Opinions differ on the bicycle lane. Some are their fans, others are annoyed by them, some simply ignore them. In big cities, they have been shaping the traffic landscape for several years now. In Berlin alone, there are now (as of: 26. July 2022) 26 of them. And slowly they conquer also the province. In Rostock, for example, Lange Strabe, the only street through the center of Rostock after the transformation of Kropeliner Strabe into the first boulevard of the GDR in 1968, was recently redesignated as a bicycle street and is now heating up the minds of the old-timers' regulars' tables there.
Until now, motorists have been able to largely ignore cyclists. As long as they drove far to the right and overtaking was possible without having to slow down to the regular inner-city speed of 65 km/h, there were other things that stirred up the motorists' tempers. But the bicycle lane can no longer be ignored by the common car driver. Because in them the cyclists suddenly ride unheard of side by side. Where previously overtaking was still possible, at least at centimeter intervals, this is suddenly not possible at all. And the quite justified (s. u.) Feeling somehow wrong with a car in a bicycle lane further dulls the joy of driving a car.
The consequence of the spread of the bicycle lane is therefore more open conflicts between car drivers and cyclists. They have never been friendly to each other anyway. For instance, a fireman was recently fined 4.000 € and 3 months driving ban, who wanted to teach a cyclist not to ride on "red" and for this purpose chased him with his SUV over several streets until he finally managed to pull him off his bike.
This gives me the opportunity to explain here what motorists and cyclists (and of course motorists and cyclists) are actually allowed to do in a bicycle lane. And above all: what they are not allowed to do. Let's start with the cyclists:
What are cyclists allowed to do in a bicycle lane??
Behind or next to each other?
Normally, bicyclists are only allowed to ride side by side if this does not obstruct traffic. Otherwise, they have to ride one behind the other. This is what it says in § 2 paragraph 4 sentence 1 StVO. In fact, this leads to the fact that cyclists usually ride one behind the other. This is because there is usually someone nearby who could be obstructed if cyclists were to ride side by side. In bicycle lanes this is different. In bike lanes, the entire lane width belongs to cyclists.
Any permitted motor vehicle traffic has to be subordinated to the bicycle traffic. In bicycle lanes, therefore, cyclists are allowed to ride side by side even if it means they impede other traffic. For example, motor vehicles must therefore get in line behind cyclists if they cannot overtake them. The StVO expressly states: "Bicycle traffic must not be endangered or obstructed. If necessary, the motor vehicle traffic must further reduce speed. "Cyclists do not have to give way to car drivers in order to allow them to drive faster.
Drive on the right or in the middle?
Disputes often arise over the question of where cyclists have to ride within a lane or where they have to stop. are allowed to do, whether on the right-hand side of the road or in the middle. Because on the one hand it says in § 2 paragraph 2 StVO: "It is to be driven as far as possible on the right". On the other hand, it is recognized that a cyclist may and must keep his distance from the right edge of the roadway. In particular, where vehicles are parked on the right, cyclists must generally keep a distance of at least 50 centimeters and are allowed to keep a distance of up to 1.50 meters.
Disputes usually arise over the question of whether a cyclist may ride at a greater distance from the right-hand edge of the road than 1.50 meters, especially in order to avoid being overtaken by a motor vehicle. First of all, it should be noted that according to the law, there is no such thing as an "abutter". The German catalog of fines does not give a fine for a cyclist who does not keep to the right in a bicycle lane.
In addition, it is important whether it would be possible for the motor vehicle driver to overtake the cyclist at the required distance (according to § 5 paragraph 4 sentence 3 StVO: in towns: 1.50 meters, outside towns: 2.00 meters). If such safe overtaking is possible, the cyclist must not ride further to the left than permitted (s. o.). Otherwise he is liable to prosecution for coercion.
If, however, the motorist could not overtake at a distance of at least 1.50 meters anyway, the cyclist is not liable to prosecution if he rides at a distance of more than 1.50 meters from the right edge of the road in order to block the overtaking of the car. Because one is only liable to prosecution for coercion according to § 240 paragraph 2 StGB "if the use of force [riding too far to the left] for the intended purpose [blocking the motorist] is to be regarded as reprehensible". But if the cyclist only wants to avoid being overtaken too closely and thus dangerously, his behavior is not to be considered reprehensible.
And what are motorists allowed to do in a bicycle lane?
Posed this way, the question is fairly simple to answer: nothing. A bicycle lane is reserved for bicycle traffic only. Even e-scooters are not allowed to ride in a bicycle lane. However, in practice the bicycle lane often does not exist as a pure bicycle lane. Mostly, the bicycle lane is combined with additional signs such as these:
Such additional signs allow residents (left) or all cars, motorcycles and e-scooters (right) to use a bicycle lane as an exception. This raises at least two frequently discussed questions, which will be answered here:
When is one an "abutter"?
The vernacular means: The renter is always the one who has a concern. This is as subtle as it is wrong. For example, a concern to use the road to avoid a traffic jam that exists elsewhere does not make the vehicle driver an abutter. In fact, the following applies: first of all, the riparian is the person who is the owner or the person who has the right to use (z. B. tenant or leaseholder) of a plot of land (or part of a plot of land) which "abuts" the road.
Furthermore, an abutter is anyone who wishes to enter into a relationship with such users or property owners. This includes visitors, customers, etc. in the circle of the abutters. In the result this leads to the fact that residents are everyone, who does not only want to drive through. Resident traffic is therefore the counterpart to through traffic. It is therefore forbidden for motorists to use a bicycle lane marked with the additional sign "Anlieger frei" (residents only) to drive through it.
And what is allowed for motor vehicle traffic in a bicycle lane??
- In bicycle lanes, the maximum speed limit is 30 km/h, unless otherwise stated. This applies to all vehicles, i.e. motor vehicles as well as bicycles. (Excursus: The otherwise valid inner-city speed limit of 50 km/h applies only to motor vehicles, by the way. Cyclists are therefore allowed, theoretically, d. h. If they can, they can also drive faster than 50 km/h without having to pay a fine.)
- Bicycle traffic has priority. Unlike on bike lanes or protected lanes, the entire width of the road belongs to cyclists in bike lanes. Motor vehicle traffic must be subordinate to bicycle traffic. Since cyclists are always allowed to ride side by side in bicycle lanes (i.e., the requirement that they ride one behind the other if they would otherwise obstruct traffic does not apply to them), motor vehicle drivers must get in line behind the cyclists if they cannot overtake them. The German Road Traffic Regulations (StVO) explicitly state: "Cyclists must not be endangered or obstructed. If necessary, motor vehicle traffic must reduce speed further."Cyclists do not have to give way to motorists in order to allow them to ride faster. Drivers are not allowed to push.
- Parking is allowed for cars and motorcycles in bicycle lanes, unless prohibited by appropriate signs.
- As is the case everywhere, overtaking bicycles on bicycle lanes is only permitted at a distance of at least 1.50 meters. If this is not possible, a cyclist is not liable to prosecution if he rides so far to the left that the motor vehicle cannot overtake him.
Finally, a short excursion into the catalog of fines: What are the fines for car drivers and cyclists who do not obey the rules of the bicycle lane??
- The violation of a cyclist against the right-hand rule in a bicycle lane is punished according to the law. Fines catalog not punishable by a fine.
- Unauthorized use of a bicycle lane costs motorists €15.00, and €20.00 if a cyclist is obstructed.
- Whoever enters a bicycle lane without permission and parks there, pays at least 55.00 €. In case of obstruction or parking for more than 1 hour 70,00 € have to be paid.
- A car driver is fined 35.00 € for riding too close to a bicycle. Who honks because of a cyclist in front, must pay 10,00 €.
- Overtaking a cyclist as a motor vehicle driver at a distance of less than 1.50 m is punishable by a fine of €30.00.