Why Bikes Rule The Roads in Berliner Summer

With sporadic periods of searing heat and an ongoing battle as the light fights its way further into every evening, we have finally hit the long awaited summer. So as we allow ourselves to venture further than the local Späti it is now the time to explore this wonderful and dynamic city. But while commuting through Berlin under the banner of blue skies, here are some of the reasons we should be choosing our two-wheeled friends over any other mode of transport.

If we take it from our own self-interests than any which way you view it cycling is the healthy option. While actively avoiding the gym because of the heat and making umpteen excuses for dodging yoga classes, we should at least make our mode of transport something that is physically engaging.

Obviously by jogging through the city this can be achieved, but if you are like me this will cap you to a distance just shy of 2km. The humble bike however will allow us to reach many of the parks, lakes and pools that would otherwise be regarded as a pilgrimage by foot. So with the wind in your hair, a light burning in your thighs and a veneer of sweat across your brow, cycle around Berlin and feel good about the only exercise you do these days.

When cycling to either the local market or the nearest bar it is hard to quibble the practicality of the bicycle. Despite having great public transport links here in Berlin, generally short distances are covered both quicker and for free on your two-wheeled steed. Almost all journeys will see you come into contact with the city’s cycle lanes, which trace neatly alongside most roads. Here you’ll find added safety and acts of camaraderie between cyclists. And with almost no elevation anywhere in the city the only thing you must look out for are the cobblestone roads. They not only slow your pace significantly, but the vibrations sent coursing through the wheels are enough to shake dandruff from your head.

Now the more frequently you find yourself on your trusted bicycle the more likely you are to discover little problems with it. Undoubtedly, you can’t avoid those cobblestone roads forever. The vibrations help to aid the loosening of screws and nuts, and parks smattered with broken glass are enough to send you limping away with a flat tire. So see this as an opportunity to maintain and fix your bike. Providing the problem doesn’t involve the gears on the bicycle, most things are extremely simple to adjust and tighten with a mere spanner and Allen key.

I recently decided to strip my old and tired bike back to its very bones. I wanted to give it a fresh coat of paint, new grease and some minor adjustments; a task I somewhat underestimated. I spent far too many of our precious summer weeks staring at bike parts that were strewn across my apartment like disused toys. Yet after completion, I knew the bike’s most intricate workings. Its slack chain, its off-kilter front wheel, just some of the small idiosyncrasies that I’d be living with as I had no clue how to fix them. However, it has been a valuable lesson, one that has given me the confidence to face any future problem that may arise with the bike.

My refurbished bike.

Yet there is a reason that is perhaps far more important than practicality or learning to maintain something you own. It is as important as our own health, and that is the health of our environment. So as European Unions continue to push towards targets set for 2020, German leaders flounder over the closure of brown coal plants, and the Australian PM (Tony Abbot) on the other side of the planet seems to remain completely unaware of the significance of climate change altogether, we ourselves can do something. Even if it seems somewhat inconsequential, small steps like opting to ride your bicycle, opposed to taking the car or public transport, are steps in the right direction.  So maximise journeys spent on the back of your bicycle and enjoy the green lush city we live in.

By Liam McGuckin

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