Yesterday I was pulled over by the German police in downtown Saarbrücken.
Who knew that you can’t run a red light while riding a bike in a three-way intersection? If there is no road to the right, I have always assumed that the traffic light simply does not apply to me, and have always gone through it. Regrettably, I did this right in front of the coppers who immediately drove up and pulled into the shoulder ahead of me.
So I did what every foreigner would do in such a situation:
pretended not to understand German.
They, unfortunately, spoke English.
In the end, they made a big deal about the 25€ ticket for such an infraction, but I think they were just trying to prove a point. After all, I ran the light right in front of them; they couldn’t just drive away without saying anything. I was actually prepared to take the ticket, but instead they said only, “Not today. Today is just a warning,” looked sternly at me, got back in their little green car, and drove off.
Another thing I learned from this incident is that you can only make a right turn on a red light if there is a special arrow indicating that you may do so. This also applies to bikes apparently. However, as in the case of crossing the street (by foot) on a red light, I was told you can simply hop up onto the sidewalk, turn the corner, hop down again and all will be well. In some ways, this reminds me of the French ‘D’ mentality.
In the U.S., it is completely the opposite. You can make a right turn on a red light (assuming you stop first), unless there is a sign specifically stating that you can’t. On the other hand, they will pull you over if you’re under eighteen and not wearing a helmet.