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  #1  
Old 4 Jun 2009
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Filtering Through Traffic - Germany

Hi to all,

Can anyone offer advice and/or experiences on this?

I make a regular trip to visit a friend on the Baltic coast of Germany. I take a motorway/autobahn route from Calais, as the objective is to see my friend, not spend lots of time travelling there. My route takes me on the autobahns round some large cities (e.g. Hamburg) which in my experiences are always clogged up with traffic. (I've been doing this trip for about 5 years now).

And quite often, the traffic can be stationary for significant periods.
I never know what to do about filtering through the traffic on these clogged-up autobahns. Usually I do, and keep a lookout for the police. But that's distracting.

What about when the traffic is stationary? The law in Germany (as it's been explained to me) is that when traffic comes to a halt car drivers in certain lanes have to move to one side to ensure that a continuous gap exists wide enough for emergency vehicles to use. It seems to me it would be asking for trouble from the police to ride a bike down such a gap. So when this happens I squeeze between the other lanes if there's room and if it looks safe. But still dodgy.

I'm going again soon, and would like to avoid what happened last year.
On an autobahn around some large city the traffic was stationary for a long time, maybe 20 minutes or longer, I didn't time it. I filtered carefully until I came up behind a couple of German bikes stationary in the lane. Ahead, there was a police van, also stationary in the lane. So we just waited there for maybe 20 minutes, with a perfectly good-looking filter-gap ahead of me stretching miles into the distance.


When you're a UK biker, over 40 years riding up and down to London and round and round the UK motorway system (including the M25), sitting there like that is a supremely difficult thing to do........


Anyone any experience of filtering on clogged-up German autobahns?
Other countries are similarly restrictive, but Germany is the one I visit most.

The friend I visit can't offer any advice - she hardly drives and doesn't like it and knows nothing about bikes!
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  #2  
Old 4 Jun 2009
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Spliting lanes is illegal in Germany, if the old bill see you, expect to get nicked.
To miss the traffic, ride out side the rush hours. Accidents can happen at any time and if you split lanes to the front you will still be stuck anyway. The car drivers don't like you braking the rules and will often try to block your progress. On some of 2 lane autobahns the traffic will split to allow emergency vehicles through the middle.
On your trip I would do it at night during the summer.
Steve
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  #3  
Old 4 Jun 2009
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Yep, that's right - filtering is illegal both on motorways as well as at traffic lights. On motorways people still do it occasionally (me included), but you have to be aware that if you run into a suddenly opening door, or into a bastard in car trying to cut you off intentionally because he saw you coming (yep, that does happen), the blame is entirely on you. Furthermore, if the police see you, expect a ticket. Also keep a close eye on your mirror, and get out of the way asap if you see blue flashing lights ;-)

On very hot summer days, if there has been an accident in front, and you drive very slowly and carefully, the police may choose not to see you, as they are more busy with the accident and because they know that boiling in the heat among running engines in full leathers doesn't increase safety either, but don't bank on it.

But then rest areas are widely spread, so just crawl/carefully filter to the next, and see if you can sit it out there under a tree?
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  #4  
Old 4 Jun 2009
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I've sat in those queues on the autobahns near Hamburg too. Filtering is illegal and because of the German attitude to following the rules it's also dangerous. When I tried to filter the Eric's would try to stop me by closing the gap or deliberately trying to hit me as you passed. Several people started hanging out of their car windows shouting and a couple tried to have a swing at me. The only answer would appear to be finding a route off the autobahns.
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  #5  
Old 4 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourider View Post
I've sat in those queues on the autobahns near Hamburg too. Filtering is illegal and because of the German attitude to following the rules it's also dangerous. When I tried to filter the Eric's would try to stop me by closing the gap or deliberately trying to hit me as you passed. Several people started hanging out of their car windows shouting and a couple tried to have a swing at me. The only answer would appear to be finding a route off the autobahns.
It's funny I was thinking the same thing. I've been in a few situations where people would do the same, i.e. drive quite dangerously to stop you filtering. It's not like I try to run somebody off the road if I see them breaking other laws such as speeding! I was in a car once with a mate who did it (saw a bike coming so tried to close the gap to stop him getting through), asked him why and it seemed like basic jealousy, i.e. 'why should he get to go while i have to wait'. It wasn't about the 'law'.

Cultural differences are a funny thing! You cross a couple borders and people will be moving to the side to let you through and think nothing of waving you to the front of a queue at a border check just because you are on a bike!

Good to know though, i've filtered in germany passing through and guessed it was probably illegal based on what the local bikers were doing. Normally that's the best guide you can get!
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  #6  
Old 5 Jun 2009
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True - it's rather funny.

I have always been filtering on german roads, despite the law and the hostile drivers attitude. I guess you just need to be more aware of everything around you, and yeah, bad luck if you get the police (never happened to me tho, yet).

also funny how the german motorcyclists behave abroad. I have always seen them qeueing behind cars, in slow traffic, even if there is plenty of space for overtaking. incredible.

My point is: I didn't buy a motorcycle to be stuck in the qeue behind cars!
I will always filter and overtake, everywhere. Slowly and safely, but i will.
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  #7  
Old 5 Jun 2009
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Sad to admit, but yes, filtering is not permitted on german motorways. Bike clubs have tried to legalize filtering if traffic has come to a near stop, but up to now the law didn't budge.

Hopefully a new legislative initiative may allow bikers to proceed through the emergency gap if traffic does come to a stop. See here: MAGAZIN: MOTORRÄDER SOLLEN RETTUNGSGASSEN NUTZEN :: AD HOC NEWS Unfortunately only in German...

I wouldn't worry too much about filtering. Up to now I never had any problems proceeding slowly, even if some stupid bastard tried to block me off. You will always find a gap to pass the buggar
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Old 5 Jun 2009
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Thanks for a great set of replies.
I think I'll continue, more or less, as I have before. Filter very carefully (although I've never come across a hostile reaction to my filtering), eyes everywhere, including for doors opening.
Stop if local bikers have stopped, and have a good look at all the cars ahead in case the police are also in the queue.
Stop filtering when close to the cause of the queue.
Take a crossword to do if I do get stuck behind stationary police like last year.

Thanks Steve for the night-riding suggestion. I used to do that but now I really prefer just to ride during the daylight.

To Vaufi and all other German bikers - good luck in getting the law changed.

Here's a supplementary question, prompted by some of the replies above.
I find in the UK these days, most car drivers will pull over to make room for bikes to pass.
But we have, maybe, the greatest density of speed cameras in the world. So after quite a few years of training, I've trained myself to stick to 30mph whenever I can't be bothered to look out for them, or know where they are but think I might accidentally forget one. It's been hard work, but I can now stick to 30 without feeling like I'm locked up in the tiniest possible cell and someone's thrown the key away.
But, I still find the car ahead will pull right over to let me pass, and I don't want to!
I just want to stick at 32mph in case I forget myself, and the next camera, and get a ticket!
How do you signal to the considerate driver in front that you don't want to overtake?

Thanks again for all the replies.
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  #9  
Old 5 Jun 2009
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hi McCrankpin,

i experience the same, and i ride in the london traffic too.

you're right, i have also trained myself, after years, to ride at 30 m/h withought feeling frustrated, and that was the most difficult thing to do, since I bought a bike.

when the car in front pulls to let me go, i mostly keep staying in the back at my pace.
sometimes some van's drivers even wave an arm out of the window, showing that they are losing patience, and that they probably don't enjoy driving with a bike engine in their ears...
I normally keep calm and when eventually they slow down at traffic lights, i filter trough, passing by their window i give them a steary look without saying anything... (like to say: what's the matter with you).

I wouldn't know what else I can do, really, without explaining verbally that i like to cruise within the limit, in order not to keep looking out to cameras, and that i am happy like that and that i don't need to speed... hmm, tricky one.
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Old 5 Jun 2009
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Hey, those drivers are trying to be considerate of you: the fact that their consideration is unneeded at the moment is no reason to insult them by staring them into submission as you pass. Next time the same driver might not be so considerate....and you'll be complaining about clueless cagers.

When people make an effort to let me by and I don't want to for some reason, I wave thanks to them. Sometimes they see this and get the hint, as evidenced by the fact that they stop making room for me. If you want people to act polite (especially when they've got a 1500 kg advantage and can take you out permanently in just a moment of inattention), you need to try to reward them when they do. Saying "thanks," however it's accomplished, is one way of doing this.

Please remit: $0.02

Mark
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  #11  
Old 5 Jun 2009
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Mark, you are absolutely right.

I always thank drivers who make room.

my example was to point out the extreme situation, when, mainly van's drivers loose their patience, tired to have you on their back.

in those few cases, and always after i had previously thanked them for the unneeded room, i have stared at them, cos they lost their temper.... although I have never insulted them.

Anyway, you are right... will try to show my "thank you gesture" more visibly.
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  #12  
Old 9 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sirakor View Post
On very hot summer days, if there has been an accident in front, and you drive very slowly and carefully, the police may choose not to see you...
Yes, that has been my experience as well when riding in Germany. Basically, if traffic is absolutely "dead stopped" (plugged up because of an accident somewhere ahead), no-one seems to object to a motorcycle filtering up through multiple lanes of vehicles. But, if the traffic is moving (no matter how slowly), then filtering is not accepted.

Tolerance also varies regionally. Filtering is accepted in Switzerland (whether it is legal or not I do not know), thus, if you are close to the Swiss border, the automobile drivers are far less likely to get upset.
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  #13  
Old 9 Jun 2009
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Isn't it strange how we all have different experiences about these things? I've been to Germany many times on my bike (well, 5 times to be exact!!) and whilst I've never had too much trouble with traffic jams, last year I did. I was going from Freiburg in the south west up to Koln. I wasn't in any hurry so I took 3 days to do it as I just stopped wherever I felt like stopping.

However just south of Mainz/Wiesbaden I encountered a bugger of a traffic jam. Suffice to say I travelled about 30 miles in nearly 5 hours. Initially I was quite content to sit there with all the other traffic but after a while I was really bored (as well as being fed up hearing my cooling fan being on most of the time!) and started to filter. I did so in a totally non-agressive manner and at no point did anyone try to block me or shout anything in my direction. In fact many cars, trucks etc. made an effort to move over and let me through. This lasted for approximately 10 miles or so. I saw one police car and I'm pretty sure they saw me too but there was no negative reaction of any kind.

Maybe I was just lucky, I don't know, but I suspect that I was helped by the fact that I did it slowly and showed no desire to push my way through at all costs.

Just a thought.

Chris
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Last edited by Chris1200; 9 Jun 2009 at 12:11. Reason: .
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Old 22 Sep 2011
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Interesting experiences, cheers for sharing.
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  #15  
Old 7 Oct 2011
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I live in Denmark, an hour from the German border and I ride on the autobahn regularly.

Filtering is accepted as normal on the autobahns and is a regular practice by everyone if the traffic is at a standstill. I have never heard of anyone who has been fined for doing it.

Most drivers do not object or try to block you. The further South you go I find drivers are far more aware of bikers filtering and they actually move out of your way to give you more room.

Steve
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