How to suppress biking – Brief history from German

By international standards, the bike mode share in Germany is pretty good (*p3), but as a visitor to Germany it felt as though it has lower biking numbers than countries to its north  I believe this is partly caused by a history of over-enforcing rules on where people can and cannot bike. According to the description of the 1934 picture below, ‘the personal details of the “traffic offender” were taken as their bicycle was “driven in the middle of the lane rather than on the extreme right.” According to the Prussian traffic regulations, “cyclists should always drive individually and extremely right.” In the Nazi era, cyclists were seen as an obstacle to traffic that should be driven off the road. An attitude that is unfortunately still widespread’.

* National Cycling Plan 2020

Cyclist in the Chausseestraße, 1934. Photo: Bundesarchiv, picture 183-2004-0512-502

Volker Briese explains the rules in his degree dissertation: Separating bicycle traffic: Towards a history of bikeways in Germany to 1940. This is from pages 11 to 12; please read the full text for context.

‘The new traffic laws in 1934, first in Prussia and then throughout the Third Reich, were announced under the heading “Traffic discipline for all” … New policing regulations for street traffic went into effect on April 1 of that year in Prussia. The mandatory bikeway rule for “bicycle paths” [Fahrradwege] (no longer cycleways [Radfahrwege]) is in: “The parts of the street specially designated for cycling (Fahrradwege) are to be used, if of single width, in one direction and if of double width, in both directions. Otherwise, the roadway must be used.” What is single width is not stated in the regulations themselves. The guideline from STUFA in 1927 was for a minimum of 1m, however the suggested minimum width for two-way cycleway was 1.5m, while the Prussian regulations indicate a double width … In 1938, the #1 “important rule of conduct” is “cyclists must as a matter of principle use cycle-ways.” … This intensive propaganda for the mandatory bikeway law, only in 1934 and later, suggests that cyclists often were dissatisfied with the narrow side paths with cheap and deteriorating surfaces, which had been installed along well-constructed streets, and instead would rather use the roadway. In particular, the legal prohibition on overtaking, and the narrowness of the side paths which made overtaking impossible, or possible only by breaking other laws, often led to conflicts with the police.’

The above Vimeo clip shows that some German people still feel that over-enforcement is suppressing biking. However in other Germany cities (see p. 40^) bike numbers are equal to Dutch cities, and most German cities have many very good examples of biking paths and shared spaces. But this post is about suppressing biking and the photo below is an example we in Hamilton will be familiar with. In Duisburg they just gave up on extending the bike route. Not only that; they could not manage to police ‘feral’ car parking, even though the Parking signage shows over 6oo off-street car parks are available.

^ Making Urban Transport Sustainable: Insights from Germany by Ralph Buehler, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, VA 

For more comment on Germany, the US blog site by Jan Heine provides some photos and thoughts about what he thinks German cyclists want.

Lastly the ‘10 aims’ of Berlin bikers can be found here (Volks-entscheid fahrrad) – because ‘Berlin is turning!’

End note: from ExBerliner – cycling in Berlin: Part 1

Berlin traffic fines: Riding without hands is €5, faulty brakes or bell €15, riding on the pavement €15-30, using a mobile phone €25, running a red light €60-180 (under €120 if the light was red for less than a second), going across a train line when the barrier is closed €350 or death, whatever comes first. The cops can also fine you multiple times (we’ve heard up to €200!) if you run through a street with a double red light, or multiple red lights in a row.

Category: News

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *