Giveaway Competition

On our visit to Oxfordshire recently I liked many things, of course, but one issue which I found extremely helpful when out and about on the bike was the near-complete absence of cyclepaths.

This may at a first glance look strange, but if you are an ambitious cyclist, trying to get anywhere, maybe at a good speed too, cyclepaths are a dangerous nuisance, full stop. The friends we visited said that they didn´t like cycling in Germany now because there were that many cyclepaths. Right they are.

In Germany, whenever there is a blue, round roadsign with a cycle on it, cyclists are compelled by law to use the cyclepath, never mind its condition. Potholes, debris – no matter. The only exeption is when the path is physically blocked, i.e. by snow or fallen trees.

A recent court decision states that cyclists must use cyclepaths in all other cases, they must go slower, even dismount, when the condition of the cyclepaths demands it, but they must not use the road. Town councils are not required to repair cyclepaths; the only requirement is that they put up more roadsigns to tell cyclists that the cyclepath is dangerous to avoid any liability. This does not acquit cyclists from the requirement to use those paths.

The photo below was taken in Melle. For the uninformed it is probably even hard to see what the cyclepath actually is. The additonal signs say “Damaged Cyclepath” and “Cyclists Dismount”. Great cyclepath where you have to push your bike.

This proves an idea I have had a long time ago: Cyclepaths are not there to facilitate cycling, but motoring. Get the cyclists out of the drivers´ way by constructing a cheap cyclepath, put up the right roadsigns, and forget about the cyclists and the cyclepath. No need to look after cyclists´ infrastructure, if you may call it that, there´s the blue roadsign. That´s what it is like. Proof? Here´s some snaps I took on my rides, all within an easy cycling radius of, say, 50 km around where I live.

A small aside: Of course many policemen are cyclists themselves, and numerous are the instances when a patrol car overtook me when I was cycling in the road next to a cyclepath, and the officers didn´t do anything. However, some did do something, and if an accident should happen, no insurance will pay anything if you´re not where the powers that be say you belong. That´s the real problem.

Believe it or not, this is an official cyclepath, in the town of Melle. Some more details of the potholes:

There are numerous examples of completely neglected cyclepaths in the area. The problem of course is that paths are made very cheaply. Any mole with a mediocre work ethos will destroy a path in a matter of weeks.

Here is what happens when town planners don´t think, or care, or both. A friend of mine who lives right round the corner says that this is not a cyclepath, but attempted manslaughter:

Building one path for both directions is something seen very often. Here it is the case, too. So you cycle along the path, having probably stopped for the motorist emerging from the road to the left because you were overlooked, and then you proceed straight into oncoming traffic when the path ends. This is in a town called Lotte.

Same problem on this canal bridge, near Hunteburg, only that the bridge does´t allow you to escape anywhere. Imagine sticking to the cyclepath on the wrong side of the road with a lorry coming towards you. Here you also have to negotiate pedestrians who are in the same lane as you.

Basically it is a good thing that German authorities are coming to their senses now, building more roundabouts instead of traffic lights. However, there´s a nasty surprise in it for cyclists: Once in the roundabout, cars of course have right of way. Cyclists are redirected to a small cyclepath, and they have to give way at each intersection with traffic going into or emerging from the roundabout. This will considerably slow their progress and it is dangerous, too, because this rule is so daft that many motorists will wait for you – until they see that they unexpectedly have right of way and accelerate again. This example is near Icker.

Another example of a really dangerous path is this, on the so-called Leckermühle roundabout. This really is a cyclepath for both directions of traffic. The road in the top right hand corner is a dual carriageway and forbidden for cyclists. The one leading to the half timbered house is the one cyclists will have to use once they have made it safely off the cyclepath.

Right, and what about the competition? What´s the giveaway? It´s a pothole from any of the numerous infamous Melle cyclepaths. Maybe this way we´re going to get rid of them.

To get a pothole you have to send in snaps of other dangerous paths, from any country, and I will publish them here. Write a comment, and I´ll give you an e-mail address to send the pics to. The worst path will receive the prize.

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One Comment

  1. Doug Wagner
    Posted February 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We have the same bike path problem in Florida: narrow roads with no shoulder and bike paths that are glorified sidewalks. In rural areas it is the narrow roads that are the problem.

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