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Berlin a 'nightmare for pedestrians'

The Local · 29 Aug 2012, 11:57

Published: 29 Aug 2012 11:57 GMT+02:00

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Experts at Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) are fed up with the traffic light system in the capital and have admonished the city government for failing to get it right despite numerous attempts, local paper Tagesspiegel reported.

Waiting for up to four minutes for the green is now the norm for people in parts of the city, who when they eventually begin striding to the other side of a wide road, and frequently find themselves stranded on the little island in the middle.

That is, of course, if they manage to avoid cars turning left into the crossing – something tourists often fail to realise is allowed in Germany.

The combination of long waiting times, being crammed onto a tiny, risen patch of concrete in between zooming cars and running over the road all make pedestrian life dangerous in Berlin, Martin Schlegel from BUND told the Tagesspiegel on Tuesday.

Schlegel can list lots of places in the city which are particularly risky for people on foot, some where the green man flashes for less than three seconds, forcing pedestrians into a sprint to the other side.

It is possible to get over the road in the three seconds, but only if a person starts crossing as soon as the green man pops up – something which requires the reaction time of a professional 100-metre sprinter, the paper said.

The Berlin government has several plans to improve pedestrian crossings – such as making the green man and red men blink before they illuminate properly to give people wanting to cross forewarning, a system which is set to be installed across the city in November.

While transport authorities think that this will make people feel safer crossing the road, the people at BUND are less than impressed. And they weren't pleased with a separate suggestion of having a countdown timer showing how much time is left before the lights change.

The group firmly feels that the only way to improve pedestrian safety is for the government to invest money into expanding the islands in the centre of large roads.

And while waiting to cross a road is unavoidable, giving people more space, and a safer space, is necessary.

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“It does make more sense to let traffic continue along a busy road without stopping to let two pedestrians cross,” said Schlegel. On narrow roads especially, it was far more environmentally friendly to keep the traffic moving.

Making people wait a while to cross over was justifiable when it meant preventing clouds of pollution from stationary vehicles build up, he added.

The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:09 August 29, 2012 by taiwanluthiers
Yea I remember a crossing close to Die Neue Schule that required you to cross in 2 steps, first get to the island, then wait for the green men to come out at the island (about another minute or so) in order to finish crossing the street, unless you just spring across the street at lightning pace! Sometimes jaywalking is just easier. At least German drivers yield in general, as in Taipei you have this problem at some crossings (but in general most crossings give at least 30 seconds, and a timer is displayed on the signal) however Taiwanese drivers do not yield at all.

I hate sprinting across an intersection because that could lead to an accident.
16:58 August 29, 2012 by sally#
The traffic light leaves the pedestrains only seconds to cross the road in order to relieve the heavy traffic caused by zooming cars. But this cannot go on for long.The government cannot just sacrifice pedestrains for a clear road.
17:51 August 29, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
I have noticed that for a long time. Usain Bolt would do well to get across some of the roads whilst the green man is showing. Impatient motorists then think you should not be on the road when the man is red, forgetting the fact he was green when you started crossing. I am young and fairly fit and a relatively fast walker and yet I struggle with the traffic light system in a city I am well used to. I would hate to be an unsuspecting tourist or older and slowing down a bit. Anybody ever think that maybe there are too many cars being made way for at the expense of everybody else. Plans to reduce the amount of cars coming into the city must be made sooner rather than later.
21:13 August 29, 2012 by Navigator_B
As a pedestrian the first things I noticed when I moved to Berlin were the short duration of the green pedestrian lights and the huge amount of heavy traffic going through the city. 

These two things are not unrelated because they both show that the streets are built purely for cars, which is not what you expect from a German city. The cycle lanes are a joke too.

I used to think that this was due to the influence of the British and American occupiers after the war, but even today the two biggest parties that control the Berlin senate are committed to extending the A100 autobahn through the city. 
21:31 August 29, 2012 by Mr Goodmorning
Just do what is done here in Boston. Walk against the lights, en masse. Pedestrian lights here are notoriously unreliable, poorly timed and ill placed, so they are routinely ignored. That (along with a healthy dose of old fashioned New England style libertarianism, which is part of the culture here) is what happens when pedestrian traffic isn't taken into account along with the rest of the traffic that uses the public ways.
00:27 August 30, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
That photo is Hackescher Markt. That aint even the worst spot in Berlin by a long way. Come out to Eberswalder Str and Schönhauser Allee cross section for a real fright.
01:55 August 30, 2012 by Karl_Berlin
Spot on "Berlin für alles". That is a frigging nightmare. And only a few meters further at the Chorinerstr./Schönhauser Allee crossing. Almost someone hit every time I shop in Rewe....
02:41 August 30, 2012 by wood artist
@Berlin feur alles Yup, one of my favorites too. Between the short time cycle, the crowds coming from the Bahn, the rather poor sight-lines for drivers, and big trucks parked blocking the view for both drivers and foot traffic, it's amazing they don't just station an ambulance right there. Rush hour is slightly better, simply because the drivers are faced with a huge mass of people. Otherwise...it's death-defying every time. At times I've thought seriously about praying, both before...and after I dodged death yet again.

08:08 August 30, 2012 by RyanFran
What about bicycle lanes on Skalitzer str. or Brunnen Str between Bernauer str to Gesundbrunnen, instead of using 55 mil. Euros on a bicycle festival, use it on infrastructure. Berlin is not a bicycle friendly city, it lacks ¦quot;bike lane tech¦quot; and teach the Berliner car driver that there must be more than 2-5 millimeter between you and their car.
12:07 August 30, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Yeah, I know that area too. The cars scorch past you within millimetres and swing right without even looking to see if you are there. I have come extremely close to being hit when cycling going along that route.
19:36 September 8, 2012 by AClassicRed
I work just down from Eberswalder Str. Bahnhof, and have to catch the tram, besides walking when I need to. The pedestrians lights hold so long, you try to obey them, but after you've been standing there 4 minutes, and now the tram is visible...and if you miss it you'll have to wait another long time?

Specifically for Berlin fuer alles, total agreed. Sometimes not even halfway across the areas you mentioned, the light has turned red against you and the cars are menacing you. And just might honk your ears off if you are über schnell. Just coming up to those intersections also, the poor bicycle paths combined with how far the tables are allowed onto the sidewalk which the bistros place? If you don't get hit by a car, it might be a bicycle.

Must mention too however, that in those cases, you have a lot of tourists in the area, especially Americans who just stand in groups talking loudly ignoring the world around them, covering the sidewalks or corners so that pedestrians can barely get by. And let's not even go into the families with prams and wandering children among the many bicyclers who illegally ride on the sidewalk. The area really is a nightmare.

Even in the outskirts where I live near Karlhorst, which does have a lot of older citizens, the green man ends so quickly they can barely make it across the street, but fortunately in these areas, drivers are more polite and less demanding so they allow the elderly to make the curb.
03:41 September 10, 2012 by vonSchwerin
Any time I get tired of waiting for the green light and cross on a red, it seems that there is always some nosy person (usually an older woman) to scold me.
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