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The following is a press release of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club, (German Cycling Federation ADFC) reporting on a conference held in Salzburg, Austria, May 2-5 1990.

germany1.gif (169 bytes)Auch auf deutsch erhältlich! This document is available in German in ZIP compressed PDF format on the ADFC Web site in the file, which also includes the cover and table of contents from the conference proceedings.

Translation by John S. Allen.

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(German Cycling Federation ADFC
background information on bicycling #173)

15 August 1992

Argus (Publisher):


"Russian roulette" on sidepaths - sidepaths are the target of criticism


Because the separation of different types of traffic by means of sidepaths behind curbs makes excessive demands on users and leads to crashes, other solutions are being increasingly recommended for channeling bicycle traffic. Experts from different backgrounds at the Velo Secur traffic safety conference in Salzburg were united in the opinion that sidepaths in urban areas are entirely unsatisfactory in many ways, and should not be used.


The proceedings of the conference, published by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft umweltfreundlicher Stadtverkehr (ARGUS, coalition for environmentally friendly urban transport), with the 46 conference papers from the Velo Secur conference in Salzburg, give a comprehensive summary of bicycling safety issues in the areas of traffic planning, crash research, traffic education, bicycle design and traffic law.

Political goals alone do not achieve a successful promotion of bicycle use, according to Heinz Kloss, of the city government of the host city, Salzburg. In 1986, Salzburg decided to increase bicycle traffic, which was 12% in 1982, to 20% by 1990. The goal was not attained, however, because the subjective reasons for avoiding bicycle use -- "too dangerous" and "not enough sidepaths" (see Figure 1) were not overcome. Suitable measures were not adopted, according to Kloss, in part because three city departments with different mandates were involved.

Figure 1, from the paper by H. Kloss, p. 280 of the proceedings

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Reasons for the low rate of bicycle use in the city of Salzburg. Source: City of Salzburg: traffic reduction, in Gnigi-Sam 1983

A number of conference papers, however, made it clear that many existing urban sidepaths are fundamentally unsuitable for bicycle traffic, and lead to crashes. Oskar Balsinger from the Canton of Bern indicates that a conceptually perfect physical segregation of traffic places the highly excessive demand on users of interacting with three or four intersecting networks (travel lanes, sidewalks, bikeways, tram/bus).

Data presented by Wolfgang Rauh (ARGUS Vienna) show that bicyclists on sidepaths have more than three times the crash risk at intersections, and for this reason he compares use of sidepaths with "Russian roulette" (Figure 2).

Figure 2, from the paper by W. Rauh, p. 78 of the proceedings

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Crash risk of sidepaths

By observation and evaluation of traffic conflicts, the university of Lund (Sweden) compared the crash risk for bicyclists on the roadway (relative risk = 1) with that of sidepath users.

The basis for the comparison is the crash risk of bicyclists traveling straight through on the roadway. Relative to this, the risk is:

1.1 times for through travel with a bike lane stripe.

3.4 times for a left turn on the roadway

3.4 times for through travel on a sidepath

11.0 times for a left turn from a sidepath

11.9 times for through travel on a sidepath on the left side of the roadway

Klaus Hinte, chief traffic official for the city and police department of Bremen, also describes sidepaths as a safety problem. In his paper "From Bikeway Network to Bicycle Traffic Network", he suggests that use of bikeways no longer be mandatory, and that alternatives be promoted, for example zones with 30 km/h speed limits, traffic calmed areas, bike lanes on the roadway, bicycle streets and "bicycle zones" (including, for example, one-way streets on which bicyclists are permitted to travel in both directions).

Despite laws mandating the use of sidepaths, some bicycle traffic in all European nations must use the normal travel lanes even when sidepaths exist, as Harold Stolzlechner indicates in his survey "Comparison of Bikeway Provisions in the Laws of European Nations". In Austria, pedal-powered vehicles with more than a single track, as well as those with trailers, must generally use the travel lanes; in Germany, this is the case only where the sidepath is not wide enough. In Switzerland, bicycles with trailers are permitted on sidepaths only when they do not impede other bicycle traffic. In the Netherlands, bicycles or other pedal-powered vehicles with trailers may use sidepaths, as long as the total vehicle or trailer width is not more than 75 cm.


Velo Secur ("Issues of Bicycling Safety"). International conference from 2-5 May 1990 in Salzburg. Conference proceedings published by ARGUS (Working group for Environmentally-friendly Urban Traffic), Vienna, 1991.


Dipl. Ing. Oskar Balsiger, Public Works Department of the Canton of Bern, bicycle program; Chief Klaus Hinte, chief traffic official for the city and police department of Bremen; Dipl.-Ing SP Dipl.-Ing. Heinz Kloss, Salzburg city government; Dipl.-Ing. Wolfgang Rauh, ARGUS bicycle office, Berlin; Univ. Prof. Dr. Harald Stolzlechner, Institut für Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsrecht (Institute for constitutional and civic Law), University of Salzburg

To obtain
copies of the

ARGUS-Arbeitsgemeinschaft umweltfreundicher Stadtverkehr, Fahrradbüro: [ARGUS, coalition for environmentally friendly urban transport, bicycle office] Frankenberggasse 11, A-1040 Wien, Tel. + 43-222-505 8435, Fax + 43-222-505 5719. Price incl. shipping: Austria ÖS 333,/other countries ÖS 348, / European Cycling Federation members ÖS 248; (Argus account Velo-Secur P.S.K.7.623.662), Germany DM 50, /ADFC members DM 35,50 (Argus account, Postgiroamt München 79416-802), Switzerland sfr 44,-/IG Velo, VCS members sfr 31,50 (Argus account Postcheckamt St. Gallen 90-11462-5).

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Reproduced by permission of the AFDC.
Translation by John S. Allen