How safe is it on Polish roads? It varies. However, before I write about safety on Polish roads, which is various, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the bicycle infrastructure in Poland is developing very dynamically. The awareness of Polish drivers is growing in relation to the respect of the cyclist on the road. It is also worth noting that bicycle routes and trails are created in places where there is either no or limited or very little traffic. It is known that a cyclist, when confronted with a car, has less chance of getting out of an accident unscathed, so we recommend, above all, a huge limited trust in other drivers. Many drivers are also cyclists, because we are experiencing a golden age for bicycles in Poland, and many people travel by bicycle hence. Therefore, in my opinion, and I had the opportunity to visit more than 40 countries in the world by bike, Poland does not look so bad compared to other countries. Of course, we have a lot to improve in countries like the Netherlands, Austria or Czechia, but we are working on it. That is why we invite you to Poland on a bicycle trip to see it for yourself. When coming to Poland it is worthwhile to get acquainted with the traffic law regulations that apply to cyclists.
Cycling is pure pleasure and as it has been proven, there are many health benefits resulting therefrom. However, one should not forget that a cyclist is also a traffic participant. And what is more, he is the most vulnerable to the effects of road accidents. Just like every other participant, a cyclist has certain privileges and obligations to bear in mind when cycling. Every road user is obliged to know the regulations for cycling. And do you know these regulations? Let’s start with the basic things.
Wearing a helmet
Riding in a helmet is not mandatory, yet it is recommended.
Who can ride a bike?
Persons over 18 years of age are entitled to ride a bicycle without a special document. The document authorizing to ride below this age is the bicycle card. In order to obtain it, it is necessary to demonstrate the appropriate knowledge and skills to pass the examination for the card. Usually, young people take this exam in the 4th grade. Children under 10 years of age can only ride a bicycle under adult supervision and are treated as pedestrians. They should be transported in specially adapted child car seats as well as in bicycle trailers until the age of 7. The length of the bike + trailer set must not exceed 4m.
Legal basis: Act of 5th January 2011 on Vehicle Drivers Article 7(1)(2); Article 8 (1)(10);
When are you obliged to use the bicycle path/bike road?
It is usually your obligation. Provided that the bicycle path, road or lane is set for the direction in which the cyclist is riding or intends to turn.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 33 (1)
Remember that TRAFFIC LAWS apply on all bicycle/pedestrian paths, bicycle lanes, and bike roads!
Cycling on the road
In the absence of a bicycle path (or a roadside), you enter the roadway. A cyclist riding on the road must stick to its right curb. An exception to this rule, increasing the cyclist’s safety, is the possibility of entering the crossroads in the middle of the lane to turn left. It is forbidden to cycle on the bus lane. You can use it if you are informed about it by road signs.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 16 (5)
When can a cyclist drive on the left side of the road?
A cyclist can ride on the left side of the road according to the rules of pedestrian traffic if he takes care of a child under 10 years of age riding his bike:
When can a pedestrian use the bicycle path/route
Pedestrians are allowed on the bicycle lanes if there is no pavement, sideways or any possibility to use them. In this case, the pedestrian must give way to the bicycle. An exceptional situation where the pedestrian has priority over the vehicle (not only the bicycle) over the entire width of the road is the residential area.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 11(4)
What can’t a cyclist do while riding a bike?
1) drive on the road next to another traffic participant, subject to paragraph 3a;
2) drive without holding at least one hand on the steering wheel and legs on pedals or footrests;
3) cling to vehicles
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 33 (3) (1-3)
4) in addition, cycling under the influence of alcohol is prohibited,
5) using a phone that requires holding the handset or microphone while driving is prohibited.
6) it is also forbidden to carry persons under the influence of alcohol unless they are sitting in a side cart.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 45 (2) (1-2).
When can cyclists ride next to each other?
A cyclist may not ride on the road next to another traffic participant unless this does not hinder the movement of other traffic participants or otherwise endanger road safety. CYCLING NEXT TO EACH OTHER IS AN EXCEPTIONAL SITUATION. You can stop at the bicycle sluice next to other cyclists, but you have to leave it as soon as it is possible to continue driving in the intended direction and take the right place on the road.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 33 (3a)
When can a cyclist use the sidewalk?
1) when he is taking care of a person under 10 years of age who is a bicycle driver;
2) when the width of the pavement along the road on which traffic is allowed at a speed greater than 50 km/h is at least 2 m and there is no separate road for bicycle path or road;
3) when the weather conditions endanger the safety of the cyclist on the road (snow, strong wind, downpour, drought, dense fog)
The cyclist, using the pavement or pedestrian road, is obliged to drive slowly, be especially careful and give way to the pedestrian.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 33 (5) (1-3)
Pedestrian crossing/bike crossing
If there is a pedestrian crossing within the cycle pathway, then the driver of the bicycle must get off and guide the bike through the crossing. This is not obligatory if there is a bicycle crossing next to the crossing. An exception is a person under 10 years of age who is using a bike because such persons are treated as pedestrians.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 26 (3) (3)
When can a pedestrian use the bicycle path/lane?
Pedestrians are allowed on the bicycle road if there is no sidewalk, sideways or possibility to use them. In this case, the pedestrian must give way to the bicycle. An exceptional situation where the pedestrian has priority over the vehicle (not only the bicycle) over the entire width of the road is the residential area.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 26 (3) (4)
The right-of-way for the cyclist?
The cyclist has the right-of-way on a bicycle crossing. The driver of the car should be particularly careful when commuting to the crossing and if the cyclist is already on the crossing he should yield him the way. A bicycle going straightforward has the absolute right-of-way over a car if the car driver turns right and crosses the bicycle lane, the designated lane for bikes, and even if he is riding the lane next to the cyclist who is going to ride straight. The same is true if the car enters the main road with a sign of yielding the right-of-way. It is then mandatory to let a cyclist go along the bicycle lane.
If the cyclist starts to moves into traffic, he must yield the right-of-way to the cars. He must also do so when he enters the street from the side of the road or the cycle path.
Even when you have the right-of-way over other vehicles, remember the principle of limited trust and be particularly careful when maneuvering and crossing an intersection. In a car, crash cyclists are in a much worse situation… The human body has no chance when confronted with several tons of metal.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 27
Overtaking of vehicles and bicycles
As cyclists, you have the right to overtake slow-moving vehicles both on the right and on the left. Let’s remember that such a maneuver should be signaled in an appropriate and clear way. Most often it will be just a hand movement (as with turn signals). When overtaking, you should keep the distance not less than 1m. This distance also applies to other vehicles through which cyclists are overtaken.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 24 (2) and (12)
Riding in a column
15 is the number of vehicles that can drive in an organized column. If you have more than 15 bikes, you ought to divide into two columns, and the distance between the columns which you have to keep is a minimum of 200 meters.
Legal basis: Act of 20th June 1997 – Road Traffic Law Article 32
No drinking and cycling
It’s simple. You don’t drink and cycle. If you are caught while riding a bike after drinking alcohol (i.e. when there is between 0.2 and 0.5 per mille of alcohol in your body), you can get a fine of 300 to 500 PLN. In turn, drunken cyclists, i.e. those who have more than 0.5 per mille of alcohol in their blood, will be fined with a fine of PLN 500. The situation in which a drunken cyclist will cause danger in the road traffic is worse. Then a policeman can refer the case to the court, which can fine the cyclist with even up to 5,000 PLN, arrest up to 14 days or prohibit driving vehicles other than mechanical vehicles for up to 3 years.
What should a bike be equipped with?
The detailed equipment of the bicycle is described in the Regulation of the Minister of Infrastructure of 31st December 2002 on the technical conditions of vehicles and the scope of their necessary equipment. The bicycle should be equipped with:
1) at least one rear lamp, red, continuous or flashing
2) at least one red rear retro-reflector
3) a bell or other sound warning signal
4) at least one front white light, continuous or flashing
5) at least one operating brake
When can you have the bicycle running lights removed?
You cannot, as you can get a ticket for not having lights on your bike unless you are obliged to use them. Consequently, you do not have to have lights on if there is good visibility from dawn to dusk. Because then you are not obliged to use them. A good solution is to carry lights with you always so that the weather or conditions do not surprise you.
Legal basis: Regulation of the Minister of Infrastructure of 31st December 2002 on the technical conditions of vehicles and the scope of their necessary equipment par. 55 (1a)
What requirements must your bike lighting meet?
The lights on the bike should be visible from a distance of min. 150 meters. As far as the location of the lights is concerned, they must not be higher than 150 cm and lower than 25 cm above the ground. Of course red light must not be visible from the front and white light from the rear.
Legal basis: Regulation of the Minister of Infrastructure of 31st December 2002 on the technical conditions of vehicles and the scope of their necessary equipment par. 56 (2) and (5)
Unfortunately, bicycle thefts are common, especially in larger cities, so it is worth having a bicycle fastener to secure your bike
No terrorist attacks have taken place in Poland so far. We are a very safe country in this respect.