Bike Riding 101

It all started as a casual conversation: “Do you know how to ride a bike?”

“Of course I do,” I scoffed. “We have bikes in Brooklyn too, you know.”

What I originally perceived as a fairly innocent question was a grave misinterpretation on my part. I learned how to bike ride as a kid for recreational purposes. I happily went in circles in the back of my apartment building, honking my horn at people in my way, showing off my riding skills with one or no hands (Look ma, no hands!).

Fast forward to now. People here ride like they are competing in the Tour de France and the bikers rule the sidewalks. The nanosecond the light turns green, people are off on their bikes racing along the bike path to their destination.

Everyone except me. The nanosecond the light turns green, I groan, try to regain my balance on the bike, am often unable to stay straight, hope that no one bumps into me and the light stays green long enough for me to cross the street. Bikers are usually a part of the same flow of traffic as cars (and not pedestrians) and need to sign with their hands – like people did before cars had indicators installed.  This seemly easy act of indicating when you are going to make a turn is quite the challenge for me. I have the left turn signal down right now, but I can’t seem to keep my right arm extended for a long period of time. I’m always jealous of the bike riders I see eating or riding without their hands.

In Erlangen, there are designated bike lanes on the sidewalk, which I try to stay in – even though other bikers don’t and like to take up the minuscule space left for pedestrians. The bikers are running a monarchy – a dictatorship of some sort. I’ve seen them hit cars that get too close to them and yell at pedestrians on their part of the sidewalk (but it’s no problem if it’s vice versa). Since it’s the main method of transportation, it’s also common to see pregnant women and mothers with little carriers in tow, neatly covered so the child is protected from the elements. Can you imagine? I barely handle myself on the bike, let alone additional weight.

Do you ride your bike as your primary transportation? Do you like it? Any tips for balancing and signaling?

Photos in this post are courtesy of Anna W. Danke dear!

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8 thoughts on “Bike Riding 101

  • April 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm
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    I love bike riding, but don’t have a bike in Germany yet. I know what you mean about the rules and the speed though. When I was biking in Copenhagen I almost got biked over, they were fast!
    P.S. Still haven’t see you on House Hunters yet, but will try and find it on YouTube this weekend.

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    • April 19, 2011 at 5:26 pm
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      Hi Laurel! Bikes here are crazy expensive. But it does feel nice when the weather is nice. It’s a sense of freedom and a newly formed relationship with bugs ;-). I have a link for the show, but it’s not working here in Germany… schade. Hope your recovery is going well.

      Reply
  • April 19, 2011 at 11:13 am
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    Hello :)

    I don’t have any biking tips – I just want to commiserate! I never really rode a bike much as a kid and have zero confidence when it comes to climbing on one on the streets now… no way I’m getting involved with German traffic!

    Reply
    • April 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm
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      Hallo und danke, Frau Dietz! :) It’s also nerve racking as a pedestrian, watching bikes dart in between cars. Amazing…

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  • July 2, 2011 at 6:46 am
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    Hi,

    I saw you on house hunters and I am wondering how you’re liking Germany. I am from Philly and I am thinking of moving there.

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    • July 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm
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      Hi Alan,
      Everyone’s experience is different, but it also depends what region you want to move to. Do you speak German? I do like living here, but there are also things that drive me nuts and some things I am still adjusting to. Overall, I highly recommend living abroad. It’ a great experience :). I’ll shoot you an email so we can chat more.
      Thanks,
      Kim

      Reply
  • June 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm
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    Freiburg has great bike lanes. We even have a street by the river where the bikes have priority over cars. Quite a nice place to be a biker actually.

    I use mine most days to go to work and back.

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    • June 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm
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      Hey Andrew! Sometimes the bike lanes are bigger than the pedestrian side here, which always amuses me. Do you ride your bike in the winter too? I can’t bring myself to do it when it’s so cold.

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