When I arrived on campus for the first time after 18 months for actual academic business, I was slightly startled by how busy it was. But I was still excited to be back. No, wait - somewhat excited. Less than a minute after I rolled onto campus grounds I had my first near-miss of the year. I suspect she was an international, hesitantly attempting to make the turn left along the NanoLab towards the O&O square. I looked at her, she looked back at me, like a deer in headlights. I swerved. Accident avoided.
Since then I had a couple more of those near misses, almost collisions, and emergency stops – not to count those countless swerves. I’m usually the embodiment of calm, but this isn’t good for neither my heart nor my brakes.
And no, it’s not just the internationals (whom I’m certainly willing to forgive). Often, it’s the locals, who should definitely know better! Six abreast? Come on, you know that’s not allowed! Walking in the bike lane - wrong way even - with the completely empty sidewalk just three steps away? And then daring to expect me to move over?? Hey, I’m cycling here!
So as to prevent my blood from boiling over and my brakes from overheating, let’s get all the sjaars and otherwise new people back up to steam with some basic Dutch traffic laws and customs!
First off, pleeeeaaase look where you’re going - which includes over your shoulder! Since the rule is to keep right as much as possible (some exceptions apply, go quiz your Dutch friends or just read on), you will be overtaken on your left. If you then attempt to make a turn to the left without looking, you have a recipe for disaster on your hands.
I hope you are looking at traffic now, so what do you need your phone for? Exactly: nothing! So please don’t; you’ll be so distracted and I’ll have to swerve again. You aren’t even allowed to hold it while riding anymore, unless you have 109 euros to spare. If you do need to use it, just stop, and do your business on the side of the road.
On making those turns, show where you intend to go. If not with your hands, with your body language (lean, look, etc). This is also an exception to the keep-right rule; you are allowed to move, or “pre-sort” to the left in preparation of your turn. People going straight can then just go ahead – overtaking you on your right – without interfering with your turn.
So later that same day, mulling over what points to make, I was rolling through teletubbieland when I thought back to that girl. I hope I didn’t scare you too much. In case you read this, trust me: next year it will be your turn to frighten the newcomers with your newfound and impressive – and almost Dutch – bike handling skills.