Cyclists’ ‘Ride of Silence’ launches bid for safer streets

A huge crowd of cyclists gathered at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday evening for a 'Ride of Silence' in memory of those killed on the capital's streets.

Cyclists' 'Ride of Silence' launches bid for safer streets
Berlin cyclists wear white in a silent protest against traffic deaths on the capital's streets. Photo: DPA

Many among the participants – who organizers said numbered more than 1,500 – wore white or light-coloured clothing during the 30-kilometre loop around south-central Berlin that ended at city hall.

“It was a very emotional event, we rode past sites where cyclists have died in recent years,” Nikolas Linck, spokesman for the German Cyclists' Association (ADFC) Berlin branch, told The Local.

A map of the Berlin “Ride of Silence” route including sites of deadly accidents involving cyclists. Image: GPSies/OpenStreetMap

There was a minute of silence in memory of those killed in bike accidents once the group reached the Rotes Rathaus, seat of the Berlin city Senate.

“They are also partly responsible for traffic accidents,” Linck said. “The Senate could be improving traffic infrastructure but they haven't.”

According to Berlin police statistics, there were 7,699 traffic accidents involving cyclists in 2014 – an almost 11 percent increase on the 6,952 in 2013.

Of those, 639 left those involved seriously injured and 12 were fatal.

Other German cities including Cologne and Munich held their own events in memory of cyclists killed on their streets.

Call for referendum

Despite Germany's reputation as a cycling-friendly country, activists complain that the capital is a particularly dangerous city for those who prefer two wheels.

Berlin placed 30th out of 39 large cities in Germany in a 2015 bike friendliness survey by the ADFC.

That's why advocacy groups are calling for a “cycling referendum”, which they would use to try and force politicians to improve cycling infrastructure.

Their 10 goals include adding many more safe cycling lanes and bike parking spots as well as “cycling highways” like those recently built in London, improving junctions, and doing more to boost public awareness of cycling.

Wednesday also marked the first day of gathering signatures towards the 20,000 goal needed to apply for a referendum.

“Everyone there was pro-cycling and very political,” the ADFC's Linck said.

Now that committed hard core must reach out beyond their ranks for the popular support they'll need in the struggle with the Senate.

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