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Now it is officially spring again, the cyclists are coming out of hibernation. The Xtracycle and I spotted this classy looking bike at a local metro stop.
Having more cyclists is a great idea in theory, as long as they remember they aren’t driving their car down the Autobahn and expect everyone to jump out of the way.
Eighteen months of cycling to the bus stop has taught me I need fifteen minutes for a relaxed ride, ten at speed, and about seven and a half when I forget my wallet and have to go back and get it. The bus leaves the next village at 0635, so I aim to set off by 0620.
How I expected to catch the bus on Wednesday after leaving home at half past six I’m not sure.
On arriving I cunningly worked out that I’d failed in this by the empty bus shelter and clock showing it was 0640. meaning I had to cycle to the railway station, five kilometres away from our village, and 200m lower, and the other end of a busy road. I’m a fairly experienced cyclist, I know how cars usually react and I know the road. The weather was dry and visibility clear. What could possibly go wrong?
Apart from, say, falling off at high speed and being run over by an SUV.
With this comforting thought I went through the traffic lights and dropped off the end of the world. There were a couple of interesting moments like the point the street lights stopped and we plunged into darkness on a sharp bend with a drop on the left hand side of the road. Fortunately a helpful driver assisted by driving close enough to my back wheel that he lit the road ahead of me. Stopping for traffic lights was interesting and my bottle dynamo will never be the same again, but I made it in plenty of time, and the bike was still in the bike shed -with wheels- when I came back in the afternoon.
I doubt I’ll make a habit of this as the ‘ride’ back took almost an hour of climbing via a road cycle-cross riders would reject out of hand, getting lost in a strange isolated housing estate with a thousand identical houses and crossing a seriously muddy field.
On the other hand, I could look smug when the students who commuted by car came in late, again.
Found a shortcut through the forest between us and the next town. This has the advantage that we cross over the busy arterial road into Stuttgart on this bridge rather than having to zigzag through traffic lights.
Having grown up in the UK, the ability to travel cross country without using a major road still feels like a luxury..
Youngest son had a birthday party a while back so Papa had to transport supplies (To make Minions, if you are wondering)
Notice glorious cycling weather.
Being one of those people who is anticipating the end of the world as we know it, I naturally warm to things like the Transition Network, and its emphasis on local people responding to peak oil and climate change, rather than waiting for politicians to wake up and do something about it.
Unfortunately I’m in a minority here.
Think about it. One in five people locally works for a car company, or a company making things for car companies, doing research for them, or collecting data on car sales. I can talk about local communities getting stronger as much as I want, but for most people here a world with less oil and fewer cars means potentially losing their four-wheeled status symbol, their job, qualifications, social standing, financial security and pension. Nice vegetables and knowing the neighbours may not seem much of a return.
It’s no surprise people tend to change the subject, so I’ve learned to censor myself to appear slightly less like the resident weirdo in public.
This makes reading about ‘Transition Towns’ a bit frustrating, but apparently there is a sort of conference in Stuttgart soon for people who are thinking about stuff like this. I’m not entirely sure what it will be about because they don’t seem to do updates on their website, so it was still advertising last years gathering until about a month ago, but hopefully I’ll be able to go along and enjoy sounding slightly less differently sane, or at least not being the only oddball in the room.
Kim Harding, and others, are trying to get trying to Strict Liability back into the political agenda in Scotland. Strict Liability is part of traffic law in Germany, and in fact most of the world, outside of the UK.
Some time ago, Eldest Son had a very minor collision with a car on a Spielstrasse (shared space street, 7km/h limit). Being about six at the time, Eldest Son didn’t know that in Germany you give way to vehicles coming from the right, didn’t stop on a junction, and was clipped by a very expensive vehicle speeding up the hill. Eldest Son was fine, but Expensive Car had some minor damage.
Beautiful Wife learned to drive in Japan, and didn’t know that in Germany you should always call the police when you have an accident, so when the driver said “we don’t need to bother calling the police”,* gave her his address, then drove off saying he needed to go to an appointment, she accepted it.
A few weeks later a rather large bill arrived.
We have liability insurance, so we wrote to our insurance company and explained what had happened. They found it very amusing, wrote to the driver and reminded him about Strict Liability, in particular that if a car hits a child, the driver is always liable. (Driving over the speed limit was also a bit naughty, as was not calling the police, which in Germany made it a hit-and-run, but we’ll ignore that)
The driver tried to make much of the point that he technically had right of way on the junction, and his lawyers sent us a threatening letter with an even bigger bill in the hope we’d panic and pay up, which we passed on to the insurance company. They wrote to said Lawyers and asked them to kindly stop messing about, and that was that.
Had Eldest Son been injured, the rules would mean the driver of Expensive Car would be held responsible. whereas in the UK it would have meant a long legal battle for us to get compensation or simply not be held liable for scratching his paint. His insurance would have had to pay, at least partly, for treatment and rehabilitation, pushing up his premiums. Drivers -unfortunately- seem to be more aware of this than just the danger posed by a ton of metal to vulnerable road users, and it makes them slightly more careful. As I recently heard a policeman complain: “Unfortunately, as soon as you drive a car in Germany, you are assumed to be responsible if any accident happens” ** I’m still convinced that German drivers are more cautious around pedestrians and cyclists than British drivers, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t because German drivers have a better understanding of the value of human life.
It also sends a clear message that the law is there to protect more vulnerable people. I’d have thought this was a given in any civilised country, but that’s just me.
*A phrase rarely heard except from drivers involved a motor vehicle collision and from people with a black jumper, crowbar and torch, kneeling in front of a broken safe at midnight. They could be right, of course.
**And this was the policeman supposed to be telling us about pedestrian and cycling safety. The mind boggles…