Regional Boards > International Highways

German Autobahns

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Let me present to you the German Autobahn.

The German Autobahn is similar to the Interstate Highway system, and is also layed out in a grid pattern, rather unique for Europe, where most networks are radiating from the capital and other larger cities. The first Autobahn opened in 1935 between Darmstadt and Frankfurt, modern-day A5. It was mostly used as a high speed racetrack in the first years. Many more Autobahns were build in the 1930's, similar to the Parkway development in and around New York.

The current Autobahn network is about 12,500 kilometers or 7,800 miles, which would put it fourth or fifth in the world, behind Spain, China and the United States, and is similar in length to the network of France.

The entire Autobahn network is toll free for cars, but trucks do have to pay a toll electronically. Most Autobahns have 4 or 6 lanes, but stretches with more than 6 lanes are rare, and Texas style Autobahns do not exist. Major upgrading works are underway on busy truck corridors, to six-lane most long distance Autobahns, but these works are gonna take years.

The most famous part of the German Autobahn is the general lack of a speed limit, it's indeed possible and allowed to drive over 120 miles an hour, or even more. However, the general perception is that everybody drives at the speed of light, due to high fuel prices and heavy traffic, most people do not drive faster than 90 or 100 miles an hour. About 60% of the Autobahn network is limited at 80 mph or less.

I have made thousands of pictures in Germany. You can find all sets here, on my Flickr account

Some examples of signage:

1. First announcement of the exit: name, number and distance.

2. Overhead signage. Not all exits have overhead signage.

3. At the exit. A road number of an intersecting Bundesstrasse may be shown, not in this example.

4. A distance table follows after the exit, showing the A-number, E-number and major cities.

5. Touristic signs are common along the roads.

6. River crossing (minor river)

7. Rest areas are announced more in advance.

8. This overhead shows the two different fonts used in Germany. Hannover is in the regular "mittelschrift" , Rheda-Wiedenbrück is too long, and shown in narrow font ("engschrift").

9. General view of a high quality Autobahn.

10. An SOS phone in case of an emergency. Less used these days with everybody owning cell phones.

11. Announcement for road works with lanes shifted. In this case, there are still 3 lanes, but the left one narrows to two meters only.

12. Yellow markings show the temporary road situation.

13. This is the first announcement of a major rest area with services. Unlike the United States, services are always along the Autobahn, and not near exits (except for some truck stops called an "Autohof"). It also shows the distance to the next gas station.

14. First announcement of the actual exit to the rest area.

15. It's repeated after 500 meters.

16. And at the actual exit. This one is an Aral gas station plus services like a Burger King. It also features a bathroom for the disabled.

17. Now the interchange. Interchanges between different Autobahns have a name. They can be a "Kreuz"  (Cross) (4-way) or a "Dreieck" (Triangle)(3-way). The name of the interchange is named on the signs at the last exit before the interchange.

18. This distance table also shows a destination for the intersecting Autobahn, in this case the A33.

19. These signs are used when exits are in rapid succession, like two exits or interchanges in two to three kilometers or less.

20. First signage shows the layout of the lanes ahead.

21. This is repeated at 500 meters.

22. And the exit to A33. This is a relatively simple interchange.

Many consider the German signage to be one of the best in Europe, although it has some flaws, I think the German signage is indeed the best in Europe, and maybe even the world.

The autobahns are great pieces of engineering.  I've only been on a select few, but the ones I have were awesome

I've been on the Autobahns a few times. Last year I drove to Hungary and was stuck in a jam between Nürnberg and Regensburg. Traffic jams are something else the Autobahn is famous for. I believe traveling on a Friday afternoon in July wasn't the smartest thing to do :cool:

As my car has a top speed of only 130 I only took it up to 120.


--- Quote ---13. This is the first announcement of a major rest area with services. Unlike the United States, services are always along the Autobahn, and not near exits (except for some truck stops called an "Autohof"). It also shows the distance to the next gas station.
--- End quote ---

The only exception to this are older current and former toll roads.  The NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, NY, MA, ME, DE pikes all have service areas as well as some (most? all?) in Oklahoma as well as some of Kentucky's parkways.

NOTE TO ALL: This is not an exhaustive list.

However, IIRC, these are grandfathered into the interstate system and no new (insterstate) highway may have them.

The History Channel's Modern Marvels did a whole documentary on the Autobahns, aka Adolf Hitler's Highway.


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