Pop-up bike lanes



Main actors

City Government

Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region


Ongoing since 2020

Temporary bicycle infrastructure pops up in Berlin

During the pandemic, the demand for individual mobility options changed dramatically in Berlin. While overall traffic declined noticeably, an ever-growing number of Berliners decided to choose bicycles as their preferred mode of transport – allowing an active and contact-free way to travel.

The city of Berlin had been planning and conducting the rollout of dozens of kilometers of bicycle infrastructure before the COVID-19 outbreak. Nevertheless – with the strict distance requirements that were put in force, to reduce the risk of infection, with a view to the rising number of cyclists, and to relieve congestion on streets and public transport – an urgent need for quick improvements arose.

This is why the Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection – in close collaboration with Berlin’s boroughs – took immediate action and set up “pop-up bike lanes” (or: temporary cycling infrastructure) in a number of corridors that promise fast and considerable benefits for cyclists.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all agesBuild resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovationMake cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Berlin, Germany
Size and population development
In 2019, the municipality of Berlin had a population of 3,669,491 inhabitants, making it the most populous city in the European Union (EU). The larger metropolitan area has about 5 million inhabitants.
Population composition
According to estimations, about one third of Berlin’s population was foreign born or has a migratory background. These inhabitants originate from other parts of the EU—such as Poland, Italy or Bulgaria—as well as from countries outside of the EU, such as Syria, Vietnam or the United States of America. The largest non-native population comes from Turkey: In 2019, more than 107,000 Turkish nationals were registered as inhabitants of Berlin.
Main functions
Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany. As a city-state it is also one of the country’s 16 Länder, as the federal states are called in Germany. Situated approximately 112 miles (180 km) south of the Baltic Sea, the city lies in the wide glacial valley of the Spree River, which runs through Berlin’s centre. The city extends over an area of 891.7 square kilometres and stands at an average altitude of 34 meters above sea level. After the reunification of Germany and East and West Berlin in 1990, the unified Berlin was re-established as the country’s capital (replacing Bonn, the former capital of West Germany). In 1999, large parts of the Federal Government and the German Bundestag finally moved back to Berlin. Berlin is a city of great historical significance, which becomes evident considering the amount of historical landmarks that visualize the city’s history. Some of the most important landmarks include the Brandenburg Gate (built in 1793), the Reichstag Building (which dates to 1884), remnants of the Berlin Wall (taken down on the 9th of November 1989) or the Holocaust memorial (inaugurated in 2003). Berlin is also a famous cultural hub, known for its world-class museums, theatres, operas and concert halls as well as its vibrant club scene and street art. Finally, the Brain City Berlin is a leading location for science and research. It is home to a number of prestigious universities such as the Freie Universität Berlin, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and the Technische Universität Berlin, with more than 35,000 students each as well as renowned research institutions and think tanks.
Main industries / business
As the fourth largest economy of the world, Germany has a wide array of prestigious industries. Berlin is home to a diverse mix of economic activities: state-owned enterprises, creative industries, automotive manufacturers, (digital) media corporations, high-tech and telecommunication companies as well as multiple digital pioneers that flourish in the city’s vibrant start-up scene. Tourism is constantly growing and brings about 14 million visitors (2019) to the city every year.
Sources for city budget
Berlin draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, federal transfers, fees, fines and operating revenues. It is spent not only to provide high quality public services, but also to boost the city’s private sector, civil society engagement and cultural life.
Political structure
The city-state Berlin is governed by the Berlin Senate, which is comprised of 10 senators, and the Governing Mayor. As the capital of Germany, Berlin hosts the Bundesregierung (federal government), the Bundestag (federal parliament) and the Bundesrat (the parliamentary chamber of the 16 Länder). Each of the 16 Länder has a representation in Berlin. On many political issues, the Länder have co-legislative powers vis-à-vis the Federal government. Moreover, Berlin hosts embassies from more than 120 countries from around the world.
Administrative structure
Berlin is administrated by the Senate and its 12 districts or boroughs (Bezirke). The Senate is the city’s central administration, in charge of city planning, public policy, and the regulation of public and private spheres. The district administrations have some decentralized public functions, with reasonable differences between the various localities.

Safety is important for many people when deciding whether to ride a bike or not. According to surveys, this is especially true for women, families and elderly people.

With the pandemic still spreading, anyone who rides a bike is helping not only themselves, but others as well. Safe distances can be maintained, and the risk of infection is minimized. If many people travel by bike instead of by car or public transport, that also reduces traffic jams and creates more space in buses and trains to maintain the distance requirement. This can also help restore trust in public transport systems after the pandemic.

To encourage cycling in the city, Berlin has been setting up temporary cycle lanes – also known as pop-up bike lanes.

In April 2020, the Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection released the standardized plan "Temporary Installation and Extension of Cycling Facilities". Using this as a basis, the borough offices planned the cycle lanes together with the Traffic Management Department of the Senate Department.

Temporary cycle lanes are set up in a way similar to roadworks. Yellow delimitation strips mark the bike lanes and, as far as possible, they are additionally separated from car traffic by barrier posts. The distance between bike lanes and parking lanes is usually marked by a 1-metre-wide barrier so that cyclists are not endangered or hindered by car doors being opened. The protected cycle lanes are at least two metres wide.

A new temporary cycle lane can be implemented within one day.

As temporary bicycle infrastructure does not require any construction work, it is relatively cheap to put in place – especially when compared to other mobility-infrastructure projects. The city covers all of the costs the boroughs face when implementing these measures.

Cycling during the pandemic not only protects against infection, but also relieves congestion on roads, buses and trains. Temporary bike lanes are created where there is particularly high demand and new cycle paths are already planned. So far, 24 kilometres of pop-up bicycle infrastructure have been established along major roads – and more are to follow. The aim is to replace them with equivalent, permanent measures in the future.

Therefore, the corridors that have been adapted so far are part of a wider network of corridors that had been identified for a thorough redesign in line with Berlin's Mobility Law. The law, which was passed in 2018, is the first of its kind in Germany and sets ambitious goals for the sustainable reconstruction of the city's mobility networks – favouring active modes of travel and the use of public transportation over individual car traffic.

This temporary bicycle infrastructure can only be implemented on roads that do not require any modifications in the city’s building structure. These measures are therefore limited to certain streets, which are not necessarily those with the highest demand for cycling infrastructure. Another challenge lies in addressing problems related to particularly dangerous intersections.

The construction of protected cycle lanes is new in Germany. Therefore, their effectiveness will be examined in detail in the future, with a particular focus on protective elements. It will be essential to analyse which markings are most suitable in terms of cyclists’ safety.

The plan "Temporary Installation and Extension of Cycling Facilities" is now also being used in other cities in Germany and abroad as support for their own plans.

Network of pop-up bike lanes in Berlin on the portal of the publicly owned InfraVelo GmbH: https://www.infravelo.de/temporaere-radfahrstreifen/

Additional information on protected bike lanes in Berlin: https://www.berlin.de/sen/uvk/verkehr/verkehrsplanung/radverkehr/geschuetzte-radstreifen/

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