But here I am. Finding a few spare moments.
In my additional spare moments this evening, I also managed to hop on my bicycle and go for a quick pedal around town in the fading sunlight. It’s something I like to do when I’ve had a long day at the office in front of the computer, or if I just need to clear my mind and remind myself of the beauty and wonder that is my life here in Munich.
Munich is what we call a Radlstadt - a bike city. The city is designed with bike lanes criss-crossing the town, the geography is thankfully very flat, and most of Munich's sites are best reached by bike. Many Münchners are year-round cyclists, biking to work through the snow, sometimes even one-handed with an umbrella. Even the mailman delivers the mail from a specially-designed bicycle with industrial metal mailboxes welded to the frame.
It’s very easy for me to wax on about the glories of life in a Radlstadt, but I thought I would actually steer this post in another direction and write about the Do’s and Don’ts of Bicycling in Munich, because like most things in Germany, you might want to prepare yourself before blithely hopping on a bike in this fair city, at least if you don’t want to end up with a ticket for breaking some “rule” that you didn’t even know existed, or to avoid getting yelled at or “shamed” by a local who is personally offended by your non-adherence with biking rules.
Ride a bike! Seriously, it is the BEST way to see the city and I always encourage all of my visitors to rent a bike for at least a day and spend some time riding along the Isar and in the English Garden.
Give up on that bicycle just because it’s raining or somewhat cold. Besides, don’t you want to have more of a “local” experience? Germans are not afraid of a little weather.
Ride your bike to the beer garden, to your riverside grill outing, or to the lake. It’s the best way to get there- public transport is often a bit roundabout and may involve a lengthy walk to the nearest stop, and driving limits your ability to drink (well, so does cycling, I guess. But not to the same extent. Besides, you can always leave your bike locked up without having to worry about feeding the parking meter).
Forget to check that the headlight and brake lights are working. You can get ticketed if the lights are not functioning on your bicycle. Also, it gets dark really quickly and a late night ride through the English Garden or by the Isar can be somewhat treacherous without a light.
Do your grocery shopping on bicycle. That’s why most of the bikes here have good-sized baskets attached, and it also makes it easier to pursue a more “European” multi-stop grocery strategy of popping into your local bakery, butcher, flower shop, fruit vendor, etc., as opposed to just filling up a shopping cart at the suburban supermarket.
Try to carry too many groceries on your bicycle in one go. And please please forego the crates of beer and six-packs of water when shopping on bike. That’s just asking for trouble (trust me on this one – I don’t always take my own advice, so I know from experience).
Ride in the bike lanes when there is a proper bike lane on the street. In the bike lane, you have the right-of-way – pedestrians should know to jump out of the way or risk being run down, and drivers know where to look for you. Whatever you do though, don’t ride on the sidewalk or in pedestrian zones – that’s guaranteed to bring a waterfall of shame upon you. Also, don’t ever ride the wrong way in the bike lane. Oh, and don’t cross any roads except when the light is green – usually there is a special light at intersections for cyclists. Basically, just follow what everyone else is doing. Munich cyclists tend to be very orderly. That was far more than just one “DO”.
Leave your bike unlocked. In fact, also get a decent lock. Munich has practically no crime, but bike thievery is one of the few crimes that would register on thepolice ticker. Bikes are expensive and in high demand, and are also an easy target for petty criminals.
Watch out for the tram lines running through many of Munich’s streets. It’s a little too easy to catch a tire in one of those rails, and then take an ugly spill (again, said from experience).
Feel bad when you get shamed or glared at by a passing pedestrian or fellow cyclist. It’s unavoidable. Besides, it’s kind of fun to return their scathing glances and mutter under your breath at their uptight need to censure people for harmless actions. Also, you can return the favor by violently ringing your bell at any pedestrian that stands in a bike line, and barreling down upon them at top speed.