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Bike revolution sparks clash with motorists

The Local · 21 Oct 2011, 10:16

Published: 21 Oct 2011 10:16 GMT+02:00

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In Berlin, more than 500,000 of the 3.5 million inhabitants daily bike around the city – twice as many as a decade ago – making the most of an extensive network of cycle paths.

On Unter den Linden, the capital's celebrated, tree-lined central boulevard, cyclists zoom up and down between the pedestrians and hordes of tourists admiring the Brandenburg Gate. 'Beer bikes' pedalled simultaneously by a dozen or so people who drink beer while cycling around the city are also a common sight in the German capital.

"There is a real problem with the cyclists who do not respect the rules, who zigzag and ride any old way. They are becoming less and less civilised," Tahmaures, a 58-year-old taxi driver, fumed.

Germany traditionally conjures up images of a nation of car lovers, but the Transport Ministry said there had been "a renaissance of the bicycle since the beginning of the 90s". And it is concerned about the high number of accidents suffered by cyclists.

One in three accidents in towns involved bicycles last year, and the rate was one in four for fatal accidents, according to the German Statistics Institute.

"Infrastructure for traffic is no longer suitable. The growing number of cyclists requires a new concept for urban organisation," said Claudia Nolte, spokeswoman for the German Automobile Club for the Berlin-Brandenburg region.

In 2011, the German federal state devoted €86 million ($118 million) to cycling infrastructure.

Critics, however, complain that cyclists tend to run red traffic lights, cycle the wrong way up one-way streets and take up too much of the pavement without regard for pedestrians.

"Aggressiveness is not solely the domain of bikes, there is also a lot of rudeness by drivers who do not pay attention to bikes," said Roland Huhn, of the German cyclists' association.

In a book published earlier in the year, author Annette Zoch criticised cyclists for hiding behind the excuse that their chosen mode of transport is environmentally-friendly.

"On a bicycle, man becomes a monster," Zoch said in her ironically written "Book For Those Who Hate Bikes", while the weekly magazine Der Spiegel has devoted its front page to conflicts caused by the rise of the bike.

In Freiburg, the southwestern German city which prides itself on its strong ecological achievements, a third of all movement around the city is done by bicycle, a trend promoted by authorities since the 1970s.

A giant car park near the train station can even host 1,000 bicycles.

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Some of the city centre's narrow streets, though, have become so blocked by bikes, pedestrians can hardly get through, and a ban on the parking of bicycles has been imposed in some places.

"Relations between pedestrians and cyclists have rather deteriorated,” Stefan Lieb, spokesman of the pedestrians' association Fuss e.V., said, mainly because bike use had grown so much.

Some German towns and cities, including Berlin and Munich, have imposed speed limits of 30 kilometres an hour (18.6 miles an hour) in certain areas or turned over certain streets for sole bike use.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:23 October 21, 2011 by Simon_Kellett
Whilst I do not condone cyclists breaking the law motorists should first set their own house in order. Every single day on my short cycle commute to work I see: car drivers on handies, speeding cars, cars driving though junctions on red, cars cutting across my clearly white-lined and red painted cycle path. And I often get cut up by cars, buses and lorries.

And, dear The Local, no-one should "rule the road": they are there for us all to *share*, not to be dominated by one form of transport.

In addition if you make the roads safer the cyclists will leave the pavements (where you will never find me !) Also bear in mind that more pedestrians are killed on *pavements* by *cars* than cyclists :-(
11:39 October 21, 2011 by raandy
Yes there are inconsiderate people on cycles and driving autos. I think the use of cycles is excellent in that you benefit from the exercise and no hydro carbons.

The motorist pay the cost for the roads through the fuel tax, unlike the cyclist, however.
11:52 October 21, 2011 by roy.emmerich
Read this,


follow the rules laid out and all should be cool!
12:05 October 21, 2011 by taiwanluthiers
If you think it's bad in Berlin... wait til you come to Asia. Roads are half as wide and there are at least 4x as much vehicles.
12:19 October 21, 2011 by moshe rosen
You may notice that people involved in healthcare (example, emergency room workers, etc.) that the vast majority wear bike helmets, why? Maybe they have seen firsthand the horrible things that result from a brain injury. It's not pretty. Perhaps many of these workers also know that the sides of the head (temperol and parital bones) are about thick like an eggshell. It doesn't take much to crack them, just a concrete curb and it's all one needs.

It is a matter of odds. Yes, seatbelts are a pain but we get used to them because we know. Same thing with the helmets, one gets used to it and it becomes second nature.

No matter how safe a rider one may be, there are still many knuckleheads in Berlin that ride their bikes in a unsafe manner, so, is it worth the odds to you?

p.s. please also be aware! The material used in all these bike helmets is pretty much the same. Styles are different but the inside is made of a plastic foam that only lasts a couple of years.! After this time, the foarm loses it's character and becomes very hard and brittle, taking away it's head saving protection.

Replace your helmet every two years. The 10 Euro helmet I buy at Bauhaus is pretty much the same as the fancy ones that sell for 100 Euro and up.

So it up to you, do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you? (Dirty Harry)

Moshe in Berlin
13:15 October 21, 2011 by Shiny Flu
Something needs to be done in Berlin. Klaus and his SPD/CDU cohorts are only interested in improving infrastructure that involves extending an autobahn 1.5km.

1) Improve existing cycle lanes - wider to allow passing, signage/markings & surface (get rid of pavers). Take Schoenhauser allee for example.

1b) Expand network and/or designate certain cycling paths as 'highways' logically linking Bezirke and central areas of the city. Then appropriately make them efficient for moving large numbers of commuters.

2) PS campaign regarding all street users (pedestrians, cyclists, drivers) focusing on road rules, consequences and really about sharing the street/road.
13:19 October 21, 2011 by Simon_Kellett
> The motorist pay the cost for the roads through the fuel tax, unlike the cyclist, however.

I not know how it works Germany, but in the UK, AFAIK, local roads are paid for by the Local Council. They get their money from local taxation and from central government. I pay income tax, sales tax, savings tax etc, and that all helps pay for the roads.

(But bear in mind that most road *damage* is done by HGVs.)
13:24 October 21, 2011 by zeddriver
I for one have grown weary of the wannabe professional riders that think they own the road. Just because they own multi thousand € race bikes and dress like Lance Armstrong. I have had very few problems with the comfort style city bike riders.

Consider this. What were the motorways built for? Bicycles! I think not. As such they are guests on the road. Not owners of them. If bicyclists want roads that they own. Start paying heavy taxes and vehicle registration fees and lobby the government to build cyclist only roads. If you want motorways to ride on without autos. Then start racing in events that close the roads. Otherwise stop riding like idiots!
14:07 October 21, 2011 by claudius
Bicycles are not allowed on motorways, dimwit. Roads are for everyone.

14:44 October 21, 2011 by frankiep
Have to agree with zeddriver

Every day on my drive home from work I am confronted with having to maneuver around these cycling dimwits who ride practically right in the middle of the road and hold up traffic.

Is it really too much to ask for these people to move over to the side of the road so that those of us in cars don't have to drift over to the oncoming traffic lane in order to pass them?

I have nothing wrong with cyclists per se, but I would very much like to know why so many people think that putting on some spandex and a helmet automatically means that they are Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France.
15:14 October 21, 2011 by catjones
The original purpose of all current roads was for use by the auto. Bikes were never considered and because of that, retrofitting them in will forever be a problem for both and the bickering will continue Ad nauseam.
15:17 October 21, 2011 by claudius
Cyclists who ride in the middle of the road are as frequent as bad drivers who push too close. The real difference is that the latter are more likely to cause injury and death to others.

I have nothing against with driver per se, but I would very much like to know why so many people think that putting a couple of tonnes of steel under their flaccid arses automatically means that they own the road.
15:34 October 21, 2011 by zeddriver

You notice I didn't say autobahn. We are in Germany after all. But I suppose you were trying to be pedantic as you didn't have anything of import to say.

Just for you Lance. 'Motorway' was used in a generic manner to describe a paved path used for motorized conveyance in relation to the subject of the article. Now go put your finger in a chain wheel and start cranking.
15:53 October 21, 2011 by LancashireLad
There isn't any one group of people to blame be it motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. Until people get past the "me first; out of my way" approach to life, nothing will change.
16:25 October 21, 2011 by raandy
Simon_Kellett ,a cut and paste for ya .

A fuel tax (also known as a petrol, gasoline or gas tax, or as a fuel duty) is an excise tax imposed on the sale of fuel. In **most countries** the fuel tax is imposed on fuels which are intended for*** transportation.*** Fuels used to power agricultural vehicles, and/or home heating oil which is similar to diesel are taxed at a different, usually lower, rate.
16:30 October 21, 2011 by berfel
Maybe The Local should investigate a little by asking the Berlin Police for the statistics on hit-and-run incidents with regard to road user type. And the number of "accidents" between various road user classes.

Start here: www.berlin.de/polizei/verkehr/statistik.html

One pertinent document (Verkehrsunfälle mit Radfahrern - 2010) states:

"Die Betrachtung der Unfallverursacher... ergab ein bemerkenswertes Ergebnis: 49,79% aller Verursacher waren Radfahrer (3.435 insgesamt, 2.852 als Hauptverursacher (HV), 583 als Mitverursacher (MV) )."

In brief; bicyclists made up nearly half of those causing accidents.
16:42 October 21, 2011 by Englishted
@moshe rosen

"You may notice that people involved in healthcare (example, emergency room workers, etc.) that the vast majority wear bike helmets"

True but I also notice how many smoke?
16:54 October 21, 2011 by zeddriver

The problem is that the 'roads' were never designed to support bicyclists and motorized vehicles at the same time. In fact. Long distance and recreational bicycle riding out side of cities is a recent phenomenon. In the past most bicycles were used by folk who could not afford a car. And the vast majority were used in town. So it was rare to see a bike on a narrow country road.

In the US most roads have a shoulder area so that autos in trouble have a safe area to park. This is where bikes are ridden. In Germany a shoulder area on a road is a totally alien concept.

The fact is. Bicycles should not be allowed on roads that do not have a shoulder to allow the bicyclist to stay out of the path of autos. The road to the village that I live in is very very curvy. The speed limit is 70KPH. I have had the misfortune to come out of a curve only to meet Mr. Armstrong doing 30KPH 1-1.5 meters from the right side of the road. It's dangerous to swerve to the left for fear of meeting an oncoming auto. So you have to aggressively hit the brakes to avoid hitting them. All because they want to ride recreationally on a road made for cars.
20:06 October 21, 2011 by DinhoPilot
Add motorcycle, lorries, taxi drivers and we have a nice mixed up.

I don't see why bicycles shouldn't be allowed to ride wherever possible in the city. A bicycle will average 20km/h and a good and road rules respecting driver will have time to see avoid.

Most car drivers in the road are wreckless, talking on mobile phone, cutting traffic, doing dangerous overtakes, excessive speed for the conditions and road (turns, roundabouts, etc...). I would be more interested in banning some drivers than any mambo jambo that has to do with bycicles.

I ride a bycicle, ride a motorcycle and drive a car and say limit cars in city. With so many traffic signs as in Germany it realistic takes the same time to do a short commute with bike than with car. But I do agree motorcycle, pedestrians or other very slow vehicles (oma wagen), should be banned of going in roads where cars can travel 50+ km/h
06:54 October 22, 2011 by dinerouk
As currently a pedestrian only, in the UK a war has been in progress for some years. As a cyclist for over 50 years until last year, I found that both cyclists and motorists road manners had deteriorated so much that I felt no longer safe. I appreciated the wide pavements in the Bavarian town where I once lived, that encouraged cyclists to use them. Built up areas in the centre excepted. There is however far more provision for cyclists on the Continent as a whole than in the UK.
08:38 October 22, 2011 by frankiep

I know you think your response was cute and witty, but it doesn't change the fact that most roads in Europe were built specifically for cars and only cars. Now here you come along on your bicycle on a high traffic, two lane road with a lot of hills and curves - and we are all supposed to brake hard, swerve to get around you, and hope that by doing so that we don't get hit ourselves. And if traffic is too heavy to pass, as it often is, we are then supposed to drive behind you at your blistering pace of 20 km/h which is exactly what everyone on the way home from work wants.
09:32 October 22, 2011 by hankeat
I wish we have more bicycle lanes in Berlin as in the Netherlands.
13:09 October 22, 2011 by DOZ
Same problem everywhere Humans exist. Comes down to who rules. Humans are such an ignorant species. If God created Man, like so many believe, why wasn't there a recall for faulty workmanship.
16:05 October 22, 2011 by snowey
Here in Frankfurt/Main the cyclist is unfortunately King. As a matter of course they ride through red lights & dominate the citys pavements. If you, as pedestrian, get in there way they swear at you. The police do nothing, albeit only chidren up to the age of 12 are legally allowed in Hessen to ride on the pavements. Cyclists should be banned from the city centre as they are a danger to themselves, drivers , children & the public.
16:56 October 22, 2011 by frankiep

Thank you!!

I have seen this all too often in Frankfurt and it is beyond annoying.

Cyclists would like everyone to believe that the roads are for them just as much as they are for cars, yet when it comes to following the rules of the road they usually feel completely free to do whatever the hell they want.

Maybe I could start taking something as ridiculous as 'cyclists rights' more seriously if they were actually held accountable for their own actions while in traffic.
00:13 October 23, 2011 by Dizz
Forget coming in to conflict with drivers, I'm a pedestrian and I HATE Berlin cyclists with passion! :P

They cut you up on the sidewalk even if there are bike lanes, they lock their bikes like dogs pee (against anything they find and no matter what they are obstructing), they prefer riding over soft little kids or elderly people rather than on cobbles in the street however they get all outraged if you step smartly across one of their bike lanes while they are still 50 meters away. They don't dismount in pedestrian zones and they crowd everybody at pedestrian crossings, instead of crossing in the road with the traffic. Arrgh!!
07:01 October 23, 2011 by WAKeele
I'm starting to wondering which breeds more hatred: religious vs. non-religious or motorists vs. cyclists?
12:03 October 23, 2011 by Carlos Hausner
snowey #24, frankiep #25

Spot on!
13:18 October 23, 2011 by michelbisson
While I consider that bikers should follows the rules on the roads, the lack of exclusive bike trails along the streets worsens greatly this situation. On streets where there are no bike trails forces bikers to squeeze themselves between parked cars on the right, running the risk that anyone of them might open their doors at any time and the running traffic of cars on the left which you can't see coming. Put against this situation where the cyclist is also often seen as a nuisance on the road as much from the pedestrians as from the motorists I'm not surprised that some cyclist ride quite aggressively.

I do not ride in the city any more exactly because of this, the stress and risks are not worth it. I do wish more streets would have bike trails that do not end suddenly in the car traffic.
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