Part 2 – How to behave in real German traffic?
WIESBADEN, GERMANY – During National Bike Month, cycling enthusiasts celebrate the many benefits of cycling. Riding a bike is one of the best ways to get exercise, see the sights and reduce your carbon footprint. However, bicyclists face a host of hazards. They often must share the road with vehicles and injuries can happen even on designated paths. Even though in Germany, wearing a helmet off post is not mandatory, every bicyclist should wear a helmet regardless and finding a proper fit ensures the helmet best protects you.
But before you get started, remember you must obey both U.S. Army traffic regulations on base and German traffic laws out in town. Your bicycle must be street legal and is considered a vehicle when riding in traffic. The safety equipment requirements also apply to both U.S. and German riders.
(Small) children's bicycles are exempt from these regulations, as children up to the age of eight must ride on the sidewalk and do not participate directly in road traffic. Children up to age 10 may ride on the sidewalk, and if accompanied by an adult, the adult is allowed to ride on the sidewalk with them.
All bicyclists will use bike lanes, sidewalks, or protective lanes, i.e. parts of the road marked for bicycle use when available. In Wiesbaden and other local communities, you will face all three types of roads during your bicycle ride. So, obviously as bike lanes are special paths for cyclists, other vehicles are not allowed to use them. The traffic area is separated from the roadway by a solid white line and marked with a sign. Cyclists must then use that designated bike lane. The protective lane is a traffic area for cyclists. It is marked on the roads on the right by a broken white guide line. Only if necessary, other vehicles are allowed to cross the guideline, for example, if they need to take evasive action at short notice and no cyclist is endangered.
All vehicles are generally allowed to use the roadway. Therefore, cyclists only have to use cycle paths if they are marked specifically by traffic signs. Bicyclists in Germany are allowed to ride side by side if it does not obstruct traffic.
Crossing a crosswalk
The right-of-way at a crosswalk with a crosswalk sign applies exclusively to pedestrians and wheelchair users. Therefore, a cyclist must dismount and push or roll his bike across the crosswalk if he wants to claim this right-of-way. If he cycles across the crosswalk, he must pay attention to crossing traffic on the roadway.
Sometimes cyclists are allowed to ride in the opposite direction in one-way streets as an exception if the prohibition of entry is supplemented by the additional sign "Radverkehr frei" (Strassenverkehrsordnung, Radverkehr frei Nr. 1022-10).
Read more about the individual traffic signs and their meaning here.
Am I allowed to lead a dog from a bicycle? Yes, but always take into account the animal's characteristics when leashing the dog and letting it run alongside the bicycle. Larger, fast-moving dogs may be led from bicycles, as long as this is compatible with the Animal Welfare Act.
At traffic lights with bicycle traffic guidance, cyclists are subject to their own or combined light signals or, where these are missing, to the light signals for vehicular traffic. As a cyclist, you may pass stationary vehicles carefully and slowly if there is enough space. Slow-moving vehicles may not be overtaken on the right. Riding on the sidewalk is not allowed, unless explicitly permitted by the additional sign "Bicycle traffic allowed" (Strassenverkehrsordnung, Radverkehr frei Nr. 1022-10). Then cyclists are allowed to ride at walking speed on the sidewalk or in the pedestrian zone.
When riding your bicycle on and off post, respect the host nation and military laws and be aware that you can receive fines and points from the German Polizei or the Military Police. The bottom line is to pay attention so you reach your destination safely.
Regulations for driver and vehicle requirements can be found in the Installation Traffic Code for U.S. Forces in Germany (AER 190-1) and Road Traffic Act (Strassenverkehrsordnung "StVO").
More bicycle related information is to find here: