Car meets tram


My office is located very centrally in Düsseldorf. You can look out of the window to the Kö, the Champs-Elysees of Germany. It is also a on a busy road which trams, cars, pedestrians and cyclicts share. Well, in fact, as so often in Dizzel, the pedestrians and cyclicts fight for their lives and the trams and cars share the road – but not even that works. I’ve been working in that office for nine months this week and today was the seventh time a car and a tram crashed right in front of our house.

The first time, it was still alarming incident that had us run to the windows after the sound of squealing brakes paired with frantic trams bells ringing and the inevitable thunk! boom! bang!

During our seven observations of these accidents (we grew less agitated with time), we figured out that the problem must be that the tram comes from behind on a track that the cars cross when they turn left. Just that they are not allowed to turn left but for some reason that is not super clear to the drivers. The car always loses, the damage usually looks pretty bad. I know too little about cars to determine whether they can be fixed and how much that costs. The train can’t continue either for a while, blocking the track for any tram coming after. On a busy route, you imagine the delays.

The entire street design of Düsseldorf has ever since been puzzling me. There are traffic lights every 300 metres (no exaggeration) and virtually no roundabouts. Bike lanes stop in the middle of a street. And places where accidents happen almost every month seem to not prompt the city to reconsider their traffic management. My only explaination is that no one ever gets seriously hurt during these frequent tram-car-crashes so it doesn’t seem urgent enough to the city council.

Meanwhile, we count our time at work not in months but in traffic accident numbers.

The second week’s observations Part One

My second week has passed and I still observe everything closely like a foreigner. This is the first part of this week’s observations:

1. The students are rich

Because I find my housing situation desolate, I decided to look at the subtenant market. My case is tricky because I only need a furnished place for some months as I am planning to fully relocate next year. It is the same time that students are away when they go for their exchange winter semester. That’s great, I thought, and looked at three students’ apartments. I am seriously stunned at the size and prize of these apartments. When I was a student, we also paid a rent of 600 euros – for three people. Not for one person that lives on 60 square metres. How do they even afford it? I must suppose that Düsseldorf students are very rich. At least that’s what I thought when I was told, “You know, I don’t have rent out while I am in London, I just think it’s a nice gesture”. Of course.

2. Cycling is ridiculously dangerous

I mentioned the lethal lights before. As I expanded my radius by some kilometres, I only found more dangerous things about cycling in this city. For example the bike lanes that just stop in the middle of the street. Literally. I wanted to take photo evidence but I was too scared I would be run over in the process so you will just have to trust me. All bike lanes are completely randomly arranged, going on the car street, then to the sidewalk for 15 metres to then return to the car’s space to then end in the middle of everything. (Emily, you would be appalled.)


Meanwhile, cars preferably stop on the bike lanes to deliver goods or drop people off. I have never seen so many cars blocking the bikes lanes as in this city, it is truly amazing. And it shows the Green Party has not been in government long enough.

Still, I adhere stubbornly to my bike resolution and I keep telling myself if my ex-co-worker Sarah can get through all of Hamburg by bike, I should manage with a town considerably smaller. I may not be known for bravery but cycling in this city is a brave act.

3. There are churches everywhere and still, I have no orientation

There is an overwhelmingly lot of churches in this town. Churches by the river, churches sandwiched between two regular houses, churches flying lots of flags. Plus several centers for the young Christians. Wikipedia lists 95 Catholic churches alone and I was too lazy to count the dozens of Protestant and free churches. Even though I realize I am now in a very Catholic region (making me totally ordinary after years of my exotic niche existence in the Protestant diaspora), I sincerely wonder if people go to all these many churches. Personally, I am still baffled with the multitude of fanes so that I cannot even decide where to go on Sunday.

St. Andreas [photo Wikimedia]

Usually, churches have an orienting effect on me in cities. “Ah, that’s St. Nikolai, so I am close to the inner city”, I would think in Hamburg. “If I just proceed after Klara church, I’ll be at the Central Station soon”, was my orientation in very early Stockholm days. “I have no idea where I am but I know for sure I live behind the Cathedral”, always led me home at any time in Uppsala. In Düsseldorf now, it’s more like “This is the 12th church I have passed and I still don’t get how I got here”. Yes, orientation days are still continuing…

Tomorrow, I’ll get back to you with some more peculiarities concering the not-so-happy people, a shocking grocery revelation and a topographic adjustment.