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
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.
have been asked
for a source of the translations. While they came from several websites,
most of the information came from
, 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
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
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.
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
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.
You must give a hand
signal for all turns. (, one
signals a right turn by bending the left arm at the elbow and raising
the forearm as if to point over your head. .) 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 brake.
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.
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 bicycle.
you have to wait for the green light ( where it is legal to turn right on a red light if
you stop first).
to the top
A stop sign means stop; even if you are from California. [Enough said.]
[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.]
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
If you are riding with
traffic, turn out of the proper traffic turn lane. Again, you must obey
Bicycles are never allowed
on the Autobahn. [Do not even think you can ride your bicycle on the
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 the sidewalk.
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.
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.]
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.]
More information about fines, and other traffic violation information
for inquiring minds can be found at
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.
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%.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Two independently acting
braking devices (mean deceleration on dry pavement m/sec2 4 at an
initial speed of 20 km / h).
- Required for dispensing
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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 below.]
to the top
Maintain full control of your bicycle at all times in traffic. [However,
you will see kids and some adults doing this.]
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.
Bikes must be
parked so they don’t fall over and impede traffic or damage property.
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.]
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.]
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 to me.
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.
What follows is excerpted with permission from
by Gilbert Hanson. Some of the photos are attributed to "Program
fahrradfreundliche Stadt Muenster."
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 have right-of-way.
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
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.
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 line.
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
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 it.