Police on wheels: sheriffs in the fast lane

One year after the introduction of a bicycle squad in Mitte, the police and accident researchers draw a positive interim balance. ADFC calls for expansion.

The police cyclists cover up to 40 kilometers a day. Photo: dpa

One to two cyclists a week in the Mitte district engage in a chase with officers of the police bicycle squad. For the most part, these are red-light offenders who are thus trying to escape a traffic ticket. "But we are also fast," said the head of the bicycle squad, Sascha Ziegler. If the pursuit is too dangerous, however, they refrain. In the case of a bicycle courier, that was the case. The man had kicked around and rushed with his bike into the flowing traffic, disregarding all traffic rules.

A good year after the introduction of the bicycle squad, the police took stock on Monday. At accident blackspots in the Mitte district, the squadron’s area of operation, the number of accidents involving bicycles fell by 44 percent. "That’s an extremely pleasing message," said Siegfried Brockmann, head of accident research at the German Insurance Association.

Brockmann and his team evaluated the first year of operations. The bicycle squad, consisting of 20 officers, was introduced in July 2014. The model trial is initially scheduled to run for three years. "The results so far confirm our belief that it makes sense to set up a bicycle squad," said police chief Klaus Kandt. On Monday, the ADFC again called for an expansion to all districts.

The traffic situation has been evaluated at three intersections in Mitte: the corner of Unter den Linden and Glinkastrasse; the corner of Leipziger Strasse and Mauerstrasse; Potsdamer Platz. A survey of road users was also conducted. Compared to before, accidents in which cyclists are seriously injured or killed decreased from 12 to 9 percent. The number of accidents with serious personal injury caused by cyclists fell from 18 to 13 percent.

Berliners make more than 1.5 million trips a day by bicycle. The share rose from 11 percent in 2008 to 13 percent in 2013.

In the city, the bicycle has overtaken the car with 18 percent of all trips, 17 percent. This is according to the recently completed special analysis of a 2013 household survey.

The draft 2016 budget for new cycling facilities is four million euros. In 2017, there will be an additional one million. Two million euros have been earmarked for the renovation of cycling facilities in both years.

There are other separate titles: for example, for the bicycle rental system (1.5 million euros) starting in 2016, and for parking facilities at train stations approximately 0.5 million euros annually. (plu)

The same investigation and survey was conducted in Neukolln around Kottbusser Tor/Damm and the corner of Hermannplatz/Sonnenallee. There is no police bicycle squad there. In Mitte, not only were accidents with personal injury lower than in Neukolln. Red light violations also decreased significantly in Mitte. When it came to riding in the wrong direction on bike paths, cases in Neukolln actually increased by 2 percent, while they decreased by 6 percent in Mitte.

In total, the police officers on wheels punished around 12,000 administrative offenses between August 2014 and June 2015. Around 5,300 of these related to misconduct by cyclists, and around 6,600 by motorists. Claims by the ADFC that the police force mainly targets cyclists are therefore a myth, said police chief Klaus Kandt.

However, Kandt admitted that only 200 penalties had been issued against motorists for incorrect turning behavior. Wrong turning behavior is the main cause of accidents when cyclists are seriously injured. Proving this traffic violation is very personnel-intensive, Kandt said. Up to five officers, also in plain clothes, are required at an intersection.

According to accident researcher Brockmann, cab drivers, bike couriers and fixie riders (they ride without prescribed brakes) showed little enthusiasm for the bicycle squad during the interviews. However, the relationship with the courier services has improved considerably in the meantime, corrected penalty manager Ziegler. The driver who had escaped from them was arrested three days later at a red light – you always meet twice in life.

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