Taking no prisoners

Several weeks ago, The Munich Eye ran a front-page story about the increase in bicycle accidents and the response of the local police. Anyone who rides a bike in the city has probably noticed the increase in checkpoints, where cyclists are stopped for an assortment of reasons, such as riding the wrong way, riding without a light, or crossing on a red light. Often called 'Radl Rambos' (bike rowdys), wilder cyclists are notorious in southern Germany for endangering their safety, as well as the safety of others.

Upon first arriving in Munich, tourists are often warned that absent-mindedly walking into the bike lane is akin to walking in front of a bus. You are taking your life into your own hands even when walking these otherwise safe city streets. As with any situation like this, the vast majority are careful and courteous riders, whilst the most dangerous ones make the others look bad.

When many vehicle drivers or pedestrians hear about the better policing of those travelling on two wheels, the response is often one of relief. Something had to be done and it was about time that the authorities took the situation seriously; the only problem is that the recent fatal collisions were not entirely a result of dangerous biking. Actually, the problem was usually that the cyclist was in the driver's blind spot and was simply not seen. The person in the automobile looked both ways before turning, but at the last minute a bicycle came flying through the intersection.

From the perspective of the cyclist, many drivers are careless and most pedestrians are unobservant. As a result, you have to be cautious about not hitting people and simultaneously not being hit by the bigger and more dangerous vehicles. Cycling may be a wonderfully green method of transportation, but it is not for the faint of heart. Not in Munich, at least.

However, a very curious thing happens when cyclists step off their bikes. Those on foot, previously sworn enemies, become fellow commuters and certain cyclists appear to be thoughtless and careless. As a pedestrian, the vehicle drivers present the same hazards as they do to cyclists. However once one gets behind the wheel of a car, it is not uncommon for a once cautious pedestrian to feel that both pedestrians and cyclists are simply in the way.

It is all well and good to be sanctimonious about the others with whom we have to share the road or pavement, but it would probably be to everyone's advantage if we remembered that no one is an enemy out there, that the tourist might not be accustomed to bike paths where he comes from. Shaving five minutes off of your commute is not worth anyone's life or limb.

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