The company that runs Berlin’s transport system, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe or “BVG,” has transported people for close to a century. For the company’s anniversary this year, BVG has teamed up with Adidas to create limited edition sneakers that bear the colors of the Berlin metro or U-Bahn. However, the sneakers come with a twist: Wearing the sneakers is the equivalent of carrying an annual U-Bahn pass.
For what is BVG’s 90th birthday, the transport company and Adidas worked together to release a pair of limited edition Adidas EQT Support 93/17 that evokes many of the U-Bahn’s characteristics and doubles as a metro pass. The sneakers’ pink and black camo color is akin to the train’s camo-colored seats as well as its laces, which are black and yellow – the colors of BVG’s logo. On the tongue of the sneakers is a fabric annual U-Bahn pass, which will grant sneaker owners the ability to ride the metro without having to purchase separate tickets.
Spanning over 10 lines, the U-Bahn carried close to 1.5 million riders on a daily basis in 2015. Like other transport systems across Europe, Berlin’s metro does not have turnstiles, unlike New York’s metro, for example. Instead, BVG relies on a subtle social contract with riders that ensures the purchase of metro tickets.
BVG “Controllers” patrol the metro cars in order to ensure passengers are carrying a valid metro ticket at all times. Although the metro sees a large ridership, the company also operates Berlin’s vast transport system that includes the city’s buses, metro, tramway, and ferries. Since zones A and B on Berlin’s metro cover the majority of the city, the sneakers grant passengers the ability to ride trains running within the zones. Starting January 31st, riders can flash their sneakers in lieu of the annual pass.
Although the sneakers appeal to both the average alternative Berliner and sneaker collectors alike, Adidas only plans on manufacturing 500 sneakers and selling them at the Adidas flagship store in Mitte and Overkill Shop in Kreuzberg. At the sneakers nifty price of EUR 180 ($216), those who are lucky enough to get their hands on a pair would have made quite the bargain, given that the price of an annual pass on the U-Bahn is currently ~EUR 730 ($877).
And while the idea seems appealing to many, passengers will need to wear the sneakers on a daily basis in order to cash in on their money’s worth. Alternatively, ensuring sneaker owners do not lend their friends and family the shoes to enjoy a free ride means one cannot carry around one shoe without the other. Since the disparity between the price of the sneakers and that of the annual pass on its own is significant, they could make sneaker owners vulnerable to theft.
With quite a limited stock, the shoes promise to be a hit with passengers and collectors once they roll out in Berlin on January 16th. It seems like a great idea to purchase the shoes at the beginning of the New Year to get the most out of them, but come January 2019, it is not clear whether sneaker owners will need to buy a new pair of BVG x Adidas sneakers – if they are still on sale at the time – or purchase a regular annual pass.