|Bikes are everywhere in Berlin, even in the famous food department of KaDeWe|
The bike rentalsBike rentals are everywhere, and they are dirt cheap. We rented from Lila Bike in Prenzlauer Berg and they charge 8 Euros for the first 24 hours and 5 Euros for every day after. We picked the bikes up on a Sunday and it was completely crazy with people flocking in by the second to rent or return their bikes. In addition to specialized bike rental places one could also rent from bike shops and even convenience stores. The bikes usually are heavy step-through city bikes with internal gear hubs, big, cushy saddles, dynamo-powered lighting (a legal requirement in Germany), fenders, a rack, and wide, puncture-resistant tires. North American cyclist might scoff at these bikes and they are certainly not meant for riding a century, but for riding around Berlin with its many cobblestone streets they work very well.
On one day we used our rental bikes to ride out to Pedalpower in Lichtenberg to rent a tandem. Pedalkraft makes their own tandems and cargo bikes, and for 25 Euros per 24 hours we got a step-through tandem with S&S couplers. Rental opportunities for other kinds of more specialized kinds of bikes exist, too.
Finally, Deutsche Bahn offers Call-A-Bike, a system similar to Bixi or Velib.
The sidewalk cycling and salmoningBike traffic can be heavy and unfortunately there is a large amount of sidewalk cycling. It is illegal and there is some enforcement (we saw someone being pulled over while we were on [or in this case: off] the tandem) but a lot of people don't care at all and ride on the sidewalk pretty aggressively. We stayed near Schönhauser Allee and this is both a sidewalk cycling and salmoning hotspot -- partly probably due to the fact that it is a big uncrossable street with the elevated subway in the middle.
|Salmoning on the Schönhauser in action (Photo: GBiB; license CC-BY-NC-SA)|
The bike shopsPerhaps unsurprisingly, there is a huge number of bike shops around town. I was looking for a couple of more or less exotic parts and for that reason visited a number of them. One really nice thing about them is that they can usually order every part that Hartje, the major German wholesaler, has in stock within 24 hours! And you don't even have to pay upfront.
Another great discovery was Cicli Berlinetta. They specialize in vintage Italian racing bikes and their shop is just a-m-azing! In addition to gorgeous frames they also have vintage components and apparel, and they also build their own custom frames and bikes. Even though I'm not the biggest retro-fan I can highly recommend a visit there!
|Retro heaven at Cicli Berlinetta|
|Steel bike pr0n|
The bikesPretty much any kind of bike imaginable can be found in Berlin. In comparison to North American cities, the proportion of upright city bikes is much higher and what is known as "hybrids" doesn't really exist as a category. The proportion of bikes equipped with dynohubs has increased significantly compared to when I lived in Berlin; sidewall generators, however, are still a common sight, as are ninja riders with no or broken lights.
|Situations like this are common in Berlin and kill several cyclists every year (Photo: quapan; license: CC-BY)|
The legal situation in Germany is somewhat complicated: most basically, cyclists are obliged to use bike infrastructure -- but only if it is marked with certain signs, such as "Z 237". In principle these signs should only be put up in situations where there is an "objective danger" for cyclists but in the past local administrations haven't taken that requirement too seriously. Bike advocates have used the courts to get rid of a lot of the signs and in Berlin I have gotten the impression but the administration has gotten much better about giving cyclists a choice to use bike infrastructure or not.
|Z 237: If you see this one you have to use the bike lane/cycle track|