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I just had my first ride last week end and I generally rode pretty much in a defensive way, I always followed the cycle paths, but to be honest I enjoyed much more riding on the street for 2 reasons related to the quality and construction of cycling paths:

  1. cycling paths outside Berlin are weirdly thought, many times they are only on one side of the road and you have to stop and cross the street to get on it, then the side changes and you have to cross again;
  2. they are full of bumps, irregularities, debris and so on and that makes it hard to keep a decent and constant speed;

I kinda know how's the regulation in Germany, you have to be on the cycling paths only when some symbols are shown on the street.

Probably I'm not the first one to think this and I'd like to know wow do more experienced people deal with it, in the end it seems it boils down to a matter of security vs riding on a more enjoyable road.

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    Absent a legal requirement to be on the "sidepath", it's not at all unusual for the reasonably skilled cyclist to prefer the roadway. It has been demonstrated to actually be safer in many conditions. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 8 '15 at 10:53
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    Also you might want to check whether there's a maximum speed for using a path parallel to the road. You may be too fast on a road bike. You may be too far in practice of there are pedestrians around – Chris H Dec 8 '15 at 12:28
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    I fully agree with your perception of German bike paths (especially around Berlin). As far as I know you are allowed to ride on the road if using a bike paths is unreasonable (debris, blocked etc., very subjective). In the end I mostly rode on the roads when I travelled through Germany because the bike paths were simply too dangerous for any serious speed. – Michael Dec 8 '15 at 15:20
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    There are several reasons a "sidepath" may be less safe than the roadway, the main one being at intersections and driveways where a motorist is less likely to yield to the cyclist. Statistically, "overtaking" collisions are rare, while intersection collisions are much more common. I've seen hard statistics on this. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 8 '15 at 20:45
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    As far as stats go, this R Chung answer has lots of stats and this ebrohman one has a pretty chart. – Móż Dec 8 '15 at 20:49
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You seem to be assuming that roads are more dangerous than bike paths. This may be true in general, but is by no means always true.

As to the legal issue, be aware of the consequences of breaking the rules. In many places (like Chile, where I am), the cycling laws simply aren't enforced.

Beyond that, do what works for you.

So the answer to your question: No, you should not always ride on the designated bike path.

  • Agreed with @BSO rider. Riding on the road with the normal flow of traffic here by the beach is lawful. The exception is when a bike path is provided on the road, then the expectation for bikes to use the path. I'm no lawyer but I would add two general things. 1.) Review your local bike laws and if you are on vacation and plan to ride review the laws for the area. If I have questions, I'll ask the police for the local area I'm riding. 2.) Ride predictably so bicycles and cars have a good idea where your going. – Cerulean Fish Dec 9 '15 at 0:37

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