Cycling in Germany: Everything you need to know


Updated on Dec 04 • 4 minute read

Cycling is immensely popular in Germany! Over 75% of Germans own a bike, and pretty much everyone knows how to ride one properly, often learning to do so in early childhood. Unlike some countries, where Cycling is more of a sport, cyclists are a well established and expected part of German traffic. The country has cycling lanes in many places and many Germans use a bike as a part of their daily commute to work or school. So, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about cycling when you get to Germany!

Bicycle requirements in Germany

You can’t just ride anything with two wheels and call it a bicycle, though! Your bike needs to be roadworthy, meaning it needs to meet a set of requirements that make sure you can participate in German traffic in a safe and responsible manner. Let’s take a look at what’s required:

- Proper lights: First of all, you need a well functioning set of lights. A white or yellow light at the front, but without any of the fancy blinking effects that some bike lights offer.

You also need a bright-red rear light that's on as long as you’re on the bike, even if you’re stationary. The main function of these lights is to help other drivers see you in the dark and during poor weather conditions. If police finds you riding with a broken light, or if you’ve simply forgotten to turn it on, you’ll face a fine of €20 euros or more.

__- Reflectors: for similar reasons, your bike needs to have at least one yellow reflector or have reflective spokes/strips on the tips that will help another driver spot you when coming towards you in poor lighting conditions and from an angle where they wouldn't be facing your lights.

- Brakes: To ride your bike legally in Germany, you need 2 independently functioning brakes, usually one for the front wheel and one for the back.

For example, if only your front brakes work while going downhill, a panic brake would likely see you sailing over your steering wheel, possibly right into whatever triggered your desire to stop in the first place!

- A bell: Similar to the horn of a car, your bike needs to have a nice loud bell on it. This way you can alert other cyclists or pedestrians of the fact that you’re coming through from a position where they might not be able to see you. If your bell isn't working you can be fined again.

- A seat: For expats who are parents, transporting your child of 7 years or younger with you on your bike requires you to install a proper child seat.

Similarly, it’s also illegal to ride a bike with someone on the back. Generally, police tend to ignore this if they have somewhere else to be, but if you’re swerving dangerously, prepare to fined for this and anything else that’s wrong with your bike.

German biking laws and tips

Bicycles are a common sight in Germany, and as a cyclist, you participate in traffic. This means keeping an eye on traffic signs to tell you when to stop or give right of way as well as sticking to the ebb and flow of traffic lights. Simple enough, but here are some common or unspoken rules for cyclists that will save you from a fine or simply keep you safe.

- Don’t drink and drive: participating in traffic while under the influence is dangerous!

- Make sure you can hear traffic: Driving with headphones isn't illegal but for your own safety, you should make sure you can still hear the traffic around you.

- Drive in the bike lane when available: Germany is full of designated bike lanes, which are marked with lines or a different colour. For example, a green cycling lane means that you have right of way as long as you‘re on that lane. If there’s no cycling lane, just stay as far right as possible.

- Indicate when turning or suddenly stopping: Extend your hand in the direction you’re going a few seconds before turning. This will warn other drivers of your intent and will give cars time to respond to your change in direction. If you need to stop unexpectedly, you can warn other cyclists and vehicles behind you by extending your arm downward with your hand extended.

- Obey traffic lights: running a red light is extremely dangerous. Not only will you have to pay a €200 fine but might lose your driving license

- Common sense: Cyclists are more vulnerable on the road. So use your common sense to judge in some situations.

Do I need a helmet when cycling in Germany?

Technically, no. There’s no law requiring you to wear a helmet as a cyclist in Germany. However, if you often drive in heavy traffic or in bad weather, it might be an idea to invest in a proper helmet!

Buying a bike in Germany

Getting your own bike in Germany is very easy! Especially in larger cities, it’s easy to pick up a second-hand bike for almost any budget up to €250.

If you want a brand new bike, you could be paying anywhere from €700 to over €1500. Germany is actually promoting the use of bicycles recently, so you could also check if your employer has a bicycle plan that could see you scoring a great bike for a friendly price.

Additionally, most of the major German cities are now home to quite a number of ride-sharing services, allowing you to score a bike that meets all the requirements on the go!

So, get those legs pumping to get where you need to go! Of course, if you're looking to go super long distance, it might be time to look into buying a car in Germany!

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