Finding correct info about German cycling rules in English isn’t easy, so here are some answers to questions you might have about riding in Berlin.
Alternatively, maybe you’re just curious and might discover some stuff you didn’t already know.
It’s pouring down/I want to skip cycling through the city/I’m tired/I’m lazy, can I put my bike on the u-bahn/s-bahn/tram/regional train? Do I need a dedicated ticket?
Yes, you can bring your bike on u-bahn, s-bahn, tram and regional trains.
Regarding the u-bahn and tram, the official rules state that you are only able to take your bike in designated carriages, and on the u-bahn, not in the front carriage. As a general word of advice, we recommend only taking your bike on the u-bahn if you absolutely must – passengers get annoyed with people bringing bikes on to the cramped u-bahn carriages, even more so when the train is busy. Plus, cycling in the rain is character building, even without your waterproof trousers.
In the s-bahn and regional trains you will also see designated bike carriages. Use them. Don’t let other passengers boss you around, if there’s enough free space for them to sit elsewhere in the carriage, tell them, and make sure your bike gets its place.
You need a separate additional bike ticket for all journeys. Once you have bought your regular ticket, don’t forget to buy the extra bike ticket, valid for the whole journey.
Who has right of way on crossroads and at t-junctions?
As a general rule, you must give way to people coming from your right, unless otherwise marked. That means, if you’re at a crossroads or t-junction and want to continue straight ahead or turn left, let the drivers and cyclists coming from your right pass before you continue over the crossing or turn. Continuing through without stopping is guaranteed to cause at the minimum irritation from other road users, and at the worst, a bad accident.
Do I always have to use the bike lane or can I ride on the road?
If you see a blue sign with a white bicycle on it, this means that you must use the bike lane – even if you think riding on the street would be better. If there is also a bike lane on the road (i.e. not on the pavement), separated by white lines, you must also use this.
There are other suggested bike paths (with white signposts) that you have no obligation to use.
If there is no bike path available to use, you have permission to ride on the road. If the street is extremely dangerous, and/or the bike lane is closed off, riding on the pavement might be your only option and we doubt any police would force you off the pavement in such a situation.
Are cars allowed to leave their car parked in the street?
Unfortunately, yes. You’ve probably seen this many times, and often had to cycle around parked cars into the middle of the road. Drivers are allowed to stop their cars in the street, and get out for up to 3 minutes, as long as they can see the car at all times. You are able to report them if they cause a significant or dangerous obstruction, or block a cycle path. By all accounts, reporting this is unlikely to have any effect.
What’s the meaning of this sign?
While confusing to many, this sign means not that the street should be free of cyclists, but that you are allowed to cycle along such streets, just as if it were a regular two way street. So, ride on the right hand side of the street in the direction of the oncoming traffic.
Can I ride on the pavement?
Children younger than 8 are required to ride on the pavement, although riding on the pavement for people over 10 years old is strongly discouraged. The ADFC (Allgemeiner Deutsche Fahrrad-Club) say that “riding on the pavement is against traffic regulations and reckless” and that in the event of a collision with a motor vehicle when crossing the road from pavement to pavement, the blame will almost always be put on the cyclist. So, even if you feel uncomfortable riding on the street, think twice before you ride on the pavement.
My bike was stolen. What do I do now?
Bike theft is unfortunately very common in Berlin and your chances of getting your bicycle back are slim. If you bike is stolen, first report it to the police. Next, try to find it online – look at the recent bike listings in your area on eBay kleinanzeigen, if you have Facebook, post on one of the stolen bicycle groups. Check the local used bike shops and places where people sell second-hand bikes. Perhaps even stick up a sign on lampposts with a picture of your bike to see if anyone has seen it and can help you get it back.
Do I/my kids have to wear a helmet?
There is no obligation for any cyclist young or old to wear a helmet. However, given the danger often associated with cycling, we strongly recommend that you do wear a helmet at all times. (see article)
Is there a speed limit for cyclists?
The same speed limits apply for cyclists and motorists. Besides, recklessly fast cycling is just really dangerous.
People turn right when the lights are green and I’m riding straight ahead. What’s that all about?
You might be a little freaked out when car drivers turn right crossing the bike lane while you’re trying to ride straight ahead. It’s legal, given it’s done safely. You have right of way and the car can only make a right turn when there are no cyclists approaching. This being said, tons of accidents happen by motorists not looking and turning right into the bike lane anyway. Be extra careful when approaching a junction where motorists are turning right, crossing a bike lane. Never assume they’re going to stop for you.
Where’s a good place to get my bike repaired?
Bike shops in Berlin are everywhere. Ask your friends or on a Facebook group (like free advice berlin) for shop recommendations, or try one you think looks friendly.
Are there any standards my bike must meet to be a legal mode of transport?
Yeah, there are a couple. Legally, your bike has to have two independent brakes – that means that if your bike has a ‘coaster’ or pedal brake, you also have to have a hand brake installed (one is sufficient). That also means riding a track bike/fixie on the streets isn’t actually legal.
Regarding lights, prior to 2013, you had to have dynamo lights – not anymore; battery lights on the front and back (and reflectors on both wheels) are sufficient, as long as they are always functional and never concealed.
Is it safe to buy a bike at a flea market?
The police are now often at bike flea markets, and most vendors claim they are stringent about not buying stolen bikes. Of course, there is always a chance the bike you buy could be stolen, try to use your common sense and avoid sketchy people and something that seems too good (or cheap) to be true.