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My First Encounter with the German Police

That’s right. I got “pulled over,” if you can call it that. I was on my way home on my bike, when a policman, Herr Kolb, called me over to him, just past the railroad tracks on Schiffenberger Weg. They had a stake-out on that corner, a much-used route from the center of town to my campus. It was dark, and they were trying to catch people whose bikes weren’t properly dressed up. My problem? My lights weren’t working.

And here’s the kicker: I noticed they weren’t working two weeks ago, so we bought new bulbs, which Rob replaced. They worked fine for a couple days, then I noticed they weren’t working again. Rob looked at it on our way in Saturday night, but it was dark and he couldn’t get the wire connected. Said he’d do it sometime during the day. I thought I’d see if I could fix it Thursday morning before I left for school, since I don’t have to be there at a specific time.

But today was the day the cops had the stake-out. le sigh.

The Bike Ticket

If you look at the ticket*, you’ll see that I was cited for not having two reflectors on both my front and back tires and for having defective lights.

I’m an eternal optimist, though. I learned the word for wire (die Leitung). I was understood completely by the officer, and I, for the most part, understood him–I’d put my Verständnis** at about 90%, which is well above what I feel my average is***. This is good for my language ego.

The cop was very nice, and he clarified several times that they are doing this for our safety, and I understand that.

Also, my bike is fixed now. Rob said if I brought it up, he’d fix it. But in the end, I did it. So I also learned what I need to do to fix it, should the wire come loose again.

What an adventure we’re having!

5 Fun Facts About Riding a Bike in Germany

  1. It’s important to make sure you have working lights. That should be obvious by now. Learn your lesson from me.
  2. Bikes often have their own lanes, and sometimes even their own traffic lights. In fact, car drivers in Germany, unlike our experiences in Springfield, understand how to travel safely on the road with bikers. They don’t freak out about bikers on the road.
  3. Everyone bikes! I see old people, young people, mothers with a kid in front and back, sometimes with one in a little bike trailer. Women  ride in their skirts and dress shoes, men in their suits with brief cases tucked neatly in the baskets on the back.
  4. It has been cold here lately, but that doesn’t stop many bikers. We’re all bundled up–hats, scarves, boots, and thick gloves–and we’re still taking our bikes to school, work, wherever. It’s kind of nice to not want to ride my bike because it’s so cold, do it anyway, and see lots of other hard-core bike commuters on the way.
  5. Doesn’t matter where you ride your bike, wear a helmet.


* and you know German.
** die Verständnis = understanding
*** I’d say, on average, I understand 65% of what is spoken to me, and that takes into account conversations with Rob and his family (usually around 90%), and conversations with various random Germans and some support people at the university (usually around 45%).

5 thoughts on “My First Encounter with the German Police

  1. Mom

    26 Nov on 2008 at 22:52

    How did the Polizei pull you over? With a siren and the little blue lights? Or one of those spike strips? Did he have on his Michael Jackson glove and wave you down?

    Just Curious.

  2. Charity

    26 Nov on 2008 at 16:03

    We have similar rules here about lights on our bikes, though I don’t know how likely it is to get pulled over, most cyclists do have them. And despite the high temps in the 30s, we still have cyclists riding their commutes. They’ll disappear when the snow takes over the trails and streets. I think the avid cyclists (for sport and transport) comes with living in a pretty liberal college town in the upper Mid-west. Seriously, it’s like people who live farther north appreciate the outdoors more or something – it was something new to witness for me.

    • xgravity23

      27 Nov on 2008 at 23:35

      @Charity – I’m glad to hear that there are bad weather bikers in America. I can’t imagine seeing any in Springfield and Neosho, other than those who are doing it solely for sport.

  3. Lorraine

    26 Nov on 2008 at 2:16

    Hooray for your Hörverständnis! (boo on the ticket) Isn’t that how tickets always go?…just when you’ve attempted to avoid them, you get nabbed. And boy, did I learn Fact 5 the hard way…

    • xgravity23

      27 Nov on 2008 at 23:34

      @Lorraine – Well, I have to admit… it wasn’t actually a “ticket” or even a “warning.” Just a police-enforced list of what I need to fix on my bike. :)

      And “Ouch!” on number 5 the hard way!! At least it didn’t knock the German out of your head!