Tag Archives: netherlands

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.