Week 327: car-freeness, banging Q&A, the fabled Autobahn and the administrative organization of infrastructure

This was the week that Kars returned from his honeymoon on Bali. And all for the better as well, because I had worked through most of our stack —we didn’t have any running projects at the time— and I was getting so annoyed by Dopplr’s performance that I was about to write a clean implementation of its trip model to store my upcoming travels in.

Autofreies Kreuzberg über die Manteuffelstrasse

That week I also attended a meetup by Autofreies Kreuzberg and wrote that up. One additional note that I want to place is that Oranienstraße is a total traffic clusterfuck and I am amazed that nobody is fixing that. There is a clear political majority in Kreuzberg, the shopkeepers could use more space and removing the cars would improve the quality of life for everybody. Why not just do it then1?


I drove to MLOVE that week to present in our Dutch Quantified Self block. The block turned into a party of the sort Dutch people are good at and the Q&A session afterwards was one of the best I’ve either seen or given. The sharpness of the audience also had a lot to do with it. The questions were sharp, fast and on point like you rarely see at events.


I drove back the next day and by some fluke where I lost half an hour in Halle2 I got stuck behind massive car crash on the highway with three hours of barely moving cars to the next exit towards Dessau. It took the radio at least two hours to figure out that there had been a major car crash on this bit of road which I found stunning. After I finally got out of the traffic jam where there were several more Eastern European trucks simply broken down on the road blocking even more traffic. And finally I got trapped in a major summer storm with heavy thunder and rain. It got to the point several times where I barely could see the marking on the road so I decided to stop two times and wait out the rain instead of trying my luck with the rental car3. All in all a trip that should have taken me two and a half hours, took me over ten and this experience of pure time-wasting ruined driving for me altogether.


The fabled German Autobahn proved to be a disappointment as well. It has been a fiction for me anyway. The last time I’ve ever actually driven 180 for a stretch is probably six years ago. The rest of the time there are either too many cars to drive really fast or they are busy doing constructions works. The actual bits where you are allowed to go infinite speed are also being chipped away at bit by bit4 so at some point this may become a thing of the past.

The odd part of the traffic jam and the rain after was how primitive the German highways are compared to the Dutch ones. In the Netherlands almost all main and provincial roads are sensored so you can get real-time traffic flow information, most major highways have matrix displays above and beside them to actuate traffic and most of the critical sections and exits are surveilled by cctv cameras to see what is actually happening. There also is this thing called ZOAB which works wonders when it is raining.

The primitiveness stems from the fact that in Germany all roads from main roads in the city up to the A level highways are under the authority of the Länder. So if your highway is in the rather backward Sachsen-Anhalt province it means that you can’t really expect anything. This is also the reason that the Green/Red majority in Kreuzberg can’t decide to close down Oranienstraße for traffic because they don’t have that majority in the Land Berlin.

As I said compared to the Netherlands the roads themselves are already rather primitive, but the administrative organization also does not seem to make a lot of sense. In the Netherlands the provinces (analogous to the Länder) control the secundary roads between the cities, the so called ‘Provinciale Wegen’. On the map in that Wikipedia page you can very clearly see the division with the main arteries ‘Rijkswegen’ being maintained by the central government and for instance the roads within Amsterdam being the purvey of the municipality of Amsterdam. This is a method of organization that is clear and never will be implemented in Germany. Putting the main highways under federal control and the city streets under that of the city (though with Berlin that might coincide with the province of Berlin) would take money and power away from the Länder and will therefore be fought tooth and nail like these things always are.

The week after this one was a bit idiotic.

  1. The answer is the strange administrative division when it comes to roads in Germany.
  2. The tremendously chaotic multi-story roundabout had a lot to do with that.
  3. Which was a rather charming Ford Focus in any case.
  4. They’re doing this quietly because cars in Germany are like the NRA in the USA.

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