Berlin City Cycling Guide
  • SteveO March 2011
    Posts: 7

    I got to ride around Berlin one Sunday last year, managed to sneak out on a borrowed bike whilst visiting relatives.


    Definitely a great way to get around the city quickly, very differerent.


    Would like to know:


    1. If you're supposed to use the bike lanes if they're there? what's the legalities, what's socially acceptable? what if you consider yourself too fast to be riding on the bike-paths that run alongside footpaths?.....coming from London I naturally tend to ride on the road and ignore footpaths, however found myself using them in Berlin, they were good as long as you travelled at moderate speed and awareness amongst pedestrians was high....


    2. Is there anywhere to hire decent bikes, ...road or hybrid or even fixed, I will be visiting often, don't want the hassle of bringing my own bike, although I saw loads of bike hire places, they all seem to be fat tyre-step thru jobs.


    3. Is bike theft a problem?


    4. Is broken glass (beer bottles) common, I saw loads on my ride and was a job to avoid it all, is this just a Sunday morning phenomenon or was I just unlucky?


     

  • benedictbenedict March 2011
    Posts: 505
    Hi Steve,

    You raised some good questions. I'm still getting used to the bike paths (also coming from London) at first I found I just wanted to use the road as I was more comfortable navigating traffic than managing slower cyclists and pedestrians coming at me from all angles, I also found bike paths often littered with broken glass, and over the winter when there was a lot of snow only the roads were really cleared for use.

    However I don't think cars are really used to dealing with cyclists as part of their traffic flow, so things can get quite hairy on the busier roads and dual carriageways. Making commuting in the ice and snow even worse.

    I'm still trying to find an authoritative translation of road laws into English. This seems pretty good, but not official:

    http://bicyclegermany.com/german_laws.htm

    He says you need to use bike paths when they are there. They're not always that obvious in my opinion.

  • winstonwinston March 2011
    Posts: 690
    no riding two abreast!
  • dan March 2011
    Posts: 12
    That "german laws" page benedict mentioned is a huge pile of rubbish. Sorry.

    @SteveO:

    In Germany, there are mandatory and facultative bike lanes/paths. By law, you must use a cycling facility if there is a sign with a white bicycle on blue background. Cycling facilities without such a sign are facultative, you may use the regular road instead.

    Cycling seperated bike paths is pretty dangerous. You may be overseen by car drivers turning right, the bike paths are frequently in bad condition, pedestrians won't respect "your" way etc. So on many roads it is a good idea to stay on the regular road even if there are bike path signs. If you're on the road in normal traffic flow, have a defensive cycling style and behave in a foreseeable way for other traffic participants, everything is fine. At least on most roads. On some large roads, car drivers tend to honk to defend "their" terrain. Police and non-usage of mandatory bike paths normally is a non-problem, they'll just ignore you.

    Fixed gear riders should have two caliper brakes for both front and rear wheels. The drivetrain does not count as a brake, and a bike needs two of them. Fixies with just an additional front brake are in a legal grey zone. Some people got severe problems with them, others never. Riding "brakeless" is a no-go. Police will probably take away your bike.

    Bike theft: yes, it's common. Use a good lock, and do not just lock your bike, but lock it to something that is stable.

    Glass on the roads: also common. As a general rule: The more "hip" and "in" a quarter of the city is, the more glass on the roads you'll find.
  • SteveO March 2011
    Posts: 7

    Thanks for that, yes I'd heard about the fixed wheel issue, it was a problem for visitors to ECMC I believe....


    Just got to find out about hiring decent bikes now, I'm planning on visiting 6 or so times a year, so maybe a total of around 15 days, not sure if that justifies leaving a bike at my brothers in Berlin....

  • SteveO March 2011
    Posts: 7
    Have discovered this online Berlin route maker, seems to work well, with various options to avoid major roads etc, however not living in Berlin, have no idea whether what it produces is actually a good route!.....also doesn't produce map on results page...only route, but there are auto generated gpx and kml links to open in Google Earth, Gps unit etc.

  • benedictbenedict March 2011
    Posts: 505
    @SteveO - Nice. I will have to try it out.

    @dan - Maybe this link provides a more comprehensive translation of the law regarding German cycle paths?
    http://www.bikexprt.com/bikepol/facil/sidepath/germanlaw.htm

    Also found this wiki regarding bike equipment:
    http://www.toytowngermany.com/wiki/Required_equipment_for_bicycles

    I've no idea how strict the police are on these requirements, I know all my bikes would fail!
  • SteveO March 2011
    Posts: 7
    That first link is clearer but still some vagueness there!

    As for all bikes having to have dynamos, it's ages since I used a dynamo, I would assume battery lights are safer as they don't go off when you stop at junctions.....maybe the thinking is that dynamos don't run out of charge or are safer.....

    I like rule 12.
  • dan March 2011
    Posts: 12
    @benedict:

    That two linked texts are much better.

    Regarding required lighting facilities etc.: Police in Berlin normally just looks for existing lights. If you run into one of these controls, they'll want to see something producing a white light in the front and something in the rear that glims red. They'll also expect that you have lights attached (or at least carried in a bag) at daytime. If you can show them, everything is fine. If you don't have enough reflectors (or no reflectors at all), they'll probably start a discussion with you. Stay friendly, normally you won't get a ticket for that. In worst case, they'll ask you to come to a police station in a few days to show your completed, fully-equipped bike to avoid a fine. If they try that shit, I'd suggest that you just tell them that you don't live in Berlin permanently, but you're just here for a few days, thus unable to do that. Should work.

    The "brakes" topic is a little more complicated. If you ride a "brakeless" fixie in Berlin, you'll get into trouble at a police control. If you have an additional front brake, you're in a grey zone. They may fine you for the missing rear brake, and again that "show your bike" issue. However, it depends on the situation, and I'd think they also consider your riding style.

    In general, the major problem for cyclists are those "organized control points" that sometimes appear for a few hours. Many policemen are positioned at crossings that are frequented by cyclists, and they stop and control everyone. Official argumentation for these measures is "enhancing bicycling security". In reality, they just want to fine as many cyclists as possible.

    Besides those cyclist traps you won't have trouble with the police if you don't behave too badly on the road.
  • benedictbenedict March 2011
    Posts: 505
    Cheers for that info dan - fingers crossed I manage to avoid the police cyclist pickets!
  • winstonwinston March 2011
    Posts: 690
    Sounds like Dan has had first-hand experience!...cheers for the advice
  • benedictbenedict March 2011
    Posts: 505
    @SteveO 

    I've not been there but this place claims to rent road and mountain bikes:

  • benedictbenedict April 2011
    Posts: 505
    Police Announce City Wide Cycling Controls

    [Using Google Translate!]

    Every spring the Berlin police step up their seasonal checks on cyclists. The first priority action of this kind is in the week between Tuesday 5 and Tuesday 12th April 2011.

    This year's checks will pay particular attention to the following main causes of bicycle associated accidents:

    - Illegal riding on sidewalks and pedestrian areas
    - Cycling on bike paths in the wrong direction.

  • benedictbenedict April 2011
    Posts: 505
    I saw some of the police controls in Alex on my lunch break yesterday.

    There is a twitter account which is sharing control locations - it looks like they have my commute home tonight completely staked out!

    http://twitter.com/#!/BikeBerlin
  • winstonwinston April 2011
    Posts: 690
    great name for the twitter account!
  • benedictbenedict August 2011
    Posts: 505
    I had my first "run in" with the police this morning...

    I was waiting at red lights on my commute along Holzmarktstr, and when the pedestrian crossing light went green a cyclist waiting on the pavement crossed into the road, while another who had been waiting behind me in the road "shoaled" round and jumped the red traffic light. For a moment I considered following them. I'll not pretend to be above a bit of red light jumping, but I try to be extra well behaved here as I realise it will be awkward for me if I get pulled over. So I tutted as I knew that I would end up overtaking them again on the busy main road ahead. Just after I had done this at the next junction a policeman stepped out with a stop sign and pulled me over.

    I tried my best to use German, but my skills are really only honed to ordering a coffee in the morning, Fortunately one of the officers spoke excellent English, they accused me of jumping the red light, to which I indignantly explained that in fact it was the two cyclists behind me who had jumped the light. Anyway long story short - they were pretty decent and let me off with a warning. Though they claimed I should be carrying my passport at all times. I'm not really sure what to do about that as it is obviously something that I don't want to do.

    I would have been pretty gutted to have got fined for a red light I didn't jump, and think I'll take a quieter route tomorrow as there seemed to be a few other police patrols out this morning,

  • winstonwinston August 2011
    Posts: 690
    Mistaken identity.....was it one of those funny stop sticks with a light in it?

    I have been fined twice in my village recently for riding without lights, they found it hilarious that I'm wasn't happy handing over cash to the police on the spot.....I was pretty indignant given that I would't dream of giving a Met officer cash...then discovered it was only E10, have since made the effort to find my lights.
  • benedictbenedict August 2011
    Posts: 505
    Yeah he had a funny red sign like a ping-pong bat and just jumped out in front of me.

    I was glad they didn't check my bike because it would fail on many of the requirements, and I wasn't carrying my lights either.
  • benedictbenedict August 2011
    Posts: 505
    did they ask for your passport too?
  • winstonwinston August 2011
    Posts: 690
    no. strangely they didn't even ask for my name either time...!
  • benedictbenedict August 2011
    Posts: 505
  • benedictbenedict October 2011
    Posts: 505
    another side to the story (though germany rather than berlin specific, it cites examples in berlin)


  • benedictbenedict October 2011
    Posts: 505
    Also there is the "fight the battle cyclists" campaign:


    here there is talk that the transport minister is considering the options of making helmets, high-visibility vests, bike number plates and bike licenses mandatory! (though hopefully it would never come to that)

  • winstonwinston October 2011
    Posts: 690
    will licenses and plates apply to us "foreign tourists" though?
  • benedictbenedict October 2011
    Posts: 505
    All round depressing story (on many levels):

    "Confessions of an expat bike thief"

  • winstonwinston October 2011
    Posts: 690
    "cuts through shit like butter" .....eeeurgh...nasty mental images!, sounds like a loser who thinks his 5 mins in the limelight is gonna make him sound cool......it doesn't.
  • benedictbenedict October 2011
    Posts: 505
    I quite often hate that 'paper' but there's so much not to like about this. From the fact that someone would move to another country to start petty crime just to get some weed and have a few nights out, to the fact they would interview him and try to paint him as having a conscience, just because he knows what he's doing and thinks it would be a rip off to sell a stolen bike for more than 40EUR. Shame too that he's mostly selling to tourists who turn a blind eye so they can get a cheap bike while out here for a few months.
    Post edited by benedict at 2011-10-25 02:32:00
  • GeoffreyGeoffrey October 2011
    Posts: 106
    Agreed all the way Ben,
  • greg August 2012
    Posts: 3
    hey guys,
    as far as i know fixies ar illegal and will be confiscated from the police.lights and brakes are mandatory.whereas there is a certian rule about bikes under 11kg wich says they can have battery lights on them.everything else needs a dynamo.you have to use the bike paths when they have the blue n white sign.and unless otherwise marked they are one way.the biggest problems that i see with them is people unknowingly going the way and tourists walking on them.best thing is to have a small bell on your bike to warn them that ur coming.
    berlin has the most bike thefts in all of germany.a good lock is mandatory if u want to keep ur bike for a while.
    also i read another story here about a accident with a audi here.if ur riding on the street its right before left on unmarked intersections.marked intersections.the right of way is marked with a yellow n white sign.
    i hope that was helpful...