Before arriving in Munich, husband and I had just started to play with the idea of cycling. Husband enjoyed a weekly ride from our suburban home into the city battling Sydney traffic. And I had just bought a cheeky new Reid Cycles ladies vintage bike. Never did I think that my brand spanking new wheels would become my primary source of transport, and “everything bikes” would become husband’s newest hobby!
Moving to Munich, I quickly learnt that riding a bike got you nods of approval, kept your fitness looking good, and gave you quick access to this beautiful city. Once the spring hits, those who shied away for the winter dust off their 2 wheels and jump back on the cycle wagon.
I’ve since learnt that cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen do the “bike thing” even better, but for me, I think Munich’s bicycle culture system is pretty schmick…
Being on a bike in Munich, is swift and breezy. You even get a little bit of road rage at times, but it’s still rewarding. Here are some lessons learnt that are useful for any newcomers…
1. Cycle everywhere
The city has bike lanes on the sidewalk making it easy for cyclists to navigate. Sometimes the lanes are shared with pedestrians, but generally the sidewalk is split into pedestrian and cyclists. Also, unless stated otherwise, it is one way according to the traffic. When there is no bike lane, you are required to share the street – but drivers are very respectful (9/10).
You can also take your 2 wheels on the public transport, BUT only between specific hours, and you must ensure to buy a ticket for your bike!
2. Use your bike bell!
It’s really important to have a bell on your bike. Firstly, when pedestrians are in your way (more likely than not it is probably a tourist), you need to alert them that you are coming. Not alerting them could lead to an accident.
Secondly, if you want to overtake the cyclist, just ring your bell, and they will move to the right giving you enough room to overtake!
3. Park your bike
I’m not too sure if there are any rules to where you are supposed to park your bike, but it seems to be a) attached to a pole, b) anywhere close to a pole, c) wherever you can attach it, d) in front of any piece of wall that does not have a no bicycles signs. Sometimes it gets out of hand, especially when you can’t find a spot, you end up double parking with the hope that no one will move your bike!
Never would I have thought that my cool red wheels would have the ability to carry so much weight! Get yourself front and back baskets and get yourself to the grocery store. It’s amazing how much you can carry on a bike when you have no car!
5. Cyclists have right of way
I learnt pretty quickly that cyclists have right of way. If a car is turning, and you are approaching, the driver must give you right of way. I almost caused an accident once when I stopped to let a car turn. The guy behind me was quick to tell me off in German – I was a bit shocked at first, but he was 100% right. So, if a car does not give you right of way, or the cyclist in front of you stops uneccesarily, you can let them know J Just be nice about it.
6. Bavarians love rules
If you cheekily go down that one way street by your house, or are on the bike lane on the wrong side of the road, or going over a platz (open square) where you shouldn’t, don’t be surprised if a lady or man quickly tell you that you are doing the wrong thing! They love a bit of authority and will jump at the chance to make sure everyone else knows the rules!
Biking has become such a big part of our lives, and of our daily conversations. When we travel, we don’t think twice about taking advantage of bike hire to explore new environments. We could talk for hours about our love for cycling, and how we would love to see our home country Australia start adapting Europe’s love for cycling. Hey, if the people of the BMW city can do it, then anyone can trade there 4 large wheels for even cooler 2!