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Walkers on Wheels

German inline skaters will have to join the ranks of slower moving pedestrians on the sidewalk. According to a decision made by Germany’s supreme court, streets and bicycle paths are off limits to roller bladers.


Sidewalks are no longer the place for casual afternoon strollers

They move fast, zipping in and out of traffic, jumping curbs and gliding at high altitudes down treacherously uneven streets; most of them have difficulty breaking. These are the inline skaters, the fastest moving pedestrians on two wheels. And starting this week, they’ve been relegated to the sidewalks in Germany.

The German Federal Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that inline skaters would have to abide by the rules of pedestrian traffic, which means they will be prohibited from skating on streets and bicycle paths. Germany’s highest court made it clear that these fast moving "walkers" were a danger to other vehicles like bikes, mopeds and cars, and therefore would be forced to use sidewalks.

The court also called upon the German government to establish a set of clear rules for inline skaters.

Collision case

The Federal Supreme Court made its announcement after hearing a case concerning a collision between an inline skater and a moped driver on the outskirts of a town. The skater, who was seriously injured in the crash, brought the case before a civil court and demanded reparations.

The local court in Oldenburg, which first heard the case, found the skater 60 percent responsible for the collision. The skater had not used the far left side of the road as required of pedestrians, but rather had skated in the left lane, which is reserved for faster moving traffic.

Traffic experts say the inline skaters should be compared to bicycles because of the high speeds they reach. A study conducted by the Federal Transportation Ministry, however, showed that the roller bladers face an increased risk when they use streets as opposed to sidewalks and bike paths.

The German Association for Inline Skating criticized the court’s decision. Ute Villwock, the group’s president, said that she hopes communities will permit skaters to use smaller side streets (speed limit 30 km/h) and bike paths.

Germany’s largest automobile club ADAC applauded the court’s decision. The decision will prevent more accidents, the club’s spokesperson said.