Bicycles traffic laws in Germany are worth knowing. Generally, the laws
of Germany are quite similar to those you may be used to in the US. E.g., do not
kill anyone, ride on the right side of the road, and obey all traffic laws as if
you were driving a car.
In Europe, everybody rides or has ridden bikes and drivers are tolerant of the
challenges all bike riders have. Here are a few guidelines. This page contains is
my best attempt to provide accurate information about bicycle laws in Germany.
Since 2011, there is a law that would find the cyclist responsible if that cyclists
causes an accident by not obeying traffic laws. Cyclists can be found guilty of
causing an accident, thereafter, made to pay damages.
Reading the local newspaper in 2015, we found articles that highlighted a move
to enforce existing laws to which little police attention had been previously paid.
For example, wearing earphones will cost you 10€, riding through a red light,
45€, riding through a red light that has been red for longer than one second,
100€. Other common infractions each with its separate fine include an adult
riding on the sidewalk signed only as a pedestrian walk,
The following is extracted using Google Translations from the actual bicycle
laws of Germany. I am not a fluent speaker of German so there may be a mistranslation
or simply misinformation. Therefore, Tim and Maxa Burleigh and BicycleGermany LLC
have to disclaim the accuracy of the information on this page.
Main Source: have been asked for a source
of the translations. While they came from several websites, most of the information
came from http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/stvzo_2012
, which is a listing of the “Street Traffic Restriction Rules” (StVZO). You can
see section headings in German, of course. You can paste them into Google Translate
or similar translators if you German is a rusty as mine.
The translation is in conversational style not legalese. It is a little easier
to read and understand. Any humor below is mine and certainly not a part of German
laws. Ever know a funny lawyer? If I deviate from translating the law, I will try
to use [brackets like these.]
First of all regardless of whether you are riding a bicycle or driving, you must
obey all traffic laws when you are on a street or road. [That probably is no surprise
to any adult but might not be understood by kids.]
Basic understanding: One of the guiding principles
of traffic behavior is the Trust Principle; That is to say that drivers (of cars,
bicycles, and other motorized vehicles) trust the behavior of other drivers and
cyclists. The only exception to this basic rule is that bikes ridden by impaired
people or motorized wheelchairs, etc. driven by impaired people.
Two or more abreast riding: Riding side by side
is forbidden on streets and roads. You must ride single file; even in bicycle lanes
marked out on the streets. [The good news is that on a cycle path that is not part
of a road (such as one separated from a road by a concrete barrier or completely
independent from a road or a sidewalk) one can ride side by side.]
All cycle paths are at least separated from a road by a concrete retaining wall
(Jersey barrier), a grass strip. A cycle path separated by a painted line is part
of a road and is not a separate cycle path that allows side by side riding. Cycle
paths also include those delineated on sidewalks where a curb separates the sidewalk
path from the road or street.
field cycle paths through farming country (Feldwege), one occasionally
sees a car but more often you see tractors and farm equipment. The tractors have
the right of way and they typically take up the whole path. Cyclists should stop
and get off the path.
Arm signals: You must give a hand signal for
all turns. (In America, one signals a right turn
by bending the left arm at the elbow and raising the forearm as if to point over
your head. That does not work in Germany.) Europeans
point left with their left arm and point right with their right arm. The signal
for stopping is one arm extended and the forearm pointing down - at least this is
just like American traditions. For the stop signal, it is best to use the arm most
likely to be seen by the traffic you want to know that you intend to stop. And be
careful when you choose to use the arm on the side that controls the rear wheel
Yield to traffic on the right: Unless you are
on a major through street with the yellow diamond, (see photograph) marking the
way, you must yield to vehicles and cycles from the right. This is especially true
on residential streets where arterials streets are rare. Another sign, shown below
with a fat arrow in the direction of travel and two lines intersecting the fat arrow
from the sides means that in this intersection only, you have the right-of-way.
Yield to all traffic: If you are coming from
a sidewalk, parking lot, driveway, or the like, you must yield to all traffic on
the roadway. Those cars and other traffic are bigger than you and you if you try
to bluff them out it will be hazardous to your health and the condition of your
In Europe there is no right turn on red; you
have to wait for the green light (unlike in the USA
where it is legal to turn right on a red light if you stop first).
A stop sign means stop; even if you are from California. [Enough said.]
Emergency vehicles have the right of way: [An
ambulance with lights and horns is not there to pick you up after they have driven
over you. They probably have a first to call, first to serve policy. They will keep
going leaving you to pick yourself up.]
Pedestrians always have the right of way: Normally,
they cannot hear you coming unless you verbally announce yourself or ring your bell.
Pedestrians in crosswalks (Zebrasteifen) always have the right of way even
if they can see you. An intersection with only one painted crosswalk means that
you may have to use that crosswalk. You may not cross wherever you want to. Also,
if you walk your bicycle across, cars are required to stop for you and most cars
do so. If you ride your bicycle across, you are no longer a pedestrian and laws
relating to pedestrians no longer relate to you. If you cause an accident while
riding a bicycle, you will be held responsible for damages.
Making turns: If you are riding with traffic,
turn out of the proper traffic turn lane. Again, you must obey automobile laws.
Autobahn: Bicycles are never allowed on the Autobahn.
[Do not even think you can ride your bicycle on the Autobahn.]
Bicycles are legal traffic: They must be on the
street with traffic riding in the direction of traffic. However, children up to
age 8 must be on the sidewalk, not in traffic. Children up to age 10 may ride on
If there is a cycle path, you must use it and not ride on the street or road
with traffic. There may be an exception for racing bicycles. [In traffic, keep a
safe distance from parked cars that may open their doors in your way at the second
you approach. You cannot share time and space with a car door. Injury will result.
The door will probably survive, but we cannot say the same for you.]
You also need to keep a safe distance from the vehicle (auto or bicycle) ahead
of you. [That goes along with what you learned in kindergarten – do not hit anybody.]
above said, there are many times when the cycle path is on the sidewalk. You will
see a round blue sign telling you that you should share the sidewalk with pedestrians.
The sign on the left means there is a separate part of the path for cycles and another
for pedestrians. The sign on the right means you share equally. Remember pedestrians
always have the right of way.
If you are on the sidewalk you have to cross intersections with a walk signal.
Get off and walk your bicycle across. [This is true even if there is no traffic
but most cyclists ignore this often unenforced rule.] By the way, children up to
age 10 must walk their bicycle across the street and only at crosswalks.
Obey all traffic laws, especially speed limits:
That said, there are special speed limits for bicycles even if the automobile speed
limit is greater (however unlikely). The special speed limits are: Never exceed
50 Km/h in built up areas like cities and towns; and never ever exceed 100 Km/h
[anytime anywhere. A little known law that I have not seen enforced is that when
in an intersection, the bicycle speed limit is 10 Km/h. It does make some sense
to slow down so if a car turns in front of you, you can stop. Remember, you are
hard to see, especially in some lighting conditions, in fog, or during rain.]
Alcohol consumption: Do not drink and drive.
Do not drink and cycle either. If your blood alcohol exceeds the limits below you
can be fined and you can lose your driver's license. [Arrest and penalties happen
to residents, aliens or citizens. I do not know what they would do if you were a
short term visitor and your driver's license is from your home country.]
The following penalty apply to violation of the alcohol limits: Criminal fine
amount in Euros from 0.8 per thousand (0.4 mg/l breathing air or 0.0084) €800 -
€3,700; from 0.12 percent (0.6 mg/l breathing air) €1,200 - €4,400; from 1.6 per
thousand (0.8 mg/l breathing air) €1,600 - €5,900; denial of alcohol breath testing
€1,600-€5,900. [The legal limit is measured differently in Europe than in the USA.
In the USA the limit is .08 Blood Alcohol Level but in Germany it is about .05 Blood
Alcohol Level. Less if your behavior is impaired. [Maxa says my behavior is usually
impaired but that has nothing to do with drinking.]
Traffic Violation Fines: As of 1 April 2013,
if cyclists violate provisions of the Road Traffic Act (Straßenverkehrsordnung
"StVO"), it now is more expensive than previously. Fines may be as follows: failure
to use the bike path - €20; riding without light - €20; riding on the sidewalk -
€10; not using the right lane - €15; riding the wrong way on a one-way street -
€20; riding in a pedestrian zone: €15.
About drug use: If you drive [or cycle] impaired
by drugs, you will face a fine between €800 and €3,700. Also Note: Police can arrest
you if you pedal erratically and/or your blood alcohol limits exceed .05%.
Use of cell phones: It is verboten to
use a cell phone while riding a bicycle except when using a hands free capability.
Hefty fines are assessed when arrested.
Equipment on Bicycles sold as new, each bicycle must provide
the following equipment:
Brakes: Two independently acting braking devices.
Bell / horn: For dispensing acoustic warning.
Lighting: Non-blinking front headlamp to illuminate the road of white or
pale yellow color. A red rear taillight that stays lit when stationary.
Reflectors: front with a white with a red rear reflectors that may be connected
to the lights and/or connected to the pedals. At least two yellow reflectors
on each wheel.
In daylight and good visibility bicycles may be used without lights.
Racing bike exceptions: Racing bikes are not required to meet the above
rules. However, if riding at night, all bikes, including racing bikes are required
to have lights and reflectors.
A Racing bike is defined as less than 12 kg, with drop handlebars, a rim
diameter at least 630 mm diameter, and a rim width not more than 23 mm. Mountain
bikes are not road bikes so are exempted from certain requirements (unless ridden
at night on the roads). [NOTE: I do not know if they are exempt from the equipment
list if they are ridden on the roads during the daytime.]
A side note it that electrical bicycles (E-bikes) are limited to 500 watts.
Said in other words from another section of the law, bicycles
(except racing bikes) must have the following at a minimum:
Brakes: Two independently acting braking
devices (mean deceleration on dry pavement m/sec2 4 at an initial speed of 20
km / h).
Bell / horn: Required for dispensing acoustic
Lighting: Non-blinking front headlamp to
illuminate the road of white or pale yellow color. A red rear taillight that
stays lit when stationary and may blink (intensity 1 cd). In the USA, blinking
lights are sold but they are not legal in Germany.
Reflectors: front with a white with a red
rear reflectors that may be connected to the lights and/or connected to the
pedals. At least two yellow reflectors on each wheel. Alternatively reflectors
may be part of the lighting system (light entry surface 20 cm2). Wheel reflective
sidewalls can be alternatives to reflectors attached to the wheels. • In daylight
and good visibility bicycles may be used without lights. The law says that lights
must be firmly attached to the bicycle but experts say that battery powered
detachable lights are permitted (light intensity 100 cd). [Whatever cd means.]
The law requires headlights to be "light sensitive surface at least 20
cm2" (I do not know what that means either).
Helmets: From a newspaper in Kassel I learned
that as of May, 2011 helmets are required by law for children under 13 years
old. However that may be a city rule or a rule in the state of Hesse. Before
that the rule of thumb was that for childres helmets are not mandatory but strongly
recommended.For older people, helmets are recommended but not required. The
law provides the characteristics of a good bicycle helmet as: Hard outer shell
made of reflective material Air vents, which are connected by wide, and air
ducts Bars on the air vents to protect against insects [ever have a bee in your
bonnet?] Closure straps which are fixed on the helmet and easy to open and close.
Helmets should have the mark inside the shell that they conform to the ÖNORM
EN 1078. Adults: Helmets improve visibility, if you don’t have other equipment,
a helmet may be required.
Pedestrian Zones: Bicycles can be used on both
pedestrian zones if the zone is signed "Fahrrad Frei" or with a graphic
of a bike and the word "Frei." Note that in pedestrian zones, the pedestrians
have the right of way always. [There may be a special speed limit so ride slowly.]
One-way Streets: Normally, bikes cannot be ridden against the flow of traffic on
one-way streets. That said, look for signs that indicate an exception for bicycles.
For example a graphic image of a bicycle and the word "Frei." [See signs
One Hand or No Hands Riding: Forbidden. Maintain
full control of your bicycle at all times in traffic. [However, you will see kids
and some adults doing this.]
Hazardous Loading: Carrying items on your bicycle
that may cause an issue in traffic is forbidden. Such items include open umbrellas,
saws, scythes, or other items that might cause damage or impaired maneuverability.
Parking of Bicycles: Bikes must be parked so
they don’t fall over and impede traffic or damage property.
Bikes on Public Transportation: Bikes on public
transport may be limited during rush hours. Baby buggies have the right of way.
If necessary, bicycles can be required to leave the public conveyance. [See trains
for specifics regarding bicycles in trains.]
Bicycle trailers: The load may in the transport
of loads or persons shall not exceed: 250 kg, 100 kg in continuous inertia, and
un-braked 60 kg. Trailers for bikes must be less than 80 cm wide. [Trailers are
a pain in the neck to load on trains, busses, and streetcars.]
Other laws and suggestions: Many European streets
are too narrow for cars to meet side by side and have a car parked in the street.
What happens is that cars swerve out over the centerline to drive around parked
cars. However, if a car is coming from the other direction and the parked car is
in your lane, you must yield to the oncoming car. In other words, you must wait
behind the parked car until the oncoming car (or cars) has passed before passing
swerving out across the centerline to pass the parked car. This can get interesting
when cars are parked on both sides of the road and cars must alternatively swerve
in and out and wait and hurry. The locals have it down but it seems like pandemonium
Blind corners: When you are about to turn a blind
corner, ring your bell to warn other possible riders or pedestrians coming toward
you around the corner that you are there.
In the first picture to the left, the bike lane is part of the sidewalk. Bikes
must travel in the same direction as traffic. That is, you must travel on the right
side of the road. The red area is for bikes the gray area to the right of that is
for pedestrians. Note the sign.
Occasionally, when there is no bike path on the correct side of the street, you
will be directed to ride on sidewalk level but on the opposite side of the street
where there is a bike path.
second picture to the right shows an intersection where the light is red and cars
must stop behind the lower white line. Bicycles can wait between the two dotted
white lines. Bicycles enter this area from the red bike path on the right. Note
the arrows on bike path and the entrance into the bike waiting zone.
Frequently bike paths are indicated by a color change from that where pedestrian
third photo on left shows a bicycle path made from red stone but the pedestrian
walkway is from gray stone.
the intersection in the lower left, the cars on a red light must wait behind the
first (lowest) white line. Bicycles have a separate left turn lane in the center.
Note how the bicyclers enter the left turn lane at a red light for the cars. These
pictures may look confusing but they are logical when you are actually on the path.
If there is no bike path or bike lane, think of yourself as if you are in a car
and enter normal traffic, turning left or right as the cars do. Obey the same rules
that cars do. Take an active, aggressive position in traffic (e.g., ride where the
cars put their left wheels) and do not dawdle.
But when there are bike paths, follow the arrows and the signals put there for
bikes. By the way, Germany has millions of bicycle commuters. Most of them would
prefer you did not dawdle in the bike paths either.
If you are riding in a train buy a ticket. That seems simple but once in Germany,
it may appear that no one checks tickets. It is possible that is the case on streetcars
but on trains the conductor (Schaffner/Schaffnerin), normally will check
tickets. They even check the tickets you buy for your bicycle. There are signs posted
on many conveyances warning you that if you do not have a valid ticket you have
to pay the higher of €40 or double the price of a ticket.
Common Traffic Signs: Now, let us review some
of the more common street signs you will encounter. Just click any photograph to
enlarge it. Then click your back arrow to return to this text.
Click to enlarge most any photograph.
The sign to the right is Arterial or Diamond Sign. You have right of way from
cars approaching from side streets if you are on this street. The sign on the left
is also an indication that you have the right-of-way but only at this intersection.
At the next intersection on this street, if there is no such sign, you must yield
to traffic coming from the right. Yielding to traffic from the right is the usual
condition absent any signs to the contrary.
sign to the left designates a pedestrian way but bicycles are allowed too. You should
share the sidewalk with pedestrians and, if they do not see you, let them know with
a short ring of your bell that you are approaching. Always yield to pedestrians.
And, use your bell far enough away that you do not startle people.
The same applies if the pedistrians and the bicycle are separated with a horizontal
When the sign shows pedistrians and the bicycle separated by a vertical line,
ride your bicycle on the designated path (usually colored red or green but always
seperated somehow from the pedistrian walkway.
This sign means this is for pedisterians only, no bicycles allowed.
This is the end of the bike lane. Use the street.
Do ot enter. The street is probably one-way coming toward you.
Sometimes, you will see an additional sign similar to the one below the round pedestrian
sign above. It indicates that bicycle riders can ignore the Do Not Enter sign but
nevertheless, be alert that all lanes of traffic are coming towards you.
sign on the left is the start of a pedestrian only zone. Unless you see a bicycle "Frei"
sign below it, you should get down and push your bicycle.
And with a red stripe through it like the one to the right means that the way
ahead is not a pedestrian only zone.
of getting down from your bicycle, when farm equipment approaches, you are wise
to dismount until it passes.
This tractor has a grass mowing blade on the right side. Dangerous to cyclists.
The caution sign with an exclamation mark is advisory and not a law. Beneith
the sign it says cyclists dismount. These signs appear in places where there have
been several bicycle accidents and therefore it is worthwhile to pay attention to