Friday, November 23, 2012

Germans And Their Bicycles

I'm going to say it.

I believe that every German is issued a bicycle when they're born. They all have them. They use them for everything. They love their bicycles!

"Parking lot" at the local Adventure Playground:

Bicycles are basically kids' toys in the United States. They get one when they're old enough to learn and continue to get new ones pretty much up until around age 16 or so when they finally get their driver's license. At that point, almost no one uses a bicycle other than if they're "into" bicycles or they're trying to impress a first date or something. Contrast that with Germany where bicycles are an accepted, no, the preferred form of transportation for many. Everyone has one and they use them all the time for everything; going to the metro in the morning, to work, the supermarket, school. You get the idea.

The bicycle parking area outside a local shopping center. Note that the bikes aren't locked up to anything!

In the U.S., even if people take mass transit to work, they drive to the local station. In Germany, many stations don't have car-parking lots but they usually have bicycle parking ones. Look at the parking lot for the metro near the Sachsenhausen concentration camp I visited recently. Not only is it covered but there's got to be space for like 300+ bicycles - and it's full!

The best part? Just like most things in Germany, bicycle riding is serious stuff. Germans pretty much have rules for everything, whether they're written or unwritten. Bicycling is the same. One morning I looked out the window of our apartment and there were at least 20 kids with neon vests on their bicycles. According to the Germans I asked, they were school kids learning about bicycling traffic/safety laws.

Honestly, I feel a little left out as I don't have a bicycle...yet. I do want one but haven't been able to decide what to get. Do I go road, mountain, hybrid? Do I need lights? How about a removable basket or rack for trips to the store? Could I join the kids out front one day to learn the rules of the road? Ich möchte jetzt ein Fahrrad! Welche soll ich kaufen und wie kann ich lernen, die Fahrad fahren Regeln?

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