BICYCLE BOULEVARDS AND OTHER REGULATIONS IN GERMANY
In accordance with the German Road Traffic Act (StVO), the building of “bicycle boulevards” – roads on which bicycles have right of way – has been permitted in Germany since October 1, 1997. Vehicles other than cyclists are only permitted to use these roads if this is indicated by an additional sign. A speed limit of 30 km/h applies to all vehicles on these roads – including cyclists. In some cases, motorists are required to reduce their speed even further. Cyclists are permitted to ride side by side.
However, one problem with such roads is that car drivers often show a general lack of acceptance for cyclists on them. In addition to this, drivers often cyclists on them. In addition to this, drivers often fail to observe the speed limit on bicycle boulevards because there are no signs explicitly stating it. It is also common for cyclists to be permitted to ride both ways on one-way streets in town and city centers. However, this can represent a potential accident risk for motorists and cyclists alike, as many driversare not familiar with the associated signs, or simply do not notice the small additional sign that indicates this rule. Likewise, pedestrians crossing such streets may not always be on the lookout for quiet vehicles coming from the “wrong” direction. Recurring markings on the surface of the road itself can help with this problem. Additional conflicts are especially inevitable in situations where road users do not observe the requirement to drive on the right – even on oneway streets – and reduce their speed. Nevertheless, the option of making suitable one-way streets available for bicycle traffic to use in both directions should be welcomed, as it plays a significant role in making cycling more attractive. The more one-way streets that are opened up to cyclists in this way, the more normal – and thus safer – this situation will become.
In Germany, the amendment to the Road Traffic Act that came into effect in April 2020 passed a number of new regulations, including some specifically designed to promote bicycle use. For example, motor vehicles overtaking bicycles are now required to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 meters in built-up areas and two meters in non-built-up areas. A general no stopping restriction also now applies to designated bicycle lanes. Under the amendment, authorities are now also permitted to introduce separate bicycle zones and green arrow signs that apply exclusively to cyclists. Furthermore, two cyclists are now permitted to ride alongside one another providing they do not obstruct other road users by doing so, and cyclists aged 16 and over are permitted to carry passengers providing their bicycles are designed to do so and equipped accordingly. A new road sign that bans the overtaking of two-wheeled vehicles has also been introduced; this is designed especially for use on narrow stretches of road. In addition to this, motor vehicles weighing 3.5 metric tons or more must now reduce their speed to walking speed when turning right.
Speaking of turning right: The high potential for conflict between trucks and cyclists here is due in part to the fact that both types of road user are often traveling at very similar speeds in this situation. This means that if a cyclist is in an area next to the truck where the driver cannot see them easily – or at all – they will remain in this area for an extended period of time. This is one of the main reasons why it can be diffcult or impossible for truck drivers to spot cyclists when turning right. We have already discussed this in the section of this report on accident statistics. The requirement for trucks to maintain walking speed when turning right may very well reduce the number of such conflicts that occur. However, DEKRA believes that there is a risk that this measure will put pedestrians at risk instead, as they are more likely to end up in the critical area of this type of vehicle if it is traveling at walking speed.