Ride safely this season

Bicycles should have lights, reflectors; riders should wear helmet

As the weather gets nicer, now is the ideal time for bicyclists to hit the road. Bicycling is a great way to stay in shape, see the sights, save money on gas and reduce pollution.

In support of May’s National Bike Safety Month, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation provides maps of the trails and routes to all garrison areas, bicycle maintenance and tune ups at the Wiesbaden Sports, Fitness and Outdoor Recreation Center.

But before you get started remember you must obey both U.S. Army traffic regulations and German traffic laws on base and out in town. Your bicycle must be street legal and is considered a vehicle when riding in traffic. Racing bikes, mountain bikes and electric bikes have their own unique standards. Regulations for driver and vehicle requirements can be found in the Installation Traffic Code for U.S. Forces in Germany (AER 190-1) and Road Traffic Act (Straßenverkehrsordnung “StVO”).

Some rules of the road to be aware of concern the right of way. Bicyclists must yield to traffic on the right, use arm signals, not turn right on red, and always yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. Traffic laws must be obeyed, especially speed limits. Bicyclists will use parts of the road marked for bicycle use when available, to include bike lanes, paths and specially designated sidewalks. However, children up to age 8 must be on the sidewalk, not in traffic. Children up to age 10 may ride on the sidewalk, and if accompanied by an adult, the adult should ride on the sidewalk with them. When cycling on the street, travel in the direction of traffic and stay as far to the right side of the road as you can do safely. For one-way streets, normally, bikes cannot travel against the flow of traffic. Look for signs that indicate an exception; for example a graphic image of a bicycle and the word “Frei.” Riding side by side is forbidden on streets and roads, even in bicycle lanes.

Bicycles can ride in pedestrian zones if the zone is signed “Fahrrad Frei” or with a graphic of a bike and the word “Frei.” Note that in pedestrian zones, the pedestrians always have the right of way. There may be a special speed limit so ride slowly. Most of the time, pedestrians cannot hear you coming unless you verbally announce yourself or ring your bell. If you walk your bicycle, you become a pedestrian and no longer follow traffic laws.

The safety equipment requirements also apply to both U.S. and German riders. Bicycles ridden during hours of darkness must have a white headlight and a red taillight. Cyclists will wear light-colored clothing or reflective accessories. In addition, bicycles must have standard brakes that, when applied, safely stop the bicycle. The wheels must have two reflectors mounted 180 degrees apart on the spokes or reflective tires. Pedals must have reflectors, visible from the front and rear of the bicycle during darkness. Bicycle operators and passengers on U.S. Forces installations must wear approved helmets properly fastened under the chin. Helmets must meet the standards set by the ANSI or the ECE.

As an exception, local national personnel are not required to wear a helmet or reflective vest when riding a bicycle on U.S. military installations in Germany. It is, however, highly recommended that they do so. As for off-base cycling, AER 190-1 applies to active duty military personnel, so a helmet and safety vest must be worn. For dependents, Family members and Department of the Army employees, the safety vest and helmet are optional out in town but are highly encouraged to be worn. Studies show that helmets were found to be 85 percent protective against head injury and 88 percent protective against brain injury.

When riding your bicycle on and off post, respect the host nation and military laws and be aware you can receive fines and points from the German Polizei or the Military Police. The bottom line is to pay attention so you reach your destination safely. Happy cycling or “Fröhliches Radfahren!”

Local bicycle routes are posted on the USAG Wiesbaden webpage, under “Getting Around” at www.wiesbaden.army.mil/transportation. For questions contact the Safety Office at (0611) 143-548-2301/2/3.

This column was provided by the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Safety Office.

Drivers take note:

In Germany, cyclists are deemed by law to be drivers of vehicles and are entitled to the same rights on the road as motorists. Expect and watch for cyclists at all times, and treat them as you would any slow-moving vehicle.

• Pass cyclists only when it is safe to do so with plenty of room.
• Wait until it is safe to pass a bicycle and refrain from tailgating.
• Drivers should allow one meter between their vehicle and a person on a bicycle when passing.
• Remember to check for cyclists coming from behind before turning right.
• Allow extra time for cyclists to go through intersections.
• Give cyclists the right of way when the situation calls for it.
• Recognize road hazards that may be dangerous for cyclists and give cyclists the necessary space to deal with them.
Source: U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Safety Office

Cyclists take note:

Avoid a crash by adopting the following preventive measures:
• Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to drivers and others.
• Keep both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.
• Tie shoelaces and tuck pant legs, so they don’t get caught in your bike chain.
• Ride defensively, focused and alert.
• Ride with the flow, in the same direction as traffic.
• Assume the other person doesn’t see you. Look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall, such as toys, pebbles, potholes, grates or train tracks.
• Obey street signs, signals and road markings just like a car.
• Pass pedestrians with care by using your bell.
• Slow down and look for traffic when crossing a street.
Source: USAG Wiesbaden Outdoor Recreation