Without gasoline to Berlin – Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin (OKNB) is the motto for many people in August, when they set off from all of Germany’s federal states in the direction of Berlin with their demands for a climate-friendly world.
The protest, organized by Students for Future, will first take cyclists to Leipzig for the Climate Justice Festival. From August 26 to 28, like-minded people can get active there in workshops, action trainings and lectures. Afterwards, they will cycle on to Berlin together.
Beforehand, I, Marie, met with OKNB rider Katharina. In addition to the core topics of mobility transition, agricultural transition and energy transition, the protest tour for climate protection is also about being there for each other and with each other. A beautiful thought! That’s why I’m especially pleased that you can now read the conversation between Katharina and me here. Enjoy it!
In conversation With Katharina Rothensee: "Riding a bicycle is freedom".
Katharina Rothensee (she / her) lives in Göttingen.
As a transgender, queer woman, cycling for her is much more than the everyday means of transportation from A to B: cycling means freedom, healing, but also pushing boundaries. Since Katharina got rid of her car in 2018, cycling has been her mode of transport of choice. When her major disability prevents her from making progress on her Diamant trekking bike, Katharina uses her recumbent bike. This is also how she was able to join “Ohne Kerosin to Berlin” for the first time in 2021; because making others aware of how threatening climate change is is of special concern to her!
Marie: Hi Katharina, glad you are here, welcome. How did you get into cycling?
Katharina: I am 47 years old and spent my childhood in Magdeburg, so in the GDR. After the fall of the Wall, I went straight to Sweden by bike. Then for a long time I focused on my job and my family, and the bike took a back seat for a while.
In 2019 I did my first bikepacking tour. 2020 I rode the Grenzsteintrophy and 2021 the first time from Hameln “Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin”, last year on my recumbent bike. I am severely disabled and could not manage the distance last year riding upright. This year I’m going with my Diamant trekking bike from Cologne.
Now I am also looking for more community. We had the first FLINTA bicycle workshop in Göttingen and I initiated a FLINTA cycling group. This is still very slow, but I am optimistic that it will progress through more get-to-know-evenings and the self-help workshop.
M: How did you come up with the idea of joining “Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin”?
K: This was actually a random finding on Instagram last year. I really thought it was a cool idea. Then I considered that I’d just go along for the ride. Since I had more back problems last year, I had to ride the recumbent. I found it incredibly enriching – the community, the acceptance that I experienced there. This year I decided that I would ride again. What’s new this year is that I’m even part of the organizing crew for the first time.
M: Are there different city managers on the organizing team? How exactly do you coordinate this?
K: Exactly, I was not in the big orga. I was specifically involved in planning the western route. It starts in Cologne and goes to Berlin. My main task was to plan the section around Göttingen. That concerns on the one hand sleeping places, but also the supply: We try to get food as much as possible via foodsharing, so that it is affordable for all people and we don’t have to buy too much food in addition. This way, people who have little or no financial means can also travel with us.
The third thing was the activities that were planned for Göttingen. The schedule is quite colorful: There, for example, we have a lecture on climate change but also thematically on civil disobedience. Then there is a lecture on relationship models and justice in relationship, but also screen printing and of course a rally.
During the trip, I’m part of the awareness team and I’m sure I’ll also be in charge of the supply vehicle, which picks up the food from the food sharing stations, for example.
M: Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin is, after all, a political event – would you say it’s a low-threshold event?
K: Absolutely! It’s mainly students who go, but also all other age groups. For example, also pensioners, I am also retired.
It’s definitely low-threshold and political in the sense that this year we’re focusing on the transformation of transportation, agriculture and energy.
In Berlin, we approach the three responsible ministries one after the other with our demands.
M: What will the rough schedule be like from Leipzig?
K: On August 26, we will initially arrive in Leipzig. That’s where the Climate Justice Festival starts: on August 27 there will be workshops, action trainings and of course music. On the 29. of August, all those who met in Leipzig will leave together for Berlin. In Berlin, we also plan to ride on the highway.
We had actually planned that for Thuringia as well, for example to avoid meters of altitude, but that was not authorized, unfortunately.
M: Do you have the feeling that the politicians and the population respond favorably to this action, even if you cycle through the different villages and towns?
K: This varies widely. Sometimes the climate activists are grateful to have our backing. But at the same time, you have people in cars berating us for going to work and not holding up traffic. So it’s a complete spectrum. From encouragement to headwind.
M: Do you have police escorts all the time as a demonstration or only sporadically?
K: The entire route is declared as a demonstration. That means we have police escort the whole time.
When we cycled from Lower Saxony to Saxony-Anhalt last year, the police believed that we were just a bicycle tour, so they didn’t give us an escort. The day was a disaster. Cycling with 60 people over rural and federal roads without police protection….
Then we talked to our lawyers and the next day we were completely accompanied by the police again. That was such an exceptional day – we hope that it won’t happen again this year!
M: You just said there were about 60 people last year, will that be the case again this year?
K: We notice that last year the federal election and therefore the topic was more present. This year we have a little less registrations than last year.
M: Do I have to register in advance or is it possible to spontaneously say, “I’ll meet you in Hamm and then ride with you all the way to Leipzig?”
K: For one person it is certainly possible. But we have sleeping places where we specify in advance how many people are coming. Currently this would be no problem, but a registration is still better for the planning. You can still register via Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin.
M: Last year you rode a recumbent bike – you are severely disabled and it was the best solution for your back. This year you dare to ride a … (interjection from Katharina: “official term from the recumbent community is upright bike) … so you dare to ride an upright bike?
K: Exactly. Actually, I had ordered a gravel bike in January, with delivery date in May. But it has not yet arrived, delivery date is now October. Therefore, I ride my good old Diamant trekking bike.
M: Amazing! So you also feel physically ready to ride the route?
K: Yes! Admittedly, I also had Covid and notice that ascents are more difficult for me. Nevertheless, I am confident that I will manage to complete everything – even though this year we have twice as many meters in altitude as last year. The stages are shorter so that we still have energy for activities and workshops in the evening or afternoon.
M: What are your final words about Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin; what are you looking forward to the most?
K: I’m most excited about the people joining the ride. It’s a bubble, and the return to reality will be tough again (laughs). But it’s just nice to be on the road for three weeks with like-minded people.
And for me personally: to have a safe space where I can just be myself. For example, we don’t have sanitary facilities at every location. But even if I can’t shave for two days, people still don’t say, “You’re not a woman at all,” but it’s totally different in that circle.
Apart from that, of course, I hope that our messages are well received and that we talk to a lot of people, reach a lot of people at the stopovers.
The climate crisis also has a lot to do with justice in this world. It is important to me to make clear that the world must become more equitable!
M: Thank you for the lovely conversation. I wish you a good arrival!
K: Thank you very much, see you soon!
The bicycle protest tour ” Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin” (Without gasoline to Berlin) currently follows various demo routes throughout Germany towards Leipzig.
There, the Climate Justice Festival will take place from August 26 to August 28, 2022.
Afterwards, they will continue together: Ohne Kerosin nach Berlin (Without fuel to Berlin)!