In Munich, it doesn’t take long to realize the importance of order and regulation. Even when I have been here during Oktoberfest, I’m amazed that the entire city doesn’t erupt into an all-out riot where parts of town are set ablaze. From a transportation perspective, this quality has served them quite well. I never find myself stressing about having to make a transfer on transit. The trains are punctual, and there are screens counting down the next arrival at every turn of your head.
The respect for the rules became crystal clear as I sat in the city planning office to discuss street design in Munich. I was presented with a copy of the FGSV manual – RASt 06 to be precise – which is the German equivalent to our AASHTO guide. If you want to know how streets are designed for the whole of Germany just read this, I was told, there is really nothing more to discuss. This was the direct, yet sincere, answer to the question I needed answered.
Fortunately for Munich residents, the rules have permitted the use of 30km (19mph) zones and “Spielstrasse” for decades to shelter their neighborhoods from traffic. And, more recently, federal law has created the “Fahrradstrasse”, a bicycle priority street, and has allowed for two-way cycling on one-way streets. Munich has responded by opening 43% of one-way streets to cycling in both directions.
A few years ago this would have been impossible, my host explained. Now we see that it is safe to ride against traffic. The cyclist is riding directly towards the motorist and is completely visible. Thinking back on our conversation, I can see that it makes sense to go by the book when the standards permit operations that are not only safe but offer all users equal rights on the street and, where appropriate, pedestrians and cyclists are even given rights that are not extended to motorists.