It’s that time of year. The shovels are being put away. The chains are oiled. The brakes are checked. And now with the sun coming out, the bike trails and streets are filling up with a pair of wheels, ridden by people with helmets; some of whom are towing trailers with children while others are carrying baskets full of food and other supplies.
It’s spring time, and with it, the season of cycling. And while biking is the best alternative to the car, like the car, German laws apply to bikers to ensure that both the cyclist and the others are safe. In Germany, there are strict guidelines pertaining to bike safety that apply. Those violating the laws are subject to fines and penalties. In serious cases, one can get a point from the German Department of Vehicle Registration in Flensburg (Kraftfahrtbundesamt- KbA) and possible a ban from driving (or in this case, biking).
To give you an idea of what to be aware of, here are some examples of guidelines to pay attention to:
- Thou must have proper lighting. What is meant by that is that you must have a functioning head light and tail light- operated by a battery or a dynamo (which activates the lighting as you pedal your bike). In addition, you must have reflectors (nicknamed in German as cat’s eyes) on your bike pedals, spokes, tire rim as well as your head- and tail lights. Some of these are integrated in the lighting already. All new bikes have these components installed already. However, for used bikes, they are a must. Penalty for having improper lighting, including those that don’t work is 20 Euros per part. That means if you have absolutely no lighting or reflectors on your bike, you could face up to 80 Euros! In other words, light it up and make it work for your bike. 😉
- Thou must have functioning brakes. Here, both the front and rear brakes must be present and in working condition. That is very obvious when you have to use them for unexpected circumstances. No brakes and you could break someone. No brakes and it’s 10 Euros per brake! So brake it in and have it ready for use. 🙂
- Thou must have a functioning bell or horn. Imagine you are biking and you encounter a person listening to music and not paying attention. Hollaring and screaming don’t help. But the bell does! The louder, the better and the safer both parties are. Without the bell, you could have 15 Euros sucked out of your wallet. That’s equivalent to 10 packages of Ricola cough drops, if you think about it. Save your voice and ring a bell, will ya? 😉
While the Danes are really good about alerting their bikers to pay attention, as you can see in this picture, sometimes we just need to learn common sense when it comes to where and how you bike. We all know that showing off and even overloading your bike can give you some problems- both with the bike as well as with the law. For instance:
4. Biking on a sidewalk (Bürgersteig) is definitely NOT allowed, unless you can prove that you are a child.
While some cyclists have tried imitating a seven-year old in front of a police officer, they were greeted with a pair of high-fives in cash- equivalent to 15 European clams. 😉 If you nearly cause an accident, it’s 20 and if it actually happens, it’s 35 Bucks plus a date with Judge Marilyn Milian from the People’s Court. And you can imagine how that would turn out, as you can see in the clip below:
So don’t do that.
5. Biking with no hands on the handlebar:
If you want to impress a girl, you might as well impress Mr. T, whose reaction will come down to “Gimme Five, fool!” Do you want to give the man in a police uniform a high-five? If so, I guess you won’t be having a date with that girl after all. 😉
6. Also not cool is biking through a traffic light when it is on red.
One has to remember, when you have red, then cross traffic does NOT stop for you- not even the moose, like in the film below:
Here is where the lovely Danes at the KbA will get you. If caught alone, it’s 60 Euros plus a point on your record. If you nearly cause an accident- meaning other drivers have to slam on their brakes and swear at you (YOU SON OF A B****!) it’s 100 and a point. Yet if you cause an accident, it’s 120 Euros, a point and you get to meet Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court- again. You can imagine what her reaction would look like:
And lastly, for the rules of the road, you should have all eyes on the road. They are antennas- they detect everything right away- some of which can even save your life. Ears are good for listening to anything coming your way. That means without the two, you’re bound to go down like the rest of the fools trying to break the rules. For instance:
7. We’re in Germany and we are to the Right.
To the right is both a literal phrase and also a figurative. Just ask Kim Darby whose character Maddy Ross used it in True Grit in 1969. To the right means when traveling down a street with marked bike lanes, you go with traffic- meaning on the right. To attempt to pull a Mr. Bean and bike on the left will result in a sequel to Planes, Trains and Automobiles (see the scene from the original below) plus 20 Euros to watch the sequel, produced by a police officer leacturing you about it, when it is done. 😉 Oh and by the way….. doing the same procedure while on a one- way street means an additional 15 to the 20 you owe them- 35 in total!
8. The No-Bike Zone.
Just as bad as biking the wrong way is biking in a pedestrian zone, or as I call it, The No Bike Zone. Guarded by the Klingons dressed in a police uniform, if you enter this zone, stop! Go back and find another way! Otherwise, you might want to learn a few words of Klingon, like the lady at the Volkshochschule in Vienna (Austria). You’ll need it to pay them 20 Euros for the fine.
9. E-biking is not cool!
We’ve seen a lot of E-bikes on the trails; but we’ve seen the other version of E-bikes, meaning people listening to music on their iPhones or biking while talking or even texting. If you think you can multi- task, remember these German words: “Es geht nicht!” If you bike and listen to music, it is 10 Euros, however, if you have your iPhone or Smartphone in your hand even, it is 55 Euros. Why? Because texting and biking can kill a friendship. Communication is key! Put the phone down!
10. Put the beer down!
While biking with a Radler (English is Shandy) is a common German culture associated with biking, too much shandy is not a good thing. Just like with drinking and driving, drinking and riding will cost you dearly. Pending on the severity and the number of related offenses, one will face at least 2 Flensburg Points, hundreds (or thousands) of Euros in fines, a ban from the road, a seminar on how to properly behave on the road, and finally, a lecture of a lifetime in court. And you can imagine how this would turn out:
If you follow these ten commandments, you will be able to govern the bike trails properly and enjoy a tour around the lake or in the city, pending on how you bike and where you go. Biking is a priviledge that reaps rewards when you are out there. However, as there are many people around, the world does not evolve around you as the biker, but the others as well. So when you follow the rules of the road, the world will be yours and you will have the best time cycling on Germany’s bike trails, be it on the bike motorway, in the city, in the country side or wherever you may go this spring and summer. So get out there and happy trails until we meet again. 🙂
2 thoughts on “The Dos and Don’ts of Biking in Germany”
One correction to the rule on lighting – you need to have reflectors either on your spokes or on the walls of your tyres but not both.