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The ADFC's discussion of
German provisions for
shared bus/bike lanes

Introduction and translation by John S Allen

germany1.gif (169 bytes)The material following this introduction (below, inside the border) is a translation of a page in German (withdrawn in 2008, but available on a Web archive) of the Allgemeiner deutscher Fahrrad-Club (German Cycling Federation ADFC).

Some observations about the German approach as described in this article:

  • This discussion generally recommends that bicyclists simply be allowed to travel in the bus lanes, without any special provisions other than adequate lane width.

  • There is also a strong recommendation that there not be a separate bus lane and bike lane -- avoiding the issue of bicyclists' overtaking buses on the curb side. The implication (though not stated here)  is that no exception is made under German law for bicyclists to leave a bike lane to overtake buses, or for buses to merge into one at bus stops.

  • The possibility of placing the bike lane on the street side of the bus lane is disparaged, though this configuration has been shown to be workable -- for example, in Madison,Wisconsin, USA -- if the buses, on their fixed route, do not turn across the bike lane and if the bus lane, bike lane and adjacent travel lane carry same-direction traffic.

  • The page recommends against allowing other types of traffic, such as taxis or trucks, in the bus lane, consistent with the purpose of a bus lane, but turning vehicles do merge into the bus lane to turn -- turning across a bus lane is hardly advisable.

  • Shared lanes are apparently not permitted where there is a separate, designated sidepath -- a type of facility which the ADFC opposes.

  • There is much discussion here of technical details about signage and implementation procedures. This reflects the ADFC's role in making its members aware of how to conduct advocacy, in the light of various opportunities presented by German law and traffic control devices. Some of the "alternatives" suggested, particularly those requiring a stack of three signs, appear a bit strained, despite the role of the Ministry of Transportation in preparation of the document.

More rights for cyclists:
Use of bus lanes by bicyclists.

Prepared with support of the Federal Ministry of Transportation


Correct conduct

We ask of bicyclists:

  • As buses approach, ride as far right as you can, and in some cases, stop. It is only fair that individuals not impede the travel of the numerous bus passengers.

  • In this way, you make an important contribution to attractive public local transportation options which make many trips in private motor vehicles unnecessary. The better traffic situation in our cities achieved in this way benefits bicyclists, in turn.

  • Pay especially good attention to the passengers getting on and off at bus stops.

  • Use only bus lanes which are specifically designated as open to bicyclists.

  • Be especially cautious when leaving the bus lane, and even more so before intersections, where the bus lane becomes a right-turn lane.

We ask of bus drivers:

  • You have special responsibilities in street traffic. Therefore, please pay attention to traffic which does not or can not quickly get out of the bus lane. This is especially the case with bicyclists. Understand that bicyclists feel threatened by a bus which passes close to them, and may react in an unsafe way. Therefore, always keep at a sufficient distance.

  • When overtaking bicyclists, the lateral spacing should be at least 1.5 meters. Overtake at a moderate speed.

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Restricted lanes
for transit buses

which bicyclists may use

Why the shared lanes?

Since September 1, 1997, the traffic law has allowed bus lanes to be opened to bicycle traffic, in order to increase bicycle use and traffic safety.

Opening of bus lanes to bicyclists is only allowed where there is no mandatory-use, designated bikeway.

In a number of cities (for example, Berlin and Münster), bus lanes had already been opened up for bicycle traffic. This experience showed that crashes are rare and bus traffic is only slightly impeded.

Traffic safety

Unexpected conflicts occur only rarely on the special lanes which have been opened to bicycle traffic, because overtaking maneuvers are less frequent than on normal roadways, and bus and bicycle operators are aware of each other.

When bicyclists travel on designated cycle tracks, or on the sidewalk, conflicts occur with people waiting at a bus stop, or getting onto or off the bus. These conflicts are avoided when bicyclists use the bus lane.

Advantages for bicyclists

  • little disruption of bicycle traffic

  • easy travel

  • no conflict with passengers getting on and off the bus at bus stops

  • safety and comfort are generally very high

This depends above all on the width of the bus lane, the frequency of the buses, and what other vehicles are allowed in the restricted lane.

Promotion of bicycle use

As a rule, a shared, wide special lane should be marked, rather than to be divided into a bus lane and a narrow bike lane. Outside the peak hours for bus traffic, a considerable increase in comfort for bicyclists is achieved, as bicyclists can easily overtake one another and, if nobody's travel is impeded, can ride side by side.

Bus lanes serve to increase the speed of bus travel, and also, when open to bicyclists, to increase that of bicycle travel. At the same time, the number of travel lanes or parking lanes for other traffic is reduced.


According to an administrative regulation (Verwaltungsvorschrift) in the traffic law, bicycles may be allowed in a bus lane, that is, in the right travel lane. Prerequisites are that:

  • the traffic flow of the transit buses is not impeded.

  • installation of mandatory bikeways, or other means to assure the safety of bicycle traffic on the roadway is not possible in combination with the installation of the special use lane.

  • the traffic pattern and the different use requirements can be supported in this particular case.

Special lanes for bus routes may only be opened up for bicycle traffic if the bicycle traffic is not endangered by the bus traffic.

Where it is reasonable to allow bicycle traffic in bus lanes depends above all on three criteria:

  • location,
  • width/speed/length, and
  • traffic volume.


Opening of bus lanes to bicycles is most usually considered when these lanes are at the edge of the street.

The traffic law nonetheless also permits opening bus lanes to bicycles where these lanes are bus-only streets or are on the left or in the middle of the roadway. Such solutions can be especially useful in the approaches to intersections.


The legal option to allow bicyclists in bus lanes does not depend on specific, stated widths. For reasons of traffic safety, nonetheless, sufficient width should be available in bus lanes in which overtaking maneuvers are frequent. Bus lanes which are open to bicyclists should be either so wide that bicyclists are overtaken by buses without risk, or so narrow that overtaking is only possible by merging into the next lane. Intermediate widths are to be considered only in exceptional cases, or on short segments (for example, in the approach lane to an intersection).

Buses and bicyclists can overtake one another in bus lanes whose width is between 4.00 m (at low speeds) and 4.75 m without having to merge into the adjacent lane. Therefore, bicycle traffic can safely overtake stopped buses at bus stops if the lane width is at least 4 m.

Under cramped conditions, bus lanes are generally only 3.00 m to 3.25 m wide. A typical transit bus does have sufficient room in the lane under such conditions, but bicyclists can only overtake buses by partially or totally entering the adjacent lane. The possibility of delay and the actual loss of time for a bus are smaller, the shorter the corresponding segment between bus stops or possible merging locations. Segments without opportunities to merge should not be longer than 300 m with typical bicycle travel volume and level terrain. Longer segments are conceivable with very small bicycle traffic volumes and downgrades.

In the case of intermediate width (3,30 m to 3,95 m), bicyclists nonetheless can overtake stopped buses, but buses lack the necessary lateral room to overtake bicyclists without merging partially into the next lane, to achieve the necessary lateral spacing of 1,50-2,00 m. Therefore, for reasons of traffic safety and of free flow of bus traffic, such solutions should be considered only in exceptional cases, for example, with low and regular bus traffic volume.

If motor vehicles have a low speed limit (30 km/h), then the lower width for each class is sufficient. With a high (50 km/h) speed limit, the upper width applies.

On bridges and in exposed locations, additional width should be provided, to account for the effect of sidewinds.

Traffic volume

Narrow bus lanes may be appropriate for bicycle use where

  • Bus traffic is light. The administrative regulation of the traffic law allows installation of a bus lane only when the bus traffic volume is at least 15 to 20 transit buses in the peak hour.

  • The bicycle traffic is light,or another, non-mandatory route for bicycles is available (for example, an "irregular bikeway" , a shoulder of a sidewalk open to bicyclists), and therefore part of the bicycle traffic -- in particular, the less-experienced bicyclists -- may avoid the bus lane.

It is often argued that slow bicyclists impede the travel of faster buses in narrow, shared lanes. This is, however, not the case if the bicyclists can not overtake the buses at the bus stops, and the shared lane ahead of the stopped bus remains empty, so that the bus is unimpeded in leaving the bus stop.

So conflicts between bicyclists and other vehicles occur as infrequently as possible, then to the degree possible, only transit buses and not other motor vehicles (taxis, trucks) should be allowed..



The application of the possibility, supported in the traffic law, of bicyclists' being allowed in bus lanes depends on local actions. The initiative to establish such bus lanes and to review the permission can start with members of local advocacy organizations (for example, ADFC activists), bus lines, employees of local traffic or planning departments, politicians or other interested persons and agencies.

The review and the authority to allow bicycle traffic in bus lanes rest entirely with traffic departments. The administrative regulation in the traffic law accounts for the particular importance of public transportation by requiring that the installation of special lanes for transit buses must conform to "procedures for projects." The bus lines therefore have the opportunity to bring their objections before the transportation department.

As the installation of special bus lanes can not be carried out everywhere, but must be decided on a case-by-case basis, it is recommended

  • to list all bus lanes,

  • to clarify the local situation (mandatory bikeway present, length and width of the bus lane),

  • to describe the bus traffic volume (number of buses in the peak hour/per day/on the weekend), and

  • To choose suitable bus lanes, or segments, to suggest that they be designated, and to suggest improvements as needed (for example, changes in roadway markings).


If the opening up of a special-use lane to both bicycles and transit buses seems sensible, but it should not be designated using the sign Z 245 specified by the traffic laws (StVO), given local conditions, or simply can not be designated because it does not meet the required criteria, alternative signage may be chosen.

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1024-14b.gif (1017 bytes)

244.gif (1764 bytes)
1026-32.gif (934 bytes)

Z 237 with

Z 244 with

In this way, bicycle lanes and bicycle streets may be opened to transit buses using sign Z 237 or Z 244 along with supplementary sign 1024-14 or 1026-32. [Translator's note: There are four possible combinations, two of which are shown above. The illustrations do not appear in the German original.] This reverse procedure clearly improves the legal situation for bicyclists. Buses may use such a special-use lane, but unlike with bus lanes designated using Z 245, are not required to use it. The bus driver, then, has the option to use another suitable lane, or to leave the shared lane to overtake bicyclists. Buses are permitted to travel only at a "moderate speed" (bicycle speed, about 25 km/h) in bikeways.

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1024-14b.gif (1017 bytes)

250.gif (984 bytes)
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1024-14b.gif (1017 bytes)

260.gif (1233 bytes)
1024-14b.gif (1017 bytes)

Z 267 (no entry) with
supplementary signs

Z 250 (no vehicles) with
supplementary signs

Z 260 (no motor traffic)
with supplementary sign

Another possibility is exceptions for bicycle traffic and transit buses where other traffic is prohibited. In this way, bicyclists and buses may be excepted from the prohibition against entry, or from the designation of roadways on which vehicular traffic is prohibited (Z 267 or Z 250), using the supplementary signs "Radverkehr / Linienomnibusse frei". An additional solution is the supplementary rule, "Linienomnibusse frei" on a roadway from which motor traffic is prohibited (Z 260 and supplementary sign). [Translator's note: The three combinations of signs shown above do not appear in the German original. They reflect an attempt to illustrate what might be possible using existing standard signs. There is no standard supplementary sign for "Radverkehr/Linienomnibusse frei" ("open to bicyclists and transit buses"), and so I have used separate signs for them. German site illustrating standard signs.]

Supporting Arguments

The designation of special-use lanes generally reduces the space available for general motor traffic, and often arouses opposition. It is conceivable that special-use lanes for bicycles and buses at the expense of general motor traffic are easier to promote, through the combined political power of the bicycle lobby and public transit lobby, than bike lanes or bus lanes alone.

In inner-city areas where traffic is heavy, the space requirement for a special lane that is only for buses often seems too great, because the lane is unused for minutes at a time, and, for example, is only used once every three to five minutes at peak times (the latter case corresponding to 12 buses per hour). For this reason, allowing bicycle traffic in bus lanes may present the only opportunity to succeed in installing a special-use lane of any kind.

Designation of bus-only lanes can lead to danger, if bicyclists must ride between the bus lane and the general traffic. In such situations, a bus lane is only possible if it also is open to bicycle traffic.


BiS - Büro für Integrierte Stadt- und Verkehrsplanung / Stadt Münster (Hg.): Gemeinsame Benutzung von Sonderfahrstreifen durch Bus- und Radverkehr [Office of Integrated Urban and Traffic Planning, City of Münster (publisher): Mixed Use of Special Lanes by Bus and Bicycle Traffic], Köln/Bonn/Bocholt 1995.

Bouska, W.: Mehr Sicherheit und Attraktivität durch die Einführung der sog. "Radfahrer-Novelle" in: Moderne Radverkehrsanlagen und Fahrrad-Infrastruktur.   Dokumentation Fachveranstaltung vom 13.12.96, Hg. Landeshauptstadt München, Büro Bürgermeister Hep Monatzeder. [More Safety and Attractiveness Through the Introduction of the so-called "Bicycle Revision", in Modern Bicycle Traffic Installations and Bicycle Infrastructure. Proceedings of the workshop of 13 December 1996, published by the provincial capital city of Munich, office of Mayor Hep Monatzeder].

Forschungsgesellschaft für Straßen- und Verkehrswesen (Hg.): Empfehlungen für Radverkehrsanlagen [Society for Road and Traffic Research (publisher): Recommendations for Bicycle Traffic Installations]. ERA '95. Published 1995. Köln.

Schneewolf, R.; J. Rieck; U. Schäfer: Beobachtung Busspuren. Teilgutachten   (Manuskript) im Rahmen des Gemeinschaftsprojektes von IVU und KOMMUNALDATA 1990/92: Harmonisierung Fahrrad - ÖPNV. Im Auftrag der BVG. Berlin 1991 (unveröffentlicht). [Observations on Bus Lanes. Advisory statement (Manuscript) in the Context of Cooperative projects of IVU Traffic Technologies AG and KOMMUNALDATA 1990/92: Harmonization of Bicycles and Public Transit. In the mandate of the Berlin public transit system (BVG)]. Berlin 1991 (unpublished).]

VDV: Hinweise zur Umsetzung der Änderungen der StVO zur Förderung des Radverkehrs [German Surveying and Mapping Engineers' Society: Suggestions for implementation of the changes in the traffic law to promote bicycle use]. Working paper, status as of June, 1997.


Tilman Bracher, Rainer Bier, Jörg Thiemann-Linden. Translated from the German by John S. Allen, May, 2004.

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Last modified 2 March 2005