Many in the Wiesbaden community are taking advantage of the summer weather by riding their bicycles.
Even more so, the Wiesbaden community is seeing a boom in biking as COVID-wary travelers are looking for alternatives to public transportation. Whether you are bicycling as a way to get to work or as a fun way to explore the local sights, there are many laws and safety measures to keep in mind.
German bicycle laws are similar to that of the U.S. forces installation regulations. Some key differences and laws to keep in mind are:
• Bicyclists must yield to traffic on the right;
• Bicyclists cannot turn right on red lights;
• Adult bicyclists must use paths and marked parts of the road and are only allowed to ride on the sidewalk when accompanying children under 10;
• Children up to age 8 must ride on the sidewalk, not in traffic, while children up to age 10 have the option to ride on the sidewalk;
• Bicyclists in the street must travel in a single file on the far-right side of the road in the direction of traffic;
• Riding side-by-side is prohibited;
• Bicyclists are considered vehicles and are subject to some of the same “driving under the influence” regulations as automobiles;
• Bicyclists are prohibited from using non-hands-free devices while operating their bicycle; and
• Vehicle-mounted bicycle racks may not cover vehicle license plates.
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kirkey, the law enforcement operations non-commissioned officer for the Directorate of Emergency Services, notes that “If someone has a vehicle-mounted bike rack, a license plate must be secured to the rack and fully visible to the rear.” Kirkey added that upon request, Vehicle Registration can order a third plate for bike racks.
In Germany, bicycles are subject to safety equipment requirements in order to be “street legal.” The safety equipment is required by both U.S. forces installation regulations and German laws, and includes items such as standard brakes to safely stop the bicycle and a ringing or clicking bell. Equipment specifically required for use after dark includes: a headlamp emitting a white light, a tail light emitting a red light, two reflectors mounted 180 degrees apart on the wheel spokes, and front and rear pedal reflectors.
Helmets are also required. On U.S. forces installations, all bicycle operators, with the exception of local nationals, are required to wear a helmet that is properly fastened under the chin and that meets the American National Standards Institute or the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation standard for bicycle helmets. Off U.S. forces installations, active duty military personnel are required to wear a safety vest in addition to a helmet; dependents, family members, and Department of the Army employees are highly encouraged to wear a helmet and safety vest, but they are not required. Individuals must respect both host nation and military laws and are subject to fines and points from the Polizei and the military police.
Acting Safety Manager Todd Lewis suggests wearing reflective clothing or accessories to maximize visibility. Lewis adds, “The bottom line is to pay attention so you reach your destination safely.” For questions regarding bicycle safety and laws, contact the Safety Office at (314) 548-2301/2/3.
Electric bicycles, or e-bicycles, and scooters have their own set of regulations for being operated on the economy. All e-bicycle models require a helmet and insurance license plates, however, e-bicycle models built for speeds up to 25 kilometers per hour are only allowed to be ridden on bicycle paths and require a moped test certificate. E-bicycle models built for speeds up to 45 kilometers per hour require a driver’ permit and are prohibited from being ridden on bicycle paths. E-kick scooters, such as those used in scooter-sharing programs, require that operators be at least 14 years of age, but do not require a driver’s license, a moped test certificate, or a helmet.
The Outdoor Recreation and Education Program offers online resources that bicyclers will find useful, most notably, a biking presentation, which outlines: safety tips and checklists, bicycle laws in Germany, a full list of required safety equipment, steps to take if your bicycle is stolen, European arm signals, steps for fitting a helmet, maintenance tips, steps to take in a bicycle accident, and traffic and street sign reminders.
Additional online resources from the Outdoor Recreation and Education Program include a “Bike 2 Work Program,” which shares biking paths to and from different garrison areas, and a “1000 Kilometer Biking Club Program,” which offers eligible participants a free jersey after biking 1,000 kilometers. The Outdoor Recreation and Education Program offers an array of services including self-storage units, bicycle maintenance, and an equipment check-out program. Services are currently being offered at the Outdoor Recreation Center on Clay North by appointment only at (0611)143-548-9801. To access the Outdoor Recreation Center’s biking information, programs, contact information, hours, pricing, and a full list of services, visit www.wiesbaden.armymwr.com/programs/outdoor-recreation.