5 things we learned from maps of the Berlin Wall

The wall in 1975. Image: Edward Valachovic via Flickr, reused under a creative commons licence.

A quarter of a century ago, the Berlin Wall was torn down, rejoining two cities into one. Cartographers responded in different ways to the wall's erection and destruction - usually choosing to emphasise either unity or disunity, depending on their politics.

CJ Schuler, a cartographic historian, has tracked the ways the wall was represented by maps on mapping blog Here.

Here's five things we learned from his piece.

1. Some East German maps left off West Berlin altogether.

This 1988 map from East Germany shows the western part of the city as a gaping hole, surrounded by a thick pink line:

2. Two U-Bahn lines went under the wall.

The lines didn't actually connect East and West, but the configuration of the metro system meant some western trains passed through 11 abandoned stations under the eastern part of the city. Only one train station, Friedrichstrasse, actually allowed passage between East and West Berlin.

3. Western U-Bahn maps made the city look connected.

This subway map used in West Berlin appears to show the city's transit network as one contiguous system:

Only by reading the small print could travellers find out that the eastern stations were "only accessible by the BVG East and DR". There was actually only one train station in the city  where you could pass from east to west, and it was, as you'd expect, controlled by guards and checkpoints. 

4. Eastern U-Bahn maps, meanwhile, fiddled geography to make it look like West Berlin didn't exist.

As with the geographical map above, East Berlin's U-Bahn map used a clever trick to miss out West Berlin altogether: it superimposed a map of the East German suburb of Potsdam, which lies further west, on top of West Berlin, and makes its lines part of a radial network with its centre at Alexanderplatz. 

Image: Frank Jacobs’ Strange Maps.


5. After reunification, the Berlin Senate set up a commisison to change East Berlin's Soviet place names. 

Around 80 streets were renamed in total. Leninallee became Landsberger Allee (wonder why they felt they should change that?). Otto Grotewohl Strasse, named after the East German prime minister, reverted back to Wilhelm Strasse, its original name

You can read Schuler's full article here

 
 
 
 

Cycling on London’s Euston Road is still a terrifying experience

Cyclists on the Euston Road. Image: Jonn Elledge.

The New Road, which skirted the northern boundaries of London’s built up area, first opened in the 1750s. Originally, it was intended to link up outlying villages and provide a route to drive sheep and cows to the meat market at Smithfield without having to pass through the congested city centre. 

As with bypasses and ring roads the world over, however, it increasingly became congested in its own right. Today, you won’t often find livestock on the route, which is now Marylebone, Euston and City roads. But you will find up to six lanes of often stationary buses, cabs, and private vehicles. In a city whose centre is largely free of multi-lane highways, London’s northern ring road has long been the sort of abomination that you avoid at all costs.

But now, somewhat surprisingly, the road is seeing yet another new use. Earlier this week, the first phase of a temporary cycle lane opened on the Euston Road, the middle section of the route which runs for roughly a mile. As London rethinks roads throughout the city, this addition to the cycling map falls solidly into the category of streets that didn't seem like candidates for cycling before the pandemic.

It is, to be clear, temporary. That’s true of many of the Covid-led interventions that Transport for London is currently making, though those in the know will often quietly admit to hoping they end up being permanent. In this case, however, the agency genuinely seems to mean it: TfL emphasized in its press release that the road space is already being allocated for construction starting late next year and that "TfL will work with local boroughs to develop alternate routes along side streets" when the cycle lane is removed.

At lunchtime on Friday, I decided to try the lane for myself to understand what an unlikely, temporary cycle lane can accomplish. In this case it's clear that the presence of a lane only accomplishes so much. A few key things will still leave riders wanting:

It’s one way only. To be specific, eastbound. I found this out the hard way, after attempting to cycle the Euston Road westbound, under the naive impression that there was now a lane for me in which to do this. Neither I nor the traffic I unexpectedly found myself sharing space with enjoyed the experience. To be fair, London’s cycling commissioner Will Norman had shared this information on Twitter, but cyclists might find themselves inadvertently mixing with multiple lanes of much, much bigger vehicles.

It radically changes in width. At times the westbound route, which is separated from the motor traffic by upright posts, is perhaps a metre and a half wide. At others, such as immediately outside Euston station, it’s shared with buses and is suddenly four or five times that. This is slightly vexing.

It’s extremely short. The publicity for the new lane said it would connect up with other cycle routes on Hampstead Road and Judd Street (where Cycleway 6, the main north-south crosstown route, meets Euston Road). That’s a distance of roughly 925m. It actually runs from Gower Street to Ossulton Street, a distance of barely 670m. Not only does the reduced length mean it doesn’t quite connect to the rest of the network, it also means that the segregated space suddenly stops:

The junction between Euston Road and Ousslston Street, where the segregated lane suddenly, unexpectedly stops. Image: Jonn Elledge.

 

It’s for these reasons, perhaps, that the new lane is not yet seeing many users. Each time I cycled the length of it I saw only a handful of other cyclists (although that did include a man cycling with a child on a seat behind him – not something one would have expected on the Euston Road of the past).


Though I hesitate to mention this because it feeds into the car lobby’s agenda, it was also striking that the westbound traffic – the side of the road which had lost a lane to bikes – was significantly more congested than the eastbound. If the lane is extended, it could, counterintuitively, help, by removing the unexpected pinch points at which three lanes of cars suddenly have to squeeze into two.

There’s a distinctly unfinished air to the project – though, to be fair, it’s early days. The eastbound lane needs to be created from scratch; the westbound extended. At that point, it would hopefully be something TfL would be keen enough to talk about that cyclists start using it in greater numbers – and drivers get the message they should avoid the Euston Road.

The obvious explanation for why TfL is going to all this trouble is that TfL is in charge of the Euston Road, and so can do what it likes there. Building cycle lanes on side nearby roads means working with the boroughs, and that’s inevitably more difficult and time consuming.

But if the long-term plan is to push cyclists via side roads anyway, it’s questionable whether all this disruption is worth it. A segregated cycle lane that stops without warning and leaves you fighting for space with three lanes of buses, lorries, and cabs is a cycle lane that’s of no use at all.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.