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  • Writer's pictureDebra Bokur

In Berlin, pedestrians follow the rules

I’ve been traveling back and forth to Germany regularly for decades, mostly for work. When I was the travel editor at Healing Lifestyles & Spas Magazine, I often went two or three times a year to explore the country’s host of spas and wellness centers built at the site of natural springs, many of them far from main urban centers. Most often, I rely on the trains (S-Bahn) and U-Bahn, Germany’s subway system. It’s easy to use, very straightforward, and like most of Germany’s transportation system, highly efficient.

“One of the quirky—and very admirable—things about Berlin’s citizens is their strict adherence to pedestrian walk signs. ”

In most cities, the U-Bahn operates on an honor system. Though a ticket is required for travel, and ticket machines are located at platforms, there’s no one checking as you board. My ticket has been checked only a half-dozen times or so in all my journeys. Trains are another matter, and conductors are scrupulous in checking travel documents. It’s not worth the risk to be caught without a proper ticket, and on several occasions, I’ve seen other travelers be fined on the spot when they were unable to produce a valid ticket.

Despite being a somewhat gritty city, I’ve never felt unsafe on Berlin’s U-Bahn. Depending on what I need to do or where I need to be, I also like to use the tram and metrotram network. There are over twenty lines, and the same tickets are valid on the subway, trams, buses and metrotrams. The metrotrams are designated with a large letter M on the front, and run around every ten minutes during the day and every half hour at night.

One of the quirky—and very admirable—things about Berlin’s citizens is their strict adherence to pedestrian walk signs. On numerous occasions, I’ve waited on small, traffic-free streets with locals who steadfastly watch for the little green man to appear and indicate that it’s safe to cross. I also watched once as an elderly local resident reached out and physically put her hand on the arm of one of a group of tourists who were about to step off the sidewalk and cross, chastising them and pointing meaningfully to the crosswalk sign, even though there was no car in sight anywhere. It would be a wonderful thing to see that kind of pedestrian awareness spread to other cities around the world.

All content copyright Debra Bokur 2020

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