Traffic signs: Please note the “permeable cul-de-sac”


Please note the "permeable cul-de-sac"

Traffic signs: Please note the "permeable cul-de-sac"-signs

You will come across this new traffic sign more often in the future, but not horizontally. The ‘permeable cul-de-sac‘ indicates that it is for pedestrians and cyclists at the end of the dayThere is a passage in the street

Source: dpa-infografik / DPA / dpa-infografik GmbH

After years of turmoil, the forest of signs on German roads is to be thinned out and freed of nonsense on September 1st. At least that is what a new regulation provides. Just theoretically. Because what is standing will stand for the next ten years. There are even new signs added.

P.Precisely on September 1st, the largest reform of the German Road Traffic Act (StVO) since 1971 will come into force. For many years the legislature has worked on over 200 drafts for this new regulation. In addition to simplified and more specific regulations for cyclists and inline skaters, the ordinance primarily contains regulations on the use of traffic signs. The aim was to reduce the number of around 20 million traffic signs in Germany. But we will probably not get anything out of it for the time being.

For a good dozen signs, the experts stated that they either make no sense or, for the most part, were at least put up in a nonsensical manner. A prime example is the rockfall hazard sign (no. 115): It is usually on steep rock faces and shows rocks falling from top to bottom. Its original purpose, however, was to warn that there are stones on the road in unexpected places, i.e. not on serpentines in the mountains. Because if you drive past unsecured rock faces, you have to expect falling stones – even without a warning sign.

This and other signs are no longer a mandatory part of the traffic sign regulation within the StVO. They can still be set up in cases of particular danger that cannot be recognized without warning, but should otherwise disappear from the street scene.

A second group of signs was deleted without replacement, e.g. the blue, square signs indicating recommended speeds or the signs indicating restricted level crossings.

Finally, a third group, for which the states and municipalities were previously legally obliged to list, is now part of the transport administrators ‘free program: signs for hotels and restaurants on the motorway, hikers’ parking spaces or underpasses for pedestrians are now of a service nature. They are no longer compulsory.

It is different with the five new signs that the experts have come up with. In future, the signs will have to mark chargeable “parking areas”, of which there are quite a few and the number of which will continue to increase. It also shows routes that are approved for skaters. And from now on there are “permeable cul-de-sacs” that pedestrians and cyclists can pass, but not cars.

So much for the new legislative requirements. What this means in concrete terms for the forest of signs is only known to the individual authorities in the cities and countries. But you can also paint it as a normal driver, pedestrian or cyclist. Because the following applies to all signs: what is standing or hanging, remains standing or hanging. On the one hand, because “to avoid immediate re-signing”, the signs that are actually deleted according to the ordinance are still valid for another ten years – so they stay where they are.

On the other hand, because removing those signs that are no longer required to be affixed costs money. A traffic authority would have to shell out between 50 and 70 euros per sign for dismantling. Given the general financial situation, this is unlikely. And there is a second argument against the dismantling: If someone gets harmed on a public road, they could try to take recourse to the authorities if a supposed danger is not indicated by a sign at the scene of the accident or has previously been pointed out, well but there is no longer a sign. You’d better stay on the safe side – and leave the signs.

“Basically,” says Markus Schape, traffic law expert at ADAC, “the federal government has not done a bad job with the new regulation.” The ball is now with the local authorities. And in all experience, they wouldn’t do too much. At least not soon. The hectic dismantling of traffic signs will probably be observed across the country in the summer of 2019. Then "The signs that were removed from the catalog on September 1, 2009 must have disappeared from the streets by September 1, 2019. Definitive."

New rules for skaters, cyclists and drivers

In addition to the new regulation for traffic signs, other regulations for cyclists will apply from September, which have significantly strengthened their rights. It is now easier for the authorities to open one-way streets for cyclists in the opposite direction. The roadway no longer has to be at least three meters wide.

What has long been general practice is now also legal: Cyclists are also allowed to drive on the left, i.e. in the actual oncoming traffic, if the sign "Cycle free" allows it.

Up to two children who are not older than seven years can be transported in bicycle trailers.

In the future, a speed limit of 30 will always apply in a correspondingly designated “bicycle street”, even if there is no specially designated speed limit.

As of September 1, 2012, cyclists no longer have to use the traffic lights for pedestrians to orientate themselves at traffic lights with marked cycle paths. If there is no “bicycle traffic light”, it applies to cars.

Parking is now prohibited on so-called “bicycle protection strips”, i.e. markings on a cycle path.

From September, inline skaters are allowed to ride on roads, hard shoulders and cycle paths that are marked with the “Skater free” sign.

There are also changes to traffic rules for drivers. The two most important ones: The former "deceleration lane" on motorways and motorways is now called "Ausfadelungsstreifen". In the event of a traffic jam or traffic jam, it is allowed to drive slowly and with particular caution. A general ban on overtaking, however, applies at level crossings with and without barriers between the corresponding traffic sign and the actual crossing.

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