Posted On: Thursday - October 15th 2020 7:21PM MST
In Topics:   Cars  Peak Stupidity Roadshow
This post is a follow-up of yesterday's No parking in the show-off lane!. That post describes driving in the US of A on limited-access highways. ("Controlled-access" is what Wiki calls them.)
It was near 2 decades ago when I got to drive on the German Autobahn while doing doing some business in Germany. I got around too, coming in from Amsterdam Schiphol airport deep into Germany, then with a day trip to Czechia, and later back to Amsterdam.
Before I relate my experience regarding speeds, lanes, and passing on the autobahn, in comparison, I'll give just a very brief history of these "Federal Motorways", the English translation of Bundesautobahn. Though a good, fast highway network in Germany had been considered during the Wiemar Republic years in the mid-1920s, nothing much happened with that until Adolph Hitler, yes THAT Adolph Hitler, embraced the idea right after the Nazi take-over in 1933. Within 3 years, there were 130,000 Germans directly working on the Autobahn network and another 270,000 indirectly.
The first section finished was between Frankfurt am Main (the big Frankfurt*) and Darmstadt, a 21 mile stretch to start off with. Work was done until WWII, the big one, and then it didn't resume until the early 1950s. That was the time that our Interstate system was being started. Right now, there are just over 8,000 miles of Autobahn, while the American Interstate system has just under 50,000 miles.
I can't for the life of me find out how much of the Autobahn network is 4-lane road, but whether it is or has more lanes makes all the difference, from my experience. Yes, the Germans take the passing lane business seriously, and everyone has to with the speed differentials between lanes. Plus they are Germans, so a rule is a rule. OK maybe 85% of them are Germans now.
Though we always hear about these roads without speed limits, only some of it is this way, though a majority of the mileage, from what I've just read. Then the truckers have a limit that if I recall correctly was only 100 kph which is 61 mph! Of course, they stay in that right lane. However, I was not driving a BMW sports car, but a Subaru wagon. Not only that, I don't pretend to be a race car driver. What I wanted to do was a comfortable 75 mph +/- 5 being OK too.
That's not easy on the 4-lane sections (2 lanes each way). I got frustrated at 60 mph among the Schneemensch and his other good buddies in the convoy. I had to come left to pass. However, I'm not exactly the Bandit either. I had to wait till that left lane was clear for 1/2 a mile, get over there and gun it, and get to the next decent open stretch between the trucks before someone came right up on my ass with the headlights frantically flashing. That's no way to drive! I'd rather do the lane-to-lane thing on the interstate than that.
It was all better when the roads had 3 lanes or more in my direction. The slow guys just stay right. The fast guys do as you're supposed to here too, come left, but only to the first lane to their left that has room for passing. In general those 120 mph and up guys would, and would need to, stay in that left lane. I could find spots in the middle lane (talking specifically 3 lanes now) to pass a number of trucks and other slow pokes without pissing people off.
So, the number of lanes makes all the difference in the world in how functional the German Autobahns are.
While trying to find out how much of the 8,000 miles of Autobahn are only 4-lane road, I did find this neat web page with a little advice from experience and a nice video near the bottom. Yeah, it looks pretty fast - he got up to 180 mph.
PS: In case you were wondering the Schneemensch is the Snowman, played by the late Jerry Reed in the movie Smokey and the Bandit and the sequel.
* Just as with the towns in England withe the olde-timey names like Watford-on-Thames, etc. (I made that one up), Frankfurt am Main is "Frankfurt on the Main River", a tributary of the Rhine, while the Frankfurt an der Oder, is way east on the Polish border, on the Oder River.