Wednesday 6 May 2009

An American visits Groningen

My blog exists primarily in order to try to explain the differences between the way that things are done in this country vs. the way they are done in the UK and USA. Sometimes it can be difficult to get the message across as it is easy for people who haven't been here to imagine that everything is simply a little different. It just isn't like that. The little differences add up to more than the sum of their parts. The overall effect is fundamentally different.

This video, made by mariojragucci2 re-captures my original thoughts on visiting the Netherlands. Truly a different way of living. Something that isn't easy even to imagine without being a part of it.

While our initial shock was amazing enough, we kept on noticing more things, especially small things or societal differences for a long time afterwards. Having now lived in the country for a couple of years, many things now look ordinary to me, but it's great to have such a reminder as Mario's videos.

The last minute and a half of the video are actually on streets with no restrictions on driving at all. However, you'll still see "no cars" (well, almost). On roads like this, still in the city, there are few places to usefully drive to and park along these roads, so rat-running through them doesn't tend to happen. Cycling is much more convenient. You can go anywhere by bike.

I've several other posts about Groningen.

Mario has several other videos on youtube. Please watch those too.


Bob said...

Ah yes. Foreign guy gets his eyes opened. Too bad some of the planners can't come over and have a look around. Poor guy was searching for words so often I was beginning to feel bad for him.
I know I'll certainly be frustrated when we eventually move back home to Canada. Our cities have only taken baby steps when it comes to making it safe to cycle. Such a shame.

David Hembrow said...

As it happens, we organise trips for them, which makes it very easy to come over and see the infrastructure and usage.

However, getting the message across to planners that it might be desirable to come and take a look is remarkably difficult !

I ask anyone who would like where they live to look more like this to suggest to their local planners that they ought to take a trip...

Bob said...

David...I can certainly appreciate the effort (and common sense) you've put into your efforts to enlighten the dim-witted civil engineers. The reality unfortunately has more to do with political grandstanding than actually doing positive things for society as a whole. Our politicians are notoriously shortsighted. Put it this way, if half of Canada were somehow in danger of being flooded like the Netherlands, my house in Ontario would be under water. Keep up the effort though, since you never know just when something truly extraordinary might happen.

Anonymous said...

Once auto-centrism takes hold and creates a growing class of dependents, seeing alternatives becomes increasingly more difficult for elected leaders and planners. Cyclists are not seen as a large source of revenues like auto drivers and maintenance can be easily deferred when riding on four instead of two wheels.

The auto-dependent are now the majority and cycling is seen as a recreational activity and not a logical choice in the USA. The repeated reaction of "look no cars" by the American speaks volume on how shocking it seems when the majority in urban environments chooses cycling over driving. Quite unfortunate and what a shame.

acline said...

Can't wait to experience it for myself. I'm planning a family trip to the Netherlands for summer 2010 :-)

Jonathan said...

I have been following your blog for several months now and really enjoy your insight into bike culture differences between The Netherlands, the UK and North America.
Good timing for your post today as it corresponds to this article in today's Canadian "National" newspaper.
The article is very good and to the point, but reading the comments following, really helps a person understand that changing the automobile culture in these areas will be very difficult.

ejg said...

I had problems with the link Jonathan. Here are all of the link:

Same problem in Norway, btw.

Anonymous said...

Bob, this isn't mariojragucci2's first time in The Netehrlands. I have been following him for over a year on his old account. That's how he talks all the time.