Sunday, 23 February 2014

Rant No. 23: Road rules.

I find there is a very un-German lack of logic when it comes to the rules of the road in Berlin.

First of all, it’s a green light for cars to turn at the same time as the pedestrians can cross. This seems crazy, as it inevitably creates a battle on the road. Buses just edge forward and block the cyclists’ lane. Taxis try and turn before pedestrians who aren’t so quick of the mark to cross.

When I was driving a van when I first moved here, I was really shocked that when it was my right of way, with the light on green, the pedestrians were crossing. I then saw their light was also on green.

And what’s with crossings that only allow a few seconds to cross the road. What about elderly or disabled people, how can they manage in this meagre time slot? And if you’re too slow, those impatient cars are coming for you.

Then there are the crossings where you can only get half way across. Or the light is on green on the second part of the road, but still on red where you are stood.

I was also confused by the right of way system here. In the UK, the major road has priority over the minor road. This seems to make sense to me. But here, it used to confuse me as I cycled to work every day, that on one road the traffic from the minor road would zoom out and turn the corner.

Until a colleague almost had a crash on the same road, with a car flying round the bend, and a German colleague informed us of the “give priority to the right” rule. Who knew? Thankfully after three years I’ve learnt this to me illogical rule, and so I’m no longer in danger every morning!


  1. NYC uses that same system (right turn on green as pedestrians walk). And driving there is way more anarchic. Back in Berlin, cycling, I was pranged by a car coming from the right - and ended up paying a fine!

  2. The touch buttons on the traffic lights are actually for granting elderly or disabled or just slow walking people a slight amount of extra time while crossing. I've never been able to notice the difference though.

    1. From what I know for the touch buttons is where it says to press is to have the light to change earlier, often at non-major street intersections. There is also a button beneath the box to activate audio beeps or clicks for seeing impaired persons. Additionally the button below is textured to indicate the type of pedestrian crossing for seeing impaired people as well.