Birgitt is one of the members in my recently started MeetUp group. She shared her stories of cycling in Berlin with so much enthusiasm that I had to ask for an email interview.
Thanks so much for your answers in both English and German, Birgitt!
Riding in Berlin is a lot more comfortable than in any other city I’ve lived before
What brought you to Berlin (if you weren’t born here)?
Two years ago, I decided to travel for a year and go and live for three months in four different European cities. Berlin was my first city, and it was love at first sight. I instantly knew I wanted to live here, and as my job gives me the opportunity to work from anywhere, here I am!
What kind of bike do you ride?
A second hand Focus Arriba, that I adapted a bit to make it suits my practical needs.
What does your bike mean to you?
Do you have a dream bike?
Not really, I don’t pay attention to brands or fancy technical features. It has to be sporty and comfortable. And sexy! I have to be attracted to my bike, as we’re spending a lot of time together!
What do you like most about riding in Berlin?
The fact that everyone is used to cyclists. Drivers pay attention and respect you. Berlin is also flat, which is handy, and the bicycle paths are usually good.
How do you utilize your bike on a regular day?
I use my bike whenever I go anywhere. As I work from home, I usually go out once or twice a day – some social event, the swimming pool,..
How does riding in Berlin compare to your hometown or other places you’ve lived in?
Riding in Berlin is a lot more comfortable than in any other city I’ve lived before – except from Copenhagen, but that’s biking paradise. In Brussels, my hometown, there is little attention for cyclists. Drivers are not sufficiently used to cyclists and sometimes have an aggressive attitude, which annoys the cyclists, who then also become very radical. Even when you have priority, you better let cars pass first, just to be sure. A lot of people would consider riding a bike as dangerous there. I think it’s a matter of perseverance and mutual respect. Eventually it’s fun! Brussels is hilly, and the biking infrastructure is still poor, which refrains a lot of people from starting to bike.
Is there anything that could improve biking in Berlin?
Cyclists themselves should sometimes have more respect for other cyclists – like ride on the right, indicate when they turn or stop. A kind of biking etiquette course maybe? Less cobble stones and broken beer bottles on the bicycle paths would be nice too, but it’s tricky to organize that.
Do you have favorite clothes to bike in?
Not really. When I know I’m going far, I take an extra t-shirt so I can change when I arrive at my destination. Nobody likes smelly sweaty people.
What is your favorite bag/basket/way to transport your belongings by bike?
I have two big bike bags that I use when I buy a lot of fruit and vegetables at the market for example. Usually I don’t have a lot of things with me so my handbag is just fine.
What is your favorite spot to fill up on fuel – coffee, drinks, food, snacks?
I’m a very unloyal customer, and enjoy discovering new places. A such, I don’t have a lot of favourite places. But whenever I’m close to Atopia in Prenzlauer Berg, I’ll stop there for a drink, coffee or table tennis. Herman Schulz in Friedrichshain is also great. Any bar and café where you get a smile and feel at home instantly.
The combination of water, wind and the Fernsehturm is so inspiring
What is your favorite route for a leisurely ride?
In the city, I enjoy taking a random ride and let myself be lead by whichever light is green at that moment. I also love riding streets I haven’t been in before and build a “mental map”, connecting neighbourhoods. You always end up some place you vaguely know and make precious small discoveries. And bridges! I’ll always try to cross as many bridges as I can, the combination of water, wind and the Fernsehturm is so inspiring.
Which route or area in Berlin do you avoid crossing by bike & why?
All the streets around Unter Den Linden are a bit too intense for me: road work, buses, lost and slow tourists, red lights everywhere,… The same goes for Kurfürstendamm. I’ll take another route if I can.
Which Berlin based bike shop do you recommend for repairs?
There’s a great bike shop near my place in Friedrichshain – Nachfahrer on Boxhagener Straße. They take their time to help you, are good value for money and so incredibly friendly!
How do you maintain your bike?
Oh.. That is something I have to work on. I’m very bad at maintenance, and usually regret it when it’s too late. Luckily, I discovered a great bike “self” repair workshop in Wedding I go to when I feel I can learn something myself.
What kind of bike lock do you use?
An ABUS Bordo lock. It’s supposed to be absolutely unbreakable. Let’s hope so!
Are there any accessories or gadgets related to cycling you wouldn’t go on ride without?
My phone – for the music! Cycling fast, especially at night, with some good tunes in my ears and overlooking the incredible Berlin sights is simply divine. Such positive energy.
Your favorite bike buddy?
For urban and functional cycling, I prefer to be alone. It’s much safer and gives you more freedom to improvise. But I love to go on cycling trips in the countryside with friends, and share all the impressions and moments together. And picnics!
For everyone who knows Dutch – check Birgitt’s blog with one of posts about riding in Berlin.