Tag Archives: Accidents

A few more steps

I recently became a little bit more German.

Me: Right, that’s it. We’re clearing out the living room. I don’t mind you having all the wires, cables, batteries, old phones, place mats, last year’s birthday cards, post from 2012… I just don’t want to have to look at it every evening.

Manfredas: You’re right. 

Me: I know. I’ve bought three “decorative” storage boxes. White is for documents, black is for any technical stuff, grey is for anything in between. 

Manfredas: You scare me. 

Me: I know. LET’S DO THIS! 

Ta dah!

And that’s not even the half of it. Everyone knows that the Germans love insurance – Manfredas isn’t even sure how many different types of policies he has. While I’m not quite in that league, I have taken out two more forms of insurance – bicycle and (say it with me) Haftpflichtversicherung.

You see, I bought a new bike not so long ago and, looking at it in comparison to the shitheaps most people in Berlin ride around on, I felt that maybe my beautiful Tecnobike needed a little extra protection.

I heart my Tecnobike.

Given that there were more than 34,000 reported bicycle thefts in Berlin last year, you’d think more people would have insurance. Not so. Having asked Manfredas, friends and students for tips, in the end, I had to resort to Mr. Google – and even that wasn’t easy. I eventually found the brilliantly-named Bike Ass and, for the bargain price of just €46.41 per year, Tecnobike can sleep easy at night, even if she is chained up in the basement.

Manfredas: You should also get Haftpflichtversicherung.

Me: Sounds like some kind of disease. 

Manfredas: (Sigh) No, it’s personal liability insurance. If you do damage to someone or something, it covers you. 

Me: Nah, I don’t really think I need it. 

Manfredas: Well, nobody takes out home insurance believing there’s going to be a fire, do they?

Me: No, I guess not. How much is it? 

I went with AXA and now, for a yearly pittance, I can do €50,000,000 euro’s worth of damage. Woop!

A couple of months later, I’m very happy that I have both forms of insurance. While I haven’t damaged anyone or anything (yet), the potential for this happening in Berlin seems rather high.

Example: “OK, Tecnobike, I’m going to have to leave you here for a couple of hours while I go work. But look, you’ve got loads of room and plenty of bikey company. You’ll be just fine. I’ll miss you…” 

Spacious.

You come back a while later and this has happened.

Tecnobike! Where are you!?

You might be thinking “What kind of idiot would park their car there?” or, more pressingly, “What IS that??” but if I damage either the car or THE THING trying to get out of there, it’s on me. I was tempted to do a couple of grands’ worth of damage just to prove a point, but I’m trying to be a responsible cyclist…

Interestingly, in Berlin, this is probably the most dangerous thing you can be. If you follow the rules, act like a normal human being, and show some consideration for other people using the roads and cycle lanes, chances are you’ll be the one taken out. Naturally, me being me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

So, there I was, pootling my way home on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I was heading for Karl-Marx-Allee, in the cycle lane between the lane of cars turning right and the lane going straight ahead, like me. I had started slowing down as there was a red light up ahead.

BAM. Out of nowhere, another cyclist tried to overtake me at speed (why I don’t know, as the light was red anyway), clipped Tecnobike and somehow my left leg and arm ended up crushed between the two bikes and a taxi. Miraculously, I managed to stay upright, which is good; I’ve found that roaring “ARSCHLOCH!” at someone from the ground isn’t nearly as effective.

Me: ARSCHLOCH!

Arsch mit Ohren: Me?!

Me: Yes, you, you @^$#^%^%#%$#$@#%%$^^&^&^%. You could have killed me!

Arsch mit Ohren: Uh, sorry.

We somehow managed to disentangle the two bikes and I limped to the pavement, the Arsch following me. The taxi driver had since driven off, satisfied that we hadn’t damaged his car. Eye roll.

Arsch mit Ohren: Oh, you’re bleeding. Would you like a tissue? 

Me: I’ve got my own damn tissues.

Arsch mit Ohren: You’re shaking. I’m sorry, I don’t have any water. 

Me: I’ve got my OWN DAMN WATER!

Arsch mit Ohren: Would you like to go for a coffee or something? You’re probably in shock.

Me: Are you insane?

Arsch mit Ohren: Or I could accompany you home? Make sure you’re OK? 

Me: I was just fine ’til you ploughed into me. I think I’ll be safer by myself, thank you very much. 

I finally got rid of him and, after calming down a little, inspecting Tecnobike (unharmed, thankfully), made it the rest of the way home unscathed. I was scathed enough as it was.

I watched with interest over the next few days as various parts of my body swelled up and turned different colours, my main regret being that I hadn’t turned back and run that asshole over in return. I am insured, after all…

Last weekend, there was a demonstration for safer conditions for cyclists in Berlin. While there is definitely room for improvement, from what I’ve seen, these people’s time would have been better spent learning some manners and oh, maybe how to ride a bicycle.

Berlin Demonstration von Fahradfahrern
Cycling for safety – while on your mobile. Genius. (Source: Deutsche Welle)

In the few months I’ve been with Tecnobike, I’ve seen people cycling while looking at their mobile phones, a guy cycling while reading a book, cyclists with a beer in one hand and a fag in the other, hands-free cycling, one idiot with his feet up on the handlebars, people sailing through red lights, not indicating which way they’re turning… and, of course, no lights.

Since the police and Ordnungsamt are somehow blind to all of this, Manfredas and I have started our own little “Balkonordnungsamt”. This involves yelling “Licht an du Vogel!” at the morons down below. However, as we’re on the sixth floor, it’s more likely that only our neighbours above and below can hear us and someone will call the Ordnungsamt on us.

I wonder if there’s insurance against that…

 

 

 

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On yer bike

Part of being a good Berliner, as anyone will tell you, is owning a bicycle. And since I’m now in a living arrangement where I can look at a bicycle as a bicycle (rather than just one more thing that will have to be moved in a month’s time), this seemed like the perfect moment to take the leap. Sheila, the half-naked Aussie, had generously offered me hers because she has to go back to Oz for a bit. But then, she’d also fallen off it into the back of a convertible as it was too heavy for her. I politely declined.

Fortunately, my Irish friend, Séamus, builds bikes for a living and (rather conveniently) was working on a nice petite model that might just be ideal for me. Unfortunately, he lives on the other side of the city. This wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but with Berlin’s transport system up to its old tricks again, it took a bus and three trains to get there. Not to worry, I took one look at the shiny red beauty and instantly decided that it would be mine.

You will be mine, oh yes...
You will be mine, oh yes…

While Séamus rattled on about tubes and wires and oil and other important stuff, I was thinking “pretty, red, pretty”. But, being a professional, instead of just letting me ride off into the sunset, he insisted that we go down to his backyard and give it a couple of test runs to make sure it was a good fit for me. After a few precarious moments, I was off on a wobbly circuit of the yard and amazingly managed not to crash into any of the cars or fall off. A quick height adjustment of the handlebars and I was good to go.

Me: It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare getting it back to mine on public transport. 

Séamus: (giving it a manly kick) Ha, don’t worry. Parts of this thing are over thirty years old. I don’t think you’ll manage to destroy it in an hour. 

Little did he know.

He offered to ride with me to the station but, as a good law-abiding German, I refused as the one thing the bike didn’t have was lights. It’s only about a two-minute ride but rules are rules, you know. Plus, I just knew I’d be the unlucky bugger that got caught.

When we got there, people were streaming out of the station as the S-Bahn had shut down three hours early. So now, instead of two trains which would leave me a 5-minute walk from my door, we would have to walk for 15 minutes, and I’d have to take two trains and a bus. With Séamus practically wheeling the bike for me, and me impractically bitching and moaning the whole way, we made it to the next station. I got (and validated) a ticket for the bike and then I was on my own.

I’d thought moving my worldly belongings by public transport was tough until I tried to get a bicycle up and down escalators. Still, despite almost falling on several people and ramming an old lady in the shins, I made it to the bus-stop. The bus came bang on time and I hefted the bike through the middle doors.

“NEIN!” came a cry from the front of the bus. “NEIN!”

I figured he was probably talking to me, so I elegantly alighted and wheeled the bike to the front door to see what all the fuss was about.

Bus driver: No bikes. 

Me: But, but, I don’t have a choice. I just bought it and it has no lights so I can’t ride it. 

Bus driver: NEIN!

Me: But I bought a bike ticket! It’s only a few stops and there’s so much room and…

Bus driver: NEINNNNNNNNN! 

And then he closed the door on me. The fact that I’d managed to have this “conversation” in German gave me some small satisfaction, but not enough that I didn’t pause to give him the finger and call him a pedantic prick. (I used English for that one.)

So, there I was, stranded at the side of the road, facing a good 45-minute walk. It was almost 11.30pm at this stage and I just thought, “You know what, Germany? Stick your rules. If one set of rules means that I have to break another, then so be it”. And I got on the bike. It had reflectors and there was nobody on the footpaths, apart from (comfortingly) other cyclists riding without lights. About five minutes down the road, my cardigan got stuck in the wheel, which required a dismount, a good deal of swearing and some tricky extrication.

I got on again, sheer fury driving me forwards. Bloody mothers can wheel their jeep-sized buggies filled with their squealing brats onto buses. The bus driver will even make the bus “kneel” for them so they can more conveniently torture a busload of people’s eardrums for god knows how long. How am I, standing silently in the middle of an empty bus holding my bike, more unacceptable than that? Just because I didn’t push the bike out of my lady orifice doesn’t make it any less my new baby… And then I looked up and I was home. Huh, I was only a couple of minutes later than if I’d taken the bus. Good old rage.

Today, I decided to take Red Beauty out on a spin to a nearby park. The first thing I was faced with was a sign saying there was no cycling in the park.

Grrrr...
Grrrr…

Followed by a sign saying that you actually could cycle in the park.

It seems mothers and squealing brats are allowed too.
It seems mothers and squealing brats are allowed too.

Jesus, Germany, make up your mind…

Still, it was all worth it in the end.

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That bus driver can still kiss my (newly-toned) white Irish ass, though…