Amendments to the road traffic regulations: ring-a-ding-ding!

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is actually more of a car guy. But suddenly he’s making a name for himself as the "Minister of Cycles". What exactly does he have in mind?

This feels good – in the future, parking will no longer be allowed on bike lanes Photo: dpa

Of all people, Andreas Scheuer (CSU), the car-friendly Federal Minister of Transport, wants to distinguish himself as a bicycle minister of late. "I am the Minister of Transport and therefore also the Minister of Cycling" – the Bavarian is currently having this statement spread by his press people.

It’s a PR stunt. But not only. The transport minister wants to make the Road Traffic Regulations (StVO) more cyclist-friendly. "The amending ordinance will go into departmental coordination and into consultation with the states and associations before the end of the summer, so that the ordinance can enter into force as soon as possible," the Ministry of Transport announced. However, this is not about the new e-scooters that are causing a lot of trouble.

Scheuer has announced a total of twelve points in which he wants to change the StVO. "This is a big step for the Federal Minister of Transport and the CSU, but a small step for cycling," says Stefan Gelbhaar, a member of the Bundestag for the Green Party and cycling expert. For him, the announced innovations do not go far enough – even if individual points such as a fine of up to 100 euros for stopping on the bike lane are to be welcomed. "Scheuer is just making up for what hasn’t happened in ten years," he says. This applies, for example, to the minimum distance of 1.5 meters in built-up areas, which cars should maintain. Judges have long regarded this as necessary in their rulings. "What Scheuer wants is just an update," he says.

The problem is not what the minister intends to do, but what he does not intend to do, Gelbhaar believes. For example, there is the turn-off assistant for trucks. These devices warn drivers when pedestrians or cyclists are in their blind spot. The device can save lives. Scheuer could amend the German Road Traffic Regulations (StVO) to allow municipalities to allow only trucks with this warning system into the city. But the minister apparently has no plans to do so.

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The ADFC bicycle club is also skeptical. It praises the wide range of proposals. But it lacks the big picture that would allow cities to reallocate space in favor of bicycles, criticizes ADFC national director Burkhard Stork.

For example, municipalities must justify the construction of bike lanes on the grounds that there is a danger. In addition, the ADFC is calling for the introduction of 30 km/h as the standard speed in built-up areas and for cycle lanes on all roads where the speed limit is 30 km/h or more.

Here is a list of exactly what Transport Minister Scheuer has in mind:

1. cars and trucks will no longer be allowed to stop on bike lanes.

In the future, anyone who stops their vehicle on a bike lane will have to pay a fine of up to 100 euros. Until now, only parking has been prohibited; stopping for up to three minutes is permitted. The bicycle association Changing Cities thinks the new regulation is good, but wonders how violations will be punished. "Calling the police is usually of no use in such a situation," says Ragnhild Sørensen of the bicycle lobby association Changing Cities. ADAC also welcomes the general no-stopping rule, but is against the high fine. "Sanctions have to fit with the concrete hazard scenario," says a spokeswoman. The Federal Association for Forwarding and Logistics does not want to position itself. "The problem is the lack of delivery zones," says chief executive Frank Huster.

2. when overtaking, a minimum distance of 1.5 meters applies

In built-up areas, cyclists should only be allowed to be overtaken by cars and trucks with a distance of at least 1.5 meters, and outside built-up areas with a distance of 2 meters. Until now, the Road Traffic Regulations (StVO) have only stipulated a "sufficient lateral distance". The specification is overdue, says the bicycle association ADFC. But the fact that cyclists and cars have to share a lane is the real problem, says spokeswoman Stephanie Krone: "Safe and comfortable cycling works well when it’s physically separated from car lanes." The ADAC sees no change. A 1.5-meter distance is already established by case law in built-up areas anyway, it said.

3. trucks may only turn at walking speed

A maximum speed of 11 kilometers per hour is to apply to trucks turning right in cities. For the ADFC, this is still too fast; "real walking speed" of between 4 and 7 kilometers per hour is appropriate. Frank Huster of the Federal Association for Forwarding and Logistics sees nothing against the planned regulation. "I also can’t imagine trucks overtaking in built-up areas at more than 11 kilometers per hour," he says.

4. green right turn arrow for cyclists is coming

It should be possible to introduce a separate green arrow for cyclists at traffic lights, allowing them to turn right on red. An overdue step, says the ADFC. Free right turns have already been successfully tested in the Netherlands and Denmark. However, Changing Cities demands that no extra signs are needed for this, but that it can be permitted in principle. ADAC spokeswoman Katrin van Randenborgh finds the right-turn arrow model interesting. "First, however, it should be tested to see whether it helps and where it can be used," she says. A model test is already underway, she says, and the results should be awaited.

5 Establishment of bicycle zones

In cities, it should be possible to set up certain areas as bicycle zones. In these areas, all streets will be converted into bicycle lanes. ADFC and Changing Cities welcome this. But before that, they say, it must be made easier to set up bicycle lanes. So far, they can only be established if bicycle traffic is the predominant mode of transport. Katrin van Randenborgh of the ADAC sees no benefit here; bike zones would lead to confusion. "In addition, it is to be feared that car drivers do not understand such a regulation," says van Randenborgh.

7. no more parking spaces in front of intersections

Parking is to be prohibited at a distance of 5 meters from intersections with bike paths. This is intended to improve visibility between the road and the bike lane. ADFC and Changing Cities are calling for a distance of 10 meters. ADAC thinks the proposed change is good.

8. parking spaces for cargo bikes

A special sign should designate parking areas and loading zones for cargo bikes. Ragnhild Sørensen from Changing Cities thinks this is good. In general, however, she says there is far too little space for cargo bikes. "Even newly built bike lanes are often too narrow, which is not sustainable," she says. ADAC is in favor of designated cargo bike loading zones, but would not comment on cargo bike parking.

9. designation of cycle lanes

Cycle lanes should get their own traffic sign. This is long overdue, says the ADFC: "Cycle expressways must be well signposted throughout so that they function as an attractive fast link for commuters." The ADAC is also in favor of an extra traffic sign.

10. cars are no longer allowed to overtake at bottlenecks.

A new traffic sign is to be introduced for this purpose. ADAC and ADFC agree that a ban on overtaking must apply where the safety distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained when overtaking. However, car drivers must be made aware of this, says Stephanie Krone of the ADFC. She says they often view cyclists as a nuisance. "We need a change in mentality and a yes to a traffic system at eye level," says Krone.

11. model trials to be made easier

Municipalities should be able to conduct model trials more easily. So far, these are only possible if there is a hazardous situation. The Changing Cities cycling association sees this as an opportunity to drive innovation. Municipalities could introduce 30 km/h as the standard speed in more places. The German Automobile Association (ADAC) also believes this is a sensible step.

12 More one-way streets in the opposite direction for cyclists

It should be made easier for municipalities to open up these streets. This is not enough for the ADFC. "The rule should be clearance, and the exception must be justified," says spokeswoman Stephanie Krone. ADAC spokeswoman Katrin van Randenborgh takes a critical view. Opening one-way streets as a rule would only lead to more signs marking the one-way streets that are not open.

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