April 21, 2020 Covid
Down in the Southern district of Kreuzberg, where I technically live, the local administrators have decided that social distancing isn’t feasible when you’re riding a bike on the existing bike paths. So they’ve sprung into action, widening bike lanes with yellow tape, and when you cycle down there, entire intersections are suddenly the territory of cyclists. An article in the Tagesspiegel newspaper points out that “the usual administrative processes for arranging this (…) have been kept but sped up drastically.”
It’s a strange feeling to get so much space on the road. A good one, I should add, and so there have been rumors going around that these paths might just stay beyond the crisis—or during its indefinite duration. Whenever you hear this rumor, it comes with the disclaimer that this is something the administrators might have wanted to do all along and now simply seized the opportunity to do. A refreshing bit of crisis opportunism, if you will.
Of course I’m in favor of these measures simple because I directly benefit from them. The intersections in question have been dangerous for years, and when I first moved to Berlin from the Netherlands, our cycling paths here seemed like a bad joke. It is nevertheless curious to see how the crisis and speed up certain developments that usually seem static out of convention: Reduce traffic and pollution, make the streets safer, keep a distance when you’re sick as not to infect others.
“At this point”, Rocío tells me over dinner, “I’m more concerned about all the people who’ll fall into a depression once all of this goes back to normal and it turns out we haven’t learned anything.”