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Red means go? German parliament reviews bicycle turn laws

The Federal Ministry of Transport has announced it will review whether to give cyclists the green light to turn right on red at certain intersections. Pilot projects have already been planned in several German cities.

German cyclists' long wait may soon be over.

In response to a request from the Green Party, the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) agreed to reconsider whether bicyclists should be able to turn right on red lights, the German daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung" reported on Tuesday. 

Currently, cyclists are legally required to wait for the light to change to green. Should they decide to turn on red, they face a fine of at least 60 euro ($63) - and often the wrath of angry observers.

The Green Party welcomed the ministry's revision announcement.

"The Ministry of Transport's change of course on right turns by cyclists is heartening," Matthias Gastel, the Green Party's transportation representative, said on Tuesday, noting that the measure could reduce cycling accidents at intersections. 

In the past months, traffic researchers, the General German Cycling Club (ADFC), and the Left Party have also voiced their support for the change. 

No general turn-right-on-red rule

However, the eventual permission for cyclists to turn right on red would only apply to specifically indicated traffic lights, the ministry made clear in its response. This could be achieved either through a pictorial sign or a separate traffic arrow exclusively for bicyclists.  

Berlin Radweg in Schönefeld (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Kalaene)

Signs could show where bikes may turn right on red

The ministry also referred to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which established broadly internationally-agreed standards for transportation safety. The agreement dictates that red always means stop, the ministry noted, meaning riders of bicycles would be forced to come to a complete stop before heading right at permitted intersections.

But cycling advocates have pushed back against this idea. Gastel highlighted that France and Belgium allow bikes to turn right on red without stopping and suggested the introduction of traffic signs permitting a no-stop right turn.

"A mandatory stop would be impractical and would unnecessarily restrict the flow of cycle traffic," Gastel argued.

Following in others' footsteps

Fahrräder am Brandenburger Tor (picture-alliance/dpa)

Berlin will lauch a pilot project to test the proposed rule

Along with France and Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States also permit cyclists to turn right on red. The US allows vehicles to do so as well - something which often surprises German visitors who cross the Atlantic.

Various Germany cities have plans to test the proposed rule. The Berlin municipal government agreed on a pilot project while Munich would like to introduce extra signs on particularly awkward intersections, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

cmb/jm (dpa, AFP)

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