Tag Archives: cycling

Poor Cyclists Key to Safe Roads

Are poor cyclists and a laissez-faire attitude to enforcing road laws on them the key to safer roads? Are those that cycle on the wrong side of the road, pedal on the pavement and rush along one-way streets the wrong way one of the main reasons why the Netherlands has some of the safest roads in the world?

After writer Caleb Crain converted from wayward biker to obedient cyclist (using two simple rules: Bike in such a way that even relatively inattentive drivers can be expected to see you and know what you’re going to do next, and Don’t be annoying to pedestrians) he read the following that made him question his new-found indignation toward bike salmon:

I was therefore interested, and a little chastened, to read in Jeff Mapes’s Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities, that moral indignation about the adherence of bicyclists to traffic laws is absent from the Netherlands, the utopia of cycling, which has, Mapes reports, “the lowest per-capita vehicle death rate in Europe,” about a third that of the United States. Except for the requirement that bicycles on the road at night have lights, Dutch police do not enforce traffic laws on cyclists. Explains Mapes:

The Dutch don’t see much sense in going after cyclists and walkers when the only people they are putting at risk are themselves. “It’s their choice,” shrugged [Amsterdam top traffic-safety official Jack] Wolters. … The statistics seem to bear him out. … One influential 2003 study, by researchers John Pucher and Lewis Dijkstra, found American cyclists were at least three times as likely to get killed as Dutch cyclists, while American pedestrians faced at least six times the danger of dying.