Car-free days make biking a piece of cake

by Michael J. Meese
Contributing writer

Germany is all about biking, hiking and walking – whatever it takes to get out and experience nature in all its glory, or just get out for fresh air and exercise. Germans even take these forms of exercise to another level with one that mixes fitness with the country’s knack for putting on some of the world’s greatest festivals.

More specifically, the recreation of bicycling is targeted for such a combination, which is delivered in the form of an event called “Autofreie Tagen,” or car-free days.

Car-free days entail kicking cars off the road to make selected thoroughfares free of traffic for bicyclists from early in the morning to around

6 p.m. on Sundays. About 20 kilometers of secondary roads traversing scenic countrysides and along romantic waterways are chosen for closure to all motorized traffic.

And it is a festive event, with almost every town in the path of the car-free route transformed into one big party for bikers, like an extremely toned down version of Biker Week at Fort Lauderdale.

Ascending upon these towns from the open road, bicyclists are met by fest tents from whose confines hot grills, ovens and taps emit the appetizing aroma of German sausages, schnitzels and cakes; all types of beers, wines and non-alcoholic beverages are also served. This may seem to be in stark contrast to the fundamental purpose of bicycling, which would be exercise; however, the event is not Tour De France, but rather a mobile festival that is complete with all sorts of live bands playing everything from traditional German favorites to rock.

Car-free days aren’t restricted to bicycles  alone – with training wheels or not. They also share the road with inline skaters, power walkers – some with strollers – and runners. Ensuring the roads are kept car-free and participants don’t have to worry about becoming a hood ornament on a Mercedes touring class, police barricades are set up at all entrances to the car-free route. The police guard these barricades as well as patrol the entire route on motorcycle or bicycle to stop rogue motorists from “detouring” the barricades. Road signs posted weeks in advance throughout the region hosting the car-free day highlighting the date and time and the specific roads closed help prevent any undesirable traffic incidents as well.

Newspaper articles and advertisements also aid in informing potential participants as well as motorists that the event is happening on the specified closed roads.

Aside from German newspapers and road signs, The KMC can get information on upcoming car-free days from several sources, depending on the popularity of the particular event. The KA and Outdoor Recreations can inform the community about upcoming car-free days happening around this area. Some of the most popular car-free events attracting not only local German and American participants, but also bikers from countries throughout Europe are along the Rhein and Mosel rivers.

These pedal bound events along Germany’s most charming and majestic rivers populated by numerous ancient castles overlooking rolling vineyards take place once or twice a year in early and late summer months.

Germany is a land of endless trails – both paved and not – that cut through meadows, forests and along waterfronts. The Rheinland Pflalz is renowned for such trails shared by bicyclists and hikers; many of these paths are literally in KMC members’ back yards. So, no one has to wait for a car-free day to enjoy cycling. The Kaiserslautern Tourist Office also has information on some of the more prominent biking and hiking trails around the city and neighboring towns.