Preschoolers on Wheels

I snapped this photo walking past my local preschool this morning. Sorry, it’s a little blurry but folks don’t like you talking photos of preschools (for obvious reasons), so I couldn’t stand around making sure the shot was perfect. It was more of taking a photo whilst still walking kind of thing. In Germany, preschools don’t have heaps of strollers sitting out the front in an undercover section, instead they have lots of tiny bikes. This is because, in my neighbourhood at least, the preschoolers ride their own bikes to preschool.

In Germany, parents get their kids onto bikes almost as soon as they can walk. My local Platz is often full of toddlers zooming around on balance bikes. Once they hit about 3 or so, the kids upgrade to their very own regular bike without any training wheels attached. Since bike riding is allowed on footpaths these little kids ride everywhere usually closely followed by one of their parents, who will have a younger sibling sitting on the back of their bike in a child seat. This can make walking past the preschool at drop-off time rather risky, as whilst the preschooler has learnt how to ride, their steering skills are often under developed.

This phenomenon does explain however why Germans choose to ride their bikes everywhere and why they are so comfortable on them. They have literally been riding a bike since they learned how to walk. Given how screwed up our environment is, it would be great to see other cities around the world (excluding Amsterdam of course) getting kids onto bikes at a younger age and introducing bike lanes on the footpath rather than on the street to allow kids (and adults too) to ride around the city more safely.

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10 thoughts on “Preschoolers on Wheels

  1. Hi. Got to be a little “German” here. We have rules for everything ;)

    And the rules regarding bikes on the footpaths are: kids up to the age of 8 HAVE to use the footpath, up to 10 MAY. In any case they have to cycle at walking speed. Adults are never allowed to use the footpath, unless marked otherwise by a bike sign. Parents with their kids are usually tolerated.

    I personally agree with this rule. Fast bikes on the footpath are a nuisance and dangerous. Bikes belong on the streets. Bike lanes are only the second best option, because bikers are overlooked by car drivers more easily when they are “out of the way”. Statistics show bike lanes are usually not safer. I understand that they may feel safer. If a bike lane, just mark it on the street. Anyhow, bike lanes must be wide enough AND MAINTAINED. Both criteria are scarcely ever fulfilled in German towns – which is why the city of Hamburg decided to take down most of the blue bike lane signs – which is good, because now the bikers can decide to use the street even though there may be a bike lane. Unfortunately the news didn’t get through to many car drivers.

    And while I am at it, I might as well debunk the myth that a biker riding has the right of way when using a zebra crossing. Not true! Get of your bike and walk and you have precedence.

    Sorry. Had to let it out. I am a biker by the way. And I can recommend it ;)

    • Thanks for all the info on the rules of bike riding in Germany. I had no idea that there was an age limit for riding on footpaths that are not designated for bikes. I find that adults seem to ignore that rule (how unGerman) & will just ride on the footpath regardless.

      • I guess as long as nobody gets hurt, nobody really cares. I am spießig enough to be a little annoyed if I have to jump to the side for an adult biker ringing his/her bell to make way on the footpath though. Regard for others is what would help.

        The subject of bike lanes is one heavily fought over. Interestingly enough, the ADFC (geman cyclists association) is against separate lanes.

        Main thing you as an expat can learn: we Gemans have a lot of rules for everything, but a) nobody knows all of them, b) they are frequently ignored and c) in doubt your opponent will firmly believe in or even make up a false rule that puts you in the wrong. And: you can be fined for riding your bike on the footpath.

        And, finally, biking is fun! Take care of yourself and others and enjoy it whenever you can!

  2. I had the opportunity to spend this last summer in Germany. While I was there, I got used to riding a bike quite frequently and wondered why I never did it more often before. I’m in the process of finding a street bike so that I can get back to my cycling ways!

    • Glad to hear you have discovered the joys of cycling. What is the situation like where you are now living for bike riders? Do you have designated bike lanes or must bikes take their chances in the traffic?

    • Are bikes difficult to get for you? I found there are places on earth where you cannot get regular street bikes, shops only sell sports gear. Odd.

      • Thankfully, I don’t have that problem. I’m living in Texas and the area I live in has several places where you can find a decent bike. I just haven’t taken the time to go and test some.

        That’s very interesting to learn. I’d never heard that before!

        • Well, I learned it from hearsay, so it my be made up as well. Glad you can go and get a proper bike in Texas. Wouldn’t have surprised me if not – the US is not known to be very bike-friendly. Friend of mine is fighting for more bikes in towns in Califiornia. He lived in Germany for years, guess he caught the bug here ;)

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