Wednesday, 21 April 2010
The video, from Mark Wagenbuur, shows how traffic education of children is done in the Netherlands. It is done in much the same way right across the country.
As shown in the video, the children are educated in school, but finally there is a practical examination, which involves a fairly long cycle journey in a prescribed route, with volunteer inspectors watching what the children do as they cycle along and at road junctions.
It's also quite normal for children to cycle to and from the place where the test is being performed. And a couple of years ago I videoed part of the return journey of my own daughter from the local traffic examination.
Of course, teenagers are still teenagers, and they won't necessarily really behave perfectly when they cycle after training, but at least they know what they should be doing, having learnt in real world situations.
The photos show my sister (and a friend) having school cycle training in New Zealand in the 1970s.
The training took place in a tennis court, not the road, and included such useful activities as cycling on a narrow plank.
I don't remember if I also did this test at school in New Zealand, but I quite possibly did. It's a fair test of skill, but I'm not sure it translates usefully to an ability to survive on roads which don't take cyclists' needs into account. Cycling in New Zealand is very much a minority pursuit, and far fewer children cycle there now than was the case when we lived there.
School cycling in the Netherlands is not just about getting too and from school. It's also very common here for children to take school trips by bike. For instance, to visit sport facilities, museums, forests or farms, and as a sport activity in themselves. For the school trip at the end of the last year of primary school, my youngest daughter, with the rest of her class, went camping by bike and covered 150 km over three days.
Note that cycle training does not come out of the cycling budget, but is part of the education budget. The cycling budget (in Assen it works out as about €27 ( around $36 or £23 at the time of writing ) per person per year and is spent on new infrastructure in the city.
As Mark points out, school cycle training hasn't changed much in a long time...
Mark also made a video of the full route for the test in 's-Hertogenbosch.