“Friedrichstrasse is dead,” said CDU country chief Kai Wegner on Friday. As a reason he gave the “bicycle highway” in the middle of the street. The vacancies in the shops are enormous, also because pedestrians are afraid of speeding cyclists. “It used to be safe to cross the street in traffic jams,” said Wegner in Mitte. He rejects further experiments in Friedrichstrasse.
In 2020, the traffic management closed Friedrichstrasse for cars and created a cycle path. From the point of view of the new Senator for Transport Bettina Jarasch (Greens), this has also failed. Three weeks ago, Jarasch announced that Friedrichstrasse would be turned into a pedestrian zone, into a “piazza”.
From the point of view of the CDU, the hotel and restaurant association and the retail association, this is the next superfluous experiment. “We have to restore the old situation,” said Wegner. That means: Cars in, whether driving or parked at the edge. Cyclists should better go through Glinkastrasse, further west. There is a speed limit of 20 for cyclists on Friedrichstrasse.
Christian Andresen, President of the Berlin Hotel and Restaurant Guild, criticized that “no one spoke to us”. Andresen is also the managing partner of the Mandala Hotel on Friedrichstrasse: “Our guests can no longer find the entrance,” he said. Even taxis should only stop in side streets. Andresen called it a “scandal” that the traffic administration was enforcing something “that nobody here wants”.
Traffic is now rolling through the parallel Charlottenstrasse, if it is rolling. Here the business owners complain about too many cars. “From 4 p.m. everything just stands still,” said Anja Schröder, owner of a wine shop near Gendarmenmarkt. Traffic has increased by 140 percent.
As reported, the traffic management wants to turn Charlottenstraße into a bicycle street. That will not work, they said, because it is the access road to three parking garages with 1,300 spaces and five hotels. “There are only conflicts,” said Wegner. Nils Busch-Petersen, managing director of the trade association, warned against the next experiment with the bicycle street in Charlottenstraße. “Friedrichstrasse failed with the announcement,” he said, “we predicted it.” Busch-Petersen spoke of “experiments at the expense of livelihoods”.
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Vincent Veltjens, manager of the furniture store “Bo Concept”, represented a more differentiated opinion in the group. Of course, the cycle path is not good for all business people, customer frequency has dropped by up to 80 percent. The fact that chains like MarcCain and Escada and banks have closed their branches “is definitely not due to the street”. It had gone bad before.
In his view, a lack of marketing and the poor mix given the extremely high shop rents are to blame for the situation. Simply going back to the car is not a concept. A “piazza” can work if it is properly connected. Busch-Petersen suggested looking for solutions in other countries.