Why are bicycles dangerous?

Inadequate traffic turnaround: cycling is still dangerous in Germany

More and more people in Germany ride bicycles. But there are still too many danger spots. Almost 10,000 cyclists have identified together with Greenpeace. The number of deaths is increasing and reforms by Transport Minister Scheuer fall short.

July 20, 2019 - In 2018, 445 cyclists were killed on Germany's roads - 17 percent more than in the previous year, according to the Federal Statistical Office. A total of 88,850 cyclists were involved in accidents, including 10,225 children. Although the number of fatally injured cyclists is still behind motorists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, while the number of deaths has fallen in recent years, the number of cyclists continues to rise.

"Every day at least one cyclist dies on our streets and every half an hour someone is seriously injured on the bike", Burkhard Stork, managing director of the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC), told Spiegel Online. Cyclists are particularly often victims of collisions with motor vehicles when turning, crossing or turning. Junctions are therefore among the most common marked danger spots for cyclists.

Most often there is simply a lack of safe bike paths

In the past few months, people have been able to mark places that are particularly dangerous for cycling on an interactive map created by Greenpeace. Almost 10,000 came together - 22 percent of them dangerous intersections. 13 percent named cars parked on cycle paths and sidewalks as dangerous spots. Most often - with 51 percent - the cyclists marked simply missing or inadequate cycle paths.

Most of the marked entries can be found in the cities. However, danger zones are also pointed out in the country, especially on country roads. There is often a lack of cycle paths that connect smaller towns. In addition, rural roads themselves are often in such poor condition that cyclists have to steer around potholes.

In cities, cyclists meanwhile also point out supposedly bicycle-friendly conversions as danger spots. So-called “bicycle switches” are particularly criticized, where cars turning off at intersections cross the straight-ahead bicycle lane. A study by the Technical University of Berlin also comes to the conclusion that “this form of management at the intersection does not generally have a positive effect on safety”. The Changing Cities association has therefore long been calling for such intersections to be converted according to the Dutch model, with clearly separated lanes and traffic light phases.

The accident situation is likely to get worse this year

And clearly separated lanes are not only required at intersections, but everywhere. At the same time, these should be planned and expanded as broadly as possible from the start, warn experts. Because the number of cyclists is growing rapidly, especially in cities. In addition, there are now also e-scooters in some metropolises. Due to the currently undersized cycle paths, the accident situation in two-wheeled traffic will worsen this year, warns the ADFC.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is planning to reform the road traffic regulations so that the number of accidents with cyclists will be significantly lower in the future. Among other things, there should be a general no-stopping on protective lanes and an increase in the fines for parking in the second row to 100 euros. In addition, a minimum overtaking distance and walking speed for trucks turning right. Last year alone, six children died on bicycles when trucks turned off.

But Marion Tiemann, Greenpeace traffic expert, considers the demand for walking pace to be too timid. Instead, mandatory electronic turning assistants and different traffic light circuits could help. When it comes to the minimum overtaking distance, Tiemann criticizes the lack of control options. Only the increase in the fine is an important step. In order to make cycling really safe, however, one has to think much more radically. “The limited street space has to be redistributed away from the car and towards pedestrians and cyclists. That is only possible with a real traffic turnaround, instead of the bluff of a helmet-wearing car minister, ”says Tiemann. mf