only one lane was usually available for motor vehicle and bus traffic.
The temporary bike lanes do not worsen the situation, but they also do not improve it for public transport. In order to achieve improvements for public transport as well, more far-reaching measures are necessary, such as the relocation of through traffic.
FINDINGS FROM TWO MONTHS OF BERLIN POP-UP BIKE LANES
The temporary bike lanes have been well received in Berlin and beyond. The currently more than 25 km of bike lanes are a significant contribution to attractive cycling. With them, important gaps have been closed. Initial analyses show that the bike lanes in no way lead to permanent congestion and an accumulation of accidents. On the contrary, cyclists feel much safer on the new routes (Götting et al. 2020). The previously unattractive routes also have to first establish themselves as a new route option for many people (and navigation services), which will presumably increase the previous usage figures even further.
Concerns about difficulties for delivery traffic have also so far only been confirmed where the established delivery zones are not consistently cleared of illegally parked cars. More far-reaching regulatory, infrastructural and organisational solutions are needed for this problem. The inner-city population also clearly expresses the wish for a different approach to public space. The reallocation of parking spaces is still not without opposition, yet measures to promote cycling at the expense of car parking are far less controversial than feared. This public support is an important motivation for action for Berlin's district and senate administration, in addition to the imperative of road safety and the requirements of the Berlin Mobility Act. "The car cannot be generalised. If we put all the people who no longer use public transport, especially for reasons of safety, into cars, then the city will be completely at the bottom in terms of traffic. Plus, the car is the most dangerous means of transport, just not always for the person sitting in it," says Peter Broytman.
Intersection design remains a major challenge at the pop-up bike lanes and throughout Berlin. A fatal accident involving a concrete mixing transport truck turning right at a temporary bike lane illustrates how urgent and complex the issue is. Despite the ideal visibility on the temporary bike lane, the typical accident constellation could not be prevented as a result. To which, among other things, separate signalling could be implemented as temporary measures is still open. However, standard plans are not suitable for the individual conditions at the junctions.
In addition to the traffic aspects, the process-related findings are particularly important. "With regard to the number of kilometres, only small steps have been made, but with regard to the attitude and methodology of administrative action, they are very big steps," says Felix Weisbrich. Broytman continues: "We're getting away from the assumption that everything always has to take ages, because a) it doesn't have to, the proof has been given, and b) we don't have the time." "It is already becoming apparent that the approach of 1.) temporary arrangement and then 2.) evaluation and 3.) permanent implementation of the construction work can also be considered as a standard procedure for other transport projects. The temporary infrastructure and their evaluation make it possible to focus the planning processes for the subsequent constructional implementation on the need for improvements and thus to shorten them considerably. As a result, planning costs can be saved". (Local Authority Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg 2020)
Within the administration, the temporary cycle paths have also strengthened a positive self-image and self-efficacy. Until now, it has often been the case that "you work a lot because you are slow, and because you are slow, you work a lot" says Weisbrich. In contrast to the previous lengthy planning and coordination rounds, the "experimental" procedure allows for quick changes with a simultaneous quality of results. This quick action has set positive impulses in the staff and had a very motivating effect.
In principle, the procedure used in Berlin can be applied everywhere. Cities such as Munich and Stuttgart have proven the feasibility with their own temporary bike lanes even outside Berlin. In certain areas and road types, attractive cycling facilities can be created quickly. In the view of Felix Weisbrich and Peter Broytman, political will is a key prerequisite here. With the Berlin Mobility Act and various political decisions at district level, there was already a fundamental agreement for the expansion of cycling. In other municipalities, too, there are often resolutions for individual measures, adopted cycling concepts or traffic development concepts. The Berlin procedure thus offers a possible approach to quickly implement these decisions in infrastructure. In addition to temporary bike lanes, other infrastructures are also conceivable, such as temporary bike boulevards.
In addition to the political will, the self-image of the responsible administrative bodies is also a decisive factor. The temporary bike lanes are an important component for the implementation of the various legal requirements and traffic development goals, which can be derived from the Mobility Act and the StVO, among other things. In particular, the maxim, that road safety takes precedence over the fluidity of traffic, laid down in the StVO, was the guiding principle here. For Felix Weisbrich, quick action is not only necessary in times of pandemics, but also against the background of the challenges of "Vision Zero" and the "climate crisis".