"This is the place where it rattles": Grünwald's police chief Andreas Forster considers the barely visible curve to be particularly dangerous. © Martin Becker
Many cyclists do not want to accept the ban on skiing on the Mühltalberg in Straßlach despite the high risk of accidents.
Straßlach-Dingharting – Prohibited downhill, allowed up: This regulation for cyclists has been in force on the Mühltalberg in Straßlach-Dingharting for 30 years – this year in January, the Munich Administrative Court confirmed the downhill cycling ban in principle. Legally, the next round is now looming, because according to Mayor Hans Sienerth, the two plaintiffs, two cyclists organized in the ADFC, have filed an application for appeal with the aim of overturning what they consider to be a disproportionate regulation.
Cyclists spitting on cars
Court ruling or not, the acceptance of the controversial downhill cycling ban has hardly changed. "It's the same as it has been for 30 years – only about half of them comply with the regulation, the other half don't," says Hans Sienerth. Since the municipality erected a huge prohibition sign at the upper end of the Mühltalberg two years ago and pointed out the risk of accidents, the emotions have rather intensified: "The motorists are hit on the roof and spat against the window. Nothing has changed in the relevant circles."
In the event of oncoming traffic, there is hardly any possibility of evasive action
Relevant circles? This refers to those cyclists who feel exalted compared to motorists - and who assess their driving skills in such a way that they see a race track in the steep Mühltalstraße with a gradient of up to 18 percent.
Many cyclists do not adhere to the speed limit. © Martin Becker
"The problem," says Hans Sienerth, "occurs when a racing cyclist with thin tires, a shaky fork and 70 km/h goes down and suddenly a car comes towards him." Dodge, brake? Almost impossible. In 1992, a cyclist was killed in this constellation, and as a consequence, the municipality imposed a ban on downhill cycling a year later.
Police chief assesses accident risk high
In turn, the Grünwald police inspectorate is responsible for ensuring that it is adhered to. Its director, Andreas Forster, feels the displeasure of some cyclists, for example through an insulting scribble on a no-passage sign. The police chief puts it away, he is concerned with the matter: "I estimate the risk of accidents in the steep, upper part to be high," says Andreas Forster. In particular, the barely visible curve at a crest. "That's the place where it's rattling."
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That's how the cyclists see it
The awareness of dangers varies, as the Münchner Merkur notes during an on-site visit in conversation with cyclists. "I don't quite understand it," says an elderly gentleman who is still on his racing bike at the age of 80. "If you drive very slowly and carefully, nothing can really happen." A young lady who feels her way down into the Mühltal almost at walking pace sees it ambivalently: "In the morning on a weekday like today, especially when the inn is closed, you can risk the descent at a slow pace. But in the evenings or on weekends it is dangerous, not only because of the motorists - cycling clubs also ride up the mountain in groups. If you shoot at them, you can stumble." After a short discussion, two young boys, both with racing bikes, decide to take a detour along the unpaved forest path, while a few seconds later a couple with city pedelecs demonstratively ignores the prohibition signs.
If you ride slowly and carefully, nothing can really happen, says this road cyclist with conviction. © Martin Becker
Alternative routes are being examined
The official detour, there is consensus, is suitable for mountain bikes or cross bikes, but as a bumpy forest path unfavorable for road bikes with thin tires. And there are amateur athletes "who drive up and down the Mühltalberg ten times in a row for training purposes," says Hans Sienerth. He would like to offer them a low-risk and comfortable downhill alternative. "We're constantly looking at alternative routes, so as mayor I often sit on my racing bike myself." He could not say more details yet. especially since it is "not easy in terms of climate policy to build an asphalt track in the forest". Incidentally, the only legal downhill option, the forest path, is not the responsibility of the municipality, but of the district of Munich.
Police carry out regular checks
At the moment, therefore, it would be necessary to push the 300 to 400 meters to be on the safe side before the Mühltalstraße becomes flatter again. From the point where the alternative route joins, cycling is allowed again anyway. The police randomly check whether the downhill cycling ban is being complied with and order fines if they register violations, "but the hardcore cyclists are not deterred by this," says Andreas Forster.
License plate requirement and speed cameras
The municipality has examined judicial suggestions such as a time limit on the cycling ban - and rejected: There is no season, the risk changes - even in winter, the Mühltalberg is intensively cycled. According to Mayor Sienerth, "the best solution" looks like this: "Firstly, introduce a number plate requirement for cyclists. Secondly, set up a speed camera. And thirdly, limit cyclists to 30 km/h." Because therein lies the root of all problems: that cyclists do not adhere to the 30 speed limit. If the road is clear, nothing happens. If the beverage truck jerks up the Mühlberg and in places there are only about 40 centimetres to swerve, it becomes dangerously tight for the cyclist without a crumple zone.