Is it obligatory to ride a bike on a bicycle path in Germany?

A frequently asked question is whether cyclists must ride on the bicycle path in Germany? Generally, due to the German Road Traffic Act, there is an existing duty applying for all cyclists to use bicycle paths, if they exist. Particularly cyclists who ride racing bikes or bikes generally faster, often ask themselves if it is allowed to use the roadway instead of the bicycle path, despite the presence of those and the duty to use them.  According to the German Road Traffic Act there is no exception rule from the obligation to use cycle paths which is directly linked to certain types of bicycles or to a specific speed. However, there are some slight exceptions. In practice, not every bike path must be used obligatory. The duty only occurs when the bike path is marked by a blue sign with a bike inside.

If this sign is lacking, the roadway may also be used even if there is an existing bike path. ( § 2, paragraph 4, set 3 of the German Road Traffic Act). Background of this scheme is the realization that structurally remote bike paths in many cases, cause a higher accident risk for cyclists than the guide of cycling on the road.
As a consequence, it can increasingly cause conflicts with pedestrians. Particular, there is a high potential of conflict at intersections and junctions with retracting and -turning motorists , since they are not expected by the frequent lack of visual connection with crossing cyclists and cyclists often seem to behave carelessly because of the subjective sense of security, given by the bike path.Closed associations from sixteen cyclists may use the road for two side by side even if a cycle path is present (closed association gem . § 27) .If a signposted cycle path is objectively unusable, in the case of a frozen ground, overgrowth of plants or blocked by illegal parked cars, one does not have to use it.

In principle, according to the German Road Traffic Act, it is always a duty to use an existing bike path. Although this can be avoided in some cases, driving on the road often hides major conflicts with motorists and other road users. Often road cyclists get into the blind spot of cars, especially at intersections when turning, while motorists in such a situation, rather take note of pedestrians and cyclists who ride properly on the bike pat. This leads to a reduced risk of accidents and conflicts.

So always note the importance of your own health and that of other road users and rather use the cycle path, unless the path is damaged or poses a danger to you.

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