How to cycle in the districts of Berlin – a beginner’s guide

Pictured: cycling fun on Friedrichstrasse.
Pictured: cycling fun on Friedrichstrasse.

 

Prenzlauer Berg

Maintain a steady speed of no more than 2 miles per hour, but ensure that you remain in a low enough gear that your legs are a frantic blur. You must equip your bicycle with at least one of the following:

a) a small child, strapped to a plastic chair, bolted to the back of the bike.

b) a small child, eating a disintegrating banana, sealed inside a wheeled plastic cubicle attached to the back of the bike.

Ideally, you would have both.

Friedrichshain

Acceptable styles of bike include: ones with huge, thick wheels like an all-terrain vehicle; tiny BMX’s with axle pegs; ancient road bikes composed entirely of rust; recumbent trikes. Make sure to cycle exclusively on the pavement, and travel in erratic S-shaped paths rather than a straight line. You may only keep a maximum of one hand on the handlebars at any one time – the other hand must be kept free to hold a 0.5 litre bottle of beer. Reflectors are not required for anyone in possession of EU-standard certified dreadlocks.

Kreuzberg

Unfortunately, in order to cycle in Kreuzberg it is necessary to be an old man wearing brown trousers. However, once you have completed the step of becoming an old man wearing brown trousers, cycling in Kreuzberg is easy and enjoyable. Simply roll along the cycle path at a speed slightly slower than walking. Ensure to stick your knees out to the sides as you pedal.

Mitte

When cycling in Mitte, only two types of safety clothing are permitted: either a sharp-looking suit with clips around the trouser cuffs, or an incredibly complex Lycra cycling outfit with your sharp-looking suit packed neatly into an incredibly complex cycling bag, which is attached to your back by some kind of cutting-edge gecko technology. It is a beloved tradition of the motorists in Mitte to try to slaughter as many cyclists as possible on their way to or from work, so you will need to plunge fearlessly in between moving cars and lorries, keeping a 2cm maximum distance from the kerb on the straight sections. If you are a real adrenalin-junkie, try the slalom courses between befuddled tourists at Potsdamer Platz.

Charlottenburg

Charlottenburgians are proud of the fact that their district has more traffic lights per km of road than all the other districts including the ones which have traffic light factories in them. Therefore it is crucial to make sure to freshen your brake pads and recalibrate the brake levers before you attempt cycling in Charlottenburg. Don’t forget that in the West parts of Berlin cycle paths are considered to be a whimsical kind of ‘street garnish’, so if you see a long marked stripe along the side of the road, don’t assume it is a cycle path: it is probably simply a streak of entrails from a previous cyclist.

Neukoelln

Neukoelln residents have suffered from congenital pelvic arthritis for decades, so the city built the streets and pavements to be as lumpy as possible, to help citizens to loosen up their seizing joints with some vigorous shaking. The kerbs are also high enough from the road that they qualify geologically as cliffs, so take care when descending from the pavement on your cycle. In this relaxed district, all you need to do is roll along and enjoy the massaging effect of the streets as well as the exotic smells of the döner shops.

Hackescher Markt

While not technically a district, Hackescher Markt has a very specific cycling style which is strictly enforced. First, you must join forces with 10-12 other people, ideally all of whom are visiting the city on holiday. Rent the chunkiest bikes you can find and ensure that all the females are wearing the compulsory shorty-shorts. Then, stand across the entire road and pavement in your group, all straddling your bikes. Continue standing.

Note: the ‘Hackescher Markt’ cycling method does not allow actual transit – you are not permitted to actually go anywhere on your cycles, but after 20 minutes of standing in your group formation you are allowed to dismount your bikes and wheel them to a lunch place.

Rose T

Jill of all trades: writer, illustrator, designer, editor, web designer, craft maniac

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