Rush hour in Groningen

Some bicycle (and pedestrian) chaos for your delectation, taken in yesterday’s rush hour in Groningen – which just happens to be the bicycle capital of the world.

This is the north-west corner of Vismarkt. Most of the streets around here are closed to ordinary motor vehicles – but you would not get these numbers of people cycling into and out of the city centre without high levels of subjective safety elsewhere across the city.

Note also that pedestrians and cyclists – even in these great numbers – are quite happy to rub up against each other (almost literally). While typical of the Netherlands, this kind of interaction is, unfortunately, almost unthinkable in the UK, where scenes like this would no doubt prompt a thousand angry letters to the Daily Mail about ‘nearly being hit a cyclist.’

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3 Responses to Rush hour in Groningen

  1. livinginabox says:

    In my experience, is often that it isn’t “nearly being hit a cyclist”, the claim that I have heard a number of times is something like: ‘I can’t count the number of times’ that “I was nearly killed”. Almost every case I suspect is down to being surprised by a silent approach at speed and cyclists not ringing a bell, especially from behind. Clearly, cyclists need an extensive infrastructure network to Dutch standards, with separate infrastructure for pedestrians. Pedestrians also need to lose weight and stop meandering across cycle paths while oblivious to their surroundings because they’re listening to personal stereos.

    Unfortunately, there are undoubtedly some very bad cyclists, one particular serious enemy of cyclists is this dangerous and obnoxious maniac [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGO3bt6YPKo], who believes that everyone else is at fault for his riding on a shared path at hugely excessive speed and then colliding with pedestrians.

    The watchwords for all this is reasonable behaviour, sadly ‘reasonableness’ seems to be in short supply these days. Mind you, if motorists as a species were more reasonable and careful around cyclists and pedestrians, cyclists wouldn’t need or want segregated infrastructure.

    • My experience of cycling in the Netherlands is that their drivers are probably just as bad as those in the UK. I saw red light jumping, tailgating, poorly planned overtakes, and so on.

      The key difference, I think, is that the streets are designed in such a way that the potential for stupidity is limited, and also that the consequences of mistakes and/or lack of carefulness are generally minor. That means tight radius corners at junctions, so entry and exit speeds are limited. It means rough surfaces on residential streets with 30km/h speed limits, to give an impression of noise and speed at lower speeds. It means keeping cyclists separate from the traffic stream on busy arterial roads. And so on.

      The notion of the perfectly behaved, reasonable Dutch motorist is a myth. Transplant them to the UK and they will be precisely as bad.

  2. I have to say, while not wanting to pick a row, one of the many things spending three days studying the cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands teaches you is the senselessness of a statement like:

    “Mind you, if motorists as a species were more reasonable and careful around cyclists and pedestrians, cyclists wouldn’t need or want segregated infrastructure.”

    You do have to experience it to understand it.

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