Post image for Home Exchange Berlin 2011:  The world’s largest bicycle rally

Home Exchange Berlin 2011: The world’s largest bicycle rally

by John Mensinger on November 5, 2011

Our home exchange host, Heidi, recommended we check out Sternfahrt 2011, a giant rally in Berlin for over 150,000 cyclists. There were 18 possible routes, each with a starting point at a train station. You could choose to start as early as 7am, or like my daughter you could join in about noon. On June 5, 2011 I walked 500 meters to the S-Bahn, bought a ticket for the bicycle, and headed out to Strausberg. There were 50 or so cyclists milling outside the station, at 8.30 the ADFC organizer in a bright yellow t-shirt started down the road, we were led by a police escort, what a great feeling to run red lights and see oncoming motorists pull to the side of the road so we could pass by.

After less than an hour of cruising past fields and forests we arrived in Atlandsberg, a picturesque village, where we waited in the square for 15 minutes before resuming our journey with a few more riders. About an hour later we stopped in Mahlsdorf, by the time we left at 10.45 we were over 200 strong, since we were now in Berlin we had several motorcycle police as escorts. They would rush ahead to block crossroads so we could proceed without stopping.

Less than an hour later we merged with one of the other 18 routes, at Springfuhl. The going was slow, not because of cars but because there were now thousands of cyclists. We passed within 500 meters of our apartment, crossed the River Spree and ended up with tens of thousands of cyclists at Grenzallee. The theme of this year’s rally was free travel for free wheels but nobody was going anywhere. After a delay of 40 minutes the crowd started moving. 30 minutes later I finally was able to get on the freeway.

The route was now a closed course. They had shut down Route 100, the south peripheral freeway, so we could bicycle into the heart of the city. Berlin diversity was on display. Old and young, parents with kids in a seat behind them, mountain bikes, road bikes, and even a buccaneer with a cargo cycle shaped like a pirate ship.

We exited the freeway and cruised through the heart of West Berlin, finally ending up on the Street of June 17th, which leads into the Tiergarten, Berlin’s huge central park. There was an environmental festival with scores of exhibitors, food stalls, and live music, a stone’s throw from Brandenburg Gate. Our home exchange family had a son who was studying in Cottbus; he returned to Berlin for the weekend and with friends accompanied my daughter for this epic cycling experience. Cycling and house swapping are a good combination.

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