How to get around Berlin sustainably
Sharing is caring - a new urban mobility
No matter what time it is, there's always a way to get around Berlin. The public transportation system is one of the best in the world and will zip you through the city at any hour of the day. This is what makes it easy for freelancers hopping from company to coworking space, employees commuting to the hottest (but sometimes out-of-the-way) startups, and founders looking to recruit from all corners of the city.
The process of getting from A to B is changing profoundly and the catch-all word for this multifarious wave of the future is mobility. When it comes to mobility Berlin is already on a very sustainable way and working to be even more so in the years to come.
Public transport vs. car use
Berlin is a pioneer of urban mobility with extensive public transport and low dependence on motorized private transport. The capital has by far the fewest cars per inhabitant in Germany. At the same time, residents of Berlin travel the greatest distances by bus and train per year: Metro trains travel a combined total of over 2.5 billion kilometres per year.
You can download this infographic from the Statista website and embed it on your sites.
Berlin's efficient public transport system operated by Berliner Verkerhsbetriebe (BVG) and Deutsche Bahn consists of the U-Bahn (underground, or subway), the S-Bahn (light rail), buses, and trams. The U-Bahn is usually the most efficient way of getting around the inner core and the S-Bahn comes in handy for covering longer distances, while buses, trams, and bicycles are useful for shorter journeys. TripSavy also provides a guide to Berlin's public transportation system, featuring all the important lines as well as information regarding tickets.
Given all of these options and good bike paths in most parts of the city, most Berliners don't own a car, and most visitors don't need one. But for trips away from the city centre, a set of wheels can be very handy and, apart from the traditional car rental companies, there are now several ride-sharing platforms available as well as various sharing options for bikes and scooters.
Are you in the mobility business and are developing new solutions for future transport? Berlin Partner helps creating networks and developing projects in transport, mobility and logistics the capital region. Feel free to reach out and check for upcoming events!
Berlin’s sustainable mobile infrastructure
Already ranked 3rd globally for sustainability in 2017 by Arcadis, Berlin is paving the way for a new balance between cars, bicycles, public transport, and pedestrians with its Mobility Act. The main goal is to create a liveable city and improve the mobility infrastructure in order to ensure all road users will be able to travel safely while on the move. It plans to improve the efficiency of the transport system as a whole and supports the goal of the Berlin Senate to make car traffic in Berlin climate-neutral by 2050.
“Berlin plans to become safer, more mobile, and more climate-friendly. In a growing metropolis like Berlin, this can only succeed if the strengths of all forms of mobility - bus, rail, bicycle, car, pedestrian traffic - are taken into consideration” - Senate Department.
One of the key concepts of the act is to improve the cycling conditions and infrastructure in Berlin. Several projects to create a more comprehensive network of bicycle lanes are currently in the works. Infravelo, for example, plans to visibly improve the situation for cyclists with colour-coded cycle paths, better instructions, and safe bicycle stands. The service provider also plans to ensure comfortable driving over longer distances of up to ten kilometres, which will enable so-called rapid-cycle connections. Meanwhile, Radbahn plans to transform the forgotten space along Berlin’s famous U1 elevated subway line into a major urban thoroughfare and create a space for contemporary mobility, innovation, and leisure.
Shared mobility has increased drastically
Owning a car is an expensive liability, and instead many people opt to find alternatives. Car-sharing doesn’t only provide an affordable substitute, it also makes cities more eco-friendly. For short trips, taking shared cars can actually be cheaper than using public transport, especially if you have passengers. Petrol, parking, maintenance, and insurance are included in the flat rate. Carsharing is becoming more and more relevant for an ever-increasing number of people with Berlin being the second biggest Car2go location worldwide with 223,000 customers.
German car-sharing companies reported growth in 2018, picking up an extra 350,000 registered customers, according to Deutsche Welle. The total number of registered users increased to 2.46 million, while the number of car-sharing vehicles on the road rose 12 percent to 20,200, according to bcs. Free-floating car-sharing programs - whereby cars are picked up, driven, and parked all around the city by users who reserve them using an app - remains the most popular type of service after usage grew 15 percent last year. Many mobility startups and enterprises are creating new options to offer more flexible, climate-friendly ways of transport, and are significantly shaping how Berliners move around their city.
Car, bike and e-scooter sharing options
If you want to go somewhere in Berlin without relying on public transport or driving your own car, all you have to do is download one of the many sharing mobility apps, sign up, and if necessary validate your license.
The most popular kind of car-sharing in Germany is free-floating. Car2Go and DriveNow, now under one umbrella as ShareNow, are good examples. The Smart, Mercedes-Benz, BWM and MINI cars can be rented spontaneously or pre-booked for as little as €0.19 a minute for entry-level models; others require pickup and dropoff at fixed locations.
Also trending are ride-pooling services such as BerlKönig and Clever Shuttle. These pick up services collect passengers with small busses or vans in the inner Berlin area and drive them to their similar destinations. This offers a very comfortable way of getting around berlin, can be up to 50% cheaper compared to a taxi and reduces the overall traffic. Both ride-sharing services can be booked via free apps.
Another easy to use and cheap option is to rent a pedal bike from various suppliers. For bicycles try Deezer, Nextbike, LIDL Bike or MoBike - with an average cost of between €0,50 and €1,00 per half hour. Uber's JUMP bikes are also found in many locations around the city, costing ten cents a minute.
The latest big thing on Berlin's mobile market is the e-scooter and you don’t even need a motorcycle license for your rides. With Lime having just introduced it’s new line of electric scooters and electric-assist bikes in Berlin a few weeks ago, Germany is the first country to implement higher standards for e-scooters that will “up the bar for the entire industry” according to Lime’s CEO Brad Bao. Bosch’s e-scooter sharing service Coup is now offering prepaid by-the-minute packages without a minimum rental period in Berlin, as a new alternative. Regardless of which provider you choose, all pricing is generally 1€ to unlock, and 0.15€/min for riding.
Spoilt for choice between intelligent mobility solutions
Mobility is a basic requirement of modern society and a driver of innovation and growth. With the desire to own a car declining among young city dwellers according to McKinsey’s Urban Mobility Report, the city offers an array of alternative methods of getting around besides using public transport. Transport mobility apps create ample easy ways to find connections to where you need to go. Berliners can pick and choose from among a myriad of tailored mobility solutions for any purpose.
As a center for smart mobility, the Berlin Agency for Electromobility supports the economic development in the sector, helps companies to build substantial partnerships and provides information about funding opportunities. You can contact them via email@example.com.
Text: Melissa Embury
Header image: Adam Kuylenstierna