Category Archives: Netherlands

Why is Cycling so dangerous in New Zealand?

Filed under Netherlands, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility
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There are some unbelievable comments in made in the “New Zealand Herald” about the recent tragic spate of fatal accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles.  Some suggest licensing and WOFs for bicycles, as if that would make cycling less hazardous!   Another comment says there is  “no space for cyclists on the road – they need their own lane they are the biggest hazard, they put themselves in a lot of danger by being on the road.”  The cyclists didn’t die on motorways that are restricted to motorised traffic – they were killed on ordinary roads.

Sadly, the comments above were representative of the tone of a significant proportion of the comments about the Herlad reports.  Comments that illustrate what is wrong with the attitude of too many NZ motorists.

One comment from a man named Rhys has it right – NZ should use the Dutch approach.

The Dutch approach is twofold – it addresses the safety of the roads, and it addresses the attitudes and behaviour of motorists.   The Netherlands invests heavily in bike lanes to reduce the likelihood of accidents.  Real bike lanes – not a half-share of a footpath.  These run parallel to all major roads, and cross the countryside.

But of course, even in the Netherlands, not all roads have bike lanes.  Dutch road laws and behaviours are based on the premise that roads are for all users – pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.  The only roads on which motor vehicles “rule” are motorways.  On all other roads, cyclists and pedestrians rule.  Motor vehicles use them as a convenience, not as an unfettered right.  The legal onus is on the motorist to avoid collisions with people and cyclists, without exception.

That does not mean that there are no road rules for cyclists.  Of course there are.  Cyclists can be prosecuted for dangerous behaviour or for failing to give way, and police will act when cyclists break the rules.  But being in the right does not prevent prosecution of a motorist who collides with a bicycle.  It is extremely rare for a motorist to be cleared after a collision with a bicycle.  If the motorist does not have incontrovertible proof that he/she could not have possibly avoided the accident, even when the cyclist was flagrantly in the wrong, the motorist will be found guilty, and the punishment is severe.  The same goes for accidents with pedestrians.  The result is that motorists are very careful of cyclists and pedestrians, very patient when cyclists are on the road (even two or three abreast), and very courteous toward pedestrians.

The Netherlands is the safest place in the world for a cyclist or pedestrian.  And traffic still flows, quite happily.

The Best and Worst Thing about the Netherlands

Filed under Netherlands, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility, Things to Consider
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Bicycles are the best thing about the Netherlands!

And a well parked bike

Grumpy Old Man and a well parked bike

The country is flat, there are bicycle lanes in and between nearly every street in the cities, between the cities and towns and out in the country through reserves and farmlands.  There are bikes with extended wheelbases and big buckets on the front for carrying up to four children.  There are bikes with extra seats (and sometimes, pedals) for children.  I have seen one young mother on such a bike with two children pedalling away and another in a small seat behind her.

The ease and safety of cycling and the excellence of public transport render cars unnecessary.  For the first time since we were very young parents, my wife and I do not own even one car.  We have bikes!  (And a shopping cart which we take to the supermarket!)

Cars here are actually very careful about bikes – accidents are very rare.  Cars, trucks and even buses patiently follow bikes through the narrow streets in places without bike lanes.  The cars stop and let the bikes in ahead of them.  Signs proclaiming one-way and no-exit streets usually have a picture of a bike with the caption “Uitgezonderd”.  It means “Bicycles excepted”.  The rule does not apply to them.

God help any motorist who has an accident with a bicycle.  Even if the cyclist was completely wrong and the motorist completely in the right, the motorist will be found guilty and punished, and the cyclist will get every assistance.  If the accident was caused by the cyclist, then only if there is incontrovertible evidence that the motorist moved heaven and earth in an attempt to avoid the accident and it was totally unavoidable, will he get off the charge.  Bikes rule, OK!!!   Well…

Bicycles are also the worst thing about the Netherlands!  They give way to nobody, use the footpath as a cycleway if it is more convenient, and as a bike-park if it is ten feet closer to their destination than one of the many bike parks provided free of charge by the authorities.  Usually, pedestrian crossings are placed in the places most convenient to corner bars, railway stations, supermarkets etc.  “How convenient”, think the cyclists.  More often than not, they park their bikes on the footpaths and block entrances to pedestrian crossings completely.  Passing policemen completely ignore this rude, inconsiderate and very dangerous situation.  This forces the pedestrian (often an old man or woman) to step off the footpath into the adjacent bike lane, where naturally the cyclists swear at them for walking on the bike lane (or even run into them).  Bikes rule, not OK!