Munich has always been proud of its ecological awareness. In 2010, the city decided to make Munich more cycling-friendly and started a campaign to promote cycling in the city. It was not enough to initiate a publicity campaign using a slogan such as “Better cycle than drive”. Munich even went one step further and claimed itself to be Radlhauptstadt (cycling capital).
Consequently, Munich further developed its cycling tracks – a great thing! According to the city council, the number of people regularly going by bike grew by 30 percent between 2008 and 2011. In comparison to 2002 even by 70 percent (!). Everybody visiting Munich can enjoy this wonderful development: You can easily rent a bike and explore the city on kilometre-long cycle tracks. But….
… the strong growth of cycling traffic has produced a – let’s say – “collective consciousness of cyclists”. They sometimes feel like kings on the streets – and show this to all other road users.
Let me tell you about some daily incidents … as a car driver, a cyclist and a pedestrian:
Munich, corner Schellingstraße / Arcisstraße, 5:58 p.m.
While driving home by car I turn right into Arcisstraße. I recognize a cyclist (distance: 100m) I had already overtaken one block ago. After the last pedestrians have passed the street at the traffic lights, I start moving – and have to brake heavily, as the cyclist flits past my bonnet. He clenches his fist and lets it rush down on my bonnet – not without insulting me loudly. Well, I think to myself … doesn’t he know that you shouldn’t take over on the right? I would not dare to do such a thing. My unbelieving “compliments” to this fearless candidate overtaking a car when it turns right.
Munich, Rotkreuzplatz, 2:44 p.m.
I wait at a pedestrian crossing to go to a shop buying something. The traffic lights turn green and I start walking. When I reach the other side of the street I hear a car honking and turn back. A taxi driver who wanted to turn right tells a cyclist who crossed the street at red lights that next time he should not do so – for his own safety. In one tenth of a second, the cyclist stops, jumps off his bike and throws it on the street in front of the taxi while insulting and threatening the driver.
Munich, Bavariaring, 5:02 p.m.
While on a greet with me, a nice American couple accidentally steps on the bike track. The immediate reaction of the cyclist: “That’s a cycle path, you morons!” The guests will probably remember Munich cyclists not to be the friendliest people in the world.
Munich, Heßstraße, 7:32 p.m.
I have an appointment with friends in a bar and walk down the pavement of Heßstraße. About 20 meters away, an elderly man with a cane and a hat goes his way. Suddenly, I hear two bicycle bells somewhere behind. I step aside to let a young couple on their bikes pass. The older man is not so courteous and grumbles in Bavarian dialect: “Geh fahrt’s hoit auf da Straß so wia se’s g’hert…” (Hell, ride on the street as it befits!) The couple passes by the old man and tells him unmistakably that his opinion is of no interest.
Please don’t get me wrong: I do like cycling. And I really enjoy the existence of a huge network of cycle paths. But the behaviour of some cyclists – and apparently not only a few of them – could be improved to make Munich visitors really impressed with the innovative and environmentally friendly people in Munich!
For the time being I recommend all visitors to keep the 7 golden rules of “Cycling in Munich” in mind:
- Never, never, never step on a cycle path as a pedestrian! Especially not without turning around and watching out for cyclists first!
- If you see a cyclist riding in your direction on the pavement, move aside! (by the way: only kids are allowed to cycle on the pavement)
- When driving in a car always keep the cyclists in mind. Even better: start thinking for them!
- As a car driver, do not expect cyclists obeying the traffic rules. Take care when turning right – cyclists might change from the street to the pavement and cross where there is a pedestrian light.
- As a driver of a lorry with restricted view, do not expect cyclists to bear this in mind and take care.
- As a cyclist on the bike track always move aside for all those cyclists who are in a hurry and pass by with 35 km/h!
- Do not expect cyclists in front of you to show by hand signs what they are going to do next.