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Berlin environment blog: First time cycling in Berlin

Bormey Chy
July 21, 2017

​​​​​​​Coming from a non-bike-friendly city, Bormey Chy is a bit of a cycling novice. But when she got the chance to go for a spin on two wheels in Berlin, she liked it so much, she can't wait to do it again.

Cyclists at Mariannenplatz in Berlin, taking part in Critical Mass
Image: DW/Y. Zarbakhch

Cycling is usually a thing to which I say "no." In Cambodia, it is hot and dusty and there are no proper, safe spaces for cyclists. Huge numbers of cars and motorbikes fill up the streets of the capital Phnom Penh, even parking on the sidewalks, making the little space that is left very dangerous for cyclists.

That said, there are in fact a lot of bike enthusiasts in my country, but the traffic and safety issues keep them from experiencing it fully. At rush hour, it is almost impossible even for pedestrians to make their way through the crowds of carbon-puffing vehicles, let alone bike riders. So I have rarely cycled.

Traffic in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is not a city made for cyclistsImage: DW/B. Chy

Proper infrastructure is crucial in enabling safe and convenient cycling. And that’s what I found in Berlin. I took a bike tour around the city last weekend, which resulted in a deeper knowledge of its history and its people.

The tour gave me a very good impression of Berlin’s bike infrastructure and atmosphere in general. There are lanes for bikes and spaces separating the pedestrians and cyclists, which is something I wish we had in my city. Because who wouldn’t want to be physically active, help the environment and feel safe at the same time?  

Plus, I love the fact that I can park at very unlikely places and appreciate the stunning views of Berlin. On top of that, I was so happy to get to see the city in detail - which I can't do if I take train or bus - while not releasing any carbon dioxide into the air we are breathing. I know, walking also does the same, but cycling is much faster, and it gives me more of an authentic Berlin vibe.

Bikes by a road in Berlin with the Brandenburg Gate in the distance
Traveling around Berlin by bike gives you the chance to actually see itImage: DW/B. Chy

There is nothing without its disadvantages. Although everything seems fine, I find it somewhat confusing to figure out whether I should ride on the sidewalk or on the street and which traffic light to follow because the indicators are not always there. Is it because I’m new to it? Or do others struggle in the same way?

Anyway, despite that, my overall experience of biking here was awesome, and I hope to have the time to pedal here again before I leave.