Ok, so not all bicyclists are idiots. I will admit to doing a bit of generalizing; I just have no interest in decorating my car with blood, guts or gore. I don’t think riders make good hood ornaments either.
Let me explain.
Heidelberg is a University town. That capital letter is on purpose. There are literally thousands of students here (35-50k depending on how you count it). On top of that you have to consider all the admin and faculty. Those student numbers are on top of the ~275,000 residents. Since students are poor, bicycles are an excellent form of transportation. After the initial outlay, there is only minimal cost to owning a bike. Unlike public transportation there are no automatic monthly tithes to the gods of Rhein-Nekar-Trans. All you need is air in your tires and away you go. Since the basic city is fairly flat, all the way to Mannheim and other towns along the rivers, there is little strain to peddling along.
This is a bike friendly area. The most recent road improvements included bike lanes along all the major non-autobahn routes. Clearly marked, they are in the road, not the parking areas. And as you are probably aware, bikes are wheeled vehicles and as such are subject to all traffic laws and regulations. Makes perfect sense to any one with a modicum of brains in their heads which leads me back to my starting point.
The helmet law covers only those up to age 6. That means that you will see helmets, most likely ill fitting, on toddlers and pre-K riding along with helmetless parents. Exactly how is that going to help the child when the parent in front piloting the bike manages to leave their brains (obviously not being used) on the pavement? Few of the rest bother at all. Then there are the women with the long flowing skirts – that’s right – peasant skirts just floating along the chain. I am not even going to mention those riding a bike one handed while the other holds their handi to their ear (see comment above on vehicle laws being applicable). Stop at traffic lights? Hand signals before cutting left across traffic?
Heading home after dropping George off at his Stammtisch I was observing how 80% make life really miserable for those 20% who are obviously serious about their riding. It is those on well maintained bikes, safely attired and topped with well fitted helmets that leave me with a faint ray of hope.
I commuted by bike to the U of MN when I lived in South Minneapolis. I rode when the weather was nice, when it rained and when it snowed. I dressed properly and was extremely cautious about cars. I survived without accident or injury. So I know it is possible to commute by bike, to ride for pleasure and to do it safely especially today with the better engineering. I will always give a rider plenty of room and leeway. I just wish most of them would ride more safely. A smile for me after I wait at the top or the bottom of one of the few hills so their ride isn’t interupted also might be appreciated.