War declared on German cyclists

2011-10-21 08:02

BERLIN, Germany - Germany might still be known for its high-speed autobahns but bicycles are now so popular in its cities that a war of words has broken out between drivers and cyclists over who rules the road.

More than 500 000 of Berlin's 3.5-million inhabitants mount a bicycle each day to move about the city, twice as many as a decade ago, and they make 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' - four-wheelers riden by a dozen or so people who drink beer while cycling around the city - are also a common sight in the German capital.

Tahmaures, a 58-year-old taxi driver, fumed: "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."

Germany conjures up images of a nation of car lovers but its transport ministry believes "there has been a renaissance of the bicycle since the beginning of the 1990's" and is concerned about the high number of accidents in which they are involved.

One in three urban accidents involved a bicycle in 2010 and the rate was one in four for fatal accidents, according to the German Statistics Institute.

Berlin bicycles pedestrians guard dog

BIKE GUARD: An obedient terrier stands guard over its owner's bicycle outside a grocery show in Berlin.

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

In 2011 the German federal state devoted 86 million euros (118 million dollars) to cycling infrastructure. Critics, however, complain that cyclists tend to run red traffic lights, cycle the wrong way on 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," Roland Huhn, of the German cyclists' association, said for his part.

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 "Book For Those Who Hate Bikes"; the respected Der Spiegel weekly has devoted its front page to conflicts caused by the rise of the bike.


In Freiburg, a south-western German city that prides itself on its strong ecological achievements, a third of all movement around the city is done by bicycle which authorities have promoted since the 1970's. A giant car park near the train station has places for 1000 bicycles.

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

Stefan Lieb, spokesman of the pedestrians' association Fuss, said: "Relations between pedestrians and cyclists have rather deteriorated recently."

It was, he said, mainly because bike use had grown so much.

Some German towns and cities, including Berlin and Munich, have imposed a vehicle speed limit of 30km/h in certain areas or turned over certain streets purely for bicycles.


  • naolifant - 2011-10-21 15:05

    BMW drivers jealous of BMX riders

  • Plett - 2011-10-21 21:32

    The rude behaviour by cyclists is definitely not unique to Germany. I refer specifically to cyclists who practice it as a sport, not to commuters on bicycles. In my experience cyclists are by far the most arrogant and rude of any of the sports codes. They have absolutely no consideration for other road users - almost on a par with taxi drivers.

  • Trevor - 2011-10-21 22:00

    What, I enjoy watching the spandex tiffies...jumping stop streets, traffic lights, weaving, riding abreast taking up an entire lane when they think they doing Tour de France, most common before races and in PE, Triathlons....then, they get taken out by a truck or car...really good sports...especially when they lie their whining like babies and body parts beint into positions that make even me cringe....it's very easy, who's going to win, a 2ton car or Mr Spandex on his 21speed???? Laws of physics cannot be explained away...steel meets flesh..flesh meets tar...flesh is removed... so to all you Spandex boys/girls out there, can the attitude/whining and obey the rules of the road or, you'll have a good chance of becoming road kill...that is life..

      Plett - 2011-10-22 09:09

      LOL "spandex tiffies"!!! You should see them on the N2 when they have the Knysna Oyster Fest race. They ride 4 abreast like they own the road and then they want to give you the bird when you get irate???!!! I work for a living you plank! I need to get to my customers while you prance around in Spandex, blocking the road! Now, I hoot once, politely, then a second long one, then if I'm not heeded, a "gentle nudge" with the bullbar. Never fails. Arrogant gits!

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