- Germany’s streets have become a battleground
- Cyclists are more at risk than drivers
- "I felt extremely threatened"
- "Critical Mass" always on the last Friday of the month
- Only calm helps in traffic
Germany‘s streets have become a battleground
Street fight: cyclists and motorists get in each other’s way every day. Guerrilla warfare often rages on the streets because traffic rules are not known or who ignore them…the
Source: picture-alliance / dpa
Accusations, insults, fistfights: the disputes between motorists and cyclists are becoming more and more brutal. The latest stimulus factor is an event called "Critical Mass".
A park, so green and beautiful, as if made for a brutal confrontation. Michael Berger, 29, drives home from work, first by train from Wolfsburg to Braunschweig, then by bike. 5 p.m., Thursday, late summer. On the way to the Burgerpark, the man has to sneeze, sniff, he doesn’t cover his mouth, he later admits. He can’t remember anything more.
At this moment a car comes towards him, the driver later says that the cyclist spat on the window and fixed him with his eyes.
The driver puts the car in reverse and follows the cyclist, then turns. Berger only notices this after a few hundred meters, he turns into the path where only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed. Now he hears the revving engine. He feels followed, gets scared, drives faster.
“Yes, and then there was a strong jolt backwards.” Berger is sitting on a bench in the Burgerpark and talking.
The car pushes the cyclist to the left, pushes him from behind, women in a children’s playground see the scene. Berger falls, falls off his bike into the grass, the bike is dragged along with the bumper for a good ten meters. The car stops, the driver gets out and grabs Berger. The cyclist is shocked and confused, he doesn’t know what is happening to him. The driver screams. A handkerchief comes from somewhere. Berger wipes the windshield clean with it. He apologizes. Then he is released, the car turns, drives away.
Cyclists are more at risk than drivers
Every day, cyclists and motorists clash in road traffic. In almost all cases, the nerves are quickly bare. There are accidents and real fights in all areas, with throws, yelling and insults. The allegations go in the direction of the other, given right of way, run over red traffic lights, turn without blinking or hand signals, the road traffic regulations are not observed. The other is always inconsiderate, a rowdy, bully, booby, idiot. The street is a battleground.
It is undeniable that cyclists are more at risk in traffic than drivers. Statistics say that a cyclist has an accident in Berlin every two hours. A suddenly opened car door is involved in every 14th bicycle accident. Motorists perceive cyclists as the biggest sinners in traffic, 32 percent of Germans – top value – say that according to a recent study. 29 percent of cyclists see it the same way. The individual complaints are the side-by-side cycling on the road, generally the use of the road, general reckless driving.
The ADAC also questioned its members. Driving too close among motorists is considered the highest offense, with two thirds of those surveyed naming “cyclists who do not obey the traffic rules” in fourth place. At first glance, it is paradoxical that a large number of cyclists are also motorists and vice versa. Ideological reasons therefore do not play such a big role in the aggression. There is always scolding, like this today, like that tomorrow.
"In the car you get annoyed more often because you are alone there," says Andreas Holzel from ADAC. There is a little lack of the neighbor, the social control that slows you down. It’s similar on a bicycle. ”His colleague Rene Filippek from the ADFC bicycle club says:“ As a road user, I always take the position that I currently have. When I sit on the bike, I get annoyed with everyone else. ”So injustice gaps and feelings of disadvantage are homemade. It’s about mobility, one of which prevents the other from making rapid progress. The different speeds are not compatible.
"I felt extremely threatened"
Feelings of inferiority and superiority cheerfully intertwine, often in one head. Both parties are frightened of loss. In cities in particular, where bicycle traffic is increasing rapidly, motorists feel displaced and disadvantaged. At first there were no more parking spaces, now there is also less street space. And everywhere the guys who ignore traffic lights. Already it says: "You idiot!"
With a bicycle, the real risk of losing out works as an additional stress-increasing factor. If you have to make sure that the bus sees you in the bus lane or the drivers please look in the mirror when you turn, you will walk HB-Mannchen straight into the air. And: cyclists do not have a license plate. Out of anonymity it is easy to scream "You idiot!"
So it’s wrong. But human.
After the accident, Michael Berger has bruises, abrasions and minor injuries to the cervical spine, he wears a helmet. Otherwise he’s fine. The ambulance says he was extremely lucky. The wheel is broken.
The police quickly found the car in downtown Braunschweig based on the license plate. When he was arrested, the 21-year-old driver did not initially know why the officers wanted to speak to him. There are reports and later a charge of dangerous interference in road traffic, dangerous bodily harm, coercion, damage to property.
The trial will take place at the Braunschweig District Court in mid-May 2014. Michael Berger says: “I felt extremely threatened.” The defendant, who had previously been convicted of assault, admits that he is prone to outbursts of anger. The lay judge sentenced him to 15 months’ probation, and the driver’s license withheld was suspended for a further ten months.
"Critical Mass" always on the last Friday of the month
Misunderstandings and ignorance, that’s what it’s about. Most motorists believe that cyclists should ride on bike paths or on the sidewalk. It is not so. Only a few marked cycle paths are required to be used. For safety reasons, the ADFC even recommends cyclists to keep a distance of up to one meter from the edge of the road and the parking rows on the street. This harbors further potential for frustration for motorists.
Conversely, cyclists often feel like pedestrians on two wheels, without the awareness that they are driving a vehicle. In the crowd, this can lead to malice and arrogance.
The newest stimulus factor is an event called "Critical Mass". In German cities, cyclists meet on the last Friday of the month to ride through the city centers. You know about paragraph 27 of the road traffic regulations. According to this, 15 cyclists with the same route are an association, they are allowed to ride next to each other and take up a whole lane of the road. When the top of the association drives over the traffic light when it is green, the rest can follow.
In some cities there were a hundred cyclists, in others a thousand who cycled happily and confidently. 5000 people met in Hamburg at the end of May and 3500 in Berlin last week. Cars in side streets and at intersections were left behind. The drivers, who were not always patiently waiting, were shouted “now more than ever!”. In Rostock the police noted: “They drove deliberately slowly and did not let any cars pass by. There was a sign on the final bike that read: ‘Motorized traffic is at rest here ‘. Most of the bicycles were not roadworthy according to the StVO. ”“ Critical Mass ”does not make the street fight any more normal.
Only calm helps in traffic
Solutions? The ADFC relies on the habituation effect: where there are already many cyclists on the road, conflicts also decrease in the long run and aggression decreases. More bicycle traffic also has a disciplinary effect on cyclists, for example when they have to queue up. ADAC man Holzel says: “We recommend practicing calm. That’s the only thing that helps. ”It sounds like a quick prayer: Lord, let your brain rain down.
Michael Berger is district councilor in Braunschweig, a densely populated area with a lot of bicycle traffic. The MPs are discussing traffic regulations, because the traffic flows are also changing here. The problem is that there are two groups in road traffic: “A group that understands: Road traffic is togetherness, we have to look out for one another. And the other group that says I’m going now and the other one should see how he gets along. "
Berger is annoyed by cyclists who quickly go through the red light without lights. Cyclists quickly lose risk awareness, he says. In the district council, he advocates that there are more cycle paths on the road. "The bike can only be a real alternative to the car in urban areas if it works quickly over medium distances."
After the attack in the Burgerpark, Berger is not afraid, just occasionally a queasy feeling while cycling. But he now drives to work and home from there.
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