Germany: Berliners challenge car dominance through cycling protest

August 29, 2023
Critical Mass draws attention to the car-centric design of cities.

Thousands of Berliners took to the streets on bicycles on August 25 to protest the dominance of motor vehicles in the city, discriminatory road traffic laws and car-centric urban planning.

Starting from Mariannenplatz in Kreuzberg, the colourful, noisy convoy moved along Berlin’s main roads — usually occupied by motorists — on a spontaneous route through the city.

The demonstration, which happens on the last Friday of every month, is part of the decades-old global Critical Mass actions that aim to draw attention to the car-centric design of cities and reclaim streets from cars and other motor vehicles.

Germany’s first Critical Mass demonstration took place in Berlin in 1997, with a handful of participants. Now, they are held in nearly every city.

The movement also draws attention to cyclist safety and the overrepresentation of cyclists in traffic deaths.

In Berlin, cyclists and pedestrians make up 70% of traffic deaths, and cyclist deaths have risen in the past few years. Ten cyclists died and 649 were seriously injured in Berlin last year, according to the German Cycling Association.

The action remained peaceful, despite facing verbal and physical aggression from motorists. Participants were vigilant in blocking motorists from driving through gaps in the convoy and breaking up the mass of cyclists.

The convoy took over Berlin’s main roads for more than three hours, despite the police’s attempts to block roundabouts, and ended with an impromptu party in Tiergarten.

[Follow Critical Mass Berlin on Facebook for more information.]

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