Bikeways cause string of fatal bike accidents in Germany
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bikeways cause string of fatal bike accidents in Germany

by Bjorn Haake at 12:52 PM EST   comments
Categories: General, Commuting, Advocacy

Three fatal accidents in less than a week have startled Germany. All accidents were caused by truck drivers turning right and all victims were cycling in bicycle specific infrastructure, putting in question the safety of these kinds of facilities.

Accident number one happened in Paderborn on December 9, when a 13-year-old boy was killed on his way home from school. The boy was crossing an intersection on a bike path, when the truck driver turned right. The cyclist had the right of way, but the truck driver didn't see him and ran the school boy over.

The other two accidents happened in Berlin on December 10 and 14. In one instance, a 49-year-old woman was killed who was riding in a bike lane. As the truck turned right, the cyclist fell underneath the truck's wheels. In both cases, the paramedics were unable to save the cyclists' lives, who died on the scene.

The third accident happened at the Prenzlauer Berg, also in Berlin. A 28-year-old cyclist was riding in a bike lane when she was hit by a right turning truck. The woman was brought to hospital where she died later the same day.

Perceived safety

These terrible incidents renew the discussions about the safety of bike lanes and cycle tracks, especially in urban settings. Currently, there is a petition to the German Parliament asking to revoke the mandatory side path law. The right turning accidents are typical for these kinds of facilities.

Some countries try to copy the bike infrastructure from countries like Germany, Belgium, or Denmark in order to increase bicycle traffic. Usually, the fact that they create additional hazards is not discussed, however.

A thorough before-after study from Copenhagen, Denmark, shows that cycling accidents went up by over ten percent when cycle tracks were built.

The Berlin police warns about these accidents on its website. There currently is some re-thinking going on and some cities are removing their cycle tracks. The tracks usually make less experienced cyclists think they are safe, but while the perceived safety is big, the actual safety is a lot smaller.



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