Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bike Rage

One of the great things about my job is that I can bike to work. This is, of course, a great form of exercise and much cheaper than the alternatives. But if you're picturing an idyllic pedal down a cobblestone road, I have to tell you the picture isn't quite right.

Germany is much more bike-friendly than the U.S., but Frankfurt's bike lanes lack any sort of logic. My commute to work starts in a marked bike lane on the street, then moves to a marked bike lane on the sidewalk. I follow the pedestrian lights through an intersection and am then spit back onto a road bike lane for about 200 meters before it abruptly ends, leaving me in the car lane. I go through two more intersections and then get back onto the sidewalk bike lane, another couple blocks, then back onto the road, sans bike lane. Finally, I cross another intersection and bike through a pedestrian zone. (Schritt Tempo!)

After buying my cheap bike last Fall I also bought a bike map. Some help that is! Learning routes like the one above depends on following more experienced cyclists, and trying to figure out which of their behaviors are legal. Most bikers run red lights and don't wear helmets, ride on the wrong side of the street, etc. I am wearing a helmet and trying to obey the laws, but it's not easy. I bike past the police station, and I often imagine a stern Polizistin pulling me over and reading me the riot act. But apparently I shouldn't worry about that. Today a police car pulled right in front of me, completely blocking the bicycle lane. I resisted the urge to give the German "You're a terrible driver!" hand gesture. (Not our one-fingered salute, but rather waving your open palm in front of your face.)  I guess even the police can't figure out the bike laws in Frankfurt.

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