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July 2001

Vicious Cycle

If you don't adhere to bike laws, you'll keep getting fined

Iam passionate about cycling. I have owned a bike for as long as I can remember (never a car) and am unfortunately prone to all those lazy habits that befall the habitual cyclist, overlooking red lights, riding on footpaths, etc. A few years ago I was cycling along a one-way street in the wrong direction when a policeman popped out from behind some bushes, flagged me down and asked me if I was aware of the one-way restriction. I nudged up my skirt a tad, gave him a cheeky smile and told him that I was only traveling one way. This show of insolence cost me DM 20.
Lesson One: if you are caught breaking the law on your bike, be polite and apologetic. Many of the fines (Geldstrafen) are discretionary and the German police are intolerant of bad manners. But what exactly constitutes breaking the law and what kind of fine can you expect to pay for individual offences? Firstly, your bicycle should be in good working order and have all the requisite appliances (no exception is made for BMX or mountain bikes). For a list of these, go to the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club, Platenstrasse 4 (opening hours: Thurs. and Fri. 5 pm–7:30 pm, and Sat. 10 am–1 pm, Tel. (089) 77 34 29. They will give you a free diagram of a roadworthy bike and a checklist.
Cycling at night without lights is probably the most common crime committed by cyclists and normally carries a fine of DM 20. Traveling along a one-way street (Einbahnstrasse) in the wrong direction will cost DM 10 more. There are some one-way streets that can be used by cyclists in a counter direction. Look out for a sign saying Radfahrerfrei. If you are stopped by the police because your bicycle is not up to scratch, you will probably get away with a warning and no fine (gebührenfreie Verwarnung), but if your two-wheeler is in very bad shape you can expect to pay upward of DM 30. You may also be asked to demonstrate that your lights are working even in broad daylight!
Wherever cycle paths (Fahrradwege) are signposted you must use them and, moreover, always travel on the right-hand side, following the flow of traffic, even if it means going back a short way to the next traffic light or pedestrian crossing. Ignoring this can also cost around DM 30. (If the cycle path is not signposted you may use the road.) Among the more serious offences is going through a red light (Rote Ampel), which can cost you a hefty DM 125 plus administrative fees of between DM 30–40.
One of the most useful addresses for cyclists in Munich is the abovementioned Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club (ADFC). You don’t need to be a member to take advantage of the many useful services on offer, such as the self-help workshop (Selbsthilfewerkstatt) on Thursdays, when you can repair your bicycle using tools provided by the ADFC and get free advice from experts . If you cycle a lot you might consider joining the club that organizes guided cycle tours throughout the year and provides free insurance. For more information, visit or email
Finally a word of advice from Herr Albert at Munich’s police headquarters, who has dealt with a lot of serious road accidents involving cyclists: drive defensively! You may be following all the rules of the road, but if, for example, a truck driver turning right overlooks you (the most common “serious” accident among cyclists according to Herr Albert), being right will be scant comfort. Your body is your armor; wear it carefully. <<<

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