Lessons for Americans about biking in Europe

Katy and the Board of Directors

Katy and the Board of Directors

We do not own a car. We are American. We have 2 kids age 9 and 12. How do we get from place to place? What is the weather is bad? What if there is not a train or a bus going to our destination?

My family and I have been bicycling in Berlin for 15 months. We bike in the sun, the rain, the snow, the daylight and the nighttime. We bike to school, to the lake, in the forest, to the train station, to playgrounds and to the store. I actually feel so liberated not owning a car as it forces me to look around, simplify what I really need and what is worth carrying in my panniers or backpack and be creative with my own locomotion.

I actually really prefer to walk but I do not always have the time to walk from place to place so my bicycle is the next best option. After bicycling Berlin for 15 months I am also aware of so many areas of Berlin which are not accessible by car and I love exploring these short-cuts and beautiful parks and forests and bicycle trails. In many ways I often feel like a little kid out and exploring my neighborhood but then I realize I am 42 and I smile because I realize that I don’t have to give up that “exploring feeling” that I loved as a kid. The other benefit of bicycling everywhere is that I feel like I am actually doing something to improve the air quality of our planet.

I am taking one less car off the road, sometimes 2 because in the States sometimes we have to drive 2 cars depending on our plans. It is empowering to feel that you are really doing something, as opposed to just wanting to do something. Riding a bike is really quite simple and in Berlin you see every color, shape and size of bicycles and people riding bicycles. I personally love to see the German man in his fashionable suit and fancy panniers riding along because you would never see that in Colorado. I love seeing the very old woman moving so slowly on her bike with her groceries or flowers in her basket as she can still appreciate the value of getting around on a bicycle. I love seeing the tiny toddlers on their new “push bikes” and little helmets and all their rain gear. They are so cute and it makes me smile to see this future cyclist in training.

The best thing about bicycling around Berlin is that our kids are seeing you can live a rich, full life full of adventures without owning a car. This is really hard for an American child to see in America because our infrastructure and transportation is not set up this way at all. My kids will always know that they do not need a car and that their 2 wheels and 2 feet can power them wherever they want to go no matter how long it takes to get there.

Katy Williams