Traffic Rules in Germany

February 25, 2016
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Tractor with mower on bike pathIn Europe, everybody rides or has ridden bikes and drivers are tolerant of the challenges all bike riders have. Here are a few guidelines. This page contains is my best attempt to provide accurate information about bicycle laws in Germany.

Since 2011, there is a law that would find the cyclist responsible if that cyclists causes an accident by not obeying traffic laws. Cyclists can be found guilty of causing an accident, thereafter, made to pay damages.

Reading the local newspaper in 2015, we found articles that highlighted a move to enforce existing laws to which little police attention had been previously paid. For example, wearing earphones will cost you 10€, riding through a red light, 45€, riding through a red light that has been red for longer than one second, 100€. Other common infractions each with its separate fine include an adult riding on the sidewalk signed only as a pedestrian walk,

The following is extracted using Google Translations from the actual bicycle laws of Germany. I am not a fluent speaker of German so there may be a mistranslation or simply misinformation. Therefore, Tim and Maxa Burleigh and BicycleGermany LLC have to disclaim the accuracy of the information on this page.

have been asked for a source of the translations. While they came from several websites, most of the information came from , which is a listing of the “Street Traffic Restriction Rules” (StVZO). You can see section headings in German, of course. You can paste them into Google Translate or similar translators if you German is a rusty as mine.

Arterial, Haupt Strasse, or Schnell StrasseThe translation is in conversational style not legalese. It is a little easier to read and understand. Any humor below is mine and certainly not a part of German laws. Ever know a funny lawyer? If I deviate from translating the law, I will try to use [brackets like these.]

First of all regardless of whether you are riding a bicycle or driving, you must obey all traffic laws when you are on a street or road. [That probably is no surprise to any adult but might not be understood by kids.]

One of the guiding principles of traffic behavior is the Trust Principle; That is to say that drivers (of cars, bicycles, and other motorized vehicles) trust the behavior of other drivers and cyclists. The only exception to this basic rule is that bikes ridden by impaired people or motorized wheelchairs, etc. driven by impaired people.

Riding side by side is forbidden on streets and roads. You must ride single file; even in bicycle lanes marked out on the streets. [The good news is that on a cycle path that is not part of a road (such as one separated from a road by a concrete barrier or completely independent from a road or a sidewalk) one can ride side by side.]

Stop signAll cycle paths are at least separated from a road by a concrete retaining wall (Jersey barrier), a grass strip. A cycle path separated by a painted line is part of a road and is not a separate cycle path that allows side by side riding. Cycle paths also include those delineated on sidewalks where a curb separates the sidewalk path from the road or street.

Some field cycle paths through farming country (Feldwege), one occasionally sees a car but more often you see tractors and farm equipment. The tractors have the right of way and they typically take up the whole path. Cyclists should stop and get off the path.

You must give a hand signal for all turns. (, one signals a right turn by bending the left arm at the elbow and raising the forearm as if to point over your head. .) Europeans point left with their left arm and point right with their right arm. The signal for stopping is one arm extended and the forearm pointing down - at least this is just like American traditions. For the stop signal, it is best to use the arm most likely to be seen by the traffic you want to know that you intend to stop. And be careful when you choose to use the arm on the side that controls the rear wheel brake.

Share the pathUnless you are on a major through street with the yellow diamond, (see photograph) marking the way, you must yield to vehicles and cycles from the right. This is especially true on residential streets where arterials streets are rare. Another sign, shown below with a fat arrow in the direction of travel and two lines intersecting the fat arrow from the sides means that in this intersection only, you have the right-of-way.

If you are coming from a sidewalk, parking lot, driveway, or the like, you must yield to all traffic on the roadway. Those cars and other traffic are bigger than you and you if you try to bluff them out it will be hazardous to your health and the condition of your bicycle.

[An ambulance with lights and horns is not there to pick you up after they have driven over you. They probably have a first to call, first to serve policy. They will keep going leaving you to pick yourself up.]

Normally, they cannot hear you coming unless you verbally announce yourself or ring your bell. Pedestrians in crosswalks (Zebrasteifen) always have the right of way even if they can see you. An intersection with only one painted crosswalk means that you may have to use that crosswalk. You may not cross wherever you want to. Also, if you walk your bicycle across, cars are required to stop for you and most cars do so. If you ride your bicycle across, you are no longer a pedestrian and laws relating to pedestrians no longer relate to you. If you cause an accident while riding a bicycle, you will be held responsible for damages.

If you are riding with traffic, turn out of the proper traffic turn lane. Again, you must obey automobile laws.

Bicycles are never allowed on the Autobahn. [Do not even think you can ride your bicycle on the Autobahn.]

Share the path sign
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