one way street

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Signage for one-way streets in the USA and Belgium

The term one-way street (also outdated: institution Street ) or one-way (in Austria) refers to a road in which vehicles may move in one direction only. The road user is informed of this traffic regulation by means of corresponding traffic signs. The one-way street rule applies to all vehicle traffic, but cyclists can use additional signs to drive against the one-way street. A basic distinction must be made between a real and a fake one-way street. False one-way streets prohibit entry on one side, but can be used in both directions by all vehicles. The opposite of a one-way street, the oncoming traffic or two-way street.

The principle of the one-way street was already known in ancient Rome and was used there to regulate traffic within the city's narrow streets. The first one-way street of modern times was established in London on August 23, 1617. Austria's first one-way system was implemented in Vienna in 1802 with the second breakthrough of the city wall at the Kärntnertor. Because of the increased volume of traffic, the then police chief of Berlin Traugott von Jagow had the first one-way street for automobiles in Germany set up in Berlin-Mitte: Friedrichstrasse was only allowed to be used in a southerly direction between Unter den Linden and Behrenstrasse.


A one-way street can be set up for the following reasons:

  • Maintaining the fluidity of (vehicle) traffic with narrow lanes and high (vehicle) traffic volumes,
  • Enabling additional parking spaces for motor vehicles without impairing the flow of car traffic too much (this is likely to be the most common reason in densely built-up (residential) areas),
  • Reduction of through traffic (so-called crawl traffic ) through detoured guidance ( traffic calming ),
  • Enabling high speeds by reducing the risk of collision with oncoming traffic (for example: expressways) and
  • Avoidance of the risk of accidents due to confusing traffic situations.

Legal regulations in DA-CH

One-way traffic control (top view)
Two one-way streets in Schwerin that are open to cyclists
One-way street signs in Enzesfeld, Lower Austria

The driving behavior within a one-way street and its signage are regulated in the road traffic laws or the ordinances named therein (e.g. road traffic regulations StVO) of the respective states and are largely uniform worldwide. The direction of the one-way street is shown to the road user by a traffic sign with arrow pictograms and, if necessary, labeling. The prohibition of entry (entry ban) in the opposite direction is usually marked with a bar or a crossed-out arrow (for example in Ireland ). Reversing, with the exception of parking, or turning back is not permitted in one-way streets. Emergency vehicles can be exempt from these regulations. In addition, parking in a one-way street may exceptionally be permitted on the left-hand side, e.g. B. in Germany ( § 12 StVO ).

Opening of one-way streets in both directions for bicycle traffic with additional sign 1022-10

If use against the one-way street, for example for cyclists or public buses, is permitted, this is indicated with the help of an additional symbol. In Germany, cycling on the lane of a one-way street can be released if the one-way street is sufficiently wide, the maximum permitted speed is 30 km / h and the traffic routing along the route as well as at crossings and junctions is clear. However, these requirements only apply when real one-way streets are opened. Fake one-way streets can be used in both directions anyway, here the cyclist clearance only refers to the prohibition of entry (sign 267), which is at one end of the street or the section.

There are similar regulations in Switzerland, the Netherlands (see picture above), Denmark and other countries. In addition, driving against the one-way direction can be made possible on your own areas, e.g. B. on a cycle path or a marked cycle lane or separated from the road by parking spaces. However, this can lead to accidents at intersections if road users from the side streets are not adequately informed of this rule.

A guardrail can be used to prevent motorists in left-hand bends in a one-way street from disregarding the right-hand driving law and thereby endangering oncoming cyclists.

The regulation with clearance for bicycle traffic against the one-way direction on the road is safer at 30 km / h than the otherwise often unauthorized use of sidewalks by cyclists. Accidents at junctions, property driveways and with pedestrians are more common.

Since 1997, the arrangement of a one-way street has only been permitted in Germany according to Paragraph 9 ( § 45 StVO ) of the StVO "if there is a danger situation due to the special local conditions". In this respect, it is not permissible to arrange one-way streets to enable parking spaces for motor vehicles.

In Austria, emergency vehicles are only allowed to drive in the opposite direction if “the location cannot be reached otherwise or cannot be reached within the required time”.

Strictly speaking, roundabouts and motorways (one-way lane) are not one-way streets in the strict sense of the word, as there is no corresponding signage. However, the traffic rules define one-way traffic for these roads. One-way lanes (usually on streets with two structurally separate lanes) are not one-way streets either.

Criticism and cons

Notice of wrong-way driving

Critics criticize the unnecessary overregulation of inner-city traffic due to the establishment of one-way streets. There can be long detours and new traffic congestion can arise in some places. Road users who are particularly sensitive to detour, such as cyclists, are hindered if they are not given permission to travel in the opposite direction, since not every one-way street can be opened for bicycle traffic in the opposite direction.

Carelessness (unclear signs) or intent may lead to wrong journeys in the opposite direction. Attempts are made to counteract this problem through appropriate conspicuous signage or other structural measures.

One-way streets with changing directions

Connecting road from St. Martin im Calfeisental to Gigerwald

In Hamburg there is a fake one-way street on which the direction of travel is changed depending on the time of day. On the Herbert-Weichmann-Strasse - Sierichstrasse street you can only enter the city between 4 a.m. and 12 noon and only out of town between 12 noon and 4 a.m. Strictly speaking, however, it is not a real one-way street, as the characters 220 and 353 are missing. Thus, only the ban on entry depends on the time of day.

The Messeschnellweg in Hanover, for example, is largely regulated as a one-way street for travel to and from the fair during large trade fairs.

Facility footpaths

In the Paris metro ( underground ) there are sometimes aisles for passengers that should only be used in one direction in order to safely direct large flows of people. In 2018 it became known that a woman had to pay a fine of 60 euros for walking in the wrong direction.

Web links

Commons : One-way street signs  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: one-way street  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Maxwell G. Lay: The History of the Road. From the beaten path to the motorway . Frankfurt am Main, New York 1994.
  2. ^ Andreas Austilat: Driving ban in ancient Rome . Tagesspiegel, December 30, 2007.
  3. ^ Vienna Museum (Elke Doppler, Susanne Claudine Pils): On the pulse of the city - 2000 years Karlsplatz . Czernin Verlags GmbH, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-7076-0266-1 , p. 334 .
  4. Angenendt, Alrutz et al. 2002: Traffic safety in one-way streets with opposing bicycle traffic. In: Straßenverkehrstechnik, 6/2002 (results of a corresponding research project)
  5. § 26 StVO - emergency vehicles , accessed on November 23, 2011
  6. Ordinance on the new version of the Road Traffic Act (StVO) . In: Bundesgesetzblatt , Part I, 2013, No. 12 of March 12, 2013, pp. 367–427; here: p. 389.
  7. penalty for "false goers" in Paris Metro, March 5, 2018 accessed March 5, 2018.