Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fahrradsport Wednesday - Pedestrians

Well, it has been a little while since my last Fahrradsport post. I've been swamped with work that has crept into my nightly routine, which saps what little time and energy I have left after a long day at the lab followed by getting the boys into bed. But I felt inspired tonight (or maybe looking for an excuse to procrastinate on work I should be doing), so here we go...

I really enjoy taking my bike to work each day. It solves two problems: 1) I need to get myself and my laptop to and from work each day and 2) I need exercise. It is a cheap and efficient form of transportation. The amount of time it takes me to get to the lab is almost the same amount it takes to ride the U-Bahn (if you disregard the time getting my bike gear on and off). And the fact that the government here has accommodated cycling with relatively well-maintained bike lanes makes it quite enjoyable.

But if there is one thing I really don't enjoy about cycling in Berlin, it's pedestrians. It seems like at least once per day I need to ring my bell to let the dope walking along the bike path know to get the hell out of my way. Even scarier are the nutballs that are trying to cross the bike path who don't bother looking left or right before they cross. I actually considered not getting my bike serviced this summer because the fact that it sounded like a rusty chainsaw saved my sorry ass more than once. At least then people would hear me speeding along as they were meandering across the path. I haven't actually Schwinned any one yet, but I know that day is coming given how stupid the people walking the streets seem.

The clueless pedestrians stand in stark contrast to drivers here. I am regularly so impressed with the courtesy Berlin drivers show to cyclists. They almost always stop before coming to the bike lane before proceeding across it. And if they happen to be on the bike lane and they see me barreling through, then the move forward or back up to let me pass. And when they make a right-hand turn, which means they must cross over the bike lane to do, virtually every single one looks first to see if a bike is coming. The drivers here really do seem to pay close attention to the bike lanes; it's too bad the pedestrians don't!

There is one thing I don't like about the drivers here, but that's for a future post...

8 comments:

cliff1976 said...

I hear ya, homes.

My bike path to work in the morning takes me along the banks of the Danube where the river cruise boats dock for the day. They let their senior citizens out to roam Regensburg about the same time I'm late for a meeting. Of course, they congregate in large groups before marauding through our Altstadt and don't even realize they're standing on the bike path. And my bell doesn't do much good; they don't hear it and step aside — they hear it and think "there's something wrong with this hearing aid...that ringing sound is ba---watch it, Myrtle, there's a guy on a bike here!"

C N Heidelberg said...

Pedestrians are dangerous here, too. Many of them are American tourists who don't recognize that they're on a bike lane!
http://cndrnh.blogspot.com/2007/04/ding-ding.html

Kristin said...

I'd say this is better than the other way around - better for you to hit a pedestrian than for a car to hit you!

residentonearth.com said...

We have the same senior citizen issue in our town when they get dumped off for the day. And I have to laugh at myself sometimes because I'm so trained to red brick= bike path that when I'm walking instead of biking I'm still walking in the red at first and have to remind myself to move over to the pedestrian side. I agree that the drivers in Germany are, for the most part, REALLY great about watching out for bikes.

Irish Berliner said...

Motorists are Berlin are educated about road safety taking cyclists into account, something which doesn't happen in Ireland for instance. The reason they stop and look before turning right is because they HAVE to - the law is there to protect cyclists. I actually find there are an awful lot of asshole motorists out there who clearly do not like not sharing their precious streets with two-wheeled types. So often I've been on the receiving end of their road rage before they speed off with screeching tyres to underline their annoyance. Idiots. Funnily enough, I haven't had any problems with pedestrians. Sure they might wander out in front of you, but they tend to jump out of the way pretty quickly before you can hit them!

Afferent Input said...

@Cliff: Fortunately, my route doesn't take past any points where old folks are paused for any length of time. There is one spot that comes closest; a bus stop that is right in front of an S-Bahn station. Starting from the station, there is about 2m of sidewalk, then 1m of bike path, then another meter of concrete just in front of the bus. Since it's a busy station, there is always a crowd, and about 90% of the people waiting recognize the red-bricked bike path. The 10% that don't usually jump off the path pretty quickly when they see me coming. The ones that are most dangerous are the idiots running from the station to catch the bus before it takes off. I almost hit one dude doing that.

@CN Heidelberg: Excellent graphic!

@Kristin: Too true! Knowing my luck, I'll probably careen off of a pedestrian into oncoming traffic.

@ residentonearth.com: That's hilarious; I've caught myself doing the same thing! Especially if I happen to be walking along any part of my regular route.

@ Irish Berliner: You are right that most pedestrians scurry off pretty quickly right after they give me their best "deer caught in headlights" impression. I haven't had too many issue with motorists, honestly, except one: parking in the bike lane. I think must be due to that lack of respect you mentioned. More on that in a later post...

globalgal said...

I had to stifle a big "if only..." sigh on reading this post. I ride my bike daily in Beijing and I have to use the bell at least once every 10 seconds to avoid pedestrians. It's exhausting!

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I have to say that the cyclists were the scariest thing ever for us in Berlin. It took forever for me to get the kids used to the fact that the sidewalk is divided between bike path and walking area and even once they understood it, they often just weren't paying attention.

In Canada, it is pretty clear that riding your bicycle on the sidewalk is not allowed. You can get a ticket for it. So having the bike paths on the sidewalk was a huge adjustment.

I prefer clearly marked bike paths that are part of the road, rather than bike paths that are part of the sidewalk.