Friday, August 09, 2013

Cycling on the left

The Germans like everybody else in continental Europe drive on the right. In the past as a Brit living in Germany I was subject to a certain amount of banter about why we drive on the left on the island. Reputedly the reason why much of Europe and the USA drives on the wrong side of the road is due to Napoleon. The story goes: Before the French Revolution the peasants in France walked on the left and the gentry rode in carriages on the right. Napoleon ordered his troops to march on the rights, because according to him what was good enough for les aristos was good enough for his lads. The Yanks took this idea over after the War of Independence grateful to the French because they had helped the colonists.
However my gut feeling is that the folk memory harks back to pre-Napoleonic times, especially amongst cyclists. I have noticed that if cyclists meet on cyclepaths they often pass starboard (right) to starboard. Germans walk with their bikes on their righthand side. They stick out into the road when pushing their bikes. This would be a safe option if Germany drove on the left.

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