|Click the image to go to the ADFC, General German Bicycle Club, website (in German)|
In Germany, the road traffic permit regulations, Straßenverkehrszulassungsordnung (abbreviated StVZO) dictate the requirements for bicycles. Every bike on public ways, for kids or grownups, is supposed to fulfill these rules, and most bikes are sold with the required accessories already in place. You can buy a bike without everything, and some people ride bikes that don't conform, but in the event of an accident they are likely to be found at least partly responsible. This can get to be very expensive. Most people just follow the rules.
But in addition to the legal aspects of it, the StVZO makes sense. It regulates bicycles as traffic participants, not as pedestrians, and makes bicycling safer for everyone. (The latest StVZO just went into effect April 1, 2013 and declares for the first time that bicycles should follow vehicular traffic rules and lights, not pedestrian ones). By standardizing these features of bikes, pedestrians and drivers know what to look for and cyclists are assured some safety features on every bike. Here are the technical requirements listed in the image above (sources include ADFC and Wikipedia):
- Brakes Bikes must have two brakes that are independent from one another. (Switzerland requires them to be one on the front wheel, one on the back).
- Bell Bikes must be provided with at least one brightly toned bell. Other devices to alert others with sound, like horns or bike wheel bells that spin on the tire, Radlaufglocken, are not permitted. If you hear a bike bell you know without looking that it is a bike. (Austria permits horns and, like Switzerland, makes an exception for lightweight racing bikes)
- Lighting A white headlight and a red rear light are required and must be ready for use at any time. The headlight and rear light must be turned on with a single switch. They must be able to be powered by a dynamo backup, though they can use batteries in addition (as a standlight for example). One additional battery powered rear light may be added at the most; further battery powered lamps are not permitted, including blinking ones or ones on the helmet or body. Racing bikes (in Switzerland 700c x 23 or thinner) up to 11 kg weight (24.25 lbs or 12 kg/26.45 lbs in Austria and Switzerland) are not required to have the dynamo lighting, but may use removable battery powered lights. These lights must be carried at all times. All lighting needs an approval stamp from the German department of transportation in Flensburg - see the image at top or your own B&M LED lamps. Incidentally, the lights that are permitted don't have a setting for blinking. All lights stay on when switched on so that other traffic participants can judge distances well, something that is harder with a blinking light.
- Reflectors A red reflector not higher than 600 mm above the roadway at its highest point and a large rear reflector marked with a "Z" must be mounted on the rear. A white reflector must be mounted facing forward, and yellow reflectors must be mounted on the pedals and on the spokes. The yellow spoke reflectors, 2 per wheel, may be replaced by tires spokes or rims with sidewall reflectors. Why the "Z?" I guess it is the approval symbol for this kind of reflector. The rear light and one reflector can be built into the same thing; the other one is separate.
- Carrying Capacity According to DIN EN 14764 bikes must be built to hold 100 kg, including the weight of the bike itself, clothing and luggage, and weight of the rider, but many bikes are made stronger than required. Riders weighing over 80 kg are therefore encouraged to seek a bike explicitly marked with a higher maximum capacity.
- Fenders, Chainguard, a Lock, and a Rack These are not actually required by the StVZO but have become expected on most bikes. Switzerland does require some of these. Standlights, the dynamo lights that stay lit for a while after you stop at an intersection, were going to be added to the 2013 requirements but didn't make the cut. I expect they will be required soon, and perhaps hub dynamos will completely replace tire dynamos in the regulations as well due to their better wet weather reliability. The ADFC bicycle club, when rating bicycles, takes a point off for cafe locks (wheel locks).
Have a look at the StVZO compliant children's bike we just found at the used bike store.