The jpoc guide to crossing the street in Germany.
Pedestrian crossings work just the same in Germany as they do in the UK with cute little pictures of red and green men. However, it is worth knowing about a few things.
Crossing when the little man is red is not just a risk, it is an infringement of a law that is enforced and you can be fined for being in breech of this regulation. My advice of course has to be to obey this rule but if you are caught I'd suggest that you lose any ability to speak or understand German and also, try to look surprised. Sometimes, a plainclothes policeman will actually wait around by a crossing specifically to nab people.
When there is a road junction controlled by lights, it is common for the light to be green for, say, cars and pedestrians to travel between North and South across an East-West road at the same time. Under these circumstances, cars are required to give way to you as you saunter happily across.
There are two risk areas here. First of all, running to cross before the light goes red may not give a motorist time to see you and slow down. This is especially the case in a small child who will be harder to spot.
Also, be aware that a non-German may be unaware of this rule and may well not expect to see a pedestrian. In Paderborn, there are a lot of British registered cars and a couple of times, I have been almost knocked down by one of these cars whose driver clearly was unaware of the way that lights work here.
One slightly irritating aspect of the lights at German road junctions is that some require you to press a button and others give pedestrians a green man once per cycle anyway and have no button. So, you need to look for the button and you will be very frustrated when you press it a tenth of a second late and have to wait for a full cycle of the lights.
There are other occasions on which cars will give way to you. Suppose that you are walking along a main road and there is a side junction that you must cross. A car driving along the main road wishing to turn into the side junction is supposed to stop to allow you to cross.
I do not like this rule because not even the Germans are sure about who has right of way under every circumstance and if you stop when you are allowed to walk, you may find that you get shouted at by a car driver who has stopped for you and wants you to cross so that he can then continue.
This is also a real problem when out with children. It just doesn't work to try to teach them to stop at the kerb and wait for you as they will then cause grid lock while all the cars come to a halt.